Looking Back And Heading Forward

Helsinki, Finland

There’s a suntanned little girl in me, still shell-shocked at finding herself in a country where it’s pitch-black dark for most of the year. There are insiders’ clubs and she’s not a part of them. Everything is upside down and no one else seems to notice.

As the years go by, she finally learns how to tie a scarf so it won’t keep falling apart annoyingly, and to accept that those summer clothes and swimsuits in her closet will remain unused, like objects in a museum. But, like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, her stories still don’t fit in – and did she just detect a tone of jealousy in that non-reaction?

She doesn’t want to have to hide her background or apologize for speaking another language fluently. Where are you from – the answer to that seemingly innocent, ubiquitous question tells you so much, yet sometimes the person asking it doesn’t really want to hear the answer if it sounds too good. She feels like a stray dog in sheep’s clothing.

How could she not tell you that she learned to swim before she could speak Finnish properly? How much does she have to leave out? It took a long time for her to realize that others didn’t see her as she did. To them, she had a Finnish name and passport, end of story, end of identity. They didn’t see that in her heart, she was elsewhere. This girl-next-door had been listening to dancehall reggae since she was a teenager and had learned to recite the alphabet by watching Sesame Street in a checkered school uniform.

When I started this blog in 2015, my life had been all about traveling ever since I was a child. Moving around came naturally. But then life happened and I guess I settled down. I never imagined settling down in Helsinki, but it does make sense because my family is here.

I’m the type of person who is deeply affected by the weather. Some of you will understand, some won’t. Those who won’t should try living in Helsinki for a few winters and then you’ll see! It’s dark as midnight in the afternoon and it leaves me feeling crippled. I know I should get some fresh air but… it’s dark, cold, wet, windy, and slippery. That little child in me is going,Β No, I don’t want to go outside, do I have to?! Really?

This is the first time in my adult life that I haven’t regularly gotten a dose of real sunshine in several years and I’m no longer even working in the travel industry. So, that was great timing to start a travel photo blog, wasn’t it? When I get a moment, I’m going to adjust my blog’s tagline and my About Me – page to reflect new blogging goals: this is now more of a casual photo blog, with some just-for-fun writing. I don’t want to turn it into a Helsinki-blog, but most of my photos are from Helsinki since this is where I now live. And I have lots of photos.

I was going to do a sequel to the post about my tropical childhood, on arriving in Finland, the little culture shocks and feeling like an outsider. On finally realizing I was more or less like a third culture kid. But after having two amazing babies of my own now, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not about me anymore. I’m no longer the star of my own show, and I’m totally happy with that! My priorities and dreams have changed into new ones.

I love writing and the tone I seem to drift towards in my writing is nostalgia for a nice dramatic effect or to create atmosphere, so you can still expect some more of that in my coming posts. Just less of the travel theme.

My boys are going to grow up as Helsinkians, and they are going to fit right in. The locals love it here.

61 responses to “Looking Back And Heading Forward

  1. Oh this is such a heartfelt post, I loved reading it! I get the feeling too sometimes – of not belonging – when I get asked where I’m from and although I am from Nepal, I’ve lived in Europe all my adult life so I can’t really relate with people from Nepal anymore nor people from Finland/Poland on a deep level. I guess I am mostly just my own person! πŸ™‚ I guess all of us feel that way at one point or the other, whatever the reasons might be. It’s sad that you are extremely affected by weather and have to live in (mostly) cold & dark Helsinki, but on the other hand, I am glad that you mention you’re happy for your family and your sons. I hope you’ll get plenty of travel to sun-drenched locations in the coming years with your family! Plus summers in Finland make all those months of waiting really worth it, don’t they πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your answer: you are your own person 😊 The thing is, in Finland no one expects me to have a background any different to theirs. They put me in a box and label it. Though I do remember it wasn’t fun to always stand out either, when I was in Paris and everyone could see I wasn’t local. Don’t know whoch is better, to look like you belong when you don’t, or to look like you don’t belong when you do? πŸ˜„ Thanks Pooja for your lovely comment! Ps. The summers here have been very cold the past few years

