Yes, I know. My blogging lately has been atrocious, but I promise that I’m back on track now. Usually I post photos or write reviews, but seeing as I haven’t blogged for 18 days, I’ll give you an update on where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.

I made my way back to Helsinki, Finland, after travelling through the Baltics and I was surprised that I even made it out of Riga after meeting some great people and partying way too much. I stayed at an Australian-owned hostel and in true Aussie fashion; we celebrated Australia Day and continued on for the next few days to mark the occasion. It was probably the first time in all of my travels that for two days I didn’t leave the hostel during daylight hours, and instead spent them in the common room or in bed, nursing a sore head.

IMG_7053 Freedom Monument – Riga, Latvia

After getting out of the black hole that was Riga, I caught the bus up to Tallinn, then proceeded to take the ferry to Helsinki and spent a night in the Finnish capital before flying north to Rovaniemi in Lapland. Rovaniemi is a very small town in northern Finland that lies just below the Arctic Circle, and is the home of Santa Claus. Julia, who I met when I was in Helsinki just before Christmas, came with me for a four-day adventure to meet Santa, cross the Arctic Circle, and chase the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the weather conditions weren’t in our favour and we didn’t get to view the magical Aurora Borealis. However, we did hike through metres of snow, had snowball fights, ate some great food and drank some very nice red wine. We also had a traditional Finnish sauna and I ‘cooled down’ by rolling in the snow, naked. That was an experience!

IMG_7096Julia in Rovaniemi

Julia and I met at the Aussie Bar in Helsinki and being very similar in personality, connected, and clashed instantly. It was definitely in a good way, though. Travelling together was great and I am so thankful for her putting me up in Helsinki.

IMG_7163Snow hiking in Rovaniemi

Once I got back to Helsinki, Marco arrived from Liechtenstein and we stayed with his friend, Jakob. Marco was on exchange in Helsinki at the Hanken School of Economics last winter and spring and it was his homecoming of sorts. Our weekend consisted of lots of good food, drinks, great company and university parties. I met some of the best people you could ever meet and it was a totally different side to Helsinki than the one I had previously experienced. Hanken is a Swedish-speaking school and all of Marco’s friends predominately spoke Swedish, although they normally speak Swedish, Finnish and English in one sentence! Crazy.

IMG_7107Crossed the Arctic Circle!

Our gang in Helsinki was awesome. Jakob, or Jaboks as he’s affectionately known, was an amazing host and I can’t thank him enough for his hospitality. I can’t wait until you visit Australia, mate! They were like family and I am very fortunate that they welcomed me with open arms.

Photo 17-02-2014 3 54 04 pmThe Gang!

I personally prefer getting to know people one-on-one rather than in a big group, but I felt so comfortable and at home with everyone that it only adds weight to the argument that I should move to Helsinki!

That pretty much sums up my past three weeks, and as I sit here in Istanbul and reflect on them, I feel so blessed to have met so many good people.