A Trip to Finland That Changed My Life

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Finnish Lapland

Finland has been a gaping hole in my travel map for a long time, but it wasn’t until February of this year that visiting the easternmost country in Scandinavia became a true priority for me. While capping off my trip to Indonesia with four days in the paradise islands of Raja Ampat, I made the acquaintance of Finnish couple Minna and Stig. Globetrotting divers with a penchant for underwater photography, vodka and card games, they’re two of the kindest, most interesting people I’ve ever met

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

If you ever come to Finland, they told us as we said goodbye, make sure and get in contact with us. We’ll take you out on our boat and show you a part of our country most foreigners miss.

We both promised to take them up on their offer by year’s end, but unfortunately, a packed travel schedule (and stupidly high transatlantic airfares) prevented me from joining Adam when he flew to Helsinki at the end of August. I watched from Facebook as my three friends enjoying the last days of Finnish summer without me, and doubted whether I would be able to make good on my promise, at least in 2014.

Not one week later, I received an email from Veera, a Finnish woman who represented a company looking for travel writers to travel to Finland on its behalf. Obviously, my first intrigue in having received this email related to my desire to see Minna and Stig, but as I learned more about the company (or, I should say, companies – more on that in just a minute), I realized that this was an opportunity unlike any I’d ever been offered.

See, while the initial purpose of Veera’s email (and my then-hypothetical trip to Finland) had been to encourage me to use an app called CreateTrips to publish an itinerary based on my experience, the larger purpose was to help its partner Unelmaa promote its own product…er, service.

Actually, I don’t really know how to describe what Unelmaa does using a single word: They sell small pieces of Lapland (i.e. the part of Finland near the Arctic Circle) to foreigners at unbelievably cheap rates – and they wanted to give one to me and fly me there to live on it for a few days, in exchange for some promotion on my blog. Sounds like a pretty good deal, huh?

It did to me, so I immediately took Veera up on her offer. Now, a month has passed, and the time has come to fly to Finland! As soon as I publish this post, I’ll be headed to the airport to begin my long journey to Lapland: A flight to Rovaniemi, Finland (via Newark, Stockholm and Helsinki), then a car ride to the Salla Forest, where I will set foot onto my land for the first time. I’m hoping to get this beautiful plot not yet confirmed yet.

In addition to exploring my “Unelmaa Land” (translation: Dream Land!) and spending at least one night on it, I’ll be doing a number of other activities in Lapland, from visiting a reindeer preserve, to hiking up to a high point above the Salla Forest to, hopefully, spotting the Northern Lights for the first time. A major focus of my time, both on my land and off it, will be photography (and, of course, selfies!), but my goal is to do as many activities as I possibly can while on my land – you’ll obviously have to let me know if you have any ideas.
Helsinki via Wikimedia Commons user Ilmari Karonen

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, I’ll head back down to Helsinki after a few days in Lapland, where I’ll not only get to explore a European capital I’ve wanted to see for almost as long as I’ve been traveling – I’ll get to make good on the promise I made to Minna and Stig back in February.

Did I mention I can’t wait for this plane to take off?

Main image courtesy of Unelmaa

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who's been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as "CNNGo" and "Shanghaiist" along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.
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