We may have been back from Finland for a few months now, but looking back it's still hard to think that the experience has already come and gone. Just the other day Jordan said to me, "Can you believe that we lived in Finland? We just up and went!" No, I can't believe it, but I'm so glad we did.
I just started at the beginning of our blog and skimmed through all of our posts over the past 9 months- all 53 of them- and it's pretty amazing to see all of the new experiences, friends and countries we discovered on (almost) the other side of the globe in less than a calendar year. We added 6 new countries to our "been there" list (visited 7 in total), met dozens of new friends, experienced sub-zero temperatures and learned a handful of Finnish and Swedish phrases. We learned the intricacies of Finnish culture, the small differences in Finnish English vs American English, that a traditional meal includes meat and potatoes, how to use public transportation like a local, and that Finns love, LOVE to plan and schedule. We cross-country skied in Finland, took a boat through ice in the middle of winter to Sweden and downhill skied in Norway. We learned the hard way that European budget airlines are not equal to the American budget liners, that you're not supposed to get off the bus from the front, that Salmiakki is disgusting (sorry guys), and that Polish pierogi will make you feel full for a week.
But most of all, we experienced the warmth of Finland, its people, and eventually its bright, shining sun. Finns are not cold and unwelcoming, which is what we read before arriving. They're more active than many Americans despite the cold weather they deal with for most of the year, they travel more than Americans, they often have better English grammar than Americans, and they're extremely well-versed in American culture. No offense, my American friends, but it's true. That little country of 5 million people, up in what we think of as the North Pole (but don't really know where it is), knows what's up with the world.
A few quick thank yous to some very special people we met in Helsinki: Laura and JP, who are our good friends and made our experience active, fun and introduced us to so many people; SeanKaan (Sean), our American friend who was sent to Finland during the same time as Jordan and gave us his extra adapter to use for our first few days (power!!!); Maria, who introduced us to Hotel Torni's fabulous rooftop bar and was a huge help during our last few days in town; Jukka, who was the sole Finn we knew when we landed and helped us get settled with electronic and grocery store items; and Skanska (including Jordan's boss, Ilkka and Skanska Texas, who recommended Jordan for the program), who enabled us to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience in the first place. There are many others who were such gracious hosts to us- Annica and Lööbe, Jenni and Ed, Sakari and Mira- we could go on forever about all the wonderful people we met. You know who you are, and we appreciate you!
What I think we'll take with us from this experience throughout our lives is the fact that our little corner of the globe that we think of as "normal" is infinitely smaller than the eye through which we view it. Traveling is like what I hear from people who have tattoos- once you get one, you want another, and another and another. Between meeting in Italy in college while touring Western Europe and our most recent European adventure, Jordan and I keep adding to the list. We have to go to St. Petersburg at some point. Actually, we could do that when we go to Eastern Europe. And South America is a must. We have to go to Brazil! Travel has bonded us from the very beginning, and I hope we can infect our children, and maybe some of you, with the jet-setting bug!
I'll leave you with a photo I snapped in January of the first time the sun came out while we were in Helsinki, and also a quote by Mark Twain that has lived on our blog for the duration of our adventure. We believe it to be truth, and can't wait for our next adventure; and for us, yes, it is always sunny in Finland!
Hei Hei/Hej då, Suomi! Me rakastamme sinua/Vi älskar dig!
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. -Mark Twain