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I do understand. But after 30+ years here I find this dark period is usefully introspective and perhaps the most creative time of the year. On the other hand, it’s a great time to travel!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, this is a thoughtful and deeply felt post. Your last paragraph rounds it up and speaks volumes: first the firm prediction, and then the hard-hitting truth. Looking forward to all of your words, and images as well, even if of nothing but Helsinki.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, that breaks my heart in some way, and it builds it up again. I can relate to so much in this post – being always from somewhere, never fitting in, never realizing how weather affects me – before moving to Oslo. Everyone talking about how great Oslo and Norway is, and me: “something wrong with me? I just want more social connection, more time spent outside, and more sunshine. Do I want too much?”
    All of us are building our lives. You have your project now – and yes, kids restructure the life in unthinkable ways. I have my dream project and hope that once I will be sharing more of the sunny pictures πŸ™‚ But all in all: so far so good. I can do it. We can do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marina, thank you! πŸ’• Your comment left me feeling that I am not alone! I bet Oslo is just as dark and cold as Helsinki. And, just like you said, people keep saying to me, but isn’t it so beautiful though, the summers, etc. Well, nature is beautiful here, and everywhere else too. As for the summers, I have been waiting for one for years. It’s like waiting for Santa and then he never shows up! πŸ˜‚ I also feel like there must be something wrong with me since I can’t see the fun in a rainy and grey summer. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to go for a swim outdoors! I miss that so much! Last time must’ve been in Aruba 5 years ago! Where did all that time go?? But at least I’ve fulfilled so many of my dreams that I’m left with a content feeling. It’s ok. Yes, we can do it! Good luck for your dream project, hope it works! Are you maybe moving to Spain or something??? 😜

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are definitely not alone! This is why I love blogging – it opens up for this simple human connection. And that’s why I love “raw feelings ” more than glossy blogs that seem to have it all. Being open and vulnerable is so much more precious.
        Yes, I am with you on all of your points. Oslo is pretty much like Helsinki, I guess. Bonus: Norway has been called the world’s happiest country this year which makes it even more ironic.

        Summer is a joke. I learnt that there’s no point waiting for summer here. If you want summer, you leave. That’s why total migration to Spain and Greece in July πŸ˜†πŸ˜† don’t the Finnish do the same? like my friend said: “winters don’t disappoint me cuz they are just what we expect them to be: cold. But summers do. You wait – and then it rains in weeks”. And this climate creates kind of energy when I feel myself like a pensioner πŸ˜† I just miss that Marina that opens up in Spain πŸ™‚
        I came to like Norway more recently after I became Norwegian, got some freedom and am not lonely any more. But I am so ready to experience something new. Yes, Spain that will be (or Catalonia). Fingers crossed! Traveling is what saves us all here. Hope, you will travel again when the boys grow up a bit πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ooh, I guessed right! πŸ˜‰ Knowing you have a Spanish guy, that was a safe bet. (Or does he prefer to identify as Catalan?)
          Anyway, yes people travel to Spain, Thailand, the Canary Islands… but they also love Finnish summers, mosquitos and all. I’m happy for them that they love the place they are in, but I feel like I deserve that too.
          You know what, I’ve also been told that I’m a different person in Finland, that I hold back. Pensioner energy seems to describe it perfectly! Hehee!!! πŸ˜€ Life revolves around TV, instead of living it yourself you watch others live life.
          …Why did you move to Norway in the first place? I think I’ve read about it in your blog but I can’t remember.
          And yes, comments are the best bit about blogging! I don’t understand glitzy sponsored blogs that never get comments, or if they do, the blogger doesn’t respond. Why would you sponsor a blog that doesn’t get interaction? And as for not replying, I want to send them a “you’re doing it wrong!” meme! πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, you guessed right πŸ˜‰ Of course, a Catalan man is logical premise to start a life elsewhere πŸ™‚ (and yes, he identifies himself as Catalan). He is from this nice city of Barcelona, and it would be pity not to try to live there.
            Haha, you have mosquitos, right. No mosquitos here, and people say they love summers here too. But traveling is a must, if you don’t travel, something is wrong with you. And I think: “yepp, if it is the best and happiest country, why do we all have to travel out to survive?” Well well. But you know, if you are born in this place, it feels best to you. Its village charm, its quiet energy. It’s there home, so I understand them. But me, I come from a different place. More action, more energy, so for me it will never feel like home here.
            I came to Norway as au-pair, and that agency promised help with finding work (which they didn’t do, but anyway). So I came looking for opportunities to get work and stay in Europe. I didn’t write it explicitly on my blog, maybe I should πŸ™‚
            There must be some sense in sponsing those blogs. Maybe, the traffic is good anyway. maybe, the blogger closed the comments bc they get a lot of negative response, or just don’t have time – like local pink bloggers in Norway. Or they just don’t care, as they built their brand and live of commercial content, instead of interaction. I once had a dream of living of my blog, but not sure now. It would be nice to make some money writing, bc I enjoy writing. But living 24/7 a blogger life – no, not for me, I guess. It is a life about blog, while the blog is about life, which has nothing than a blog and making content for it. This is how I see it. Would you like to be a full-time blogger?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, this grey winter happiness is a mystery to me too and, in so many ways, I don’t feel Finnish at all. Though technically I am.
              Here, there are very young Youtubers who I guess are successful. I don’t follow that scene and have no interest in them or in vlogs in general. Maybe I’m too old to understand! πŸ˜‹ (Also I dislike the trend that all news websites put up videos instead of text articles. It seems like journalism is dead and I don’t care for watching videos. Anyway I can’t even watch them if the babies are asleep)
              Hope you think of a solution for Barcelona! Good weekend dear! πŸ’•

              Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m from Australia, the literal OPPOSITE side of the world but while working, travelling and studying in Italy I have met 2 Finnish girls who I have clicked with Instantly. Even though looking at our countries vast differences I have found so many similarities in the culture and people. The idea of it constantly being dark scares me but of course I am going to have to visit my two Helsinki girls hometown eventually- HOPEFULLY in the summer though!
    Thank you for this beautifully honest and raw blog it left me with the feeling of Optimism x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Isn’t it great when you randomly find people abroad who you click with instantly? 😊 I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit and the girls will show you the city’s best bits! (But yes, I’d recommend visiting in the summer, hahah!)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I always resist sharing my innermost feelings and yet when others do, as you just have, I love it! I am also deeply affected by the weather, but I spent 26 years in a cold, gray place working and then raising my kids. It was great for all of us; they grew up happy and cozy, and I grew to appreciate a place for more than its climate. But then I was done! I am now in a tropical place, and I am so happy I can’t believe it! You have the right attitude; there are middle years in our lives when it’s not all about us. And that’s OK!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, we are so similar in so many ways! You really do understand. I guess this is just the middle part of my life, yes. I always imagined living in a beautiful beach house and that is the only travel dream I still haven’t realized: maybe it is still to come. This is a post that I wrote and re-wrote in my head for a long, long time because it felt so personal. Yet I wanted to say something. Living in different places is such an amazing thing to have done, I really am grateful. Thanks for your lovely comment! πŸ’•

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear, dear. You are a very brave person. I live on the Sout Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa where we (are supposed to) have a subtropical climate. I am used to lots of sun and I hate cold, wet and windy days. Due to an unusual amount of rain and wind during the past winter, I had to stay indoors most of the time. Can you say cabin fever? May you in future be able to travel to warmer climates and soak up the sun occasionally – I know you will love it.

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  8. Another beautifully written post from you. It’s strange but because I’ve always visited Finland in the summertime and occasionally around Easter, I crave to see Helsinki in mid winter, carpeted in snow with a frozen sea and to pop into a cosy cafe for a mug of chocolate! Maybe one day my dream will come true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marion for reading! Hope you do get your dream winter visit! 😊 Most of the winter there is no snow however, or just a tiny bit mixed with slush. Getting up in the dark to go to work only to return home in the dark again is very tiring. But in the spring everything comes back to life again and you suddenly have more energy to go out and do other things πŸ˜„

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  9. Again, I understand perfectly. I did come “back” to France at 16. No more Africa. And the first winter in Paris was atrocious. After a while I realized that in many aspects I couldn’t relate to the French, because they just couldn’t… size up my experiences. “What do you mean the cook killed in 3 meters long python in your garden? To begin with no-one has a cook!” As soon as I could I left again. And came back and left again. Most of my expat friends split. Half the siblings left for abroad again, half stayed. My sister stayed. I left. I’ve been away from France for 30 years now, and I have to go back every year. πŸ™‚ There is no recipe. You will have to figure out a solution for yourself. The sun (or lack of) is a serious issue. Australia is not a bad option. (When I finally left again, I was 35, married with two girls. And we made it) Take care my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You have a beautiful family and those years with the little ones will never come back. Let the children be safe and sound and enjoy their growing – there will be time for traveling to warmer places…I live in Sweden, and we have the same cold and grey weather, the same waiting for a summer that (almost) never arrives. We started traveling again when the children could walk properly (as we often go hiking). It is difficult to live in the northern countries without traveling – poor creatures living in the 19th century and before…
    Thank you for an interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Leya, for your comment! I agree that Finland is a smart choice right now and safety is a big concern for me. This will be a good place for the boys. I don’t long to travel, really, since I’ve already traveled so much. I just miss the things you can do outdoors when you live in a sunny country and would have liked to have moved permanently somewhere warm. But, life has its way of arranging things and things are good in this moment 😊

