One year ago today I arrived in a different part of the world, ready to take on new challenges and seek new adventures. I left a city full of friends, bands and places that I love, a country that my family calls home, and a lifestyle that I was used to. Three weeks later I had moved into a new apartment in Helsinki, Finland, got married, started a new job and found myself sitting on the bank of the river Spree in Berlin, Germany thinking to myself, “wow.” I honestly still can’t believe how many major life changes happened in such a short period of time. ‘Rip the band-aid off’ as they say…
The three and a half weeks leading up to departure were some of the more stressful I’ve experienced in life. We found out we were moving with incredibly short notice, so it was madness trying to ship our belongings (16 boxes), take the cats to multiple vet appointments, get multiple government agencies to give me paperwork proving that the cats were legal to go, getting proper documentation to prove I could get married, get rid of all the belongings we weren’t able to ship, planning the wedding that was only weeks away and ensuring everything was set up so we didn’t leave any loose ends in NY. Then add to that I had a full-time job that I felt bad giving short notice to and saying farewell to countless friends and family. Those were some crazy days indeed.
When we arrived in Finland we had a pair of cats, a wedding dress and a few suitcases that contained nearly everything we would have for a month of living. After a week in my wife’s sister’s apartment, we moved into a large, empty place in the middle of Helsinki. I was really surprised at the size of the apartment, and there are a lot of little details that I enjoy about it. The place looks full now, but it took many months to get our hands on all the furniture we really wanted and needed. And to paint a picture of what the beginning was like, imagine that we slept on a piece of foam (which doubled as our couch) for about a week, including our wedding night.
I have to say that the wedding was really fantastic and I can’t thank my friends enough for helping us get all the final touches in order. Who knew there weren’t enough plugs in the basement of a centuries old mansion to plug in a stereo, a computer AND a hard drive with all the music on it??
With a ton of friends from all over the world in attendance, the event felt like we hadn’t left even though we were over three thousand miles away from the place we referred to as ‘home’ for so many years. My wife looked amazing walking down the isle and we didn’t screw up the dancing… though I gave her the wrong hand when we started the ceremony… I thought we were supposed to shake hands and be all friendly! The food was excellent and we even got the fire department to show up when the caterer’s heat in the kitchen got to be too much. The drinks flowed, the conversation was good and I think the overall party was a success. It was a really nice way to get our life started in Finland, with all our normal friends experiencing the way it is here.
The following week was not any less calm than the week prior, with friends partying and then unfortunately leaving, shopping for furniture and getting myself ready to take on a new role at work. It was really non-stop craziness with a side of bitter-sweet anticipation, and soon I found myself on a plane to Germany, in what seemed like a totally different life… and it was an absolutely amazing feeling of excitement.
I wrote a note in my phone when I was in Dublin walking down some side street with Donna & Merja a few months ago and the statement really fits the feeling I’ve had a lot over the last 12 months:
“What a fun and mysterious thing it is to walk down a street in a country you never thought you’d be in.”
I don’t think the statement is all that profound, but the feeling I had when I wrote it is very real to me. To put it into perspective, you have to imagine that I grew up in a family that had no money, and a childhood that didn’t keep me young and innocent for long, then going down the wrong path later on that easily could have ruined all opportunities… only to find myself in some ‘strange’ place, writing that note on my brand new iPhone 5. The statement might not be all that profound, but the feeling certainly was, and is.
Since June 25th 2013, I’ve been to Finland (obviously), Germany (7 times), Sweden (2 times),
Denmark (3 times), England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, and the US to visit. I have several more places booked including an awesome honeymoon we will go on for our one year anniversary (in six days!) and a few more on the list for this year. I feel like I’ve just walked through this door to another world and I have a desire to see every inch of it. How fun… and how mysterious.
Finland has treated us really well and I think we’re starting to get the hang of the flow here. I’m not able to speak Finnish and I think it’s alright because everyone speaks English… I think that might be why I’m not learning Finnish so quickly, but hey, I can talk to people! The people I meet in the metal circles are incredibly nice, and break every stereotype you might expect of Finnish people… except for the drinking. Everything you’ve heard about Finns drinking is definitely true.
I write this piece about being here for a year and yet I feel like I just got here. Things still feel new to me. I think mostly I feel like I’m a part of the rest of the world suddenly and not only is the location different, but the perception of how life really is outside the very high walls of the US is very different. I feel like I’ve learned more about the world in the past year than I have in the 10 years prior. It’s fascinating, and can be a bit scary… until you learn to let go.
I feel like the adventure we set out on a year ago is still just beginning. There’s so much more to see and do and I’m very excited to be able to do it. So many people talk about doing things… there are a few who actually do them. Seven years ago I made a decision to stop dreaming and actually do something to accomplish what I sought. The difference in the time before that moment and the time after and the impact its had on my life is unmistakably awesome.
And the adventure is just beginning.