It’s time to look back to my travels during the crazy, boring, frustrating corona year. Despite everything, I actually managed to visit 5 countries! How is that possible? Read more to find out…
Right after New Year’s celebrations, I packed my bag and four great co-workers and headed to the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. I haven’t visited the city since my teenage years so the lack of tourists (it was January after all) and surprisingly cheap prize level surprised me. Well, cheap and cheap, Stockholm is one of the most expensive places in the world – but I was expecting it to be more expensive. We stayed at a cute little house (built probably in the 17th century) right in the middle of Gamla Stan, the old town. The days were partly working (being at Formex exhibition) and partly free time just wandering around the town and having a new fika (= coffees and cakes) every other hour.
My next destination was my old home country Malta. I moved to Sliema (Malta’s biggest expat bubble, along with St Julians) after living two years in Australia and worked for a local gaming company. The Mediterranean way of life has its pros and cons, and I would not move to the island anymore. Visiting Malta, however, is always so nice. I miss all the great people, the sun, interesting history, the sea and the care-free life.
So, after returning from Malta I packed my backpack once again and headed to Singapore! I had decided to put my studies on hold for two months and just travel a bit more. Later this proved to be an excellent decision. At this point, I wasn’t yet worried about the “Chinese virus” but in less than a month my life would be completely different…
Singapore. It was my first proper trip to an Asian country, and I wanted to start from the easiest and “most Western” option of all. I stayed in a capsule hotel, ate laksa soup for the first time and got overwhelmed by the Gardens by the Bay. Singapore was easy, safe, organised and international. It was pretty expensive as well, at least all alcohol and eating at fancier restaurants.
From Singapore it was just a short flight to Melbourne, my ex-hometown. Tears came to my eyes when I heard the squealing sounds of trams and smelled the scent of the city so familiar and dear to me. I had several flat whites, ate poached egg breakfasts, visited Queen Victoria Market and Royal Botanic Gardens and even had a dozen shots of tequila at a nightclub where I danced till late night. I soaked the mid-summer sun and breathed in freedom like almost knowing that it will end soon.
On my return flight, something had changed. They tested my temperature and checked if I had ever been to China. Luckily, I hadn’t and was able to return to Finland, just in time for my next trip.
St Petersburg, Russia
I spend one or two days in Finland until I was on the road again. This time, I and a punch of journalist students took a train to St Petersburg, Russia. There were hardly any tourists in the city so we were able to visit museums and other attractions – Hermitage, Yusupov Palace, Mariinsky Theatre and the weirdest of all, a raccoon cafe – almost socially distancing.
Many people think that Russia is a bit difficult country to travel to. Sure, you’ll need to have a visa and sure, not all people even in big cities speak English. Sure, there are scammers everywhere (like literally 30 % of places tried to scam us). However, you can still manage in places like St Petersburg, and the amount of history, culture and great food you get in return makes it really worth it.
It took just a bit over a week and Finland was in a nearly “lockdown” state. All restaurants, cafés and schools were closed. Wartime laws were in place giving the government power to regulate our life. No one was going overseas anymore.