I write this message on a dark, Saturday night at the top of the world (more or less): Helsinki, Finland. Through a job with generous vacation policies and the wonders of Kayak, the online travel website, I purchased a ticket to Finland’s capital city, no more than a few days ago. After a work function on Friday at noon time, I crawled into a yellow cab to go to New York’s great gateway to adventure—John F. Kennedy Airport. After two airplane movies on Finnair flight #6 and some fitful sleep, I awoke to see the landing gear emerge as we gently made our way through snow covered alpine trees. Here I am!
There was a time in my life, following a divorce in my 30’s when I had the luxury of this kind of travel routinely. Now, it seems to require more effort and commitment. But, oh is it worth it! Reviewing the balance sheet of life, I have countless blessings for which I must be grateful….continuing good health, interesting work, a lovely place to live in an exciting city. With a job, my celebrancy work and training at an inter-faith seminary, the winter malaise that I feel can only be described as a high class, first-world problem. Perhaps those with greater self awareness could “shake” the blues through meditation, long walks in Central Park, an act of service or simple work at home. But I have found—again, as I did in the past—nothing boosts my spirits like escaping my daily circumstances.
I cannot say exactly what it is about adventure that lifts me: new sights and sounds, the self-confidence that comes with negotiating international travel, or simply following an internal prompting to “go” and “do,” but there is a magical mix that can happen anywhere. And while Finland might seem an odd choice for a weekend getaway in the dead of winter, I assure you there is a method to my madness. First, I fully embrace the idea of travelling on the off-season. Most would wish to come to Helsinki during the long days of summer, but in January I can get a great airline ticket price and see the normal activities of people going about their daily lives. Second, Finland is a country that I had not yet visited. For many years, I worked on New York’s “fashionable Upper East Side,” directly across the street from the Explorers’ Club. It is an unusual place, in the best sense of the word. A beautiful townhouse, it has the feel of a most fancy lodge or university club. This is a place where gentlemen adventurers come to share stories over cigars and single malt scotch. Passing it each day, I fantasized about becoming an adventurer, too. Noticing something called the “Century Travel Club” for folks who would amass an unreasonable number of country visits, I embraced that as a life-long goal for the bucket list. I now must confess that as my days are ever more hurried, I’ve not tended to this particular dream, in years. But, with this trip in the New Year, I vow to re-invest some of my energies in this form of self care.
As I prepared to head out for dinner tonight, I took in a program on the BBC about the travels of the author D.H. Lawrence. Not knowing much about his life, I was keen to see that travels, through the Alps, in Italy, to “Ceylon” (now Sri Lanka), Australia, and even New Mexico, served as a most important backdrop for his significant, but short, career as a writer (he died in his early 40s of TB). I won’t be an important author, and I may never make it to Sri Lanka, but I sure can blog, while sitting in a Nepalese restaurant in Helsinki. I am abundantly grateful for that….and already thinking about my next adventure.
p.s. I thank the good people at the Glo Hotels, Finland, for taking very good care of me on my holiday!