|Loner sightseeing selfie!|
|There's a lot of parks in Helsinki; Finns love their nature!|
|The National Museum of Finland|
|A model of an old, traditional Finnish log cabin|
|Helsinki ranks #8 on the list of the most prosperous countries so it makes sense they have a lot of construction|
|Finland has a lot of new infrastructure due to it's thriving economy but also due to the fact that 109 buildings were destroyed, 300 damaged and 111 set on fire during the Great Raids of WWII|
So if you did the math, after my grad party I had a total of $8,700 for my gap year. I spent days and I mean days deciding where I wanted to travel and making hypothetical budgets. At first I wanted to go to Nepal instead of Ghana because it's a lot cheaper to fly from Japan to Nepal but my parents were worried about the possibility of future earthquakes so they said they'd give me $1,100 to compensate for the travel costs if I went to Ghana instead (yay thanks again mom & dad!).
|The University of Helsinki library|
Thankfully, I quickly learned to adapt to the high prices and develop my own tricks on how to survive off 20 euros a day! The buses offer discounted student tickets (5.70 euros instead of 8, whoo!) but these are technically only meant for Finnish students. I decided I would try to flash my Ole Miss student ID to the bus driver and see what would happen. Probably around 70% of the time they just gave me the discounted price! Probably because I'm clearly foreign. However, Sanni wasn't as lucky... she's Finnish but doesn't have a Finnish student ID since she goes to college in Italy. she tried using her Italian student ID but since her name, Sanni Karppanen, is clearly Finnish, the bus driver must've thought she was using a fake ID or something and made her pay full price. Sorry, Sanni.
Instead of buying overpriced sandwiches from little shops, I started doing my own grocery shopping. I'd buy a bag of these dry, brown bread rolls that only cost 50 cents, cheese spread for 1 euro and a pack of bologna for 70 cents. Not the tastiest but it lasted me 2 meals, meaning that I only spent 1.10 euros per meal compared to a 4 euro café meal. I'm not proud to say it but I even once succumbed to McDonald's and bought a cheeseburger for 1 euro... It's so difficult being healthy on a budget! Ugh. Another time, I packed cold, leftover pizza to eat for lunch. Ew. Traveling on a budget makes me seriously miss and appreciate a home-cooked meal.
|Really cool store that sells healthy snacks (dried fruits, nuts, etc.) in bulk! Of course I can't afford it though.. way too expensive|
Even with all of my thrifty tricks, being on a 20 euro per day budget in Helsinki was still difficult. I often found myself freaking out and stressing about money instead of having fun. I counted every cent. One night I even called my boyfriend in tears complaining that I was $15 over my budget. Slowly, I started to realize that I needed to stay calm. $15 isn't something worth crying over. What's more important, staying under your budget or having a good time on your gap year? I don't want to look back on my time in Finland and only have sad, stressful memories. That's why it's a good idea to leave yourself some room to breathe. Try to over-budget so that you have extra money just in case. Who knows what could happen; flights could end up costing more than expected, you could take unplanned trips (ex. Finland was spontaneous, thus not in my original budget) or find yourself in a super expensive city. Also it's helpful to keep track of how much you spend (maybe not down to the cent though... that's a little insane). I have an excel spreadsheet so I can keep track of my budget surpluses and deficits for each week. That way if I go way over budget one week (Helsinki), I know that I just have to try and stay under budget by the same amount the next week (Germany). It's all about balance. tHe most important thing is to remember not to let money control your happiness. After all, you're still traveling around the world! So what if you have to eat some cold, leftover pizza for lunch one day? ;)
|The coolest, most unique chapel I've ever seen; Kamppi Chapel|
I hope this post helped you realize that traveling is within everyone's reach. Yeah, I'll admit it, I'm a bit luckier/spoiled than most (money from grad party/parents plus my friends/family willing to host me) but I think I could still travel without those advantages and so can you! If you plan ahead, take some time to work and save up a decent amount of money, find yourself some hosts (and be willing to work) through workaways, au pairing and couchsuring and be smart with your money, you too can travel! :)
|20 minute ferry ride|
|The Great Courtyard|
|The dry dock, one of the oldest operational docks in Europe|
|The sign says private property; imagine living here, I think it's so nice!|
|King's gate, the icon of Suomenlinna|