I understood what solitude meant. I thought I did for the longest time. To me, being alone was synonymous with feeling lonely. You felt the weight of the world the most when you were without company. But this past summer spent alone helped me redefine what that meant.
I am sitting on a bus, three hours to Helsinki and two hours from Iisalmi. I was in between places. In between airports, sleeping during layovers. I’d often find myself on the road most of the time. Sitting on a bus for hours only to find that I had to get onto another bus, it blurred the line between exhausting and exhilarating. I was free. I was untethered. It wasn’t about the gaining of independence from a superior, but the restart of an identity in a new environment. I was in a new land, a new set of rules. I was taking a break from myself.
Thrilling because I was reliant on no one else. In an unfamiliar territory, with an unspoken language and outlandish cultural gestures that seem rude only to me. I was simply in a foreign land. One I had little knowledge of. Despite spending hours on the internet reading about the statistical facts of one country, I knew very little about Finland. I knew quick facts; a self-reliant country where education was free, and the people loved saunas. But I didn’t read or speak the language, so reading road maps were at my disadvantage. This meant that I was lost a lot of the time. Physically and emotionally.
My lowest point was sitting on a bus stop at six in the morning after camping out at a petrol station/Burger King hybrid for the night. All while writing an English paper sitting next to a group of homeless Finnish men; who weren’t particularly nice. Smell wise too. I was choking back tears as I got on the bus. It was draining to be alone, I remembered thinking. I wasn’t cut out for this. Thankfully I woke to the low rumble of the bus. It was taking me further and further away from my one homeless night spent in a petrol station. I was back on the road again.
My highest point was cycling through a field of flowers and reading by a river bank. With the sun shielded by the clouds, the heat wouldn’t prick through my skin but instead warmed me from the wind that would graze past my knees ever so often. I was in a Victorian writer’s wet dream. Ducks by the bank quietly paddling together, birds were ringing in the air, no one was in sight. I caught myself smiling unwillingly several times. I relished the time spent alone. Cycling amongst the greenest of the green. Recharging from the foliage. Time expanding on your wrist. Being in an open space of uninhibited nature treats the soul.
I know how ridiculously made up all of that sounded. But it happened. And that is where my happy place will now be. I can’t wait to daydream my way back to the Finnish land.