Final Thoughts

I am not sure I have fully digested the 60 and Doc mother-daughter backpacking 28-day trip. We have traveled 11,345 miles, walked nearly 423,321 steps, and enjoyed every second…seriously. I know most would think spending 28 continuous days, 672 hours, or 40,320 minutes with your mom would be too much. And TRUST me I have LARGE personal space boundaries, but the memories and adventures only strengthened our bond. My brothers say we are the same, but through this journey, I have seen the subtle differences between us. We are a good balance and value prompt arrival times, the flexibility of making a wrong turn, and spending money when it counts, like High Tea and spa days. 

Having traveled to a handful of destinations in my 33-year old life, I think I was coming to the Scandinavian region where my paternal family is from in search of the ‘ah-ha’. Like, “oh that is why I do that” or “now I understand my tall chunky body frame.” I was in search for my doppelgänger, my sister from another mother, who had been roaming a different part of the world, yet we oddly lead similar lives. Or maybe feel connected to a different culture that is a quarter of my genetic make-up. But I didn’t find my foreign twin or feel connected to the regions. Not to say I didn’t have a blast. But the search or quest for any epiphany was met with more looming questions and ideas for future travel plans. 

As afore mentioned in an earlier blog, we are all humans simply moving, working, and living with our family and friends hoping and striving to make the world a better place. One of my favorite artist, Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I have been afraid my whole life – but it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do.” I think fear drives people to hesitate and leave goals unfinished. Traveling can be full of fear. Technical malfunctions with plane equipment, the unpredictable irrational behavior of others, foreign languages, currency, and transportation through an unknown journey. It is easy to see why people prefer to stay in their own sphere. 

But even though, I don’t have any revelations or confirmations about the why’s of exploring the world, I feel richer for the shared experience of my 28-day trip. Walking streets in wrong directions, attempting to decipher unknown words, to see once in a lifetime museums and landscapes, were all worth the fear. 

During our excursion through Norway’s countryside by bike, I vividly recall an internal struggle. Questioning “why did I plan this excursion, I have not ridden a bike in years! What if I fall off? What if my mom falls off? What if I make the wrong turn? What if, what if, what if…” All of the what if’s in life lead to fear and I am not going to allow that. 

I will continue to research travel destinations, search Pinterest for tips and tricks, read other blogs for insight. And prepare for what may come. Mom is ready to take off to Greece, Australia, and a plethora of other places, but we do have to pause, rejoin reality, pay off travel bills, and explore our backyards for local adventures. Hello home and looking forward to summer 2018. Watch out Greece!!! 

Home Sweet Home

I have yet again jinxed the travel plans with my bad luck. The last three times I have flown international, everything is smooth sailing to the destination. I have a rocking vacation and then trying to get home, all hell breaks loose. 

We arrived from Helsinki Monday morning on a great flight with Norwegian airline. Then we had a connection with WestJet to Atlanta. Unfortunately, they cancelled four key flights leaving from Canada earlier in the day, so we were postponed to the next morning, Tuesday. I tried to negotiate a direct flight from Heathrow airport to Atlanta, but WestJet was not willing to strike a deal. However, they were accommodating with food vouchers for meals and a hotel room at the airport’s Hilton. 

We walked to our hotel, enjoyed lunch and dinner, relaxed, and commiserated with other passengers. I was still feeling anxious, so my sleep wasn’t sound. My fear was missing the alarm clock leading to the gate doors closing in my face and not returning home.

We arrived earlier than early to the terminal. WestJet said four other planes were leaving the same time as ours, so they encourage us to arrive early. We patiently waited in line to find our reservation had been moved to a different airline company with an afternoon departure. We had another airport hangout for about five hours, but I was excited to see British Airways was hosting our flight. No direct flights; we would have to connect in Orlando then Atlanta. United States soil was within grasp. My toes and fingers were crossed in anticipation of our new flight schedule. 

After boarding the aircraft, mom and I lucked out with an empty seat between the two of us. We relaxed in comfort. Snacked our way over the Atlantic Ocean with pretzels, vegetarian pasta, chocolate and blackcurrant cheesecake, and cheese and crackers. Once I regain my land legs in Atlanta, I will be writing a letter by hand to the offices of British Airways saying thank you for a smooth ride home, impeccable hospitality from our flight attendants Steve and Holly, and the great snacks. Oh, I forgot to mention they supplied us with toothbrushes!

