Over the last year being on pause, I’ve been thinking a lot about the places I’ve been, the cities I’ve lived in and the people I’ve encountered. That is, after all, the beauty of travel. For me it has never been about the act of travel in a doing sense – boarding a flight, packing a suitcase or preparing a list of places I want to see. For me, it has always been about connection. About chasing a feeling of discovery – through places, people, and challenging my own prejudices. So when I was asked to join the Helsinki Freedom campaign to share why I find freedom in Helsinki, I started to realise just how much this city has impacted me.
My first visit to Helsinki
I first discovered Helsinki around my seventeenth birthday when I travelled to Europe for the first time. I was visiting my cousin in Kiev, Ukraine, and we decided to make a bit of an adventure out of it. We met in Poland and made our way by train around Eastern Europe before finishing the trip at his home just outside the city of Kiev. And while I flew in and out of Helsinki as my gateway to Europe, I didn’t get to experience it.
Fast forward a few years later and I properly visited Helsinki for the first time. I spent two nights here before venturing north to Lapland, Finland‘s famed winter destination for viewing the Northern lights. I figured I would just be in Helsinki for a couple of nights to get over my jet lag, but I ended up enjoying the city so much that I pledged to return if I ever got the chance later in life.
Finding Freedom in Helsinki
You’ve probably already heard Finland has been named the happiest country in the world to live in. But did you know it has won the title three years in a row? And while I’m sure everyone can agree happiness is a subjective term we all identify with differently, for me happiness has always been freedom.
On my next visit to Finland, I spent four days in the city. There was something so alluring that brought me back that I couldn’t explain. The air was crisp and the skies were a soft shade of blue, but it was deeper than that. Everyone I met seemed to be on their own frequency, co-existing in a city that never felt too busy or too forced. Everything just felt like it was in a constant state of flow.
Why I fell in love with Helsinki
Since being asked to write about why I find freedom in Helsinki, I’ve come to a few conclusions. Firstly, I really love this city. Not only as a gateway to Europe but I could even imagine myself living here. And it took me writing about why I find freedom in Helsinki to discover why exactly.
The work life balance is in check
It is kind of crazy to think that a world exists where employees can choose their own working hours (and yes, you guessed it, in Finland you can!) It was only recently Finland passed a new Working Hours Act, which allows employees the freedom to choose their own working hours.
There’s no working over time
You know that job you love but also love to hate? In Finland, that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Working overtime is unheard of in Finland as working hours are capped at the time you are contracted to work for.
Finish work on time allows you the freedom to live
Too often people tell me they dislike their job or wish they did something they enjoy. As someone who has travelled almost non-stop for eight years, I can see why there is little appeal to only taking a few weeks off each year! But the freedom of Helsinki allows workers the flexibility to work hours that suit them, clock off on time and pursue other activities outside of work. I not only think this is important but integral to the “game of life” and enjoying every day of every year, rather than looking forward to time off work.
There is support for innovation and invention
As someone in their twenties, I’m always looking for new cities to live in or visit. And the cities I opt for most are those that make me feel inspired. In Helsinki, one of the main things I noticed was the support for young people in small businesses. These are often cafes, bespoke restaurants and one-off boutiques. And that is the ultimate freedom for me. Being able to pursue whatever dream you have and feel the support in doing so.
A huge thanks to #helsinkifreedom together with #finlandworks and #myhelsinki. You can read more about the freedom stories of locals in Helsinki here. I am so grateful for being invited to write about my relationship with the city of Helsinki. I am so looking forward to being back in Finland when travel resumes!