I won’t argue with you if you tell me Tuomo Meretniemi is crazy. I won’t disagree if you say he’s lost his mind. But I must also raise my hand and say that the Finnish father of three is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever come across. You see, Tuomo has just set out on a journey that only the truly unhinged would attempt—he, his lovely (and probably also insane) wife Riikka and their three young children (ages 7, 5 and 3) are sailing around the world. For more than six years.
Talk to Tuomo and you hear no fear, no trace of regret in his voice. You only detect his exhilaration in wondering how his children will react to being home-schooled on a boat and his excitement at seeing how the technology they have onboard can keep them connected and deepen the experience for the whole family. He paused to answer a few questions recently while his family and their Swan 57 yacht were docked in Italy. They call the boat "Panacea" after the Greek goddess of universal healing.
Where did the idea for this trip originate? What possessed you to want to spend 6 years circling the globe with your family?
The idea originated in the ‘80s when I was a teenager. The idea of sailing around the world has been haunting me ever since but the dream, of course, changed form. This is not one man´s dream anymore but a family dream.
Of course: this is now the dream for a family of five, right? I nearly fell on the floor when I learned you were doing this with three kids under the age of seven! So let me get this question out of the way: do people think you’re totally crazy?
Yes! Most people think we are utmost crazy! Every mom and dad knows how tough it can be to keep kiddos safe, well fed and to get enough sleep, to be educated and entertained and not to fight with each other too much. And we are trying to do all this on a boat. But the highlights and great moments of life in a boat are really worth the effort, we think.
Parents everywhere salute you. You began your voyage in Turkey almost 2 months ago. (Which I now realize means you’re 2 months into a 75-month trip!) Where have you been and what have you seen so far?
We left Finike, Turkey and headed straight to Rhodos, Greece. It was a great way to start with a nice night sail in the full moonlight. The Greek islands are beautiful and versatile, but we were fighting with headwind and the feeling of hurry in the beginning. Corinth Canal was a great experience, and even the kids were overwhelmed. Albania was something we were waiting to experience and it was really something else than what I learned in school books in 1980. Very positive surprise.
Kotor Bay in Montenegro really blew our minds, literally. We got hit by a heavy thunderstorm but luckily our anchor kept us safe. Beautiful medieval towns in Montenegro and Croatia are perfect cruising destinations and also interesting places to learn about the history.
Wow, you’ve seen so much already and you’re really just getting started. Tell me about your time on the boat so far? How are your kids managing?
When our kids are asked what has been the best things so far the answer is swimming and dipping their toes into waves when the boat is heeling. The kids are natural with moving in the boat and they have no fear or anxiety over waves or the increasing wind. Day by day the routines of “normal life” seem to be forgotten and the routines of Panacea become “our new life,” as my youngest Martta says. Of course, they have the apps and the movies so they are well digitized, but the material greediness seems to fade quickly. Surely, no boat is big enough to separate kids so far from each other that the inevitable wrestling match would not take place, daily. But hey, every family has those, right!?
Right! I can speak from experience. You’ve chosen to use the open sea and a sort of living world map as a classroom for your children—tell me a little about what you hope they’ll get out of this trip? What long-term impact do you hope this will have on them (and you)?
We want our kids to see the world and understand how beautiful it is. We want them to see how differently people can live their lives and still have a happy life. We hope they will grow up to be open-minded, independent and caring global citizens.
That’s beautiful, and I think it’s a good bet they will. Now let’s shift gears and talk tech: I imagine your onboard devices being your lifeline back to land. Remind me which Lenovo devices you have on board.
This is fun—we have a small Yoga Tablet for quick web surfing and fun playtime, then a bigger Yoga for movies, charts and educational gaming. The cool power unit—the ThinkPad P50—is for major educational applications and materials, photographs and managing our content. And of course Riikka has her favorite—ThinkPad T460—for more office kind of work.
Nice, that sounds like a good balance of straight fun, adult work and learning for the kids.
The summer holidays have still been on in Panacea so the long-term balance might not be so entertainment-focused in the coming months. In Finland the summer break is long. Education in these weeks is more free and based on discussions and observations. You can get quite complex construction problematics in Minecraft too!
Indeed. OK, Tuomo, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll check back in with you soon. We’ve been following your progress on that cool locator. Where are you off to next?
Right now we are in Calabria, Italy. From here we head to Sicily and after that to Malta. Then to Sardinia, maybe Corsica and then to the Balearic Islands in Spain. The weeks behind us have taught us to keep a very open mind and not to push too much. Nature will decide our routes and speed.
Thanks for sharing your incredible adventure with us. May your breezes be gentle and your children be peaceful.
Gavin O’Hara is the Director of Lenovo’s Brand Newsroom.