Sustainable Travel Changed My Life

My journey to Finland is by far my favorite to date.  I was captivated by the twinkling stars, enormous wild reindeer, and crisp October air.  As a family, we ventured in and out of the rural and urban lands of the vast country to explore and discover the delicacies and traditions that the Finnish people hold dear. 

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Upon arriving in Helsinki, Finland’s capital, we were shocked to experience the simplicity and elegance that overtook the city. Luckily, the beginning of our trip was a success and we were able to move easily through the airport without having to translate the signs. Our goal was to get to our arctic resort in Kakslauttanen the city of igloos to watch the wonders of the Northern Lights. 

It was fascinating to watch and recognize the similarities and differences in culture and food while rolling through several towns.

It was fascinating to watch and recognize the similarities and differences in culture and food while rolling through several towns.

The voyage to the Arctic Circle was a twelve-hour drive from Helsinki. We were continuously grateful for the hospitality and kindness that we experienced. As we tried to stumble though the words to order at a restaurant or cafe, many servers would simply smile and speak to us in English as it is a requirement for every Finn since the third grade. Also, I can't go without mentioning the desserts. Not only were the pastries sweet, they had a traditional flavor of Cardamom.  This complex and subtle spice is delicious when paired with a good strong cup of coffee (frequent in the hand of a Native Finn) and now whenever I smell cardamom I have flashbacks to the trip to Finland.

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Cardamom Pastries

The sweets were delectable.  It was similar to a doughnut, but the perfect amount of chewiness.

Finnish cities were quaint and worked hard to make use every of space. If the town needed newer market places or shopping area, it would be built similar to a high-rise with parking at the bottom and shops rising to eight or nine floors. This created a common place in the middle of vast farm towns to preserve the rural atmosphere.  A brilliant solution compared to the continuation of many horizontal shopping neighborhoods regularly seen developing in the United States.  This deliberate design created a way to encourage the preservation of land as well as enable the energy used to be centralized. 

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Reindeer sightings are not unusual

The economic practice and avoidance of the depletion of natural resources helps maintain an ecological balance and supports long term healthy diverse forests and wildlife. Essentially Finland encourages growing and living by the definition of sustainability and I’m all about that. 

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Traveling is a wonderful way to learn about and experience cultures that celebrate sustainability.  I am deeply grateful for my Finnish heritage and the lessons of conservation my grandparents and parents have taught me. It takes strength to be a part of the moving force that is challenging social and ecological injustices throughout the world.  It takes work to remind those that do not wish to care about the climate of the future.  It takes Sisu. 

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Sisu is a Finnish expression that roughly translates to the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win.

 Sisu means fighting against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. It means willpower, tenacity, and persistence. The inner strength that I admire in people is not only valued in Finnish culture but can be expressed in one word and I find that absolutely amazing.   

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Ultimately my life changed through taking this trip, and the sustainable living practiced by the Finnish people left a deep impression on me. The snowy landscape in Finland may look pretty different than that of Costa Rica - but the commitment to preserve the natural environment is the same in both countries.  I encourage everyone planning a vacation to reflect on their impact on the environment and to consider visiting a destination that is committed to responsible travel.  You never know how it might inspire you.

 

by Christa Conroy