A traveler’s diary: Anna Maria

“Only one thing is only worthwhile: traveling.”

Nikos Kazantzakis

I took my first trip abroad with my parents when I was one year old. The destination: the city featuring in the dreams of most, if not all, travelers. The City That Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. New York City. You must think that I was incredibly lucky, to be able to experience this place from up close already so young. But the truth is, except from loads and loads of photographs, I have very few actual memories from my visit in the most iconic city in the world. But I was told that already, at that young age, I was a true adventurer. You see, I had decided to break free from the children’s playground in Macy’s department store and  explore the store all by my own. Maybe that was a sign for the years to come…

My next trip to New York was only two years later. This time I obediently stayed closed to my parents the whole time, and even managed to retain a few mental keepsakes. A snapshot of myself during the long-haul flight enjoying the airplane food (!);   perched at the windowsill watching the snowflakes fall; marveling at beautifully illuminated streets that seemed to stretch on to infinity. The three-year old me must have been amazed every step of the way.

But after that, nothing, no traveling abroad –  for almost ten years. And then, when I was 14, I left for a one-week trip to Paris. Strangely, I can’t say I remember much about that trip, either. Paris was charming, of course, even under the grey-clad skies that greeted us almost every morning during that week. But I remember one thing, one incredible fact: the unprecedented feeling of profound and utter freedom. Even as a child of 14, I had a relatively consolidated daily routine. Except from weekends, I spent most of my time at school, followed by spending time at private lessons after school. The rest of the time I was doing homework, writing essays about places I would like to visit (England, Germany, France, a different answer every time). But in Paris, everything changed: I could walk, explore, get lost, find my way again, ride insane roller coasters, test my skills in French, skip breakfast if I felt like doing so. Nothing was prohibited; nothing was off-limits.

This is traveling for me: freedom of the body, mind and soul.

Inspired by this new-found freedom, I took off to Nice, France, to study Sport Sciences shortly before my 18th birthday. After three amazing years, I turned by gaze towards the North, and, more on a whim than a result of any deliberate thought, I decided to continue my studies in Finland. All I knew at that moment about Finland was that it is filled with the blue of lakes and the green of forests. And when I got there, I got to know so much more about it, enough to make me stay there.

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Enjoying my first winter in Finland in January 2010

At the moment I spend my days doing brain research in Helsinki, Finland: a trip in itself in the obscure neuronal circuits that control our behavior. After having spent long hours in front of a computer exploring the wonders of the human brain, my mind often wanders to thoughts about my next adventure. And I dream…about that moment when I set foot in the crowded lobby of an airport, when it seems like I am sucked in a warp which is bound to lead me to my next destination. I dream of that moment of distorted gravity when the plane takes off, when the magic happens: all the weight from the body and mind shifts and evaporates, turning into the fluffy clouds sen from the airplane window. I dream of that moment when I feel light as a feather, that moment of catharsis, of dissociation. Oh, how I long for that feeling when I am 10 000 feet above all kind of worries and stress-ridden thoughts!

I have succumbed to the charms of traveling many times and I have had the privilege to experience this unique combination of emotions over and over again. But nothing compares to one, very special destination: Limassol, the southernmost town of the island of Cyprus. That is, my home town. Since I am currently permanently living in Helsinki, Finland, I experience an interesting “phenomenon” every time I return home: I witness the remarkable contrast between two very different places. The urban sounds of the sea-side boulevard intermixing with the crushing of waves on the rocks in Limassol are like a reverse echo of the silent, pristine landscape of the Helsinki seashore. And, every time I return to Cyprus I discover new things about it which I can love and appreciate anew; this I consider to be an invaluable richness.

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Posing in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the Three Crosses monument in the background October 2015

Places I would like to travel to, as soon as possible –  tomorrow if I could:

  1. Reykjavik/ Iceland
  2. Chicago
  3. Bordeaux
  4. Milan

Apart from traveling, I am fascinated by:

  • sports (doing, watching – both are equally fun)
  • taking photographs (reality only gets better seen through a photo lens)
  • reading (especially Stephen King novels)
  • writing (academic texts, newspaper reports, fictional texts no-one will ever read – you name it)
  • playing video games (Serious Sam it is!)
  • cooking (for the joy of eating, of course)
  • shopping and fashion-nerding (because a girl is always a girl)

And, finally, a few words about my best friend and partner in this blog, Rossi. Rossi truly stands out with her exceptional personality and social skills. She is an inspiring person in so many different ways, and she never ceases to impress me with her determination and intelligence. I feel very, very lucky to embarked on a friendship with her: it is a life-long amazing trip!

-Anna Maria

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