When your teen finally meets his online girlfriend – by travelling to Finland!
In his own words ….
Travel changes a person. Whether it matures you, or just gives you a different outlook on life, travel changes you. I had done a bit of traveling in my life including a trip around the whole of Italy and several trips to France, but this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. My name is Joe and I’m 16 years old, professional idiot, travel guru and I come from a small little town called Sturminster Newtown. And if you don’t know where that is, don’t worry, nobody does, so you are probably sane.
You see, I have a crippling fear of heights, and on top of that, I hadn’t travelled anywhere before without my parents.
And yet here I was, hugging goodbye to my family and setting off into Heathrow airport with my older brother. I was heading to Finland on this exciting new adventure, going off to see my girlfriend. I had been talking to this girl for over a year prior to this, but thanks to a rather large ocean, we had never actually met. This fact, on top of the whole being-very-high thing made it so I couldn’t really shake the feeling of queasiness. Nevertheless, off we set into security control.
Now to say I was a mess of nerves is an understatement. I was excited beyond excited – but also felt like I needed to rush to the bathroom at a moment’s notice. It didn’t serve to help that my very first time through airport security control, I walked passed a man who obviously stood there to single people out and search them. I was so scared that I just looked at him with a very timid fragile look. Naturally, seconds later, I was being searched in a tiny little booth. I was terrified. What if they found something? What if secretly my brother is a drug dealer and used my suitcase as a transportation method? What if I’m carrying a highly explosive Nintendo DS!? Now of course none of this was anything close to the truth, and moments later I carried on into the airport shopping district. But it didn’t help to soothe my building nerves.
Getting on a plane is an oddly simple thing. For such large beasts, you enter in a very small little door on the side of the plane. It very much feels like you are getting on a bus, except when you look out the window you feel queasy. I must say that I totally lucked out with my plane of choice. I had free movies, some that had just come out, I had cameras on the top and bottom of the plane, and Google Earth with our route shown across the globe, all on this screen in front of me. So, flying in the air, I was slightly calmer while watching “Mr Poppers Penguins”, the Jim Carrey film. Take off is about as abnormal as you’d expect it to be. You line up in the runway and point in the right direction. You look out the window and, to begin with, it’s like looking out of a ferry. You whisper excitedly “Ooh! We are moving slowly!”. Unfortunately, those whispers are cut short as within seconds, the plane speeds up to incredible speeds and launches forward at a pace you do not expect. Within moments, you go from staring out at the runway to looking back down at it from amongst cloud. I was scared out of my bananas, but I focused on why I was here and what I was coming here for and held on to my innards. I was doing this for her as cheesy as it sounds, and the thought of her was enough to drive me forward.
When I arrived in Helsinki, the whole atmosphere was different. And no, not just because of all the Chinese people. That’s not a joke by the way, there was probably more Chinese people than there were Finnish people, apparently Finnair is very well connected in Asia and Helsinki is a hub for most Asian flights. Who would have guessed? Especially odd considering that, even though it’s the capital of Finland, it’s one of the smallest cities in Europe with an even smaller population. Departing from the slightly calmer yet somehow more daunting airport of Helsinki, we took off to find the train line. Of course, things had to get complicated. There were two lines, the “S line” and “K line”. Both led to the exact same place. I don’t know why they don’t both have the same name, but it served for a lot of confusion. Once we trained it up, we headed in to Helsinki. Helsinki has to be the strangest city I have ever visited, and I’ve seen the likes of Rome, Venice, Pisa, Paris, Boudreaux, London and more. My brother commented on how it felt like a ghost town and he was right. It just felt so… empty.
Of course, it was far from. We just didn’t know where to find the atmosphere. Once we had settled in at our beautiful hotel (search “the GLO art hotel”, it really is beautiful) and once I was done having a meltdown (being in a new country without my parents was a bit stressful on a young boy who does not like change) we set back out for a bike tour. Now we were extremely fortunate to have gotten ourselves a 4-hour bike tour of Helsinki. And looking back, I remember how tired I was, I had woken up at 5 o clock that morning and been on the go since then and it was now 6 o clock in the evening.
But if I could, I would do that bike tour all over again. It was simply incredible.
