This series is The Traveller’s Take – a collection of solo travel advice based on the adventures of Flashpackers all over world. Can’t make your mind up between India and Bali? Unsure of what to expect out of group travel? Find the answers here.
Meet the flashpacker
Matt is a Content Manager living in London, just turned 30 and mad about adventure. He travelled to Finland Winter for a long weekend packed full of bucket list moments and snow-filled zen. Here’s his take on how it went and why you should think about exploring magical Finland…
On why you should try solo travel
Heading out on a group adventure may come with its fair share of apprehension. But you needn’t worry, the emotions you feel are actually quite the opposite. Solo travel is empowering, exciting and challenges you to keep an open mind. And when was the last time you actually felt the overwhelming adrenaline of getting to know eight completely new people from scratch, over refreshing, new experiences, in a setting totally alien to you?
Not since university, I bet. Safe little hen.
For some reason, your world gets smaller as you reach your 30s and 40s; you do less, work more and the number of people you meet savagely declines, single or not. But solo travel not only throws you outside of this tiny little box you didn’t realise you were routinely living in – it utterly destroys it. You do things you never saw yourself doing (see: jumping in an ice lake right after a baking sauna), you forget about your packed diary, you hug people you met a mere 24-hours ago. You feel alive – and return a rejuvenated person.
And think about it: you’re older. You have more life experience, more money and, to be honest, you’re probably more interesting. So, meeting new, like-minded people at this time of your life can actually be a catalyst for happiness. For me, it was the realisation that there’s an indescribable magic to experiencing a ‘first’ with an (almost) total stranger. No judgement, no expectations, just a presence in the moment. And that is solo travel – and exactly the reason I think you should try it.
On who should go to Finland Winter
If you’re the sort of person who can’t stand still or, conversely, desperately needs an escape from a city that can’t stand still, this adventure is for you. Finland during the winter is a special place – an adventure playground that will bring out the kid in even the most stoic of travellers. Snow, everywhere: DEEP, fluffy, carpets of pristine white snow. Every picture-perfect winter wonderland image you’ve ever seen, in real-life.
For the adventure-seeker, there’s an itinerary packed with bucket list activities, one after the other; husky-sledding in the wilderness, reindeer sleigh rides through alpine forests, snowmobiling through raw landscapes. You won’t get bored.
For the tired city-slicker, the hotel is based on Lake Torassieppi. It’s essentially a little village of wood cabins, with a restaurant and an ice bar in the middle of nowhere. There are various wellness-y things to do, from the sauna to staying in a lux, boutique aurora dome. But – honestly? The best thing about this place is the sound. Head out onto the lake, stare out at a horizon of untamed nature and listen. Not a sound. This is serenity on tap and you won’t be able to get enough of it.
On what to expect with your group
Of course, meeting a group of new people doesn’t come without its worries – what will they be like? Will they like me? What if I don’t like them?! But my group was spot on. We were from different backgrounds, countries, different ages…but we all had the same outlook on life. An openness to meeting new people, a child-like curiosity to trying new things, the emotional maturity and respect for one another’s likes and dislikes. After all, you don’t get into your 30s/40s without really getting to know your own taste.
Obviously, experiencing a new country and ticking things off your bucket list are both endorphin-boosting experiences. But it’s the people that make an adventure like this special. You might be nervous when you first arrive but, by the time you leave, you’ll feel bonded to the group in a way that’s slightly different to the bond you have with friends at home. You’ve experienced things together, gone through firsts, through gritted teeth and through total joy. We all felt as though we’d known each other for two months, let alone two days – which was how long we’d actually been together.
Meeting new, like-minded people at this time of your life can actually be a catalyst for happiness.
On whether you should share a room
Man, I wasn’t sure I’d be a fan of this, I must admit! A twin room with a total stranger? Wouldn’t have said it was for me – but it was great. My roommate, Ross, was a really easy-going, genuine, awesome bloke. We shared our reasons for being there – Ross was on a quest to tick off 12 countries in 12 months – and past stories of adventure. Sure, we both snored at one point. I think I actually slept-talked (I did: Ross told me the next morn!). But, actually, it was great to have another person there to share the best bits from the day with, figure logistics for the next activity and generally chat to. And then, of course, there’s a mutual respect for one another’s privacy or when it’s time to sleep – if one of us wanted quiet time, the other didn’t bat an eyelid. So, don’t stress, future Flashpacker, you’ll be fine.
On what your trip highlight might be
This is hard! You could have one of so many trip highlights, it’s hard to judge. But, unanimously across my group, the husky-sledding was the real bucket list moment we all had down. To be out in the middle of the forest, just you and the dogs, controlling the sled to the sound of metal runners quietly sliding through soft, powdery snow – interspersed with excitable yelps – was magic. Having a private sauna, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the lake, at the sauna experience was also high up the list. Total relaxation, a drink or two in the sauna (yes, really) and bouts of rolling around the freezing cold snow really bonded my group. Good luck picking just one.
On what’s next
Not sure – but it’s definitely left me feeling more confident to try more solo trips in the future, be it with Flash Pack on a group adventure (I’m thinking of Jordan) or on my own. Probably to Stockholm for a long weekend (where I have one or two friends to visit, too). Either way, my advice is to get out there, soak up the atmosphere and take the plunge. You won’t regret it.
Want to explore this winter wonderland for yourself? Take a look at our Finland trips and start your adventure.