Saana, our adorable tan, and blonde roommate had just finished saying she was from Finland and the words gushed out.
“Have you ever seen a reindeer!?” I have no filter.
I sat on my bunk at the City Stay Mitte in Berlin, eager-eyed and genuinely curious about these animals.
I know, there are a lot of things in that opening statement which may be leaving you scratching your head.
“Are reindeer real?” (Yes!)
“A tan girl from Finland? Isn’t that a snowy Nordic country?” (Yes!)
Here’s her story!
Saana Yrjönen, once a gymnast living in Finland, now calls the sunny, warm Mediterranean island of Malta home.
Her job as a Digital Marketer in the gaming industry provides her with 24 days of leave per year, plus public holidays.
“A lot of my leave days go to visiting in my home country but for the rest of them, I’m always trying to use in some place new.”
“What inspires me to travel is my pure curiosity of exploring new places and cultures. Seeing beautiful and historically significant places makes me respect life and think about life from a new point of view.”
“What usually makes traveling the most interesting and inspiring is the people you meet there, though. Hearing stories from completely new cultures is so interesting and eye-opening! It also helps to understand our world and its problems a bit better. Being a stranger in a completely new place is so exciting and usually, you learn also a lot about yourself.”
Scheduling and Adventures
For Saana, the best part of traveling is “the feeling of adventure – especially when you’re traveling alone!
Everything is new and exciting. Also, usually there are many strange and funny things when you travel which make for awesome memories.”
All travels can come with struggle, including finding the perfect time to take your trip. Saana tells us that for her “the hardest part of planning a trip is usually finding the perfect time for it – work, flight ticket prices, and possible co-travelers’ timetables make challenges to the planning process.” However, “When the tickets are purchased, it’s easy for me – I google the most interesting attractions and make an initial plan. I prefer to plan most of my trip, at least transportation and accommodation beforehand because it helps me to reduce stress and I can enjoy the trip.” For those traveling on a budget, this is a great plan! She continues,”Usually, you also save some money if you make the bookings early.”
However, Saana admits that having flexibility on more extended trips can make more adventure! “For longer trips, I wouldn’t plan everything beforehand so that I don’t lose the excitement and adventure part of the trip. You can also get great tips from other people you meet on your journey so it’s good to have not too many plans.”
Poolside and ‘Chill’
In one word, Saana would describe her travels as being “chill”.
On her travels, she is happy to spend time at the beach or pool, explore amazing food and beer, and enjoy new and old friends. She says that she “really needs that time just for ‘being’.” Some of her favorite places for just ‘being’ include her family’s Eastern Finland summer cottage, Nice, Berlin, Italy, and at her favorite hostel, Mui Ne Hills Backpackers, in Vietnam.
The Mui Ne Hills Backpackers has “dorms and private rooms there so you can choose the solution which suits you the best. There are also 3 pools and the view is great from up the hill. However, what makes it stand out is the amazing atmosphere they have there; the whole place is full of young backpackers and they have great spare time hobbies such as pool pillow fighting and beer pong every day!”
Through all of her travels, Saana would describe her favorite memory being one to make romantic’s knees go weak!
“The last night of my holiday in Nice from the last summer, I got a holiday crush. It was maybe 3am, there was a full moon and we were swimming in the sea. The atmosphere was so ambient and romantic in the moonlight! After swimming, we were talking all night long until I had to go to the airport in the morning. When it came time to say goodbye, he said: “Let’s not make this any harder than it already is.” Then we hugged and kissed, turned to our directions and a few steps later both of us turned around at the same time to watch each other for the last time. I can tell you I was crying the whole flight back home but it’s still such a beautiful memory.”
Regrets and Illness
Saana regrets nothing from her travels, “not even crazy things such as skinny dipping or our dance performances in cow costumes in public places. In the future, however, I’ll challenge myself to meet more local people.”
While there are no regrets, she does say that the worst thing that has happened to her while traveling has been repeatedly getting sick. “Both times in Asia I’ve had an aggressive stomach bug and lost some days of my trip from puking and recovering. Last time when that happened in Vietnam, I got very disappointed and questioned why it was always me who gets sick and ruins her holiday.”
“After a while, I noticed that self-pity wouldn’t make me feel any better or help to recover so I decided to try to make most out of the rest of the days and try to enjoy the trip even I wasn’t very feeling well.”
Listen up, ladies!
“When packing, try to think twice about what do you really need and what you don’t.”
“Less is more.” That is Saana’s motto when traveling. “When packing, try to think twice about what do you really need and what you don’t. My favorite packing tip for females is make-up removal wipes. They’re handy to remove make-up and impurities instead of carrying bottles. Traveling, especially flying, makes skin quite dry so these towelettes are perfect for handling that.”
If it’s your first time heading abroad, “be open-minded! Don’t expect everything to go exactly as you have planned. Also, try to step out of your comfort zone and be brave and meet new people – then you’ll get the most out of your travel!”
Where You Should Go
Do you love nature and want to head to one of Saana’s most recommended places? Check out flights to Finland then! Be sure to use Ebates to activate extra savings when booking your flight to Finland on Expedia.com!
“If you love nature, Finland is the right solution since the country is full of lakes and forests. Whether you came in winter or summer, the nature is always beautiful.” Saana tells us.
Or are you thinking maybe of Asia instead?
“Something completely different I can suggest is Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. The culture itself is so different for western world people but that’s not all – everything is very cheap and you get to know the history of the country – which isn’t very beautiful.”
Saana’s Next Grand Adventure
For Saana, her next passport stamps will come from Engelberg, Switzerland when she heads there for a work trip. She is excited to see the Alps for the first time and to go snowboarding.
In the summer she will be headed to the Netherlands for a road trip with her friends, then off to Denmark and Sweden. Her bucket list is full of places such as Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Bali, and the US.
The Homeward Journey
Running off on grand adventures is such a high, Saana warns of “travel hangovers”, which she claims are the hardest part of going home after a trip. “You’ve experienced so many great things in quite a small time and then you need to go back to your everyday life.”
Inspired by the travels of Saana?
You can find her on Instagram @sanzaofficial, or on her blog (in Finnish and Swedish).