Ex Die in Diem


Sleeping Through Earthquakes

I’m just back from three weeks away, two of them in Scandinavia, and it was a really good trip. I went with much the same model as my Grand Tour of two years ago: two days in each place, and plenty of trains.

This plan of attack leads to a few distinct advantages; I can pack light and not have anybody comment on my needing to do washing every three days, I get to see a lot of different views even on quite a short trip, and I rarely get bored of the place where I’m staying. It also minimises the effect of those accomodation-booking errors that leave you sharing an eight bed dorm with three German couples and an odd looking Austrian (unlike my usual asides, this has never actually happened to me).

On the other hand, if you go somewhere with poor train service, you really notice it.

The other big downside is the drastically reduced sightseeing time. I’m dead-set certain that there are things I’ve sadly missed out on over the years by dint of not having seen them in my whistlestop tours. The thing is, there’s a good chance I would have missed them anyway: I’m good at missing things.

In three months of living and working in the Orkney Islands, I visited exactly three of them: the excellently independence-mindset-named Mainland, and Burray and Rousay. I saw more landmass variety in an earlier two week trip to the same archipelago. Time does not necessarily equate to variety in a new place, and if you think you’re hanging around for a while, I find you’re less inclined to make the effort.

Of course, there are some things you simply can’t see in a short visit. While I was very pleased to have the opportunity to experience the midnight sun in Kiruna, such a sight is mutually exclusive with the spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis that can be seen from the same location if the sun isn’t in the sky all day.

And then there are the things you simply can’t predict: exciting events that happen just before you arrive, or just after you leave, or in my case, the earthquake which can be felt on the streets of Milan that happens during the five hours you’re actually there, but which you miss due to the poor timing of your brief nap on a park bench.

I hope I fit into a relatively small group of people who have slept through such momentous occasions during a sunny day, but I do feel it illustrates the serendipity involved in seeing anything: the best you can do is make the effort to go out and see what the world has to offer.

Go on, off you go.

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