Ten Low-cost Nature-themed Holiday Activities for August

chalet-640_mediumAugust is the best holiday month in Northern Europe. Locals are about to start a new academic year, yet the weather is still warm, and the mosquitoes are already gone. Blueberries and raspberries are ready to be gathered in the vast forests, water in the thousands of lakes is smooth like silk and as warm as the summer evening breeze. Nightless, and therefore sometimes also sleepless, nights are over; in August we Finns admire sunsets and stargaze.

deer-640_mediumAnyone, Finns and foreigners alike, may explore Finland’s forests or countryside freely thanks to a legal concept, Everyman’s Right,  unique to the Nordic countries. Picking wild berries and tasty mushrooms and fishing with a simple rod and line are allowed to everyone, but making a campfire or driving a motor vehicle off the road will require landowners permission. Fish and hunt are only allowed with appropriate permits. With rights come responsibilities – respecting others and nature!

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National parks are Finland’s national treasures and ideal sites for hikers, climbers and animal spotters. All forty of them have marked hiking routes, nature trails, information boards and picnic sites. Only a few national parks and popular recreational areas have particular trails designated for mountain biking though, and off-road cycling is generally not permitted to prevent harmful erosion. The photo was taken at Hiidenportti National Park in Sotkamo.

cycling-640_mediumRegardless, Finland offers excellent opportunities for biking in diverse and changing sceneries. A unique nationwide network of well-maintained and uncrowded roads is highly suitable for bicycle touring. Visit Finland’s Pyöräillen Suomessa, a website dedicated to cycling in Finland offers a vast amount of information including guides, maps, and biking routes. Pedaling is an economical way of moving around and sightseeing!

Another fun activity in nature for all ages is a modern treasure hunt – Geocaching. All you need for this fun sport are a device or a smartphone suitable for GPS positioning and a web connection. Anyone can register free of charge at the website of the worldwide geocaching community at www.geocaching.com. In case you’d like a tech-free holiday, search for geocaches with the help of a simple map is a viable option.

A well-liked activity of us northerners including a map and a compass is orienteering. Orienteering clubs arrange recreational orienteering events mainly from April to October. More precise information on these events can be found in Rastilippu service at www.rastilippu.fi. You need to create a user profile in order to use the service.

  1. Pick berries or mushrooms.
  2. Go fishing.
  3. Hike in a forest.
  4. Visit a national park.
  5. Bike.
  6. Go Geocaching.
  7. Try orienteering.
  8. Swim in a lake.
  9. Admire a sunset by a lake.
  10. Stargaze.

A Modest Summer Bucket List

fruit-640_mediumThis summer, I’m officially a summer bucket list follower. A dear friend of mine told me about the challenge – a collection of wonderful tasks that helps kids stay away from the screens and not get bored during the break. Reminding us all about the small things in life that matter, not to speak of helping us parents to figure out some creative, yet fun, summer assignments for our children.

It’s not always necessary to travel to the furthest corner of the world to make the vacation memorable as running through sprinklers in mum’s old hometown on a hot summer day is a blast!

repair-640_mediumSummer vacation at its best cuts us away from our everyday routines at home. Kids can enjoy outdoor activities and dive into their relaxing summer reading, and in one of Finland’s multiple lakes,  instead of wrestling with their homework or playing Fortnite in a tiny Parisian apartment. We, adults, can communicate in our mother tongue rather than mumble in multiple foreign languages.

Decelerate, breath and actively engage in purposeful activities; Granddad’s well-equipped garage provides an ideal venue for fixing a second-hand bike. This red devil is ready for the adventurous summer rides!

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Astonishing sunsets, home-made pizza,  and visiting the ice cream truck, Jätskiauto, have been the mouth and eye-watering experiences of July. Trying some tie-dye techniques and painting the story rocks will be the creative actions of August, not to mention familiarizing with all track and field disciplines, swimming in different lakes and visiting the local library.

 

What Does Emolevy Mean to Me?

vrcoaster-640_mediumI quit my permanent job at a respected international organization one and a half years ago. I had been thinking about changing the course of my life for quite some time, but it was not until I was well advanced with the web development studies at Udacity when I felt empowered enough to pull myself out of the golden gage finally.

Leaving the job I never really enjoyed that much, was the best decision I’ve ever made. I took the liberty to follow my dreams, yet I was still uncertain about my next moves. My dear husband gave me a year to figure things out, but as it turned out, it took a bit longer. I should have planned the future steps while I was still working;  Living from the spouse’s pocket has not been cool, neither fun for a prolonged period.

attitude-640_mediumIt will take two years; I have now understood until I’ll be able to provide my financial input to our household. The first year passed by so fast while I was gathering myself: Fixing the physical problems an office work had caused and the disappointment caused by the years of fulfilling the unfulfilling tasks in an unsuitable job. Being in a position of taking orders and implementing them from nine to six, every day and every week.

codecoffee-640_mediumChanging to a more active role of a decision maker does not come naturally but the joy to perform daily actions does when you love what you do. You have to work for and grow to your new operative functions. It is wonderfully exciting, yet frightening, to figure out how things work: how you start a business in a foreign country, how you run it and make it grow. Every day is different and challenging and I, myself, am responsible for my happiness at work.

Put that Learning into Practice

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Learning something is somewhat comfortable, but putting it into practice is the tricky part. We have an extraordinary ability to grasp new knowledge, but it’s not until we implement the learning that it becomes a real skill. We need to activate the potential by creating something useful, practical and/or beautiful that showcases the accumulated information in practice.

A new language, for example, is of no use, if you don’t read in it or communicate in speaking or writing. The same applies to computer skills: your knowledge of JavaScript or Python will only be tested when you create a new web application.

