I’m back from Finland. So… Where to start?
I’ll preface this by saying that this will feel like I’m repeating myself. TL;DR The food was amazing, the country was beautiful, and never have I felt my life take as big of a step forward before. My conviction toward my future is as strong as its even been, and I owe that to Jenna.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Looking out the window of my plane, I was struck with a feeling of familiarity. Seeing the grey sky, the trees, I felt like I was back in Portland. That alone did wonders to instill this feeling that Finland will become a home away from home… Although it didn’t do much in helping me find out where to go; I couldn’t find the way to the terminal and there wan’t much in the way of help in getting my bearings. Eventually I found my way out, but that’s something we’d come to laugh about over the course of the trip.
The first week spent getting acquainted with my new surroundings. I wanted to see things and explore. Our first stops were the art and history museums. For a country that’s only celebrating its centennial this year (yes I’m aware Finland was a country before their independence), it has a storied and rich cultural history. Seeing the kind of decor and religious artworks match the same things you saw in college texts books put pictures to… Well, pictures. Both Jenna and I’s favorite exhibit was the history of travel posters. I picked up a book containing the entire exhibit it was so interesting.
Exploring more of the Helsinki area was a blast. Seeing the intermingling of old world architecture and modern convenience was a sight to behold. The photos below are of Senate Square, where one of the older Lutheran churches presides. Of course we had to get a photo on the steps, what are you crazy?
After that came the big one. On the 18th we headed out to Savonlinna for the weekend, with a stop in Lappeenranta to meet Jenna’s father. Lappeenranta is a smaller town, and it definitely feels like it. It parallels Beaverton with it’s foot traffic friendly streets and little food shacks. Speaking of, we picked up meat pies at one… My only regret was I didn’t get 3. The museums we lovely, as was getting acquainted with Jenna’s father. Although, one of my personal favorite moments from this trip was learning Jenna painted a mural during her senior year of high school; I did the exact same thing during my final year of school. It feels more and more destined that we’re together, I swear.
We arrived in Savonlinna that night and we immediately settled in. The accommodations were comfortable, and the food continued to be delicious. The next day we headed into town to see the sights and pick up some necessities; namely some swim trunks for myself. Can’t go into a hot tub in jeans, what are you crazy? Other than that, we were met with more scenic beauty that never failed to amaze. Seeing ice sheets cracking atop lakes and rivers was beautiful.
Returning home, we were lucky to find that the recent mall renovations were complete. Why does this matter? Because it offer us an insane number of new restaurants to try. All in all, this was a very culinarily indulgent trip. Not only from the restaurants we visited, but the dishes we prepared in our modest kitchen. For things like these, pictures speak louder than words, so I’ll link you to the mass post of food pictures I posted already:
I feel the pictures with Mario 64 don’t need an explanation. I will say this though: Childhood dream fulfilled.
Once I felt stable enough to venture out on my own, I found a nearby trail perfect for morning walks. Not only was it scenic, a skate park that was tucked away in the trees hosted some fantastic graffiti. I had to stop and take it all in.
Coming up on the dusk of the trip, things slowed down to a comfortable groove. The prior weeks were dedicated to exploration and excitement. These final days were more intimate and slow, a perfect way to reflect on what was turning out to be one of the greatest experiences in my young life.
May 1st. Vappu. A holiday to the Finnish people, the one day out of the year everyone is encouraged to get out, enjoy the sunshine, and mingle with their fellow man (at least that’s how Jenna explained it to me). We had a champagne picnic in the park, the revelry of people around us partnered with the booming bloom of springtime filled me with a sense of camaraderie. Maybe it was just the timing, perhaps I just happen to miss these experiences at home, never before have I felt a true sense of belonging and zest for life than in those moments. I miss it already.
After that, what more is there to say? Jenna and I lived together. For trips like these, they say it’s the little things you’ll always hold close in your memory. This proved to be exactly right. Waking up to a beautiful morning and cook breakfast for the woman I love was a privilege. Learning who her favorite streamers and YouTubers are. Sharing the WIPs of work we were getting done, the little breaks that ended up longer than we thought, the games we played, the music we experienced… I’ll say it again: I’ve never felt my life take as big of a step forward before this trip. It showed me a life I wanted. A life of my own, which of course, I can share with someone. I felt I loved Jenna before. This trip cemented it as a truly honest and beautiful feeling. A connection I had been missing all my life… Alas, I had to return back home.
What’s next for me? Well, my Air Force plans are still going ahead. I have a driver’s test setup this Monday, and once I accomplish that, I’ll be reaching out to a recruiter. Wish me luck everyone, that license is the last stepping stone I need to get over before I can pursue my Fire Protection career (well that and the ASVAB of course).
When I said this vacation renewed my conviction to my future, I meant it. Everything I do going forward will be to reunite myself with Jenna so we can build our lives together. I know this is the right decision. I just do. And I can’t wait to see what our future holds.