To be continued
I left Finland for the first time — for a longer period that is, when I was 16, encouraged by my parents to do a high school exchange in the USA. My older brother had done it as well, and I was motivated to go in order to learn more about the world, and about the different ways of looking at the world. For this encouragement, I will forever be grateful to my parents — I could imagine it was not an easy task to send their only daughter, their little princess, by herself to the great unknown. I can imagine, it is not easy even at the present.
The precise location and address were confirmed a mere few hours before I boarded the plane, while we were awaiting a flight at Helsinki airport destined to New York. Even more than my own internal panic, I remember the panic that I could sense in my parents, about the idea of sending me to somewhere far, unknown.
The flight was long, the only thing I remember about New York was a very genuine NYC limo driver, who was driving me and some other lost and confused kids around, and being surrounded by skyscrapers.
The next morning, it was time to leave the other Finnish kids on their own devices, and, biting my tongue, continue further by myself.
I landed in Denver, in the Rocky Mountains, where my new family, and my new life awaited.
One of the first moments there I remember, was when my new ‘mom’ proposed for us to go eat a burger. Until now, I had thought that the English I had learned at school was excellent — but when the pronunciation of this fairly simple word became an impossible task at that moment, my illusions were shattered.
My love for nature, which is most likely rooted in my parents’ love for nature, strengthened in the magical scenery of Colorado. I enjoyed every second of it. In the meanwhile, I also got introduced to the American High School life. Without overanalyzing the scenario, at the end, the popular dudes were the popular dudes, the football captains, dating the cheerleaders. This was all new to me. But at the same time, so familiar. I was friends with everybody, I am pretty sure their nickname for me was something in the lines of ‘the weird European blonde with the weird shoes’. Outside of my little circle, things were different though. And this did not go past my scope — but maybe more on that later.
My passion, it was in the nature, and in the mountains, which is where I spent every moment I possibly could.
When the year was over, my teenage life had turned upside down. I had by no means forgotten my home, my family, nor my friends, but my life there had become significant.
I will probably never forget the moment my trip towards Finland started. All of the important people, of my new life, were there to send me off. When the plane took off, I looked down, and I saw those people there on the ground, getting smaller and smaller as the plane got higher and higher, and they were waving at me — see you again!
In that moment, my little, young heart was at the verge of breaking.
My time in the Rocky Mountains awakened an adventurer in me, which probably always had existed, but had been shy.
After returning to Finland, I felt restless. I went for it, when a chance came around to go for a summer job in Amsterdam, partly motivated by teenage love. That summer job resulted in a period of 13 years, which I spent working, studying, and figuring out the world.
Thirteen years is not a short time, and many things happened in that time indeed. I fell in love, and was eventually disappointed. I went to Asia for the first time with a bag on my back. I fell in love again, and was not disappointed. And countless other things that could happen in a person’s life in that time span.
But getting back to the point if there is one. If I had thought that my eyes had been opened during my year in the US, then this was when my eyes in fact opened.
In China, I felt like a character from outer space. Vietnam was a fairly rough wakeup call about the cruelty of war and consequences. Not to mention Cambodia, a place that stole my heart and hasn’t given it back ever since.
After these in-my-face reality checks, Thailand for that moment seemed like a five-star hotel, which I wasn’t appreciating at that time as everything seemed shallow. Most people had food here! These were my naïve thoughts, after the things I had seen in Vietnam, and the places and people torn by civil war in Cambodia.
In my list of unforgettable moments, is also the first evening after my return to Holland. One of the girls was constantly talking about her nails and her need for manicure as her nails were a bit worn out.
I remember my utter shock, and finally my realization — everything is relative, as are every individuals’ problems, and what they are measured against; whether it is a question of survival, or whether your hair looks good and your shiny watch is shining.
The same surpise and amazement had before, it is the same way I still look at everyting new. Bloody hell, there are so many things to know and learn about this world, and at the same time, about yourself and the people around you.
A lot has happened since those first experiences with adventure.
I always was fond of adventure, and found myself a sort of a lonely wolf in the midst of all of that. Things along the way taught me, that I myself am the one I need to look after. Nobody else can be in control of that nor my happiness.
Perhaps I got quite a bit cynical along the way, about people as losing them and your castles in the sky time after time can do that to you.
So, here starts my newest and biggest adventure yet…