Laughing on my own

Photo borrowed from here

Photo borrowed from here

My favourite podcast "My Dad Wrote A Porno" is finally back with season 3. It's the new highlight of my week, and I can't wait to listen to the rest of the episodes. I have already been getting weird looks when I listen to the podcast in public and end up having a laughing fit or a little giggle among the stern faces in a grocery shop queue or at the gym. Apparently it's weird to laugh on your own in today's world...

If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, do it now! I promise you won't regret it. I'm actually jealous you have 2 seasons to binge if you start now. And don't be afraid of the name - it's not focused on the naughtiness of the books - it's focusing on the hilarity of the fact that one of their dads actually sat down and tried to write erotic novels to self-publish under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone. However, I wouldn't listen to it out loud in work as the language is very crass and it can get a little awkward if someone walks in on you listening to it...

Either way, it's a very good way to lighten up a gloomy grey day that we call summer in Ireland.

Going back in time

Last weekend Clark and I were in London. I decided to book an Airbnb in a very special area of London - Maida Vale. This area might not be very special to many people, in fact most people don't even know where it is. However, for me, it has a special place in my heart.

Back in 2009 I moved to London, aged 19, to study English. It was my "flying out of the nest" trip and I was travelling on my own for the first time. I paid for an English school for 6 months and through it, I got accommodation in Maida Vale. It is a very nice residential area near Paddington, close to Regent's Park and Hyde Park. 

The Airbnb we booked on this trip was just down the street from where I lived and I got to explore the area again - 8 years later. I even spotted the old lady and her grumpy son in whose house I lived. I didn't go up to them as they most certainly wouldn't remember me, but it was baffling to stand there and see them slowly walking further down the street.

Standing outside the house I used to live in

Standing outside the house I used to live in

It was odd though, as many memories and emotions came back when standing on that street, and I felt quite melancholic. My months in London were good, but they weren't the best time of my life, and I actually went home after two months already. The reason I went home earlier than planned was because I had underestimated the Finnish education system - after 12 years in school, I didn't need to learn English in a language school. I was, in fact, correcting the teacher when he got "it's" and "its" wrong on the blackboard, which led to the school granting me a refund for the pre-paid months. Paying thousands of pounds living in a country without many friends, other than a group of 30-year old Colombians from the school and some people I knew from back home, wasn't quite what I had expected. I did fall deeply in love with London as a city, and I explored not only the shops on Oxford Street but many streets and parks of London. I had some great times and I visited Edinburgh for a weekend as well. I look back at the time fondly and I grew to the person I am today thanks to those months.

However, all these emotions I was having about shame and failure came back to me when standing on that street - I remember feeling ashamed for coming home earlier than I had planned as if I had failed at my big life adventure. It took me a while to adjust to being back home again thinking I had wasted my opportunity to do something special. Now I know that I made the right decision by going home and it gave me opportunities to travel and move away from home sooner since I was able to work and save money.

I think it's important to be able to let go when something doesn't feel right. Feeling ashamed of decisions that ultimately are making you happier is not productive. In fact, the shame is often completely unwarranted as no one is judging you or ridiculing you for a decision you made to make your life better. My friends and family were just happy to have me home and wanted to hear all about my adventures in the big city when I returned. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from my time in London and I'm glad I wasn't stubborn and stayed just for the sake of staying. I've been back to London a few times since, and I just fall deeper in love with the city each time.

The beautiful Little Venice in Maida Vale

The beautiful Little Venice in Maida Vale

Having fun with Wedding Planning

As many of you know Clark and I are in full swing planning our wedding. He proposed to me in September last year, the day before our combined 4-year anniversary/his 30th birthday-trip to New York.

We got right into planning the wedding and Clark jokes that I signed up to Pinterest before we even had the champagne. Slight exaggeration, but we were indeed very keen to get into the planning. I naturally love planning and organising things as it is, so I got spreadsheets and bookmarks going right away.

By November we had booked the venue, I had gotten the dress and we had a countdown of one year to the wedding day. So far the planning has been going quite smoothly and we chose a hotel that takes care of a lot of the details for us which removes a lot of the stress from our side.

The last milestone we reached was booking the honeymoon. That was definitely one of the more fun parts of the planning process - as you may have noticed here on the blog before, I love travelling and planning trips as it is. So I was daydreaming and researching honeymoon destinations and we decided on Mauritius in the end. We couldn't be happier with the choice and I have to stop researching about it for a bit as I would otherwise get too excited!

