European Adventure: Finland | Seattle Portrait Photographer

For the past 4 years my husband and I have been dreaming about the trip of a lifetime, and the opportunity to travel together on a large scale. It's always been on the back-burner, a total hypothetical, but a joint passion for the both of us that we had faith one day would happen. After years of saving, and really God providing the opportunity, we finally took off on that trip of a lifetime. We spent the better part of September of this year traveling around northern and central Europe, visiting family history sites, visiting old friends, and making new ones. I'm so excited to share some of our journey! Our first stop was Helsinki, Finland. Our good friends Santtu and Amy travel there every other year to visit Santtu's homeland and see family. Jason and I were honored to spend time with them, meet their family, and ultimately make new family of our own while we were there. My brother Sean also flew in to Helsinki with us from his travels around Scandinavia, so the five of us Americans stayed with Santtu's parents Eila and Pertti for the whole of our trip. Having never done research about and knowing pretty little about Finland, I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that it was one of the biggest highlights of our trip. The city reminded Jason and I a lot of Seattle, and much of the landscape had similar features too -- like the trees (tons of birch/aspen, deciduous, even evergreen trees), green landscape, and the tons of water surrounding the city. The language was super fun to learn, everything sounds really happy because a lot of it ends in an "i"....granted, what we've retained remains pretty small! As a lover of black licorice, this city was awesome -- it was everywhere! From ice cream, to throat lozenges, tons of candy, and even alcohol (think J├Ągermeister, but much stronger). Although don't expect it to be the same...licorice in Finland is often salted, and has a pretty strong menthol flavor we weren't used to.

What was the most enjoyable, though, was getting to know Santtu and Amy better, and to really get to know Santtu's family as well and experience true Finnish culture. Eila and Pertti treated us like their own kids, and were so generous in inviting us into their lives for five days. Every morning we woke up to an incredible traditional (albeit much fancier than your everyday fare) Finnish breakfast complete with tons of bread choices, gravlox, an array of veggies, cold cuts, cheese, yogurt, pickled herring, coffee, and juice. We enjoyed a ton of adventures, from exploring Suomenlinna, to trying all types of Finnish beer, to late nights up talking, to trying reindeer for the first time, to a mushroom-hunting afternoon in the Finnish forest. Top all that off with a metal concert the guys went to, shopping at Marimekko for the ladies, and taking sauna every night, and it was hands-down the best way we could have imagined kicking off our 3-week trip.

Santtu, Amy, Eila, and Pertti, thank you for making the start of our trip so memorable and making us honorary Finns! We will be back....