Project-based learning provides a solution. You gain content knowledge and accumulate critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills by carrying out a meaningful real-life project. For example, when I learned front-end web development, it was only the first big project, Neighbourhood map, that tested if I had actually understood all the online lectures I had listened over the past few months.

There are dozens of online courses teaching web development, but I personally favor the Nanodegree programs of Udacity because they are project-based and community oriented. Udacity provides excellent forums for asking questions from peers and mentors alike. Students work on different projects over an extended period of time – from a week up to a few months. They are engaged in creating apps with varying complexity and therefore get to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a product for the web or app store. Over the course of project development, and especially when you feel like giving up, the community is there to support you.

Screen capture of a Cafe and co-work appThe Udacity Nanodegree programs don’t only require us, students, to implement the skills we have acquired but at the same time provide us with the portfolio projects demanded when applying to jobs. These projects also serve as references for future work. The code has been reviewed and is, therefore, according to industry standards.

Putting knowledge into practice should be a requirement for all educational bodies. I might have become a mechanical engineer had the formulas of rotational motion been demonstrated in the real-life projects at the high school physics class!

On Learning and Running Marathons

marathon-640_mediumLong distance running, my oldest and dearest recreational activity, has thought me how to focus and be determined to overcome drawbacks and fatigue. The same willpower that got me through marathons or out there running when it was raining cats and dogs works now for my strength in other disciplines and areas of life.

During a long run or a marathon, the body and mind experience numerous sensations. The run starts typically easily because you’ve trained for it for months by running hundreds of kilometers. At the marathon, the difficulties usually begin after the halfway point. Your body starts showing signs of extreme exhaustion after the 30-kilometer mark: legs are painful and cramp, you feel nauseous and just want this all to end soon. You swear to yourself that you will never put yourself in this pain again, yet you’ll find yourself signing up for a new effort a week later. Your mind has to work on overcoming these unpleasant feelings you are experiencing; Your brain needs to focus on your goal – the finish line!

Becoming proficient requires discipline and perseverance. You have to be determined to continue your training despite disappointments or delays in achieving success. This isn’t easy if you are a naturally impatient type or if you let small – or significant – setbacks discourage you. You can, however, learn to be more persistent.

Firstly, set a goal. Then consider the steps you need to take in reaching it. Break down your grand task into smaller chunks and start working on them one by one. Focus on what you want to learn and drop all unnecessary from your schedule. When you face an obstacle, think how to overcome it. Don’t quit even if it feels exasperating; keep on trying!

marathondeparis 2I’ve been self-observing my progress over a year now in my two new hobbies, drawing and tennis, as well as aiming towards a new career. I notice that I progress gradually, but slowly and am content with the small accomplishments that motivate me to go on. Got that forehand shot quite right – so it is time to boost the backhand!

I’ve practiced tennis twice a week, drawing less regularly, and am still far from fully understanding, without mentioning putting in practice, all different types of tennis shots or drawing techniques. I’ve improved my play a great deal but also understood that getting even better will require more hours of regular training. The same applies to the drawing – more strokes on paper will necessarily lead to advancement in arts, but achieving results takes longer when the exercise schedule is irregular.

I intend to improve my drawing and tennis skills. I have set myself short-term and long-term goals. Sooner, I need to get that serve right; Later, I want to participate in a tennis tournament. The road to the long-term goal is windy and passes by many stops and I need to, hence, stay focused and determined. Here the lessons learned through the long distance running become handy. At the moment of despair, I’ll set my mind to my long-term goal. I will not stress out if something does not stick immediately but try again, and again, until one short-term goal has been achieved; then I’ll move on.

 

Endless Source of Inspiration

smileycafe-640_mediumI’ve troubles in finding inspiration. I’m sipping my morning coffee in a beautifully designed Parisian coffee shop while writing this post. Flavor of the Belleville coffee and the ambiance of Bleu Olive should toss me into it, but no, it’s no go, again today. The energy of a young adult has vanished long ago, and bourgeois lifestyle might have drained the rest of it like those dementors in Harry Potter, who gradually deprive human minds of happiness and intelligence.

Or maybe it’s the urban way of life. Running back and forth – being busy. Too many stimuli. Personal characteristics add up to this lack of motivation – tendency to overdo and get tired, trouble in finding a perfect balance between labor and leisure. Labor meaning not only work but strenuous physical activity in the form of any sports. I do tell my kids that downtime is critical, but my example is contradictory.

Google search provides me with many self-help lists for finding the inspiration. According to many disconnecting and giving yourself a pressure-free moment or creative expression would do the trick. Also contemplating everything you’ve learned and achieved and how you’ve made a positive difference in the world would fill the bill.

I’d add recalling your goals to this list. Those reasons that pushed you to the exercise at first place. I’ve scribbled mine in a notebook and will revisit them right now.

Out of the Box Thinking

colorful-640_medium“Creativity is more important than knowledge.” I’ve loosely quoted Albert Einstein to my children. “Does it mean that we don’t need to go to school but we can just build lego or play computer games instead?” Why not, if somehow through that play, the basic concepts and rules of math, sciences, and living in a society would be transferred to you. School, in general, provides a wide variety of information: we learn the basics of math, sciences, languages, history and geography. We practice our social skills by being a part of a community; We learn discipline and to respect the rules. An excellent school also provides nurturing for the curious minds and makes them want more.

Knowledge can thus be acquired by learning from books and from people, but when the imagination steps in the new inventions are born. Creativity is our inner quality that can be fed and knowledge provides nourishment for the innovation. Without knowledge, there is not much to innovate on. Hence, learning is a key and creativity will define the door it will open.