We booked the accommodation through Airbnb to save some money due to my perks from being an employee there but went with more hotel-like options than we'd normally go for on Airbnb. Frankly just for the reason of hassle free travel and included cleaning service. So now we'll spend 8 days in a hotel suite and 5 days in a penthouse apartment with our private roof top terrace. Not too shabby!

Picture borrowed from HERE

Picture borrowed from HERE

Please comment below if you have any tips on what to do in Mauritius!

The next phase of the wedding planning will be the paper shuffling and bureaucracy part. I'm not looking forward to this bit as much as booking the honeymoon, but it has to be done. I'll just do a quick image search for Mauritius when I feel overwhelmed, and I'm sure it will go okay.

Podcast: S-Town

I believe this is my second post recommending podcasts here on the blog. I only got into Podcasts about a year ago, when I binged through Serial, and now I love listening to them.

I have just finished binging through another podcast from the same makers (Serial and This American Life) called S-Town.

Picture borrowed from Forbes.

Picture borrowed from Forbes.

It's a seven-episode long podcast and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I was hooked from the start and have been begging Clark to listen to it as well so we could discuss it. Now we have both finished listening to it, so I can finally talk about it with someone!

I don't want to go into detail about what the podcast is about, as I may spoil something. Here is the intro available on the podcast's homepage: 

JOHN DESPISES HIS ALABAMA TOWN AND DECIDES TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. HE ASKS a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
— https://stownpodcast.org/

Give it a go; I can guarantee you'll feel amused, intrigued, happy, angry and sad when listening to it, to name but a few emotions I felt throughout the episodes. You'll find it on most podcast apps, or on their web page.

Podcast: My Dad Wrote a Porno

So I've been getting into podcasts lately and I absolutely love listening to them when walking or taking the bus. I have been listening to Cracked and How Stuff Works and This American Life to name a few.

However, my absolute favourite at the moment is one that my dear friend Eva recommended to me. It's called "My dad wrote a porno". The title is quite self-explanatory as the podcast is about three friends reading an erotic novel one of their dads wrote. I have to stress, this podcast is not at all sexual as the three friends barely can get a sentence in before they burst out laughing or giggling. The book is also very poorly written and has serious plot holes and inconsistencies which cause more funny interactions when the friends try to figure out what the author actually meant.

I have been bursting out laughing while on my own in the gym or out walking and I'm getting seriously weird looks but I'm enjoying the podcast too much to care.

It surely is a mood lifter during this dark November and I highly recommend it. Here is their webpage and you can find the podcast on all the regular places.

Picture borrowed from Google

Svenska Dagen - the day of the Swedish-speaking Finns

Today Finland is celebrating our second national language - Swedish. Most people don't know Finland has more than one national language when in fact we have three: Finnish, Swedish and Sami.

I am part of the small minority in Finland who has Swedish as their first language. This means that I grew up speaking Swedish to my friends and family and attended school in Swedish. I started learning Finnish at the age of 8 and have been struggling with the language ever since. A very important distinction is to be made - we have nothing to do with Sweden. I am as Finnish as any Finnish-speaking Finn, I just happen to speak another language.

The Swedish-speaking population in Finland lays at about 5.4% of the total population, which means about 300.000 people, mostly living along the coast line. This number has been steadily decreasing over the last hundred years, and my minority is at risk of shrinking to non-existence soon. This is why a day like today feels extra important and I want to do what I can to spread knowledge of my language. 

I hope I was able to shed some light to someone today who didn't know this little fun fact about Finland.

NEW YORK - see you in a couple of weeks!

My next trip is coming up soon and I need your help!

Clark and I are going to New York in September and we are jumping up and down with excitement (him figuratively, me literally!). We have 9 days there in total and we are planning on visiting Clark's family in Boston a couple of days in between.

Now, I've never been to New York and Clark was last there in the early nineties. Clark's interests might not have changed much in the last couple of decades and he would probably be happy just going to the Zoo and eating ice cream, I might want to expand my horizons a bit.

Jokes aside and to my point - we don't know what to do and see in New York! What are the must-not-miss sights? Where is best to eat, shop and drink? Where should we definitely NOT go?

Please comment below or on my Facebook post if you have a favourite spot in New York you'd like to recommend for us. Any tips are welcome, we want to make the most out of our trip!

...Now I'll go back to panicking on what clothes to pack for the city of fashion and style. 

Photo borrowed from here

Death by Sushi

Today I learned that there is such a thing as too much sushi.