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  11. A lovely heartfelt post. I do understand your woes about living in the far north. I lived in the Yukon for nearly ten years so I know the winters can be brutal. And I too am a tropical baby having grown up in Australia. Somehow I adjusted to northern Canada’s cold and snow, and then I was done. I now live in Vancouver and we have 7 months of rain. I’ll always miss the tropics. Whenever I get to a hot climate something inside of me relaxes at a very deep level. Still we both have our own heartfelt reasons for staying where we are, and I’m sure you, like me, make the most of it.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alison, it does sound like you understand me perfectly! You put it so well, something relaxes inside you, that’s exactly it!! Arriving somewhere warm makes me feel like I’ve arrived home. But I am here now and, as you said, need to make the most of it, and I will. There are good sides to being here, too. And to survive, you need to find your own way to enjoy it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  12. I can tell you this, you are great at adapting … you adapted to Helsinki, now you will adapt to new blog goals and with new babies … :))) I’ll stick around to read and enjoy whatever you blog about …wonderful post!!

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    • No, never been to Bali. Why, have you, and was it good? Sounds like a mass tourism destination. Anyway, I worked a lot of temporary contracts in the travel industry which means that you are left without any annual leave, because they just pay you and you start a new contract straight away. It was exhausting. But I did travel a lot of day trips and weekends solo, and then work trips. After that, hubby and I escaped winter to Hawaii, Aruba, Argentina, and a short trip to Tokyo.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A lot of my friends went. They said it was really nice. But they’re the types who will always find the quiet spots, away from the mass tourism. Was toying with the thought of going there, but might save it for next year. Kind of like having a Central European Xmas this year, the Xmas markets, the whole cliche. Not really into it, but I’ve been away from it for so long, it’s actually taking on tourist value this year.

        When and if I’m back in Helsinki, I’ll think of a proper winter destination. Nine winters in Finland is more than enough.

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  13. Thanks for sharing these more personal thoughts. As someone said above, it’s this type of post that makes us able to connect with each other. 😊 I can relate to that weird feeling of not belonging, having lived all my life between Portugal & Switzerland. I guess we just have to embrace it as part of us. And I’m glad to hear that you could switch your mindset regarding this. πŸ˜‰ As for the weather, I only realized how much I was affected by the dark winter months once I moved to Switzerland 6 years ago. Before I used to come here in December or January to visit family, but I would always go back to Portugal – where it is sunny pretty much all year round. I say “dark winter months” knowing that is nothing compared to what you’ve described… Even if there’s no sunshine, we still have daylight from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in Switzerland. Still, I can imagine how difficult it must be for you to adjust! πŸŒ™βœ¨ I’m looking forward to see some more of Helsinki. πŸ˜ƒ (PS: I follow a Norwegian girl on IG who posts photos from Oslo, if you want to take a look for inspiration. Even though it’s super dark in the morning she hasn’t stopped snapping: @mazarin_ πŸ“·)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ines! True, connecting with bloggers is the best part. It’s easier to write something personal when you blog anonymously, I guess, at least for me it is πŸ˜„ And I have lovely readers who understand! 😊 Everyone is different, some people here really don’t mind the long winters. It is what it is. I’ll keep snapping away! πŸ˜„

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  14. There’s a Hungarian saying that you have as many souls as you speak languages. I’m a different person in Finland for the most part, or I can be. I get accepted by French people abroad once I’ve explained my situation. And no one cares. Ditto Americans. But when you’re in the country, and you jar their expectations, people don’t take it that well. In Germany that was never an issue, I just hated the place. But in the States, which I considered my home growing up, I’d be fine, and then someone would make a reference to something very obvious to those who stated put, and I’d be lost. The French embassy in Helsinki was actually really nice and understanding, which really calmed me down. But yeah, we are strangers in our own home.

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  15. While my winters don’t compare to Finland, I was in for a shock after moving from South Florida to the mountains of Virginia. It’s dark by 5:00 and when the winter truly sets in, there will be many days of no sunshine. Most are locals here and have been for generations. My kids will be about evenly split in the amount of time they spent in each state. I wonder which they’ll consider themselves. I’m sure your boys will love growing up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment and kind words! That’s a quite a contrast for your family, sounds like it must be great to get to experience both! (Maybe that’s what my experience sounds like too, hmm? These things are so individual!) Anyway, best wishes to all of you and have a great week! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hey. Love this post! Wonderfully written. Even just moving from the UK to New Zealand where they speak the same language, I still feel like I don’t quite fit in a lot of the time. A weird feeling for sure.

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