Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

No car

In addition to cutting our living space in half when we moved here, we also don't have a car anymore. We sold ours before we left the UAE, and we don't plan on buying one here in Finland in the near future.

Fortunately, we all have bikes, and we live very close to the city center (that's part of the reason our apartment is small, actually). We're about:

2km from my work
3km from church
5km from the girls' school (but they ride the city bus)
800m from the small supermarket (Lidl)
2km from the big supermarket (Prisma)

So it's all very bikeable.

The major roads in Turku have dual sidewalks, meaning that it's an extra-wide sidewalk with one lane for pedestrians and one lane for bicycles. I love having a dedicated bike space and not having to share it with cars. It makes biking around town with the kids less stressful (though there are plenty of cutthroat cyclists and inattentive pedestrians out there!).

On the smaller roads, you just ride in the street. Mostly we have to do this on the route to church, but I've found that traffic on Sundays is very light. I have seen people ride their bikes on the (technically pedestrian-only) sidewalks on those roads...but I have also seen people give those people major side-eye.

So far, the girls have managed biking in the city very well. The hardest thing has been teaching them to ride a bike like they're driving a vehicle, because they are. Riding a bike for fun in the neighborhood was a very different thing, and city cycling is taking some getting used to. Though they do appreciate having a reason to ring their little handlebar bells when passing pedestrians or approaching blind turns!

As for me, I love increasing my baseline level of physical activity. Having the wind in my face is a great way to wake up on the way to church or work, and a nice way to stretch my legs on the way home.

The challenge will be maintaining this enthusiasm for biking when it gets colder and rainier. We do all have bus passes, which we have used plenty. We actually only need three bus passes for the family - you ride for free when you're with a child in a stroller.

It is liberating to not have to pay for parking anywhere, ever, or even have to look for a spot. If this place had any traffic (it is seriously amazing how clear the roads are compared to the UAE), it would be liberating to never be sitting behind the wheel in it. I love not paying for gas and I love that having bikes and bus passes kind of means we all have our own car, in a way. The girls can get themselves to school; Jeremy and I can run errands on opposite sides of the city at the same time.

My one gripe about not having a car is, you guessed it, grocery shopping. If you neglect it for even a few days, it becomes almost impossible to catch up when you have to physically carry everything you buy all the way home. Milk in our house has become like liquid gold (because it's cumbersome to buy and bring home), and any time the girls pour themselves a cup, they practically have to justify it to us.

But otherwise, the car-free life is going well! I can't believe we've biked to church for a month and I still don't have a picture of us doing it (pro tip: when you ride a bike to church, you get to wear pants more often). Here's this one instead, of a lot of bikes parked on campus one afternoon last week.

Four weeks of bilingual school

Four weeks of bilingual school