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Interview with Pirkko Schildt

INTERVIEW WITH A NOMAD

Pirkko is the organiser of the Finnish adaptation of the TCC (unrelated to TCC) - Maailmanmatkajat, literally meaning the World Travellers. In this interview, she tells us a little about the club and her ideas on travelling.

Pirkko, tell us something about your early years and how your love for travel developed.

The first trips I ever made where to Aland Islands and Sweden with my mother and sisters, at the age of 10. In 1960’s you did not yet travel that much. In 1970’s my parents did not allow me to go on Interrail but bought me flights to Rome and Paris, where I then stayed in hotel of their choice and explored these cities on my own at the age of 17. I also spent time in UK on language course during my high school years, so I’d say I started pretty much solo and in Europe.

Sailing from Hanko to the Swedish island of Gotland in 2000

Which of the places you have travelled to have taught you the most things and how?

Travelling in the Middle East has shown me the daily life in countries which at least to some of us appear as frightening, but daily life is daily life also there and people we have met have been really friendly.

Australia and New Zealand are often “disliked” by backpackers as they are so much more expensive than South East Asia, but I think that backpackers liking the low cost of living actually too easily accept the fact that for the citizens in those countries the low cost of living and salaries also means that they can’t travel to the countries the backpackers come from. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand – and all the other “expensive” countries on the other hand are equal in that sense that they also can choose to travel wherever they want if they want to.

Visiting Tanzania in 2003, here at the Kenya border, which we also crossed for a few meters, but did not count Kenya yet at that time.

You're from Finland and it seems Finns love to travel a lot - why do you think that is?

Cold winters in Finland encourage people to travel south and maybe this, travelling from a young age, gets people more and more interested in travels also later. Also, of course, the standard of living is high in Finland and the Finnish passport is one of the strongest in the world, so it is easy to travel as visas are most often not needed.

Gullfoss in Iceland in 2005 - a bit cold already in October!

And the love for travel is shown in the travel club in Finland which you are in charge of. Tell us something about the club and its activities. 
Global Explorers in Finland is the local adaptation of the Traveller’s Century Club – you need to have been to100 TCC areas before you can join. The club was founded already in 2000 and nowadays we have about 100 members. Our monthly meetings are attended mostly by 20 to 30 people (as it happens our members travel a lot, so in most cases the people are different from one meeting to another).

Every now and then the club members also travel together, especially to places requiring visas also from Finns, like Saudi-Arabia. Our website https://maailmanmatkaajat.org/ tells people about us: who can join, how to find our meetings and we post minutes of our meetings there for anyone to read. We also gather stories about our members there (https://maailmanmatkaajat.org/mediassa/), especially about appearances in press or television as quite many of us are slightly famous in Finland.

On our website there is a short introduction also in English: https://maailmanmatkaajat.org/in-english/

The classic picture of me at Taj Mahal in 2007

What are the greatest challenges for you as the organiser of this club? And what are some activities you have planned for the rest of the year as a club?

One of the challenges for a club for a bunch of people who really travel a lot, is to have the members in Helsinki. However we have a closed Facebook-group for the members and it has proved its value by providing quick answers to questions related what to see / what to do / how to get a visa / how to cross the border even for most challenging countries in the world.

So give us some of your local expertise: What are some jewels of Finland that most visitors many not really know about?
I personally love the Finnish Archipelago, especially in summer time, but it is also beautiful in winter. And if you have a decent winter, the sea freezes and you can ski, skate or walk on the ice. But also the Unesco World Heritage sites in Finland are well worth a visit, especially the Merenkurkku area where the land still rises slowly from the sea and decade after decade there is a bit more of Finland.

As the question was about the less known jewels I have excluded Lapland, which everyone knows, of course. Just recently we stayed in a glass igloo in North, as more and more Asians do nowadays every winter.
(In case you would like to link these to travel stories in our blog, here is one for Merenkurkku http://meriharakka.net/2017/07/26/valassaarten-majakka-ja-merenkurkun-saaristo/ and one for Lapland and glass igloos http://meriharakka.net/2018/01/30/paiva-kakslauttasessa/. The blog is in Finnish, but the pictures don’t have a language.)
 
If you were condemned to live in just one country, which one would you choose and why?

Even if I live in Finland and plan to do so during the breaks from travels, I might choose Denmark for the just one country. It is a bit more south and if the rules would change so that I could still travel, Copenhagen is so well connected!

Which places are high on your 'bucket list' for exploring?

We usually have a plan for the next 2-3 years. Currently on the top of that list are places like Myanmar, West African countries we plan to visit next year and maybe Sri Lanka and Dominican Republic. This excludes the trips already booked!

And what are your travel plans for the rest of the year?

We just got back from a trip to Mongolia: first to Beijing, then Trans Siberian train from there to Ulaanbaatar and on the way back to Helsinki we had a quick stop in Moscow. While the whole train journey would have been really interesting, as seniors who appreciate comfort, we only travelled the part from Beijing to Ulaanbaator (27 hours) by train.

This week we are off for a relatively close-by destination: Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye and Belfast.

The plans for autumn are still open, but I guess we’ll come up with something.

All sweaty after the climb to visit mountain gorillas in Rwanda in 2015.

Finally, our signature question - if you could invite four people to dinner from any period in history, who would you invite and why?

It would be interesting to meet some of the famous explorers: David Livingstone, which we met, in a form of a statue on Victoria Falls, Charles Darwin, who was so much present on Galapagos Islands, Vasco da Gama from Portugal, who was present in Belem in Portugal, one of the places I have first visited with my father. Maybe Sir Ernest Shackleton, who explored Antarctic, which is still unfamiliar territory for me.

The photos in this interview are from Pirkko's personal collection and we thank her for sharing them with us at NomadMania!