This is the first post by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth, Skimbaco’s new Adventure & European lifestyle expert. Read her inspirational story and welcome her!
Have you ever dreamt of jumping out of the nine-to-five and leaving your job, home, friends and everything you know behind? I have.
And then I did it.
If I did not get itchy feet and the curiosity to see the world in my mother’s milk, I probably got it pretty soon after. My parents took my brother and me on their journeys to foreign lands whether it was on business or pleasure. Sunny Greek islands, Mickey Mouse in Disney World, sharks in Hawaii, ice cream in Venice, slot machines in Las Vegas, skiing in Lapland. My childhood checklist also reflected the desire to see more. I had hoped that by the time I was thirty I had spent some time in the UK on a language course, an exchange student year in the States and then had worked as a flight attendant and a travel representative around the world. I got through the first two on my list before I packed my bags and set off to go to university in Ireland.
Somehow after my university studies abroad and various work placements in Ireland, France, Switzerland, the States and Norway I landed my dream job back in Finland. My work incorporated sports and marketing, it gave me all the responsibility I wanted and satisfied my creative flair. And I bought an apartment. And got married. And then I got tired of having my calendar filled to the brim a year and half ahead with all the possible long weekends and holiday periods plotted in for trips to come. I started wondering what if I just left. Would I ever get a job again? Would I be jumping off the walls with boredom and frustration with nothing to do? My mentor at the time said to me that when you look back on your life you will not regret those things you did. The things you will regret the most are things you did not dare to do.
So I left. I handed in my notice, found tenants for my flat and book flights to Uganda. To be fair, the decision to leave was probably easier for me than to many others. My husband, who is British, works for himself and has never lived permanently in Finland. Actually he does not really live anywhere in the real sense of the word “live” as he is kind of a nomad who follows the sunny seasons and flowing waters because of his work. And he does have a house in Slovenia, which has acted as a base for all our belongings and a place to return to for recharging batteries after adventures on the road.
To my surprise I did not get frustrated and bored. I enjoyed every moment of experiencing new cultures and documenting them in words and pictures – for myself. I set myself goals to work towards. I trained to get into the Finnish Freestyle Kayak Team and I made it. I competed in the World Championships and failed miserably, after having enjoyed the journey in getting there. And I started studying photography through an online Open University course that opened up new worlds for me in documenting the new places and people that I met and saw.
For sure I still miss work. I miss my colleagues, I miss the work related challenges and sometimes I even miss the stress of it all. But at the same time I have slowly started to find more and more freelance work that I can do from where ever I please. And maybe I have even slowly started to realise where my strengths lie and what is it that I truly want to do in my life, for now anyway.
So what will I do next? I do still keep an eye out for interesting job opportunities in places I would love to live. And at the same time my head is filled with ideas and my heart is filled fit excitement of things that I could do on my own, on my own terms. So to be honest, I have no idea where I am heading. Maybe tomorrow I will find a job back in Finland. Or maybe I will settle down in Slovenia and set up my own company there next year. All I know is that for sure I have been enjoying the journey in getting wherever it is that I am heading to and I would encourage anyone thinking of taking the leap to the destinations unknown to just go for it!
Written by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth, Skimbaco’s Adventure & European lifestyle expert. In the early 2009 Satu decided to take a year off the regular nine to five lifestyle in Finland and launched on an adventurous year on the road, sometimes travelling with her kayak, bike or skis and sometimes without. One year has turned to next and she is still enjoying the life out there living her dream. Together in her journey is the not so British entrepreneur husband from Britain, who seems to spend more time outside the borders of his homeland than within. With background in marketing management and communications Satu is figuring out the next step in her life and career, while planning the travels to come. For more stories from the road, visit Satu’s blog Destination Unknown (in Finnish) and Skimbaco Travel where she will be our travel reporter in Europe.