Sometimes the hussies you look up to the most are those ladies who always seem to be a few steps ahead. Tahnee was one of these upperclasswomen at Franklin University Switzerland. High energy and high achieving in both her academics and adventures, she was and is nothing short of a Travel Hussy.
While interning at the Reykjavík Grapevine in Iceland I wrote “I ❤ Iceland” as a status update and was excited to see Tahnee respond that she would be passing through Reykjavík. We met up for drinks while she stopped over during her move from Finland to Canada. And just like any travel hussy, she was a delight to converse with over drinks in a foreign country. Bonus brazen points for going on to hitchhike around Iceland (one of the few places where locals enthusiastically recommend this mode of travel).
Since then, she has completed a masters in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) in Waterloo, Canada and is now a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo. She answered some questions for Travel Hussies while on planes and trains to and from Copenhagen, Denmark!
What was the best/worst thing about living in Finland?
To be honest, I love all of Finland. I would live there forever in a heartbeat.
I was born in Finland and spent the first five years of my life living in the northern, southern, eastern, and western parts. I returned in 2009 for my study abroad, and worked there several times since. I still make it a top priority to go back to a summer cottage with some of my close friends at least once a year. It feels like coming home.
The best parts of Finland are the nature, its people, and its design. The nature is filled with beautiful lakes (‘the land of a thousand lakes’), long elegant trees, and fells. It’s beautiful both with and without snow. The people: incredibly honest, trustworthy, and generous. Once you befriend a Finn, they’re bound to be your good friend for life. Some of them are shy — others not so much. My favourite part about, though, is that the Finns have developed a system of governance that goes back to the notion of taking care of one another. I’ve never felt unsafe, my welfare was never in danger, and precisely because of that, people have the time to focus on the big picture. Literacy rates and the quality of education in Finland are incredibly high. And, finally, there is long-lasting Finnish design. It comes in amazing shapes and colours, and is purely fantastic.
The worst part? November. Northern Finland loses its sunlight, along with the rest of the circumpolar north, for a few months starting in November. It gets dark, there’s no snow, and none of December’s twinkle lights are up yet, and then you start to feel the slump…
How long were you in Finland and what brought you there?
I spent nine months in Finland, working on a project for the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The project generally focused on the intersection of climate change and human rights, with the goal of better integrating vulnerable groups like women and indigenous peoples in international decision-making on our world’s climate. It was an exciting and eye-opening project. It was also depressing at times.
Can you tell us about your involvement in Plan A and what the platform hopes to do for women in the Arctic?
Absolutely, my good friend and colleague Rachel Kohut and I recently soft launched PLAN A, a platform for women to share research and stories on the North. Our aim is to provide a space that fosters cross-border conversations in a region that is ever-changing and geographically challenging. Ultimately, we hope it can help fill policy and research gaps.
Would you say that you are “obsessed” with the Arctic? How so and why?
I would say that I’m absolutely infatuated with the Arctic. I’m fascinated by the beauty of its nature and the people who continually prove their tenacity in the face of rapid environmental change. I am fascinated by how we construct shared understandings and narratives of a place that is so global, yet also very local at the same time. Communities in Siberia experience a very different Arctic than cities in Iceland or Norway, yet they all fall under the same rubric. Why is that? Is that good or bad? And, how do we translate those narratives into institutions of governance, like laws.
You have been a PhD candidate at BSIA in Waterloo, Ontario. Can you tell us about Global Governance?
That’s a tough one. I can tell you that it’s a contested concept. There is no single way of defining it, but in a nutshell: it is an emergent phenomenon that includes new (multipolar) spheres of authority which are independent of nation-states. It’s an exciting field because it helps us re-conceptualize time and space in a system that is increasingly complex.
How has traveling helped prepare you for this PhD program and its focus?