My friend and I had been shopping for many hours and needed a good feed. We went to our favourite sushi place called J2 Sushi&Grill and ordered two rolls to share. The sushi was amazing as usual, but we weren't quite satisfied yet. Instead of going for another roll we decided to try another sushi place around the corner called Musashi to compare the sushi standards. We ended up ordering two more rolls, and nearly finished them as well. We entered a state of severe food coma, and after a long time just sitting in the restaurant we wobbled home. I am now sitting on the couch unable to move, and this is where I'll stay for the rest of the evening until I roll to bed.

As for standard comparing, our favourite spot still remains the same.

J2 Sushi&Grill

Instagram filter magically gave me pink hair today

A long lost sensation

Things are happening on my head and face, and I mean good things.

I have places on my head where my hair has started growing again after many years of no action what so ever. This does by no means give me hope that all my hair will come back, but it's fun to see some of my own hair again. Miracle stories of people with Alopecia getting all their hair back out of nowhere do exist, but I'm a bit too realistic to get any hopes up. Besides, I actually love my wigs.

I've woken up with bed head with a few strands of hair standing straight out to the side, so that's at least amusing for my boyfriend to witness.

The thing I'm most happy about is getting some of my eyelashes back. I've always had a few eyelashes stay but now they're actually growing on both sides of each eye, which is quite terrific. Eyelashes actually serve a purpose, so if this means less dust and small bits going straight in to my eye when cycling or even just sitting still it would be rather amazing.

The funniest thing so far is that my sister found two dark eyebrow strands today. Of course they weren't where the perfect eyebrow would be, but rather between my eye and the brow bone, so she had to pluck them. I haven't plucked my eyebrows now in about 7 years, and I was quickly reminded that it's something I haven't missed. The painful sensation on my face does not have to be part of my life. So let's all just hope that if I get any more eyebrow growth that they grow in a perfect curved shape where I want them!

A few months ago there wasn't too many signs of eyelashes on the lower lash line yet


Resolution: travel less.

So my New Years Resolution is a bit controversial, especially within my peers of the tourism industry.

Cure myself of the travel bug, and travel less in 2016.

There it is. Last year I was travelling the world like an insane person, I was gone for quite some time of the year. Between September and early January I was away from home for about 60 days. That's two months out of four. I flew about 22 times over the year, not counting connections. At that point it starts to feel like it's a tad much, and you miss your couch in a weird way. And you miss your boyfriend, that's for sure.

I did get to see five completely new countries and visit my beautiful home country five times last year, so that's pretty cool too, of course. I saw the US for the first time when visiting San Francisco, and I explored Northern Ireland, Belgium, Costa Rica and Panama. I also revisited Italy twice, giving me the chance to see the Alps for the first time, and I saw beautiful Paris once again.

One of our awesome hosts in Costa Rica

So, back to my resolution. This year I will be a lot smarter about my travels and I will try to keep it under control. Let's see if it works. I'm not off to a great start though, already with several trips in the planning, but if I stick to this plan I should be okay. The plan includes a few trips to Finland, NEW YORK in September and the possibility of London, Austria and Munich spread out nicely over the year.

So here's to a year of staying home more in Ireland. And who wouldn't want to do that, have you seen how beautiful it is here? Check out this video: 


Christmas stress and memories

For some reason Christmas just tends to sneak up on me without giving me enough time to prepare. When December arrives I always think I have all the time in the world to buy the perfect gifts to everyone, and then all of the sudden I sit here on the 19th of December all nervous and anxious over the lack of gifts once again.

And yes, Christmas is not about the gifts really, but like it or not - it is a big part of the commercial side of the tradition in our culture.

So today, on my last day off before Christmas I suppose I will be running around all miserable in the fully packed shops trying to find that thoughtful and perfect gift alongside everyone else who is as desperate as I am. Wish me luck.

Anyway, here's a few oldies I found last time I was at home from some very early Christmas celebrations. 

Visiting Paris at the wrong time

My exciting trip to Paris to be part of Airbnb Open for 5000 hosts had a very tragic ending.

After two days of the event, we went out for a nice dinner with some friends, on Friday the 13th. We had a lovely evening, and had a rule to not have our phones out while eating. When we had finished our meals and the big question was if we had room for dessert or not, we took out our phones to take some photos. It didn't take long until one of the girls at the table saw a news article about some shooting in Paris. We didn't think much of it, as it said to be gang related. When she updated the news feed a few minutes later and there were reports of several more shootings we realised the severity of the situation. We were sitting in a restaurant in the epi-centre of the shootings and didn't know what to do. We decided to go home, but were stopped by the security guards of the restaurant - it was too dangerous to go outside. We were stuck in the restaurant for about half an hour, and all of the sudden everyone had to leave in a hurry. While being evacuated we managed to get an Uber. Before we found the car, the phone through which we ordered it decided to stop functioning and we lost contact with the driver. We were incredibly lucky, and found the car further down the street, and the driver drove us home.

