I had the chance to travel through Scandinavia for 6 weeks with two of my best friends right after I graduated from high school in 2014. After returning home, it took me a year to stop longing for Europe, but I knew I would go back as soon as I had the chance. I didn't think I'd be able to go right after graduating from college in December, but somehow everything fell into place and I got to spend three months in Scandinavia before I had to come home and join the real world of working. :)
I finished my business degree on December 12th, 2017, drove down to Minneapolis the next day, and flew out on the 14th. I have the WORST luck with flights! My connection was in Miami, and I missed it due to a two hour delay out of Minneapolis, so I ended up spending the night in Miami and flying to London the next day. There I had a 10 hour layover, and I wasn't about to just sit at the airport the whole time with London sitting 20 minutes away, so I took the train into the city for the day. The only problem was I had missed a night of sleep and was so tired I couldn't full comprehend what I was experiencing, so I definitely want to visit London again when I can function! I also didn't have a phone plan, so I had to rely on wifi to find my way around. At some point I just got annoyed and hopped in a taxi and asked them to bring me to the Tower Bridge. 100% worth it.
I don't have a clue what this building is, but it looked cool so of course I took pictures. ;)
I arrived in Helsinki on midnight on December 16th, only to find my luggage hadn't made it. Aaaaagh. I stayed with a friend for the night and was able to pick it up the next evening, so it all worked out. We spent a few days in Finland, and then drove north to Sweden and Norway, where we spent Christmas and New Year's attending church meetings. We also got to see the famous ice hotel located in Kiruna, Sweden.
The hotel was neat to see but I sure wouldn't be one to pay to sleep in a freezing cold hotel room made of ice!
From Sweden we traveled over to Narvik, Norway.
The Norwegians have a tradition of shooting off fireworks on New Year's Eve over by a big bridge. Not gonna lie, I was kind of nervous that they were being fired off about 20 ft away by teenagers, but everyone else acted fine so I rolled with it. :)
This is the beautiful city of Narvik at night.
My friend Kristina showed me around the town and we hiked partway up a hill to get a view of the city.
On January 3rd, I flew out of Narvik and down to Trondheim to spend a week with my friend Lena. During that time I photographed Marita and Øyvind's wedding in Malm, which I posted earlier this year.
This is the Nidaros Cathedral. So pretty, inside and out! Except for no photos are allowed inside.
From Trondheim, I traveled back up to Northern Norway to visit my friend Sofie in Tromsø. Norway is jaw-drop stunning. One girl I met said it's good when visitors come to Norway because it reminds the Norwegians how beautiful their home is. I recommend traveling there to everyone who asks. :) It's dang expensive too, but absolutely 100% worth it. I promise.
This was about as light as it got while I was in Tromsø since the city is so far north.
Sofie and I took a cable car ride up to the top of this cliff so I could see the best views. It was super icy and the wind was frigid, but I could've stayed there all day.
My first time ever seeing the Northern Lights was in Tromsø!! I quickly discovered that the views we all see in those epic photos is not what is actually seen in the sky, but I had fun trying some long exposure shots!
I also got to poke my head into the Arctic Cathedral.
After a week in Tromsø, I flew back to Finland on January 18th. I spent a few days in Padasjoki, a super small town, visiting a family I had met on my trip in 2014, and then I went over to Lahti and stayed there for 6 weeks. During that time I did an internship with a few guys who own a company called Ave Group. They specialize in leadership consulting and coaching, so I did some marketing work for them and started to create power point templates for them to use in the future. I visited this same marina as we did in 2014 but winter isn't quite as pretty, at least in my opinion. :)
This building here used to be a furniture factory but has been converted into office space, so I spent many hours here while working for Ave.
I stayed with the Suontama family in their cute yellow farmhouse in the town of Lahti. They took such good care of me during the weeks that I was with them, and Minttu, the youngest, did her best to teach me some Finnish words. :)
The girls spent many hours doing their homework on top of the warm stove in the kitchen!
Juha, Tuija, Minttu, Roosa, Camilla, Joel, and Mimosa.
I made many great Finnish friends. Laura here is making traditional mukkara.
I'm so thankful I met this group of people. My point in being in Finland for several weeks was to try and experience a normal life, and I feel like I got to do that while getting to know them.
Recognize this baby girl? Ellen's mom is from Washington state so I hung out with her and Ellen quite a bit!
I celebrated my 22nd birthday while in Finland!
We played Dutch Blitz for hoooooouuuuurrrrsssss.
I hung out with these girls in Helsinki and we clicked instantly. I walked in their door and Pinja was wearing a Gryffindor sweatshirt and I immediately knew I liked them. It's Pinja and Lilja in the back, Roosa and I in the front.
Claire Haapala was studying in Italy while I was in Finland, so she flew up to stay with me for a weekend, and I traveled down to Italy for a week to tour with her. Good thing she came because I don't think I would have played tourist as much if she didn't! We spent a day wandering around Lahti and then another day in Helsinki.
We stopped in this cute coffee shop that I think used to be a railroad station.
People have asked me many times which country was my favorite, so that would be Finland, and which city was my favorite, and that would be Helsinki. And it's not easy to describe why. It's not a thing- it's a feeling. I just felt like I belonged there. It felt like home. I did not appreciate the lack of coffee shops, which is strange because Finns drink an insane amount of coffee, but I loved the aptitude of the Finns to have deep and genuine conversations. They don't do small talk, and it just struck me that I talked about things with people I'd known for 6 weeks that I have yet to discuss with people I've known for years. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to learn a bit of another language, but that's not to say I was very successful. It's easy enough to get along when the rest of the world learns English in school, but I still have that fire in me to pursue learning a second language.
It was really hard to leave but I was also so excited to go home and start a new adventure on the West Coast. I'd love to go back to Finland someday, most definitely in the summertime, and if I were to have the chance to live there for a year and study or something, I'd do it in a heartbeat. If you were thinking about going abroad, DO IT. It's nerve-wracking and requires stepping wayyyyyy out of your comfort zone, but oh is it worth it.