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The Wanderlust Diaries: My Solo Finland Trip

Hi there! Welcome back to my new travel series, "The Wanderlust Diaries"! Today's entry is all about my recent solo trip to Finland!

As many of you know, I have been living in Germany for the past few years. The pandemic aside, this location in Europe has provided my husband and I a multitude of traveling opportunities. We’ve tried to take great advantage of our proximity to explore, while also balancing a normal life in Munich. It will never get old to me, having these experiences and I am forever grateful.

My husband and I both have a true passion for travel and are always looking forward to satisfying our curiosity and wanderlust with the next trip. His extroverted, forward energy is quite the complementary contrast to my introverted, easy-going personality, which creates for a really fun travel partnership. We always have lots of fun, laughs and meaningful experiences during our adventures.

Although I love traveling with Stephen (my husband), I also cherish my alone time and the way my energy flows differently when given the space and time to be on my own. What many people don't know: introversion is not being anti-social, it is simply describing where a person gains their energy from. Generally speaking, introverts gain their energy from within, while extroverts gain their energy from the outside world.

I have taken trips with my girlfriends, my mom, other family members, etc…as well as taken solo day trips. But I’ve never taken myself on an extended trip alone and I decided now was as good a time as any! My heritage is roughly half German/half Finnish (from my maternal grandmother’s side) and I’ve wanted to visit Finland for years. COVID put a lull in my travel plans, but as borders began to open up and being vaccinated made travel much easier, the desire resurfaced and I made the plans quite spontaneously! It was time to discover the other side of my ancestry. If you didn’t know, Finland is actually a country known for a culture of quieter, more introspective personalities…so it’s clear that genetics don’t lie!

I’m writing this as I near the end of my week-long visit to the Nuuksio National Park area of Finland, in Espoo, which is not far outside of Helsinki. The first half of the week was spent in a small cottage near lake Viiträsk and the second half in a cabin in the woods, near lake Siikajärvi. While the first spot was well-equipped with conveniences like a small kitchen, bathroom and wifi—the latter stay in a cabin was very basic and aside from a small outdoor kitchen and an eco-toilet, was much more like camping. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences for different reasons and I’m glad I managed both. It did take a few days to ease into a more relaxed state. Coming from a busy routine, I found myself catching myself thinking there was something I “should” be doing. I purposely planned my trip to focus on simplicity, nature and most of all, solitude. That is not to say, I didn’t meet and spend time with other people. In fact, along the journey I found moments of great conversation and company among my hosts.

 

 

 

 

This trip was so relaxing and rejuvenating for my spirit, I felt I should share just a few points with any of you whom this might resonate with.

Why taking a solo trip is beneficial to the soul:

