When you think of holidays, Finland isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind is it? Well, to be honest, it didn’t for us either but this year we booked our summer break eager to rebel against the sun, sea and sand most popular destinations have to offer in favour of a Scandinavian adventure.
So what exactly does Finland have to offer you ask? Before our stay I honestly couldn’t answer that question but having now spent a week in the beautiful country, I can confidently say that it is so much more than just pine trees and saunas (although I’d argue that’s a bloody good start!)
The biggest thing that struck me during my time there was just how peaceful it was. Ever since stepping off the plane in Helsinki, I felt more at ease than I had in a long time.. and that’s not just the holiday feeling talking I promise! You see, I have a theory. I think there’s a reason that we know absolutely nothing about Finland. From what I observed during my time there, the Finns, who lead a very minimalistic way of life, are pretty happy people. When you walk around there’s an air of satisfaction you can’t quite describe.. an almost ‘I’m fulfilled living my life exactly the way I am’ air quietly radiating from everyone you meet.
I may only have spent a week in the country, but it was long enough to understand why Finland is among its Scandi neighbours in the top 5 Of the Telegraph’s latest ‘Happiest Countries in The World’ report.
The way the Finns live their lives is built around the strong foundations of self-care, a little like Denmark’s Hygge phenomenon, it’s all about wellness. Having ranked Brits as the 19th happiest country in the same report, I thought there was a lot I could learn from the way Finns live day to day to make myself a happier, more fulfilled person.
If there’s one thing the Scandinavians are renowned for, its minimalism. Look in any Scandi style magazine and it’s all about keeping it simple. Well one thing I learnt during my stay is that simple living is something they live and breathe!
Over summer, Finns head out to the lakes and spend time relaxing in basic wooden cabins. No TV, no internet, just good old fashioned living. So during our stay we did exactly that and after a few nights enjoying the luxuries of Helsinki, we head down to the coast and rented a remote cabin in the woods on Air BnB.
Somehow this whole back to basics style living really did make us feel completely relaxed. I guess having less ‘stuff’ to distract you means you’re really focused on just chilling out and enjoying yourself.
I may not be able to quite recreate what we had in Finland, but I’m definitely going to be spending some time decluttering my own environment and getting rid of all of those things that have no real meaning to me. By getting rid of all of the things that just get in the way, I really believe that a little stress disappears and we have more time, energy and space to do exactly what we want to be doing.
The Finnish way of life is all about spending as much time outside as physically possible. Maybe that’s down to the fact that they have to endure such long, miserable winters but either way, it’s all about spending more time out than in.
In summer you’ll see everyone outside on the beaches, wild swimming in the lakes and cooking freshly caught fish on the communal fire pits. Maybe that’s the reason you won’t find anything but wooden huts to stay in on Air BnB… because nobody spends any time in them!
We followed suit while we there and spent no more than a couple of hours in our cabin, exploring in the forests, lounging on the beaches and barbequeing every meal we could outside. It was more fresh air than I’d had in a very long time and wow did I feel better for it! I think fresh air really is good for the soul and spending 9-5 in an office day to day, I definitely need to make sure I’m getting outside more in the evenings.
I couldn’t come back from Finland without talking about saunas now could I? This is the one thing I knew about before our trip but I wasn’t quite aware of just how big a part of their culture saunas are. Fun fact for you… there are actually more saunas in Finland than cars. Isn’t that crazy?
Most accommodation in Finland comes with a sauna, whether that be a floor in your hotel or a room in your apartment, they’re everywhere! We were lucky enough to have half of our cabin dedicated to a sauna area. You just give the fire an hour to get hot and it’s as easy as that.
Determined to get my money’s worth, I spent an hour in the sauna every day.. either relaxing with a glass of wine at the end of the day or having a pre breakfast session.
It felt like such a luxury, but when you think about it all it is is you sitting in a hot room for an hour, sweating it out. What I learnt about ‘sauna culture’ is that, yes it’s great for giving your skin a good cleanse, but the best part is being forced to just switch off and sit in silence for a while.
Dedicating that time everyday to just relax and be mindful was so beneficial and it’s something I’m determined to keep up at home. I may not have a sauna in my annexe but there’s no reason I can’t end every day relaxing in a nice hot bath!