The Traveler Stories Series. Each month we feature a story (or two) written by another fellow traveler, who shares with us their own travel experiences. This month, meet Evan Kristine, the beautiful travel blogger at Pretty Wild World. At the young age of 16, Evan made a brave leap of faith that would change her life forever. From the Phillipines to Finland, here is here story.
Sometimes travel is not always about the country, the tourist attractions, nor the act of exploring another place.
For me, travel is the journey you take not from one location to another, but in life. My journey has not been easy, and there has been a lot of struggles, unfortunate events and of course, in the end, victories.
My Leap of Faith
Roughly ten years ago, I took a leap of faith and ventured on my first ever adventure, and it wasn’t just as simple as heading to another country for a short visit, it was a big leap of faith because I believed that it was the best thing to do. Not the right thing, mind you, the best.
I was sixteen.
I braved the world and moved from the Philippines to Finland in a heartbeat.
9,052 kilometers or 5,625 miles away from home, from my parents, and from my friends.
Why, why, why?
You might be wondering why, at a very young age, I decided to move far away from everything that is familiar.
You might be asking, is she running away from something?
You see, I never felt like I belonged in the Philippines. Don’t get me wrong; I love the Philippines without a doubt. But have you had that feeling of loving something, but you know that your love is not enough to make you stay put in one place? Well, that’s exactly how I felt about the Philippines.
Leaving my home country was hard. It was not easy to say goodbye to my parents and my friends knowing it would probably be a few years before I would see them again. But I felt that it needed to be done.
I said my farewells, I packed my bags, and journeyed my way to a foreign country, not having a clue what to expect once I arrived. I mean, I was only sixteen, remember? If I recall correctly, all I cared about at the time was how snow would taste like!
Anyway, to answer your second question… no, I was not running away from anything. I had no plans, nor an idea what the future would hold for me, but I felt brave. I was young, curious, and courageous to board a plane and fly thousands of miles. After 22 hours of flight, two layovers, and with bright yellow chucks and bright pink summer jacket (what was I thinking?) I arrived in Finland… cold (I mean what was I thinking, I thought I would be warm enough for Finland…how I was wrong)…but I arrived safe & sound.
My Life in Finland
My life has definitely changed since then. It’s been a decade for crying out loud, and since my first ever plane ride, I’ve taken hundreds after.
Finland has been a miracle for me. I’ve never been to a place which has accepted me for, well, me. Since my arrival and my first taste of the fresh Nordic air, I felt like I totally belonged here.
When I first arrived in Finland, my primary intention was to finish my culinary arts school and move to France or Italy, and apply as an apprentice in some of the country’s fine dining restaurants. I mean, Ferran Adria was my hero at that time, and I wanted to be just like him – a freaking good Chef.
I spent my first three years in Finland studying full-time and working full-time. Yes, that is not a typo, you read right. I was working like crazy not because I needed tons of money; but because I never worked a day in my life back home in the Philippines and I was so pumped when I started earning my own cash to support myself. That money eventually became my travel fund, and without my parents help, I managed to buy myself a ticket to visit the Phillipines and also travel around Europe!
I felt so proud of myself. My parents were so proud of me. I was ecstatic!
Every day that I became more accustomed to the way of life in Finland, I adapted more and more easily with their culture. My journey in this country has been bliss, but of course, not perfect.
From time to time I feel lonely especially when I think about my home, my family, and the food in the Philippines. In Finland I live alone, and even though I’ve developed exceptional relationships with some amazing people (whom I call my dear friends now), it is still different from the relationships you have with people you’ve known your whole life.
However, I continue to do what I know best, and that is to study and to work. After three years in Culinary School, I was ready to move on to adult life, and get an awesome job in a fine dining kitchen. I thought it would be easy, because I already had about a year of work experience while I was in school, but I was wrong. The struggle to get a job was tough mainly, because I did not speak the local language! I was desperate, depressed, and I felt like an absolute failure when I couldn’t get a job after school.
Deciding to Stay
I still decided to stay in Finland. I forgot about France and Italy, because I just wanted to stay here – forever.
Yes, I fell in love with this country! It was love at first sight, and I was driven by its beauty, its people, and its culture. I was shattered knowing I only have a couple of months till I had to move back to the Philippines… unless of course I got a job.
So, after my visa dilemma and all the shenanigans with finding a job, I decided to move from the north to south of Finland – to Helsinki where I finally got a job, an apartment and yet another new life. I’ve been living in Helsinki for a good five years now (in total, I moved here two times), found a job, found awesome friends, and I love it here! The Finnish city culture is amazing; I love the vibrant feel of this town, and as well how unique each who are residing here – and they are all free to be whatever, whoever they want!
Finland has an incredible culture of acceptance, one thing I love most about this country. I like their way of thinking – “your business is your business, and not mine” and they don’t care how different you are, they just accept me for me. Because of this country, I learned to be myself, and I was accepted to be just that.
My Life Today
So, what has happened now? Well, I am still a work maniac and still work as a Chef!
Although I’ve given up on one day becoming like Ferran Adria (who was I kidding anyway), I have a lot of new dreams and goals in life to replace that old one. I evolved a lot as an individual since I took my leap of faith, and thank Finland for opening a lot of new opportunities for me to find myself.
I am now a proud citizen of this country, as well my own person. At the age of twenty-six, I’ve learned a lot all these years! I can’t remember how many times I failed only to get up and move forward. Oh, so many times!
I still love the Phillipines though! In fact, I am considering moving back for a short while to be around old familiar faces, as well to see the country. I want to get in touch with my Filipino roots, to get to know my origins again.
Spending nearly half of my life in a foreign country served me right. The once brave sixteen-year-old me absolutely made the right decision, and I wouldn’t change it for anything!
So dear readers, have you ever made a big leap of faith that has changed your life forever?
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Evan Kristine is the travel & food blogger behind Pretty Wild World, a dedicated space to share her creative ventures in storytelling, adventures and food. A cook by profession, Evan has a great interest towards scandinavian cuisine and fusion. She is on a mission to capture, taste, and write about all the beautiful experiences she’s seen and tried in this wild world of ours, and share her stories on Pretty Wild World. Follow along on through her Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.