I’m Moving to Finland!

Well, just for the week.

And yes, you can consider this post’s title my best attempt at a terrible, belated April Fool’s joke.

After a whirlwind visit to Ireland for Saint Patrick’s Day, where I got an intensive lesson on Irish life past and present (and by that I mean more than just multiple hours spent wearing green and cozily sipping pints — did you see it all on Snapchat?) I’ve been home for just two weeks and already, I’m heading back out there into the world again.

As many of you know, I took a long break from even uttering the word ‘travel’ after a worst nightmare came to life on the road at the end of last year. I wasn’t sure when or how I’d resume my usual manner. So, I resolved to press pause on traveling and stay home for the foreseeable future…only to then lose my apartment.

In the months that followed, I tread water daily just trying to stay afloat. And when it feels like you’re drowning, the best way to survive without panicking is…(?) to find your footing. I sought and found great comfort in re-establishing myself in a new home and rooting myself in a daily routine.

In pursuit of this balance I’ve sharpened my skills for finding adventure in my own backyard, staying curious, active, and engaged with life and culture even when I’m not traveling. Yet at some point, even the boldest routines can begin to feel stale. (Isn’t repetition what creates a routine, after all?)

Once again I find myself seeking that familiar desire to stretch to the unfamiliar, like a runner whose legs ache to hit the trail. Still, more than ever to date, I respect, need, and value my life at home.  

So, other than the obvious balance of time — time spent traveling versus time spent not — how can we further balance travel and home? I think I’m graduating. What’s the next level?

 

Doors of Dublin

The tough part about building a full life you love at home? It gets harder and harder to leave.

In starting to add travel back into my lifestyle, I’ve discovered that I became so focused on when and why I would travel that I had lost sight of how.

I’ll never forget arriving at my hostel in Medellin last year, the one recommended by so many travel friends. Sitting on the balcony, sipping a coffee, listening to the chatter and laughter of all the backpackers around me, I smiled and thought: I’m back in my element, I’ve returned to my travel roots.

The days that passed in Medellin turned out to challenge that initial feeling (independent of what was looming around the corner for me on that trip.) I thought that by backpacking on a low budget I was staying close to the local culture — you know, the kind you can’t get when you stay at a hotel chain or when you must seek out your daily Starbucks overseas.

The issue is that sometimes we outgrow old patterns. Sitting in dorms, staying up until the dawn hours of the morning, taking the wildly uncomfortable local bus to save a buck, sleeping on airport floors (who? what?) eventually loses its appeal. Our methods and outlook change with time, and though you may think you’re still stretching yourself…at some point you’re really holding onto your comfort zone. This can be tricky — when though your ways may be disguised as adventurous and bold from the outside, the interior is constantly shifting.

Then, it hit me: I had been letting travel inform home, but I hadn’t let home inform travel. And true balance, it works both ways doesn’t it?

Why sit on the couch at home? Go and explore your city and seize the day like you would as a traveler! Likewise, why exhaust yourself trying to check all the boxes and take alllll the selfies when you travel? In not so many words, I’ve learned that I do best when I speed things up at home. It took some hard-earned lessons, however, for me to slow things down when I travel.

I feel ready again for a new place, an unfamiliar country. I’m enthralled with the concept of having a home base in a new city, even if only temporarily.

I’m living local life in Helsinki for the week. I’m staying put in a studio apartment, exploring just one city. I plan to buy groceries, work in local coffee shops, and connect with those who really know and love this place. I’m taking part in an initiative called Helsinki Secret. You can’t hear the whispers of a place if you’re moving too fast or being too loud.  I realize I’d rather get to know one place more intimately than to desperately cram all the “must-sees” in or spend the majority of my time in transit. I’ve hung up my backpack and retired from cheap buses (for now.) So, I’m taking up residence.

So I’m still traveling, but things have changed. If I could, I’d spend a week living simply in an apartment, meeting people, and eating local foods in every major city in the world. Each trip is a chance to try on a new outfit for your life. And at the right pace, it’s incredibly energizing and inspiring.

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Foreign places both indulge our quest for the new — and reinforce our gratitude for the familiar. To me, a mere week away in a different city, living as a local…that’s the best of both worlds. For as much as I can’t wait to get away, I know that in just over a week’s time…I’ll be as excited as ever to get back home.

How about you? Has your approach to travel or your relationship with home changed significantly over time?


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6 Comments

  1. Sounds like a really cool way to get to know a city. I look forward to reading all about it!

    • I think it’ll be my new favorite way to travel! I think it is well suited to appreciating Helsinki in particular as well. Looking forward to sharing more!

  2. Tricked me! 😛

  3. Haha, I totally fell for it 😀 Enjoy Helsinki, Anne. I went there last summer and had a great time. You should try the salmiakki or the sweet sort (Pepe). Liquorice is to Scandinavia what baguette is to France 😉

    • Hi Miriam, can you believe it’s my first visit to Scandinavia? You better believe I had Salmiakki right away. Haha. Every Finnish person I meet tells me about it! Still learning to love it…thanks for the tip!!

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