When mom and I left Helsinki, we disposed of all toiletries, including our tooth brushes. The high-class hotel, Hilton, didn’t provide anything but soap and shampoo. Thanks for the excellent service BA, British Airways, or Bad Ass!

I will take a moment to reflect about the trip, but currently I glad to be home. I am excited to start a new part-time job with PaperSource in Atlanta. They are a stationary, paper, craft and art supply company that I have always admired and been a costumer. Looking forward to a different adventure in my hometown.  

Finland Finale

We finished our 60 and Doc Backpacking trip in Finland. Here is my top 5 list of things to do while in Helsinki:
1) Suomenlinna Island

Yesterday, we adventured to Suomenlinna Island that is a sea fortress. It has shifted ownership between the Swedes, Russians, and current residents of Independent Finland. Nearly 800 people still live on the island and is home to museums, crafts, and recreation. Whether walking the trails or enjoying the sights, I highly recommend spending 11E on a guided tour. Our guide Camilla was informative and passionate about the history of Suomenlinna. In addition to the fort, the lovely twenty-minute ferry ride was relaxing with some breath taking Finnish scenery. 

2) The Old Hall Market

Walking the stalls and purchasing local crafts, produce, and souvenirs. You must grab a basket of strawberries. We swung through twice for berries and they were deliciously sweet. 

3) Temppeliaukio Church (The Stone Church)

Today, we enjoyed a leisure breakfast and then explored two different churches. The Stone Church was amazing. The acoustics of this natural surround was breathtaking. We luckily arrived with organs playing and were treated to a soloist singing. We stayed for about forty minutes and it was FREE!

4) Kamppi Chapel (The Silent Chapel)

The second church today was the Silent Chapel. The location is in the square of Kamppi shopping center. It is a unique honeycomb shape in the heart of concrete buildings. When you step through the door, you are transported into a silent wood fortress with natural and candle light warming the room. 

5) Shopping

Just walking around the malls provides excellent people watching. Today, our last stop was at the Finnish design house, Marimekko. I could have spent my salary on the bright bold clothes, jackets, housewares, and bedding. I did splurge on a few items. Stopping by Marimekko is a must when in Finland. 

It was a great final adventure. Tomorrow, we have an early wake up call to make our cross the globe trek to the ATL!

On the Fence

We left our cruise ship early this morning at 9:00 am! I am on the fence about the cruise experience. It was a great deal financial and offered some AMAZING views. There were some minuses: sleeping in a coffin, music from ‘da club’, kids running unattended, and no breakfast.

When I woke up this morning to the ceiling, I was never more certain that I would be cremated when I die. I will never sleep for eternity in a small confined space. I need to breath, have room, be set FREE! I sleep fine. The bed was comfy. I felt like I was at summer camp being on the top bunk and my mom on the bottom. It was fun. Unfortunately our room was directly near the Viking Line’s hottest dance club. I could feel the vibrations from ‘da club’ until two in the morning. I used my ear buds and some mellow music to lull me to sleep. 

I think I am on the fence about cruises because I just didn’t fit the right demographic. There were the ’20-somethings’ getting cray-cray on the booze cruise. People were going wild in the tax-free store with alcohol. I observed two young men with 12 cases of beer on travel rolling carts. I honestly don’t think the prices were amazing, but maybe alcohol is really expensive here in Finland. The other demographic was ‘mommy and daddy weekend of fun’. Parents who have kids ranging from late elementary to high school age boarded the boat in droves. Their kids were let loose to roam the halls and play video games which looked like slot machines. Let’s get those kids addicted to gambling early in life! I am pretty tolerant of kids, but at 2 in the morning, they should be asleep not rolling around. The last demographic was the elderly who enjoy a slower pace of life. I think this is more my speed and I related most with them. 

When we arrived for breakfast this morning, they asked for 30€. I looked at mom, who didn’t understand the language barrier and said let’s go. Unfortunately, we had to purchase round-trip tickets to get the breakfast meal for free. That was not so clear on their website, but I wasn’t too worried. I am NOT a huge fan of buffets. Germs, kids licking their fingers, people who don’t wash their hands after bathroom duties…I was sad I misinformed my mom, but we simply purchased some coffee in the ship’s cafe and two yogurts for about 6€. 

