I shared recently that I’ve been having a rough time (see Tough times without the wine) and so I thought I would do what any other strong grown woman would do…I ran away for a week.
Many people have a sanctuary, a place that they go when things are a bit shitty, a place that they can escape to, for me that’s Finland. I spent most Summer’s there as a kid and have lots of family over there. The sense of calm I feel when I’m coming in to land on the plane at the teeny tiny airport surrounded by trees is something that’s so hard to explain. My family live outside of a small village that’s North West of Helsinki (the only place most people know in Finland). There’s not much there, 2 supermarkets, a bank, a florist, a church and a restaurant and I love it.
I stayed with my cousin, his wife and their gorgeous dog Dita (the most gigantic Rotweiler I have ever clapped eyes on). Dita reminds me a bit of myself in early recovery, totally confused, she loves attention and if you don’t give it to her when you walk through the door she will growl loudly as you – not realising that this is NOT the way to get people to pet you. She was also incredibly close to breaking my legs on a few occasions when she decided to be a lapdog and jump up for cuddles. She is a bloody gorgeous gigantic!
My plan was to get up and do some yoga every morning, read a bit and run a lot. But what I ended up doing was, yoga a little, read a lot and walk a lot. I found it surprisingly hard to switch off, at least for the first 2 days I was fixated on what was going on back home. I did get into the swing of it though, concentrating on the little things, like great coffee, amazing scenery, and farting dogs.
I went for a walk round the lake most days (10k) I couldn’t quite bring myself to jog it though. I was staying on one side of the lake with a cousin, and my other cousin (his sister) has a house across the lake with her kids and husband, in the winter the lake freezes over and you can walk right across. It might be a weird thing to say- so I will say it anyway, but you can really feel the seasons in Finland, not just the change in weather but the change in nature, the flowers and woodland, the animals, everything feels more real. In London I literally judge the seasons by what I am wearing and the colour of the leaves, but in Finland it feels like it matters more, like you’re closer to it somehow.
On the Friday my cousin and his wife who are both studying art, had an art exhibition in their college in town, the theme was all about sustainability and I felt really privileged to be able to go. It was so cool to walk around their school and the local town – one thing that strikes me every time I go to the Finnish towns is their cleanliness, it was literally spotless, as was their college. Now I’m not sure about you – but when I went to uni – clean is the last word I would use to describe it. But this place was spotless, like, I would have eaten my sustainable food off the floor quite happily.
My other cousin (I realise I am talking a lot about cousins and not giving any names – but I don’t like to name people unless I have their permission – not everyone loves to have their name plastered on the internet for my tens of followers to see), invited me on a hike with her friends on the weekend. We did 16km! It was beautiful, we rambled through woodland, and fields, stopped by a lake to grill some sausages over an open fire. It really was idyllic.
It’s funny – if I went on a hike with people in the UK it wouldn’t be frowned upon to take a couple of beers or cans of something for a pit stop – but that’s just not the culture over there. Not everything revolves around booze. Of course it’s still there, in the shops and in people’s homes but it’s not an alcohol focused culture like it is here – if you say you don’t drink no one cares. There’s not the immediate fear of – well what do you do then!?
There’s something about being by water that is so calming, I genuinely do not think you could get a more calming sanctuary than Finland and I’m so lucky to be able to go there. I’ve always had quite stressful, high pressure jobs and when I started working I loved coming to the land of lakes to escape, even though my cousins would worry I would get bored, I just wanted to rest. Of course I didn’t appreciate it when I was little though, I wanted bright lights and Disney castles- couldn’t think of anything worse now!
I’m always amazed – and grateful at how untouched this part of the world is. How Soho House or Secret Escapes haven’t made a mint on it this part of Finland being a back to basics luxury retreat!
I’m now back home and it’s taken me 2 weeks to write this. Although fleeing to Finland was an amazing break – it didn’t solve my stresses everything’s still here just as it was before – but at least I have the memories of this tranquility to chill me out if ever I need it.
Love Katie xxx