by Marja

Many of us still remember sweet, carefree childhood summers when the sun was shining every day – at least in our nostalgic memories, although the annual weather statistics may indicate something else. A happy child eating wild strawberries in a fragrant flower meadow with her grandmother is a recollection without a parallel!

Source: Marja

Today, magazines and web blogs are bursting with articles that deal with the best ways to ease our summer vacation stress, also including pre- and post-vacation stress.  The headings are revealing: “How to Minimize Stress Before, During, and After Your Vacation, Fifteen Secrets to a Stress-Free Summer Vacation, Family vacations can be stressful, here’s how to make them great. Feeling Stressed Before Your Vacation, Tips to Leave The Panic Out and Why You Feel So Stressed Out After A Vacation.”  Doctors and psychologists working at occupational health services are claiming that work is not the only source of the widespread fatigue and burnout risk.  Leisure time activities play an increasing role in burdening people’s minds.

Vacations are supposed to be something pleasant, relaxing and invigorating.  What has happened?  Let us discuss the dilemma through the lenses of four caricature vacationers that represent different archetypes.

Hard-working Cottager

A hard-working wannabe farmer gives a totally new meaning to the word ‘vacation’ while this personification of the Protestant work ethic has internalized the old Finnish proverb which reads: “Diligence is our joy.”  He spends ALL (!) his spare time – annual leaves, bank holidays, weekends, etc. – in his summer cottage which he has turned into an endless work camp.  He is ready to drive there six-hours each Friday night.

Every year, the wannabe farmer is plowing, seeding, planting, weeding, thinning, irrigating, and finally harvesting his flawless garden plot which provides him with self-sufficiency as regards potatoes, vegetables, berries, fruits and flowers.  The well-cut lawn of his perfect yard resembles a golf course, and his blossoming flowerbeds would easily win the first prize in the contest for the most beautiful garden.  If our assiduous perfectionist is not working with his plants, he is painting his house, cleaning his garage, repairing his garden tractor, or chopping firewood. From dawn to dust, his next-door neighbors hear the continuous sound of his work tools, such as the knocking of a hammer, and the engine noise of a lawn mower or a leaf blower.  It is only at late night when he goes to the sauna to relax, after a long day.

This eager beaver is MY summer cottage neighbor! I may sound paranoid but I suspectdisguised moral disapproval from his side, as he sees my uncut lawn and modest, slightly neglected garden.  In his opinion, rather than swim in a lake or read a book under a tree, I should probably hoe the ground.


Different Types of Tourists

While our wannabe farmer is longing for the romanticized agrarian past, a globetrotter is a postmodern urban hipster who refuses to own an “old-fashioned”, yokel-like summer cottage in the countryside.  Instead, he invests his loose money in frequent traveling worldwide in order to validate his cosmopolitan aura.  For a snob, booking a package holiday in a cheap Mediterranean beach resort or on the Canary Isles and getting there by a charter flight is almost as embarrassing as attending the Boot Throwing or Wife Carrying World Championships in a Finnish periphery.   The abovementioned globetrotter thus constitutes a specific sub-category of the traveler hierarchy.

Travel enthusiasts can be divided into sub-groups based on their age, social position, place of residence and a few other demographic variables.  People living in provinces still favor package holidays and organized group tours purchased from travel agencies and tour operators, whereas people living in the capital and other big cities prefer individual tourism, active holidays and thematic tours to be bought online.  In both categories, interests vary in view with the purpose of a given trip. One can differentiate between cultural, adventure, sport & recreation, health, shopping, and leisure tourists.

Some travelers are looking for historic sights and world heritage sites; others are searching for beaches, bars and parties. Some are energized by a busy, buzzing metropolis that never sleeps; others are fancying wonders of the nature and quietness of the wilderness.  Some prefer scenic car or train tours to unecological air travel; many love cruises. I have also met tourists who seem to be more interested in hotels, groceries and souvenir kitsch shops than any real attractions.

