2017 has been a terrible, amazing year. I guess someone could call it a bad year, seeing all the dark lows I went through, but the highs were so intense that I would strongly disagree.
The year started in a noisy house party on the suburbs of London. I knew no one, and I was cold and worried that the thick cigarette smoke might get stuck on my little black dress. I rang the year in among virtual strangers, feeling strange myself, feeling it would be a year for big changes. In the end I concluded I would be all right. I think that much was true.
This year I travelled in Portugal, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, and said goodbye to London for a while. I spent eight months abroad, learnt a new language and made amazing friends. I know all of this is going to sound so sappy, but I don’t even care. How the hell can you do a year round-up without getting sappy?
I kissed on sidewalks and cried on local trains. I’ve arrived home drunk, boots full of water, friends lost, friends found – not all of those in the same night, mostly. I broke a few hearts, and for full disclosure, mine must’ve been one of them. I saw places that made me hold my breath and almost cry out of joy. (I broke all the promises I made about this blog and ignored it for long bits of time. Oops.) There were so many moments when I just sat back in silent awe, thinking this is it, this is everything.
If you haven’t been around all year, this is what I got up to:
In January, I spent two weeks falling in love with Portugal and decided that one day I’ve got to live in Porto. Even though it was hella cold. Why do these people not insulate their houses? I know they’ve got an awesome summer and all but surely it can’t be a surprise that it gets cold once a year? I mean, it happens every year. Get your shit together, Southern Europe.
From Lisbon, I continued on over the ocean and to a continent that I have been dying to travel since I was a messy-haired child that only cared about Pokemon and cool pictures of Aztecs in school text books: South America. South America! I still get excited thinking about it, and I did spend almost eight months on the continent this year. My first stop was Bahia, a tropical region in Northeastern Brazil, where I explored the UNESCO heritage listed Salvador and the Chapada Diamantina national park.
In February, I made my way through Rio to the beaches of Santa Catarina before finally arriving in Novo Hamburgo, where I lived as an exchange student for the next few months. (I also hangglided in Rio. I feel like I don’t talk about that enough. Did I tell you I hangglided in Rio? It was insanely cool.)
The first few weeks as an exchange student were amazing. Everyone is so attentive, making sure you’re getting by especially since the little Portuguese you speak apparently sounds like spoken with a Russian accent. I attended a bloco in Porto Alegre – that all my tutors made sure to title the “most dangerous city in Brazil” – and learnt that even if I am fifteen minutes late, some Brazilians will still stroll to the scene an hour later and not even apologize for lateness. And I thought this was supposed to be a city of German immigrants.
I don’t think any month ever has started out as fabulously as March did – partying in Rio during the freaking carnival! I mean, isn’t that on like every person’s bucket list in the entire world?? It sure was on mine, and I thought for weeks that I wouldn’t make it. Last time I checked the flights around New Year’s, I counted I would have to fork out about 700 euros for the whole ordeal. Then, two weeks before the big event, I stumbled upon plane tickets for 200 euros return with direct flights and in a midnight-impulse bought them. My hostel was weird, empty and cheap, on the practical outskirts of some favela, and the only staff member that talked to me always tried to hit on me with the smoothness of a 14-year-old nerd, but I escaped to Sophie’s hostel in Copacabana for most nights and I had a blast.
Other than that, March meant dwelving deeper into Brazilian culture. Caipirinhas are way too good, and I learnt that Whatsapp has features that I never even knew of. These Brazilians are social media wizards.
April was a month filled with travel. It was also the month that would prove to be that turning point for my year of changes that I had predicted at that New Year’s party. (Doesn’t that sound dramatic? I gotta stop reading fantasy novels.) I returned to Rio for the third time – what can I say, I love the goddamn city? I also almost destroyed my camera at the Iguazu Falls, which were hella cool, spent the Easter on a beach and did a weekend trip to Uruguay.
I also broke up with my boyfriend, realised my Portuguese was not up to any standard it should be if I wanted to hand in that 15-page literary essay at the end of the semester, and I still didn’t have flights home booked. April was a messy month.
I kept quiet in the blog for the month of May. I didn’t know how to address the break-up, so I did the smooth thing and didn’t address it at all. Instead, I went along with every little thing my friends were pulling together. My best support in Brazil, another Finn, accompanied me to a weird house party in a fancy manor and later in the month flew back home. We all got tattoos. (Side note: if you’re gonna get a tattoo abroad, please get one in Brazil. It’s so easy to find an affordable artist that actually does an amazing job.) Mine, a bright red parrot, was named Jorge Estilos by my Mexican friend.
I also downloaded Tinder again. I feel like that is enough said for everyone who’s been around me long enough this year.
Oh, and I saw Ed Sheeran in concert! I took the chance to explore Curitiba for a few days before the gig and was pleasantly surprised at how likeable the city was. Of course it helped that I couchsurfed with the loveliest people – who, while not letting me sleep much more than four hours a night, did show me where to get the best cheesecake in Curitiba.
June was a jam-packed, stressful month full of last things and excitement for hitting the road again. I finally bought a flight home, and I ended up finishing that literary essay mostly on time despite the fact that I started it 24 hours before the deadline. I got an 8 out of 10 for it. Then again the teacher told me earlier in the term that I could also write it in English if I wanted, although he didn’t speak a word of English, so I doubt he ever actually even read it. I haven’t dared go back and read it through.
I spent my last weekend in Novo Hamburgo watching films with the people that had become my best friends in Brazil, eating popcorn and feeling so goddamn reluctant to leave.