Traveling has opened my eyes to different ways of understanding the world; has taught me to think critically; and helped me embrace the complexity of our every-day lives. It has also made me want to fight the good fight on behalf of all the kind, generous, and vulnerable people I meet. We all deserve to feel happy, loved, safe, and to live comfortably in a manner that still protects our home, our planetary boundaries. This gets me out of bed every morning.
Traveling has also taught me to be bold in my endeavors, to not be afraid of the unknown, and to ask the big questions. You never know when you will stumble upon something truly great.
Traveling has also taught me to be bold in my endeavors, to not be afraid of the unknown, and to ask the big questions.
In February you embarked on a month of “complaint restraint.” Can you explain how you started restraining your complaints and why this was important to you?
I did! Complaint Restraint is a project that my good friend Thierry, and his collaborator Pieter, launched numerous years ago. The basic idea is that you give up complaining about the unnecessary things – the missed bus, the spilled water, those tourists who are walking so-damn-slow – for the month of February.
This is the third year that I’ve taken part in the project and, while it’s challenging every time, it’s something that I now look forward to at the beginning of each year. February is so glum. It’s good to have a reason to not complain about the darkness or dirty snow –- things you really don’t have a control over.
In your reflection on complaint restraint you wrote, “Complaining about climate change, genocide, or global pandemics is absolutely warranted, but what are we going to do about it?” What small actions can Travel Hussies take to begin addressing these problems?
Yes, I strongly believe that once you remove all of the small complaints, you have more time to see the big picture, to connect the dots. I would give Travel Hussies three small actions: 1) stop focusing on the things that are out of your control; 2) read and try to understand what’s going on in the world, and then try to make a change or support those who already are; and 3) hold people accountable for their actions. Our (Canadian) government was recently elected with justifiable fervor. Still, we must remain vigilant, listening to and watching the actions of those who represent us and our values.
You can read the full reflection here.
1) stop focusing on the things that are out of your control; 2) read and try to understand what’s going on in the world, and then try to make a change or support those who already are; and 3) hold people accountable for their actions.
You are a board member of the Thousand Network. Can you tell us what this network does and why it is important to you as a traveling woman?
The Thousand Network is a community of young people, scattered across 40 cities on 5 continents, who excel in and collaborate across their respective fields. Some of us advocate for a human right to the internet, research and publish on the economics of black market innovation, are nomadic guerrilla film-makers, and build robots. Others build sustainability movements in Iceland, sing operas, or develop DIY computer kits. And we like spending time with each other.
Some of the network’s members have become my closest friends, my family. They inspire me to be my best self and are there with encouragement when things fall apart. They’re also there to host me when I need a couch, to give me tips on what to do in different cities and countries around the world, and are generally just super-connectors.
You were in Budapest in Vienna last December and you will be traveling to Copenhagen, Montreal and Ft. Lauderdale this spring. What inspires you to travel?
I’ll take any excuse to learn new things, to spend quality time with good people, and to see the world. I’m quite lucky because my parents live in Vienna. This means I get to spend a significant amount of time bouncing back-and-forth between Waterloo and Europe. Copenhagen and Montreal were both inspired by conferences and friends. This weekend, I’m off to a friend’s wedding in Fort Lauderdale, May includes a research trip to the Yukon, and the rest of the year is filled with more fieldwork in Europe and North America.
What advice would you give to aspiring Travel Hussies?
- Be brave, don’t be scared.
- Be pragmatic and safe.
- Travel with people who inspire you to see things differently; friends and (trusted) strangers who take you, or drag you, to places that you wouldn’t see otherwise. Find someone who is really into architecture, art, politics, history, or delicious cuisine and see the world through their eyes.
- If work or university allow you to travel, add some extra days to the beginning or end of the trip to save money.
- Don’t be scared of traveling alone. I learn the most about myself when I give myself the time and space to explore new places. I gain a better understanding of what I actually enjoy precisely because I’m not catering to others’ needs or compromising. I’m also more open to random interactions that lead to no-light dance parties, underground movie screenings, or mind-blowing conversations.
Travel on, Hussies!