Leisure time travel may entail a result-driven track record on the ambitious agenda of a high performer.  Some travelers are collecting miles; others are shopping countries.  It is more important for them to drive long distances on a road trip or to visit as many countries as possible than to be truly present in each place.  Once in Iceland, a fellow tourist told us that he did not have to walk to a magnificent waterfall because he got a great photo of it from the van, thanks to his camera objective.  An acquaintance of mine plans her holidays two years in advance in order to maximize the geographic scope of her journeys.  Antarctica is the only continent she has not visited so far.


Visitor to Domestic Festivals

Finland is not only the country of thousands of lakes but also the promised land of thousands of summer festivals and other events, covering a vast spectrum from mass sports to elitist high culture, from stadium concerts to religious conventions, and much more.  For instance, open-air theater performances, which often combine contributions of both amateur and professional actors, diversify the offering of local performing arts. As for the size of those happenings, their range varies from small family and village celebrations to the established events that gather thousands of guests decade after decade. The following well-known festivals can be cited as examples of the latter:

Savonlinna Opera, Kuhmo Chamber Music, Pori Jazz, Kaustinen Folk Music, Ruisrock (Rye Rock), Tampere Theatre, Midnight Sun Film and Tall Ship Races Kotka.

No matter how marginal or eccentric your hobby or liking is, you will find a fitting match for it! Perhaps the next recommendations will prove this promise: You can familiarize yourself with rally, archaeology, Finnish tango, Karelian language, arctic nature photography, contemporary art, old literature, heavy metal music, competitive electronic gaming or anime, manga- and cosplay scenes.  Alternatively, you may participate in a nighttime relay competition in orienteering, or in a church boat-rowing race.

In addition to festivals and events, you may cultivate yourself by attending classes that help you improve some of your skills or continue your education.  Community colleges, open universities, language schools and other training institutesoffer all kinds of useful and useless courses throughout the country.

In the past, I had a male colleague who was close to the retirement age – i.e. little over 60-years old – at that time.  When summer holidays were approaching, this former colleague of mine always composed a huge Excel sheet, which embraced his complete holiday program in detail.  He did not plan his leisure activities only on a daily but hourly basis!  The incentive for his precise, thorough programming derived from an earlier vacation when he had “lost” little time due to inadequate ex anteplanning.  During seven weeks, there had been a few hours when he had had nothing to do, which had annoyed him enormously.  One of his regular hobbies was the touring of traditional dance pavilions with his wife. Every summer weekend, they went practicing conventional partner dances in different pavilions or halls.


Nerd in His Man Cave

A nerd is not concerned about the holiday weather and does not mind cold, rainy days.  In fact, he may be even relieved if the weather is uncomfortable because he does not need to feel bad consciousness of sitting indoors at his computer.  The nerd loves programming and computer games irrespective of the season.



Find Your Way To Relax

What is weird for one vacationer is wonderful for another.  The key issue is to win distance from your ordinary routines and spend your vacation in a way that feels right for you.  If your everyday life is busy, crowded and volatile, it might be advisable to calm down rather than to draw up a tight schedule consisting of numerous hobbies, journeys and events.  On the other hand, if your daily life is quiet, monotone and uneventful, you might wish to look for an active holiday with an adventure.  The main thing is to proceed on your own terms instead of responding to others’ expectations by listening to the so-called “good” advice from friends, relatives, neighbors or colleagues.  The purpose of the holiday is not to upload fancy photos onto Instagram or Facebook.

My holiday preferences have passed an evolution over the years.  When I was younger, I defined myself as a travel addict and a professional tourist.  (My carbon footprint from flying must be quite massive.)  In addition to sightseeing, I participated in big festivals, went to opera and theater, and searched for interesting, inspiring conversations, say, at pubs and cafes whenever I visited new cities. Gradually, I realized that the famous tourist magnets are not necessarily the most fascinating places to visit.  Unknown addresses may instead surprise positively.

At present, I am keener on hiking and nature tourism, as well as spending lazy days at our summer cottage where I can swim in a lake and go for a row.  I have also learned to appreciate smaller, lower profile festivals, paying more attention to quality than quantity.  To cite an example, I look forward to attending the Hauho Chamber Music Festival in early July.  Its intimate classic concerts take place in medieval greystone churches and historic manors in lovely rural surroundings.  As I always loved history, I would like to attend workshops, lectures and guided tours that focus on local micro history and genealogy.

Source: Marja