The Northern Diaries: Helsinki
Sailing the familiar sea is comforting, but taking the chance to sail uncharted water is more rewarding. There is no denying that the Swiss Alps where I reside is beautiful. However, after a month of being trapped under the blue sky and white coated mountains, my heart longed for the sea (like it always does). It was time for solitude and Helsinki was the first thing that came to mind.
Previously, I have mentioned that Helsinki inexplicable charm enthralled me. I find myself constantly thinking about it, like when you’re infatuated with someone and that person plagues your mind. I don’t celebrate the “holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap” and I thought that it was the perfect time to spend my weekend in solitude, away from people with the tendency to make a big deal out of Valentine’s day.
I find Helsinki to be the perfect city for spending a weekend of solitude. It is not too big, it is not to small, just about the right size for my personal liking. Again, I spent most of my time there strolling aimlessly through parks and aged buildings. The thriving art scene offered me some of the most mind-bending and peculiar concepts I’ve ever came across, both from big museums such as Kiasma and small galleries in the neighbourhood of Kallio. I’m unable to explain it, but something about Helsinki is peculiar, in a positive way. It’s a comfortable kind of peculiarity that made me feel at home. For me, it is one of those cities where you just feel that you can settle right in. Maybe it’s the northern air, maybe it’s the people, or maybe it’s the sauna going culture. It’s the city of perpetual self-discovery that sends me home with a peaceful mind, new ideas and stacks of wisdom
My plan to spend the weekend in solitude was unsuccessful but I ended up being acquainted with a handful of interesting individuals. One of the best things about travelling alone is that it provides the opportunity to meet new fascinating people. I have had some of the most profound conversations in my life with the acquaintances I made in Helsinki, a considerable reason why I’m drawn to return to the city. Travelling for me is more than sightseeing and enjoying the local cuisine, it’s also about making a memorable attachment to the city, perhaps by random encounter with a stranger who wears your favourite band on his shirt, and I can attest that Helsinki is not lacking in fascinating individuals. I learned about the lesser known Finnish history from a charming young man who inherited a mansion and forests from his great great grandfather, found the courage to pursue my childhood dream after an eye-opening afternoon with a passionate pedagogic, and discovered that my stereotypical geeky dream guy existed.
Solo travel allows me to be alone with my thoughts, to learn things about myself that would not be possible if I was constantly surrounded by chalet-mates and colleagues. Being fatally romantic, my mind is at times plagued by anxiety rooted by the thought that what if the person I’m supposed to be with lives in a city somewhere and our path would never cross because I’m too afraid to travel on my own? I sometimes have the anxiety that I’m not living my life to fullest. Thus, I act impulsively, taking every chances I possibly could, travelling whenever I get the chance, initiating conversations with strangers I’m drawn to. For too long, I had clinged to the idealism that hindered me from savouring what the world has to offer. So I took the the chance to travel alone to countries where I don’t speak the language, cities where I don’t know anybody. Who knows? Perhaps the next person who’s going to change your life is only a trip away.