My brother, Peter, went on a cruise a while back and he said three to four days of fun is the perfect amount on a cruise. I can see getting on ship with some friends and floating around, soaking up the sun, and enjoying my crew. I don’t think I could do anything longer. Tight quarters with perfect strangers, I might save to commission my own private vessel next time…in my dreams 🙂

When we docked in Helsinki, our mission was to purchase transport passes, secure a locker for our backpacks, and then hit two locations before meeting our AirB&B owner at three. Everything went smoothly! We purchased a 5-day transportation pass for all transportation in Helsinki area, including trains, trams, busses, and ferries. They were 25€ for each of us and this will include our transportation to the airport Monday. We locked up our bags in the train station for 6 Euros and took off for food at the Old Market Hall. It reminded me of Ponce City Market, but more fish products. I was not too adventurous. I stayed away from the smoked eel. E. Eriksson had a corner booth with every meat product possible. Obviously, I am not from that string of Eriksson’s with my occasional meat consumption. We picked two delicious sandwiches, three cupcakes, and some amazing strawberries. I am not sure the picture below captures how perfectly ripe, sweet, and delicious these berries were. Mom says we are going back for more this weekend!

After lunch, we walked long the fence of a beautiful garden. Kaisaniemen kasvitieteellinen puutarha (Botanical Gardens) of Helsinki. It was a beautiful green house with over 800 species of plants. The interesting notation was they used different color name plaques to distinguish if they were endangered, useful, local, or poisonous. My favorite room was the water lily room. The larger than life lily pads could easy fit my mom on one of them. They only live from April to November. They need adequate amounts of sunlight, so when it does dark in the winter the lily pads go away too. 

Tomorrow, we are hoping to celebrate midsummer’s eve with the locals with nearly 24-hours of continuous sunlight! Let’s see what trouble we can get into at our final stop. 

Mode of Transportation

I think traditionally when a person says they are going backpacking people tend to lean toward the idea of purchasing a multi-country railway pass and hop from city to city riding the rails. With new local airlines, like EasyJet, flying from each destination is affordable and quick. 

As we began to think about the conclusion of our backpacking trip, I thought it would be cool to travel by sea. We boarded the Viking Line Mariella (click the link to see great cruise deals) this afternoon at 3 o’clock and are now making our way through the archipelagos islands of Sweden. The waters are calm and ride is slow and steady. I think I have it calculated that we will travel approximately 18 mph, which is about 16 knots in boat terms. We will arrive in 16 hours to our next and last stop of Helsinki, Finland. 

Obviously speed is not the benefit to cruising in the ocean, but I will say it is very cost efficient. For a place to sleep (a cozy 2 berth cabin, AKA my walk-in closet at home, transportation, and complimentary breakfast the following morning was $57.50 USD per person. You can’t stay at a Red Roof in for those kind of prices! I think booking in advance and choosing an interior cabin reduced our fare. I know scenery is important when traveling by boat, but we are currently sitting on the 6th floor deck enjoying a nice window view.

Being in an interior cabin, I am looking forward to sleeping in the dark. Mom and I chatted today about the nature of circadian rhythm and how we have both popped awake at three and four in the morning. If I were to live in a Scandinavian country, I would need black out drapes and an eye mask 24/7!

Looking forward to our final destination! The last stop will all be impromptu, as we don’t have anything firmly scheduled.

Spa & Shopping (Author: Big Al)

After a leisurely breakfast we headed to the bus station for SPA DAY. That’s right we did the Swedish massage and facial today. We arrived at the Elite Hotel and were greeted by Esther, our masseuse. Esther is shorter than me yes less than 5 feet tall and tiny, but let me tell you she can work the kinks out like no other. After a 2 hour massage and facial, Sarah and I left totally relaxed.  
We headed to a little cafe, The Green Smile. I apparently was seen as the ugly American today because I asked about a dish sitting on the counter. They looked like muffins to me but were falafel not like any I had seen. Anyway a gentlemen came out from the back and said he had to see the American. 

In true tourist style Sarah and I shopped for the first time in 23 days. I wanted to pick up a few things for the kids. I love to bring back things that actually come from the area not something when you turn it over it says made in China. I found some really unique nicknacks for the kids. In our bumming around we also saw parts of the city that we had not explored. It was a beautiful day, blue skies, cool breezes and a nice way to end our visit to Sweden. Tomorrow we board the boat for our cruise to Helsinki.

Side note from Sarah: We didn’t really take any photos today, but here is a cool statue of John Ericsson we walked by while shopping!

