On my journey I redefine luxury. The biggest is a cosy bed, and the second is time to linger. To guarantee these luxuries, I wear the comfortable bed on my back, and I take the time to stay in beautiful places. It's in big parts the reason why travelling long term is tolerable for me. In third place, is the luxury of routines. So far, I had assumed that these habits bring about the death of creativity. Here in Vantaa, however, I experience the opposite. The morning mocha coming out of the Bialetti (specially bought for me) provides a feeling of stillness every morning. The familiar smell of – sometimes maybe a little burnt – coffee, the sound of bubbling boiling water, and the thick black liquid in a medium-sized white cup, bring me half an hour of peacefulness. This feeling isn't created by the coffee alone. Rather, it's the passing through the well-known motions that this satisfaction produces in me: the slight smell, the noise, the coffee. It's part of a routine that I picked up and brought home from my year studying in Italy. I will take it wherever I go.
Routines aren't stable or never changing blocks for me. When travelling, I am looking for new habits that connect me with feelings of that one place. In the end, they often provide crucial clues for locally preferred tastes (a by-product). For me, it's important to understand why locals prefer one type of preparation over the other. I am not necessarily concerned with an anthropologically sound treatise, but with very practical and comprehensible facts. What looks strange to me (mustard, sausage and cheese on bread), becomes thus understandable. In Finland, for example, it's not impossible, but additional effort is required to make a German breakfast. A lot of the stuff that we put on bread in Germany, we find on the table in Finland. There are just a few small differences. For example, the Finnish butter is always salty, which often makes sausages on bread too salty and bread with jam unpalatable. Often you, therefore, eat bread with butter or instead of butter mustard or mayonnaise. Buying unsalted butter doesn't solve the problem because then the distribution of salt is out of balance. Finnish bread is delicious if it's combined with Finnish spreads. If you go with the German kind, you will be disappointed. Also, as a Finnish person, you eat porridge for breakfast much more often anyways. And that brings us to the routine I will bring home from Finland.
Nowadays many Germans make porridge for breakfast, for the same reasons as the Finns. It's incredibly healthy. I, personally, never liked it. I can eat it, but I am always wondering why people would be eating this slibberslabber. Here, I learned to control the texture with different flake sizes and realised that a bit of cinnamon does miracles in the taste department. Every summer, R. freezes more than twenty kilos of blueberries and strawberries into one-liter bags. Every morning, they take a handful of berries from these bags and add them to the porridge. Imagine eating blueberries and strawberries every morning. And do not think they have something to do with the German variation. Oh, no! The berries are big, sweet and taste very intense. They aren't bought frozen and therefore sour and tasteless, but are harvested by the family. If not from their forest, then from the neighbour's strawberry fields. It's a feast. These are the flavours, immortalised in the children's minds in Finland (at least that's what to the ones I talked to said). For the people here, these tastes are the epitome of home. One could almost say that blueberries and strawberries are the butter on their bread.
A routine is an activity that can be carried out quickly and safely without additional thought. It is not about practising this forever and ever. It's more about understanding and knowing all the rules. A routine brings security because it's predictable. Safety, security, predictability and the resulting standstill in my head are the reasons that I have made travelling my life. It's what I wanted to escape from, and now I realise more and more, that therein lies the beauty of daily life. I can't flee from habits because I need them. I can only find new ones. I see in these routines the actual value that a longer stay in a foreign country can convey. For me the every day is where eternal beauty lives.
I play with the idea of making this theme a recurring feature.
Do you like to read about routines and everyday life in other cultures?
Any routines you have that make you feel that way?