It’s 11.30am when I get out of Hugo’s car. My mind is racing. Excited to finally make it out of the city. Hugo understands. “You don’t come to Finland for its cities,” he says. “You’re right,” I answer. “I want to go north. The real, distant north, above the arctic circle. Experience the vast, raw, natural landscapes and simplicity of life that comes with them. I want to hike for a few days, and most of all enjoy the freedom of not having to make decisions that don’t have an immediate impact. I want to go with the flow, and in this case with the people that are kind enough to stop, invite me in their car and listen to my story. When there are no expectations nobody can get disappointed.” “Won’t you get lonely up there, all by yourself?” “Being alone isn’t the same thing as being lonely. Besides, personal growth isn’t always meant to be a group activity.”
I slam the car door shut and start walking in the direction of the motorway. Absorbed by my own thoughts I barely notice the endless, monotonous downpour falling from a milky white sky. Helsinki is only 50km away now, but it already feels like an eternity ago that I attended the wedding that was the reason I came to this country in the first place. Those sunny days celebrating on a private island with long-lost but quickly-recovered friends now seem like something from another world, standing on this grim and unfamiliar junction of a random road somewhere in Finland. “It’s funny how time flies when you’re comfortable and surrounded by people you like, but suddenly comes to an abrupt halt when you’re alone in an unfamiliar place and without a concrete plan,” I ponder while making sure not to get hit by a car speeding in the opposite direction. The challenge is to make something out of it. It’s been almost five years since Chris and Saija met in a language course that Saija only got into after someone else dropped out, during an exchange year they had both planned to spend somewhere else. Now they were joined in holy matrimony, surrounded by friends, family and a few of us who had been there at the very beginning. Life sure can make weird twists and turns, and so does the road. I take my place on the shoulder of the motorway and stick out a wet thumb. Time to get on with it.