Uhh, so the summer was quite bad blogging-wise. I drafted at least a dozen posts that I was going to time for when I was travelling but never got around finishing them. (Someday, I whisper to myself as I stare at the 87 posts in my drafts folder and realise I can’t even remember anymore what some of their titles mean.) Travel-wise, though? Fucking fantastic.
I started my two months of travel from the Brazilian Pantanal before flying over to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Side note: while I was in Campo Grande, I was about an 8 hour bus ride away from Santa Cruz, but I had booked up a flight from Sao Paulo to Bolivia months in advance in order to get my visa and it had cost me 200 euros, so I was adamant to use that flight. After a night at the airport and many, many hours later I regretted that choice.)
In Santa Cruz I teamed up with Sarah, a freakishly tall German girl that I met for the first time when I was 19, in Brisbane and drunk. Together we volunteered as coffee bean pickers in the Bolivian jungle, almost panicked in the mines of Potosi and had an awesome time on the Uyuni saltflats before going our separate ways. I continued through Oruro and Cochabamba to the party capital of La Paz, only accompanied by a nasty gum infection and a deep-rooted fear of Bolivian dentists.
La Paz very quickly became one of my favourite cities so far. I don’t know, man, something about chaos just speaks to me I guess? I overcame my fear and conquered the infamous Death Road with a German couple that I had met on and 0ff since Santa Cruz and a Dutch girl that had the most fabulous hair I’d ever seen. (They were all taller than me, too.)
I crossed the border into Peru, and on my second morning I got a cold that followed me all the way through the country. (Side note: if you’re going to sneak into a different hostel with some cute Croatian you’ve just met, you might want to make sure you’re not suffering from an earth-shattering cough that will wake up every living soul in Cusco.) Getting sick was a little dissappointing since it stopped me from doing as much hiking as I had wanted to, but I still managed to make it through the Colca Canyon and the Salkantay to Machu Picchu.
In August I sandboarded in Huacachina, spotted wild seals and dolphins in Paracas, hiked in snow at 4,800 m, ate an alpaca heart and went into a monastery hungover and in flip flops. By the time I left South America, I was wanting more more more. It was everything I wished for and more. I can’t wait to get back to Latin America.
I also spent one layover day in Toronto – basically just ate different things all day – and a few days in London before touching back down to Finland for the first time all year.
September was a busy month. I was re-meeting all of my friends, hosting visitors, unpacking my belongings to my cool new penthouse-esque apartment and getting caught up with work and courses again. In a word, I hit the ground running. Two days after I’d got home I went back to work and had the first meeting for my Master’s thesis. It was probably for the better: this was the first time in years that I’d come home from a trip and I didn’t have the next one planned out.
For the first time in a long while it felt great to be back in Finland. I love Tampere, and I spent some afternoons exploring around the city, taking pictures and enjoying the vibes. All the while I was looking back on last summer’s travels, desperately messaging all my travel friends begging them to send me more pics from abroad, and making plans to get out of Finland for the spring.
I honestly don’t even want to say anything about November except that my friends and I developed a new drinking game: every time someone mentions the thesis, everybody drinks.
Wait, how is it December already? I swear the year just started! Just like we scream in every December, so we did this year, too. I visited the UNESCO listed wooden town of Rauma – finally, yay! – and Helsinki, plus spent the holidays binge reading and catching up on lost sleept from the past four months in my home town. (In fact, I’m still here. Heading home tomorrow. Well, as much as I can call it a home now that I’ve ended my housing contract and I know I’m moving out in a month. Where? Keep reading…)
2018 travel – lets go everywhere!
Firstly, I am very excited that I’m going abroad for the first time in MONTHS in January. I’ll visit my dear friend Sophie in Amsterdam – she made my Rio Carneval amazing and knows more about my boy stuff than my diary. I’ll also dip into Belgium for a few days, visiting a friend on exchange in Ghent and checking out Bruges, too. She and I used to live literally across the street from each other and saw each other once that entire autumn. Now that I’m visiting her in another country, the irony is not lost on me.
Then the big news.
Guys. I might have magic powers. When I put that Krakow thing in the intro on the home page, it was just something to say – but maybe it was a premonition after all.
If you’ve followed my Instagram stories, you know I’ve spent pretty much the entire autumn looking for internship placements around Europe. After a lot of work, various interviews (one even in Spanish!) and painstaking Sophie’s choice-esque pondering over which offer to accept, I ended up with a small IT recruitment company in Krakow, Poland. So that’s where I’m moving 1st of February. I am super stoked and still not even sure this is real. Its going to be awesome!
The best part about living in Krakow? It’s so close to all the dope places. I am going to do my best to get around to Budapest, Lviv (Ukraine), Prague, Slovakia and who knows where else! And of course I will be exploring Poland as I go. I love Poland. This is going to be so good.
(I also really want to visit Liechtenstein because it’s small snd no one ever goes there. So that’s on the list too.)
The internship ends in the end of May, and after that I intend to carry my riches over to the Balkans – a region that has fascinated me and called for me for years now. My goal is to move through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia hitchhiking and hiking through the Via Dinarica. And now that I’ve said that out loud, I have to do it, right?
To be honest, I can always to change plans. For the first time ever, I’m not going to have anything to go back for and no one waiting for me. Anything can happen.
The autumn, then? I suppose I’m going to have to get a job. Although I am still very much dreaming about the States, Mexico and Central America…
Who knows? All I know 2018 is going to be a great year – a year of being wild, brave, confident, smart and absolutely free.
Happy New Year, guys, and thank you so much for being with me for this crazy ride! It means the world to me when you comment on my posts, my Insta stories, in person, whatever, and tell me that I made you laugh, that I managed to entertain you, that I should keep going. So thank you. You are all lovely <3
How was your year? What are your (travel) plans for 2018?