Once home I called my boyfriend who I was also talking to in the restaurant and assured him I'm fine. I texted my family in Finland as it already was in the middle of the night. Then we went on facebook and tried to connect with all the colleagues that were around Paris that evening. In total we had around 630 Airbnb employees in Paris, and 5000 hosts attending the event.

We stayed up most of the night and we were lucky to get the news that every employee was accounted for. A lot of them had been in much more dangerous situations than us, and had seen a lot more of the terror. I slept a few hours of very poor sleep mixed with nightmares.

The next day we were all on standby trying to figure out what is happening with the last day of the event, and if all the hosts were safe. We started calling all hosts, and that took up most of the day.

We didn't leave the apartment once, and the whole day went in a haze. I got a lot of lovely messages and texts from people around the world, and it warmed my heart. We also rebooked our return flights, as we didn't feel like staying until the 18th - the desire to go sightseeing and explore Paris was far gone for us.

On Sunday we were determined to go outside, we would not surrender in fear. We walked around the whole city and took taxis. We avoided large crowds and public transport and managed to have a nice day. When we got back in we read about the false alarm of people panicking, and decided to stay inside the rest of the evening. The city felt almost like normal, but there was a bit of tension too that you wouldn't normally get. Around all big sights you could see army and security carrying guns too, which in a way was frightening but also reassuring. 

On Monday I was flying to Helsinki, and had a country wide minute of silence at the airport just before the flight boarded. When the plane landed I felt a huge sense of relief, and I hugged all of my family extra hard when I saw them. We should not forget how fragile life can be.

We should also not let events like these scare us out of living our lives. I will not stop travelling due to this, and I will always love Paris as a city.

Italy in September

So a few crazy weeks of travelling have passed and I am finally recovering from a flu that I managed to get while in Italy.

Italy was exactly as amazing as we could have imagined and wished for. We had one day to explore Venice, then we worked for four days from Lido just beneath Venice and finally we took the train to Lake Garda to enjoy a few days off. We got super lucky with the weather, and it actually felt like a sun holiday - a much needed one!

Unfortunately I'm turning more Irish by the day, and my body is becoming unfamiliar with the sun. I realised it's been over a year since I was on a beach last time, as summer in Finland in early July didn't deliver this year. This resulted in a pretty badly burnt back, but for the rest I was able to actually gain a bit of colour to my otherwise pale skin.

I would have been happily relaxed and ready for a productive autumn after the holiday if it hadn't been for the ridiculous flu I managed to get. That had me feeling sick for half the trip and the next days afterwards. Oh well, medicin had to do the trick as my next trip was only two days away after returning home. More on that one later.

More travelling!

I thought that this autumn would be a quiet one, with not too much going on. How wrong I was!

I have 5 trips planned between now and the end of the year, all of the sudden!

First up is a trip to Italy in a few weeks' time. We're flying to Venice and from there we'll be going to some beach town for a few days and hopefully to Lake Garda for a few days too. I can wait to feel some sun on my skin soon!

Up next, two days after coming home from Italy, we're going to Belgium with Clark. We'll be seeing Brussels, Bruges and Ghent over a few days.

In October I'll be staying in Ireland and hopefully have a few "normal" weeks in between all the madness. Then in November I'll be going to Paris! I was chosen from the office to go and work on a very big host event alongside a few other colleagues from Dublin and the other Airbnb offices. We'll be working there for five days, and before that I'll probably have a weekend there to explore the city more. It's the third time I'm going to Paris now, and I can't wait to see more of the beautiful city!

Once I'm home from Paris, I'll be going to Finland for a week to work from there. I need to see my family at least once every 6 months to not die from missing them too much, so I'm getting this in before the Christmas madness starts at work. Finland in November isn't particularly exciting, but if I'm lucky I might get some snow while I'm there.

And last, but definitely not least - I'll be going to Costa Rica over New Years for two weeks! I'm so incredibly excited about this, it's a whole new part of the world I haven't seen before. Two weeks of relaxing by palm trees, hiking in jungles with breath taking waterfalls and exploring new cultures just seems like a nice thing to do.

Secret: Nothing to see here

The Science Gallery has a very cool exhibition on at the moment, called Secret: Nothing to see here.  It's a free exhibition exploring the future of surveillance, espionage and privacy. It's very interactive and fun to go to, I highly recommend it.