“Come on Ride that Train…And Ride It…”

Today, we traveled by rail to Falun. A small mountain town about two and half hours north of Stockholm. The lust green landscape was a familiar site. The perfectly crisp green meadows with sprouts of early summer vegetation was reminiscent of my maternal family roots in Tennessee. I know farming is hard work, but the landscape is so peaceful and calming.

The farther we moved outside the city, I firmly believe the Scandinavian countries restrict outdoor paint colors to barn rust red, mustard yellow, gloss black, and hunter green. These colors acted as bookends to the random clusters of houses in the smaller outlying towns where the train occasionally stopped. 

After we arrived in Falun, we missed our bus by minutes and were forced into another taxi situation. Initially we attempted to walk to the museum, but after five MILES (we are stubborn people…. You would think after a mile or two a smart person would turn around, not us! Plus, we needed some exercise, so we could eat dessert later). The lovely paved path was twisting around the main road, but abruptly came to a dead end on a major highway, we agreed to call in reinforcements. 

I added a ‘passport’ package to my June phone bill. I have AT&T for my service provider. It allows me a certain number of international phone calls, free text messaging, and a small amount of data for $30. I have kept my phone in airport mode mainly. Today I had to call a taxi, so the phone package was a savior today.

Thirty minute taxi ride later, we arrived at the Carl Larsson home. In need of refreshment and lunch we enjoyed watermelon, sandwiches, and two Swedish desserts. I must say my sandwiches were off the chain today. I am naming them “the green machine”. I used a cucumber sandwich for my inspiration with the traditional cream cheese, but added spinach and presto vinaigrette. Amazingly fresh and delicious. 

We were lead through the Larsson house by a guide that clued us in to little bits of information. Like some of the tapestry designs from Carl’s wife Karin are used in IKEA! In Carl’s bedroom he had a secret door. The door was no bigger than a small window, but he believed he should see his artwork first thing in the morning. The rooms were spectacularly splashed with colors of oranges and ivy greens. The colorful stain glass windows made the rooms glow, while the larger picture windows captured the surrounding landscape of trees and a lily pond. Larsson customized each room with hand painted text, vines, ribbons, and family portraits on the doors. Unfortunately, we were unable to snap interior photos, but I was able to swipe some images from Google. 

Although public transportation was the root of frustration today, it was still another spectacular day abroad. I am now sitting on the return train to Stockholm as the evening sun warms the cabin. Tomorrow will be a day of relaxation! We have a spa day scheduled for traditional Swedish messages. Only six days left in our journey!  

Rocky Start

Today was not the smoothest start to our Stockholm city exploration. We purchased a 72-hour transportation card that allowed us admission to any metro trains, buses, and ferries. The cards were about $30 USD and trust me that is a great price! The route for our first stop, the Ericsson Globe, was a two metro train path with an estimated 34-minute travel time. Being gun-shy about traveling a new city, I allowed for an hour. 

What I didn’t anticipate was the metro train would be running late, like later than late. We had to hop in an uber taxi to zip us to the Globe with nine minutes to spar! In London when riding the Eye, the time posted on your ticket was a light suggestion, but at the Globe they honor the time listed on your ticket. 11:50 was a nerve racking time! It was intense and expensive. Uber ain’t cheap y’all! I am trying to get all of my southern twang into my blog. I feel like I have change my accent to read less American and more English or maybe Canadian while traveling. The only interesting thing people ask when they hear you are American is “what do you think about the Presidential election?” I always go for a witty comment, like I am dealing with my students. My mom said religion, politics, and money are not public discussion points.

Once we arrived to the Ericsson Globe, we traveled to the peak of the world’s largest sphere, 130 meters above sea level. The view was a spectacular 360 degree landscape of Stockholm. It was great for my spacial reasoning. I was able to get my bearings seeing a bird’s eye view of the Old City, where we are staying, and everything else in this fairly large metropolis.

After the Globe, we gathered our thoughts and some caffeine from an American classic, McDonalds. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when in doubt head to the Golden Arches. They generally have free wifi and clean bathrooms. 

