My first solo trip was a while ago now and it was filled with utter excitement. It was to Finland for some research at a local university. At this stage of my life, that side of the world had yet to bleep onto my radar. What made it even more exciting was that it would be the last month of winter when I would arrive. I had never even lived anywhere where it snowed and had only seen snow once before arriving so was almost jumping out of my skin at the chance to live in snow.
Researching for my trip, it opened my mind and lit this hunger to want to see and know more about the world. To see landscape and city scapes that I haven’t seen or wouldn’t think exists. I wanted to learn how the others lived (gosh, I really sound like an alien but I promise that I’m not). How society works and the values of another country. Painted buildings are not common here but is such a beautiful treat. It makes the streets feel more alive and unique.
It was the first time I was in a completely foreign grocery store. I found the largest grocery store in the basement level of Stockmann’s in the city centre. Aside from not being able to read anything, I wondered around looking for fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
Cranberries! Little did I know, that these were not for snacking on and why dried cranberries coated in sugar are so much more popular instead…. Cloudberry jam and sea buckthorn jam went into my basket to bring home for the family to try. So did the assorted liquorice lollies. There was also a bakery. Here, I slowly eyed each shelf trying to guess what they were and here it was where I first found out about Piirakka. It was the first time I found out that you weigh out your own fruits and vegetables and print off a sticker for it before you go to the cash register. That was unheard of here but they have started this in some main supermarket chains where you can buy dry fruit and nuts.
Grocery stores became and are still one of my favourite destinations when in a new country.
It was the first time I found out that the coldness is no barrier. Sydney tends to hibernate throughout winter. Yet life continues and winter is embraced elsewhere and almost revelled in. I went for walks on snow covered streets, under clear blue skies and on frozen lakes. I heard for the first time ice breaking as our ferry crossed it. I found out that everyone still goes about their business even when the temperature was below 0 degrees (people exercising outdoors?!). I went with a Canadian to the outdoor ice rink at the Central Station one evening after work where there were still others enjoying the winter night and it was so refreshing. The Canadian who doesn’t really ice skate and the Australian who likes to ice skate.
I saw a library that looked like a museum for the first time. Library shelves here don’t tend to go from floor to ceiling here and I hadn’t seen one that had interiors as beautiful as this.
It was the first time I noticed building differences. As we have more warm to hot days in Australia, our houses and apartments are quite ventilated meaning it can get quite cold indoors in winter. You always have to have a jumper on in winter inside. I found out that underfloor heating is THE BEST and that I could be inside in a t-shirt and be completely fine. The windows were double glassed and sometimes I needed to open it because the room was too hot despite it being below 0 degrees. I would stare out the window at night as it snowed with a huge grin on my face.
I found out about wearing stockings under your jeans and double socks were some of the best ways to keep warm. You’re not cold- you’re just not wearing the right things.
Beauty. I learnt that there is so much beauty in the world that you don’t get to see when you’re at home. So many sounds, flavours and colours. There’s so much out there.