Science, bitch! Trying my best to look cool. Failing miserably at it...

a machine scanning things and clustering them together.

Regular jacket and scarf you think?

A paparazzi's worst nightmare - look what the camera flash did to the jacket. Clark's gone and his identity is secret forever.

The Big Grill Festival

Yesterday we got to go to The Big Grill Festival with work. It was an amazing set up in Herbet Park, with lots of pop-up stands with barbecues as well as craft beers and ciders for us to indulge in. For once the weather agreed with us and gave us sunshine until late evening. We had an amazing time, and today I have a bit of a head ache for some odd reason..

 

More travel - tips very welcome!

So I wanted to surprise Clark for our three year anniversary in September with a trip. Well I'm terrible at keeping exciting things to myself, and I wanted to plan the trip with him, so the surprise element of the trip is now gone.

I got us return flights to Brussels and we'll be staying for 4 whole days. We don't want to stay in Brussels this whole time and now we're looking at perhaps spending part of the time in Bruges...or Ghent?

We would be very open to suggestions on where else to go. Brussels feels so central, and if anyone knows of any cheap ways to go to Germany or France or the Netherlands or any town in Belgium for that matter I would be very grateful. Buses or trains? Any good ways to get cheap fares?

So, get them tips coming! How should we plan our trip to get the most out of it?


Being exposed to 1.6 million people

A while ago I decided to post a photo of me wearing my three different wigs to Imgur and then share it on Reddit. I did this two years ago as well when I officially came out with having Alopecia to my peers.

The most recent photo

The photo from two years ago

Both of these posts got a lot of exposure, over a million views each only on Imgur, and I wanted to share my thoughts on this.

When posting a photo online there is always a chance of it going viral. I didn't expect it to do so either time, but I'm very happy it did. The main purpose with these posts were to raise awareness of Alopecia and give a face to the illness.

It's an illness that isn't very well known, mostly because people who have it do their best to hide it. Many people who see me for the first time wouldn't know something is different with me unless I talk about my wigs. When a condition like this is so unknown, wigs and baldness are most of the time associated to cancer and chemo-therapy. I don't like that people assume I'm very sick if they notice my wig, and that's why I want to open people's eyes and minds that there may be other reasons behind it.

Posting these photos have had an amazingly positive effect on myself, and also other people. I have been contacted by many people who suffer from hair loss due to Alopecia or other reasons, and I have been able to offer peer support and tips. I have also been contacted about different methods on doing my eye brows better, and people informing me about research on treatments I hadn't heard of before.

This is what I wanted to achieve and I'm very happy I was able to share my story and my experiences with the world. Hopefully it has helped some people, and hopefully more people will recognise the word Alopecia after this.

Here are the links to the Reddit posts. The most recent one and the one from two years ago.

 

Magical Finland

Clark and I are now back from our "holidays" in Finland. I can't really call it holidays as it felt like we needed a vacation afterwards. I actually had to create a schedule because we had so much planned and so many people to see. 

Nevertheless, we had an amazing time and I'm happy we got to see so many of the awesome people I get to call my friends and family. Clark did well in coping with having weird languages spoken to him, and soon he'll be in fluent in Swedish without needing to study it. Ha. If it ever was that easy. I'm going to make Clark work very hard to learn the mysterious Nordic language, because in my opinion it's very easy. And he's lucky I'm not prompting him to learn Finnish, because that's a whole different story. That language is just impossible to say the least.

Finland wasn't quite as charming as I'd hoped it would be. We got sun 1,5 days of the 8 we were there, and the rest of the days reminded too much of Irish weather. Gloomy grey skies and temperatures around 15 degrees. Not what I would call summer. I still managed to "get rid of my fur winter coat" as you say in Finnish - aka I swam in the sea for the first time this year.

Here are some photos I snapped.

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Got the travel bug again

So I'm sure you can't guess what I've been doing lately...yup. Travelling, again. In fact, I'm sitting at the airport right now even.

In May I went to Finland to meet up with friends and celebrate May Day. Now I'm on my way back there again, this time for other reasons; I'm going to my grandmother's funeral. She lived a long and good life, and made it the impressive age of 92 years. I'm happy I get to come home and say my last good bye to her.

In between my Finland trips I finally made it to Northern Ireland. My friend and I took a roadtrip to Giant's Causeway, stayed in a haunted castle B&B, and drove down with a pit stop for shopping in Belfast. Very fun weekend indeed.

My next trip is less than a month away, and that time both Clark and I are coming to Finland for our summer holiday.

A lotta travel you say huh...well I gotta keep true to the blog name, don't I?

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