December 13, 2017, less than two hours from arriving at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL).

465 days, or 1 year, 3 months and 9 days. That’s how long it’s been since I left home.

One destination that somehow turned into a total of six countries on two different continents, both previously unknown to me: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Vietnam.

6 months in a shared flat with what I bet is the most amazing view to wake up to in the whole world – the sun rising over the ocean – living the kind of simple, settled-in life that I’d envisioned after a full 71 nights (more than two months!) of living in hostels. How in the world did I survive that?! I keep asking myself that, too.

A total of 145 shifts in four different cafés and a whiskey bar. You might be thinking what the heck…? So did I.

Countless cups of flat whites and lattes and everything in between; way too many pastries and pieces of sourdough (ahhh!) and a smoothie a day, which, unfortunately enough, did not keep the doctor away.

Continuing on that, a total of 10 visits to hospitals, clinics, a GP or the like. My insurance company must have strongly disliked me, but as we say in Finnish: tekevälle sattuu!

Occasional wild nights out by far outnumbered by quiet nights in with the lights turned off as early as 8.30pm. Yup – I loved it!

Sunny days, rainy days, all kinds of days. The hottest days I think I’ve ever experienced, but surprisingly cold weather, too. (Then again I did refuse to buy myself a proper coat for winter, so no wonder!)

Hundreds of pages of early-morning journaling in the light of my flashlight and a total of 68 blog posts, plus, of course, the thousands of thoughts that go hand in hand with it all.

Two rounds of the Artist’s Way, group coaching courses focused on creativity and on shedding layers and layers of what wasn’t meant for us in the first place. Despite my initial doubts, this ended up bringing back creativity into my life while giving me the opportunity to build a network of likeminded people. You know you’re the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most, right?

Old school as I am, a never-ending writing of postcards sent all over the world including one that, sadly, never reached its recipient.

Two lost grandparents. 

A skydive from 15.000 feet (4500 m) that left me feeling absolutely nothing, and the world’s highest swing that finally gave me the kind of adrenaline rush that I’d been looking for. Queenstown ♥

Two diving certificates and twelve dives, some as deep as 30 meters, including a night dive that I could not believe I actually survived – who knows what beasts are out there!?

200-hour yoga teacher training which, despite my initial doubts (you should know the question by now… What the heck am I doing here?), I ended up graduating from thanks to an absolutely brilliant teacher and five lovely ladies from all over the world. 

Four cooking classes in three different countries, and I don’t even cook. Maybe soon I will.

Countless moments of awe face to face with Mother Nature, never failing to bring me back into the Now. The beaches and coastal walks of Sydney; breathtakingly beautiful New Zealand; less touristy islands of Thailand; Malaysian and Vietnamese highlands; and some of the dreamiest islands that I’ve ever set foot on in Indonesia… What have we got but this moment? Nothing.

So many lovely human beings from all over the world whom I can now call friends; people as lost-yet-in-some-way-exactly-where-they-need-to-be as myself. Human connection, the most important of them all. 

And, lastly: thousands of photos and a 166-song soundtrack on Spotify, there to forever remind me of my leap into the unknown.

Out of a total of 15 months I ended up spending a mere six months living the kind of ’simple life’ that I thought I’d be able to get straight into as soon as I got to Australia… Ehm, nope. Thinking about it the other day I realized that it’s not been all about that; after all, I’ve spent a full nine months doing… well, other things (see above). 

Exploring life outside the box. Gaining life experience.

It might’ve looked like I’ve been on vacation, but I haven’t. I’ve been working, working hard, on myself and in a job that might not have anything to do with what I used to do before, but that in hindsight in the big scheme of things brought me invaluable life experience and taught me so much about myself. Broadening my horizon and opening up my eyes to what’s out there, I’ve experienced a lifestyle that’s very different from the one I used to lead, which has made me question the latter even more. 

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here?

To work our asses off in order to climb up the ladder of some corporation and increase the number of digits in our bank accounts? To work, work, work, work, work and save, save, save, save, save, either because we simply have no time to spend any of our earnings or because we’re saving it for later, for that once-a-year one-month holiday that us Finns are privileged enough to get? If we’re lucky, that is; some of us might have to stay on call then, too.

What are we working for? And, better yet, what are we living for? 

There are as many paths as there are people, but what I’ve learned is that the single most important thing is to stay true to yourself. Research shows that some of the most common things that people regret on their deathbed is the things they left undone: the dreams they let slip away, the words they left unspoken, and oftentimes that they worked too much, too.

Therefore, the question goes:

Are we living such a life that if it ended tomorrow, we would not regret a thing? You never know what life has in store for us, what twists and turns it’ll take. Would you be okay with today being your last day? 

Do you feel fulfilled doing what you do, or do you do it just because that’s kind of what’s expected of you?  

Dust settles, but you are infinitely more than that. – J.M. Storm

Before I left, I think I was. Now, I no longer am.

As you may have learned if you’ve been reading this blog, it hasn’t always been easy. The challenges that I’ve faced might be very different from what I would’ve dealt with at home had I never left, but challenges as they are they’ve resulted in a lot of thinking, thinking, thinking (you know me) and wondering what the heck I’m doing here, which, my friend just reminded me the other day, used to be what I’d ask myself and her, too, in Helsinki as well. If you ask me, that goes to show that it’s not about the location, but about what I’m doing and how meaningful that is to me, but that’s a whole other post.

To my great surprise, not to mention relief, I feel that the pieces of the puzzle that’s my life have slowly started falling into place. The past couple of months have brought along quite a few insights and aha-moments that have lead to a lot of learnings, the biggest of them all being that to trust not only myself, but life, too.

Trust that I have all it takes. Trust that I am good enough. I mean, I am quite awesome, aren’t I!? As are you; as is all of us.

Trust that life has a plan for me, and that although I might not be familiar with it yet – who knows, maybe I never will – it’s there, it exists. Everything’s taken care of.

As that same friend of mine reminded me the other day, everyone else is already taken, so I might as well save myself the trouble and be who I am. 

So I will. 

Filled with gratitude for going home and for getting to see my family and friends in real life rather than on a screen, I cannot but say it’s been one hell of a ride, but it’s been so worth it. 

As David Bowie said, “don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise you it won’t be boring.” 

Not because of you or anything, but because of me.

After all, we only live once.

Big magic & BIG love,
Anna

*) HEL = Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, for those who didn’t know.