If I haven’t mentioned it enough, I am heading to Finland in just two weeks to kickoff the Summer. You might be wondering why I thought taking a 2 week trip to Europe in the months before my wedding was a good idea, but this trip was originally planned to happen in 2020. So, there’s that. If there’s anything that the last few years have shown me is that I can’t continue to put things off until “things calm down” or “I’m more ready” or when “I have more time”. When we push things off until it’s the “right time”, chances are we likely aren’t going to follow through with that plan or idea. There’s so many variables that we can’t control (ex. global pandemics, wars, losing loved ones, personal health issues, etc.), so I knew that it was this year or bust. Not that I couldn’t have gone in 2023 or 2024 and so on and so forth, but I don’t quite know what my life and my families lives will look like then. Now is the time.
This might be your next question. And it’s an easy answer. I am 100% Finnish. My mom was born and raised and only moved to the States in her mid-twenties after she met and married my dad and they wanted to start their family. I also have a lot of family and my mom’s friends that are living over there. Up until this point, I have not been there myself. Which is another reason why I have been very anxious to get over there and explore the country where my mom and my ancestors hail from.
My mom hasn’t been back to Finland in a number of years, so my brothers and I wanted to surprise her with a trip. With that said, my mom and I are going to be there for 2 weeks. Plenty of time to see family, visit a number of different cities, and see most of what Finland has to offer. My oldest brother is joining us for the first week of the trip, which will be awesome since he hasn’t been back there since he was a kid.
Besides family and friends, I am excited to see a few of Finland’s cities and get to know a little more about the culture. I’ve been working hard to try to get a grasp of the Finnish language (thank you Duolingo for finally having a Finnish course), as I can’t wait to be immersed in Finnish life and learn more about where I come from. Finland is known for having bustling cities, but is also known for having lots of natural beauty with thousands of lakes, gorgeous country, and very clean air. Literally, besides being the happiest country on earth, Finland also has the cleanest air. And also the best education system. It is also the home of the sauna. And is also home to Santa’s village. But I’ll have to save my trip to Rovaniemi to see Santa and his reindeer for another trip.
I always say that I grew up in a sauna. When I was a kid, we had one in the basement of our house which we used often, especially when family and friends were visiting. A lot of people consider a sauna a luxury, but in Finland, it is a necessary way of life. There’s actually more saunas in Finland then there are cars. I’m really not making this up. In Helsinki, there is a ferris wheel that is made up of all public saunas. You can rent one of the saunas by the hour and enjoy a sauna experience and amazing views with your friends. Needless to say, I will find myself in a sauna every day that I am in Finland. Whether that’s in the hotel, at my families homes, or potentially a public sauna, they’re not hard to find. I love the relaxation and detoxification that comes from a sauna session.
Besides family and saunas, Finland has so much to offer. Big cities with amazing food & drink, shopping, and cultural experiences. Beautiful country with a strong connection to nature. I. CANNOT. WAIT.
First stop in Finland is the capitol city of Helsinki. We won’t be there long at the beginning of the trip as the day after we arrive, my mom, my brother and I are hopping on a train to Kuopio, where some of my family lives. We’ll spend a few days with them, with a trip to their cottage on the agenda as well. Finland in June is pretty similar weather-wise to the Midwest where I call home. It should be 60’s-70’s and hopefully sunny while we’re there! I am excited to be able to swim in a crystal clear lake after enjoying some time in the sauna. Even if it wasn’t 60’s-70’s, I would likely still hop in the lake after being in the sauna. But I have also been known to roll in the snow after sauna-ing in the Winter, so being in the cold after the heat is nothing new.
After a few days in Kuopio, we will hop on a train down to Lahti to spend the weekend with more of my family. My mom loves Lahti so I am excited to see this city and learn more about what she loves about it. After my brother heads back home after the first week, my mom and I will spend a few more days in Lahti and then head back down south.
First stop is visiting some of my mom’s friends in Turku. This is the oldest city in Finland, and used to be the capitol of the country. I am looking forward to learning more about the history of Turku and enjoying the views of the Aura River. Turku Castle, the Old Great Square and the Turku Cathedral are also on my list of sights to see. And for the last few days of our trip, my mom and I will spend a long weekend in Helsinki. Since we didn’t get to do much exploring upon arrival, I am excited to see more of this exciting city. Shopping, eating, and drinking my way through Helsinki is on the menu. As well as a nice dinner experience to celebrate my mom’s birthday!
Saunas, pulla, and all the kahvi + olut I can drink. Just kidding, plenty of vesi and other beverages as well. But it’s going to be an amazing experience that I can’t wait to share with my mom and my brother. It’s going to be awesome to see Finland as it is now, and then hear my mom share how it was when she knew it best. It will truly be a once in a lifetime experience. I already can’t wait to plan my next trip when I get to take my (soon-to-be) husband along with me!