  1. You get to experience everything purely through your own lens.
    • Having others around you has the potential to broaden your horizon and diversify and expand your experiences. Don’t get me wrong—I love to travel with others and the gifts this provides. However, it can also distract and derail you from your own intuition. Sometimes we just need to follow our own path and a solo trip allows you to take in your surroundings without anyone else’s perspective, ideas and input affecting your personal unique experience. No one is there to judge your choices. No one is there to distract you from your own agenda.
    • Have you ever spent time with a group of people and found yourself making yourself and your opinions small to satisfy the wants and needs of a more forward or perhaps more particular person? The world needs all types of people, but “us” people…the quiet, flexible, introverted types need a break to themselves from time to time to recharge and escape this in order to enjoy life following your own compass. FYI I began the book “Quiet”, by Susan Cain, while on this trip and I highly recommend it to all of my fellow introverts.
  2. You get to re-acquaint yourself with the “current you”.
    • In life, we go through many stages and the you of the past is not the you of the present. Often, we get lost in old stories we tell ourselves of what the older version of ourselves is like…his/her strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, wants, needs, dreams, desires, vision, values…It is important to take the time to take a closer look at the current you and get to know him/her.
    • Who are you now? How have you changed? How have you stayed the same? What are your values and goals? What is the vision you have for yourself?
  3. The solitude creates an easier pathway for the mind to reflect and discover which areas of your life need addressing.
    • Once you’ve taken the time to get in touch with yourself, you begin to consider more deeply the vision you have for your life, moving forward. You list your values and goals and discover where you are flourishing and where you need to allocate more attention. I am a big list-maker and I find that writing it all down really helps me to gain a clearer picture, map out a plan and be accountable to myself.
  4. You gain a renewed sense of confidence, independence and self-sufficiency.
    • I believe it’s important for everyone--single or married--to prioritize themselves as an individual. As I’ve mentioned, I am married and happily so. ;) {Pro tip: Marry someone who is truly your friend and bonus points if they make you laugh daily.} I find that when I am taking care of, nourishing and valuing myself as an individual—I am better as a partner in my marriage.
    • When in a partnership, it is natural to begin to depend on the other person in certain aspects of life. Your partner most likely possesses a unique set of skills, abilities and interests that differ from your own. The great thing about this is that two people can become more than the sum of its parts together because they free up space and energy for one another when utilizing their strengths to benefit the whole. FYI I highly recommend  the app maps.me for solo travel...I don't know what I would do without it! It is a map navigation system in which you pre-download maps you need and it works with the GPS alone, when you don't have wifi or data. Life saver!
    • However, I find that for me, I like to take the time away every now and then to remind myself of what I am capable of all on my own. I am forced to face my weaknesses and the tasks I may avoid doing, when I only have myself to depend on. This does two things: I gain confidence and a feeling of accomplishment in myself, while also growing a newfound appreciation for the partner in my life who complements me.
  5. Self care--and ultimately self love--can blossom.
    • Lastly, taking time alone for self care is invaluable. I spent an entire week allowing myself the privilege to do the things I love, all at my own pace. I read books, wrote, listened to podcasts, spoke with family, did yoga, prayed, took pictures, pressed flowers and collected bits of nature, swam in lakes, hiked, explored, visited a Finnish architecture museum and even did a complete overhaul on my cluttered disaster of an email inbox. Organizing actually makes me very happy and at peace (once it’s finished!), so having the quiet time to sit down and go through organizing, deleting and unsubscribing to countless unneeded mailing lists…this was so cleansing. It’s easier to see the physical clutter in our lives, but we forget that the digital clutter also takes up space and affects our mental space and mindset.
    • Taking care of myself and practicing confidence and self-sufficiency all lead to self love for me. I highly recommend it!

 

I hope this post was helpful or provided inspiration for any of you who needed to hear it! It’s completely okay to want to take time for yourself. The society we live in praises extroversion and social behavior, so those of us who lean towards introversion often feel ashamed or find ourselves making excuses for our needs…or even feigning extroversion to please others. Luckily, I have a small network of friends and family who were very supportive and encouraging of my plans…but honestly, I also had multiple express concern and confusion when they heard I was taking this trip. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but you. Go. Take that trip. Don’t apologize for it! Enjoy.

 

XOXO Alison

 

*Fun Facts I Learned in Finland:

  • My grandmother’s maiden name Koske, means “the shallow place in a river where the water splashes from the rocks below”. I can’t figure what the English equivalent would be, but perhaps you kayakers would have a name for it?!
  • My great-grandfather’s name was Sulo, which means “sweet” in Finnish.
  • The Finnish culture, as well as the Nordic countries as a whole, place a lot of value on equality, equanimity and acceptance. There are many subcultures which are very openly accepted, including, but not limited to your Heavy Metal Heads, Barefoot Yogis and the LGBTQ community.
  • However, with high value placed on equality, gender roles have subsequently taken a generally different path than most Western countries. Generally speaking, many women hold very masculine roles while many men may take more soft-spoken, feminine roles in the family. In fact, many women might feel out of place or ashamed to want to be in touch with their feminine side. Of course there are exceptions—but I had a very interesting conversation with the host of my second stay about this topic and she gave me some very powerful cultural insights.
  • Finns are not quite the same as Germans when it comes to nudity. Although Finns are the originators of the sauna and it’s necessary to do so naked, they are unlike the Germans in that they mostly do this separately by gender. Also, all beaches have wooden privacy structures for people to change into their bathing suits/clothes behind, whereas I find that generally, Germans could care less. Interesting!

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