We then temped fate again on public transportation. All was clear with a ride to the Nobel Museum. Every year Stockholm host the presentation of five of the six Nobel Prizes. The 6th, the Peace section, is held in Oslo. It was a super cool museum with artifacts about the different Laureates, a section dedicated to the man, Alfred Nobel, and a rotating banner system will all 900 prize recipients’ pictures and subject area moving constantly from the rafters. **Nerd Alert**I have four names I would like to research further: Carlo Rubbia (1984, Physics), Christiane Nüsslien-Volhard (1995, Medicine), Roald Hoffman (1981, Chemistry), and J. Georg Bednore (1987, Physics). I will not bore you with the research, but I will tell you there was an exhibition of a photographer. He used 50 of the Laureates drawings about their research and findings and these four sketches were ones that caught my attention. 

After nerding out at the Nobel Museum, we caught lunch in a park near the Royal Palace. Unlike Oslo, we were not treated to an impromptu marching band performance. The gray clouds held off and the tour buses were in the distance, so it was quiet and peaceful. 

We then walked to the Modern Museum were I came face to face with an artist I had previously seen with friends in Mexico City. Kusama is a Japanese artist with the nickname, the polka dot princess. Her work is a delight! Her use of bright bold colors, variation in materials like pumpkin sculptures, and then covering everything with dots creates humor and quirkiness to her pieces. They also had a great outdoor sculpture garden with the works from Picasso, Calder, and Tinguely.


After strolling through the garden, we took a ferry ride. I was honest with my mom and told her I wasn’t sure where we would end up. The lines on ferry maps are vague and difficult to read. I am not a captain with nautical knowledge. We ended up on the right side of the channel, but time expired. We were unable to sneak in one more museum, but scoped out the tourist shop instead. We walked the last mile home for some additional steps on our FitBits. 

We have an early day tomorrow with a 7:45 train ride north to Fulan to the gardens of Carl Larsson, one of my mom’s favorite artist. It should make for a fun day in the country.

Down Time

On every trip, it is only natural to take a moment of relaxation. This morning, we woke to see the weather was not as expected with a 100% chance of rain. We were adventurous and traveled with umbrellas to the grocery store. After the soggy adventure, we both decided the day of museums was postponed. No one really wants to walk around wet!

So the Erickson’s were sidelined in their first official day in Stockholm, but the mid-afternoon nap, reading, research, and movies has been relaxing! Tomorrow the weather is cloudy, but no rain. We will resume our schedule tomorrow and look forward to visiting the Ericsson Globe sports and event arena. 

Seriously in the first steps off the plane Ericsson was posted everywhere. Why did my great grandparents Americanize our last name?!? Looking forward to dry adventures with my peeps! I am a quarter Swedish 🙂 

Alice’s Travel Guide to Sight-seeing with Sore and Tired Legs…

Hey party people! Every stop, I like to turn the keyboard over to my mom. Here are her thoughts on our 18th day…

What do you do the day after a trip that will forever be imprinted on your brain? You 1 buy a Bergen card. 2 Because you are a teacher and sitting in the country with the best schools in the world – you visit the School Museum. 3 Because your body is sore from yesterday you hop the tram to a church you found that was build in 1150. And 4 you stroll through the the Kode Museum.

The Bergen card allowed for free admission and transportation for the day. The card made it easy and saved us money. Our first stop the School Museum was interesting but everything was in Norwegian, however the artifacts, classrooms and paintings they used as teaching aids were quite interesting. There were classrooms, science room, lecture hall and even a clinic. The students not only went to the school they lived in the school. Christy Stephenson you were born in the wrong time.
We left Bergen headed to Fantoft. Once in Fantoft we did as we were told – turn left at the grocery store and you will find the church. What we were not told was that the walk to the church was straight up a hill for several blocks. Remember the sore body part well this did not bode well for that but it was worth it. We entered the drive under a canopy of trees and lush ferns and grass. It was the most peaceful walk. The drive opened up to the Stave Church which was built in 1150. The roof was all hand carved wood scallops. When you entered the sanctuary you nose was bombarded with the smell of sweet wood and your eyes were mesmerized by all of the carving and wood work. It was a piece of art. Sarah and I walked around the grounds and stopped to have our regular brown bag lunch on a stone bench in the woods.

On our return to Bergen it began to sprinkle, but we soldiered on to the Kode Museum. We began with the contemporary art and I do mean contemporary. Several of these pieces I believe I could have done. A canvas painted completely gray-yes I could do that. A piece of rusted rebar leaving against a white canvas – yes I could do that too. We moved rather rapidly through this section and into the Norwegian art. The art in this section was truly beautiful. We did not venture into the last section as we wanted to return to the flat before the weather turned on us. So back to the flat for a quiet evening of postcards, journals and plans for our last day in Norway.