Was travelled all over Helsinki seeing all sorts of wonderful things, some of my favourites being, a carnival wheel where one of the carriages was a sauna that you could rent for an hour, or the island just off the coast that used to be an old army fortress, but is now just a residential area and is beautiful. Helsinki really is different and there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Everyone there was kind, cars always wait for pedestrians and there was a distinct lack of feeling stuck in a big crowd because truth be told, there weren’t any.
Helsinki was amazing and one of my favourite cities, but the next morning I was up at 6 and had to leave. But it was finally time. The thing that I was most nervous about in any of this. I was finally getting to meet my girlfriend who I had been talking to for a year already online. And if there is anyone reading who doubts online relationship, from first-hand experience let me tell you it’s more than real. But yes, once again I was off at 6, back onto the needlessly confusing named trains, and back into Helsinki airport for the only flight to a small area called Joensuu, a tiny city in the eastern regions of Finland. So tiny in fact that my flight there only had 10 people on it, my brother and me included, and the plane was tiny as well. To give you an idea of where I was, I was further north than St. Petersburg Russia, which was an incredibly surreal thought at the time. Imagine standing in a place and knowing that you are further north than most Russians. Very odd. Now I must stress about the fact that there was only one flight, because it really was a bit rundown. It was clearly cheap and very very small, so it’s odd that it was my favourite flight. But I was finally getting to see her and everything was making me extremely nervous yet extremely excited. The fear of course, was mainly of how we first met. You see Joensuu airport has to be the most laughable place I have ever been. It’s just one building. And what I mean by that is, it’s about the size of your back garden. It was tiny for an “airport”, so when I entered the main door I expected to have to go through some security, but no.
I walked through the door and there she was, just standing there in a baggy jumper and jeans with big boots, looking as small and cute as she always did online. Especially small, she is adorably small, around 5’4. I was so taken aback that as I ran forwards to hug her, I just dropped my suitcase, blocking the door and everyone trying to get in. My very disgruntled brother had to shuffle through and move it out the way.
Getting to see her was incredible. The amount of people that tell you that having a relationship with someone online isn’t real, or the amount of people that predict how long it will last, getting to finally be with her in person kind of removes any last shred of doubt you have. If there’s at least one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s that online relationships are real. They suck, boy do they suck, but they are very real.
Having that distance between the person you care about the most for so long is draining and tough so to go from that to sitting next to them or holding their hand is the most uplifting and heart-warming thing I have ever felt in my life.
No matter what I was doing, I had a smile on my face. The beauty was, nothing felt awkward. I had imagined for months how I wouldn’t know what to say or do, or how to act. i embarrassingly admit that I hadn’t even kissed a girl before in my life, let alone be physically with the person I love and have loved for over a year. But it all came naturally and everything felt perfect. I couldn’t help but be happy. This part of the week was magical and I wouldn’t change any of it if I could go back and do it all again. And I wish I could do just that.
So now we skip forward to coming home. Coming home is good, it gives you time to reflect. I was naturally on the verge of tears all day, having said goodbye ‘n’ all. It’s not a pleasant thing, saying goodbye. It crushes you on the inside. But looking back, this trip had been absolutely incredible, not just as a trip but for me as a person. I had not only got over my fear of flying and heights, but I was in a foreign country visiting a couple cities and meeting the love of my life. Traveling made me feel more adult, more in control of my life than ever before. I felt like if there was somewhere I wanted to go, I could go there. I hadn’t ever felt this free before in my life. And the sights I had seen were spectacular, just from the airplane alone from out the window I saw things that honestly, I couldn’t describe. The main thing of course was seeing my girlfriend, which made me feel more alive than ever before.
All the stress in the world would have been worth it for one day with her and I’m so lucky and happy to have experienced that week with her. The journey home was smooth and simple, apart from the bits where our flight got delayed and we had to sprint through the airport just to make it there on time. Oh, and the bit where all the roads were closed back in England so we spent probably another 5 hours driving. And my favourite bit, the part where I threw up in a McDonalds toilet because I was so stressed from sadness and tiredness. On second thoughts, maybe the journey home wasn’t so smooth. But I wouldn’t take it back for a second, not any of it.
Travel changes you as a person, and travel has changed me. As I write this I’m currently looking at making as much money as possible so I can fly back up there to meet her again. I haven’t ever felt this much motivation before ever. It was easily the best week of my life and it changed me forever. But it won’t be the last time I see Finland’s green forests.