“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” said Forrest Gump, quoting wisdom from his mother in the iconic movie bearing the character’s name.
While these words resonate well on so many topics, I reflect on the traveler’s view of this. My life’s travels seem to revolve around my monthly publishing cycle, which builds to a crescendo around the 20th of each month when the print edition goes to press, so my vacations typically fall between the 20th and 30th on any given month.
On one such vacation, we were visiting the land of my paternal heritage, Estonia, a small nation on the Baltic Sea in northern Europe. Because the country is too small for a sizeable international airport, we flew into Helsinki, Finland, where we would take a 90-minute ferry ride across the Baltic Sea to Estonia.
Being a land of harsh winters, we determined it best to visit Estonia during the summer months and we landed in Helsinki on June 21. Excited to see a new nation and new capital city, we were startled to see it was almost a ghost town. Where the heck was everyone on this absolutely gorgeous early summer day?
As he was taking us from the airport to the ferry, our cabbie explained that it was the summer solstice, a holiday where all the citizens flee to countryside cabins to enjoy the first day of summer — and the longest day of the year — in natural splendor. Even better, it happened to fall on a Saturday.
I recall early geography lessons with the extremes of the North Pole and South Pole going from 24 hours of sun to 24 hours of darkness back and forth every six months, while the tropics remain constant year-round on sunrise and sunset times. Of course, everyone else is somewhere in between.
This was pretty far north, right near the Arctic Circle and, wow, it was pretty extreme. You easily had sufficient light to say cut your lawn at 1:00 in the morning if you wanted and really didn’t need headlights on vehicles at any time. It seemed to hover around early dusk for a long time through the night. It made evening quite enjoyable, but falling asleep really required some room-darkening shades.
Sure, the trip delivered on the promises we had hoped for: a connection to my heritage, visual beauty, historical interest, and cultural discovery. But you never know what else will cross your path through luck and serendipity when you travel, like experiencing the majesty of the solstice not far from the Arctic Circle.
Yes, travel, like a box of chocolates, is predictably delicious, and when you bite into it, it’s often a pleasant surprise. Are you ready to enjoy your next bite?
On our cover
Kayaking is just one of the ways to enjoy the Mid-Atlantic’s waterways. (Somerset Co. Tourism)