Due to a holiday here in Sweden, we recently had a long weekend off and I decided to go on a four days solo trip to Mariehamn. It was my first journey of this kind, but after overcoming my worries of traveling alone, it was one of the best experiences I ever had!
“Lagom” is the Swedish word of today and I wanted to introduce it to you for quite a while now, but never found the right occasion - until this post about my solo trip to the wonderful Finish island Åland. “Lagom” can`t be translated directly but has the unique meaning of something being just right. Not too much or too less, but quite perfect. It has nothing to do with average or being “just okay”, but more than that is connected to the Swedish happiness of simplicity. Many Scandinavians don`t wish for more than a joyful life with family and friends within a safe place where they have everything they need. And this is exactly how the days during my trip felt.
Åland is a beautiful island located in Baltic sea between Sweden and Finland and belongs to Finland politicly. Nevertheless, the main language is Swedish and most inhabitants see themselves as Ålander, so neither Finish or Swedish. Also does the island as an autonomous and demilitarized region have their own government with quite a lot of independence from the central Finnish one. The capital of the area is Mariehamn and contains the town hall, the biggest harbors with various ferry connections, and compared to the rest of the island the most inhabitants and most compact development, even though it still can barely be called city.
I also decided to stay in this beautiful town during my visit and for that found a nice little B&B right next to the harbor located only a few minutes from the centrum in a calm and cute neighborhood. After the business and socialness of the last months with work, free time activities, visits, and travels to many Scandinavian cities, this was exactly what I needed. I had my own room and a shared kitchen, bathroom, and even a little garden! Just perfect for regaining new energy.
First, I felt a little uncomfortable while thinking about traveling alone for several days since I usually love to be around people and make and share new memories with others. Although I have traveled by myself before and went to many places where I didn`t know anyone, I usually met up with people there, so this was my first trip of this kind. But as soon as I started my journey to Mariehamn all my worries disappeared and now I can say, I enjoyed it so much!
After I arrived with the ferry that took less than three hours from Sweden, I walked to my accommodation, checked in, left my things in my room, and went out to use the remaining evening and amazing weather to get a first overview of the city. Mariehamn has the perfect size to be explored by foot and with the central area full of little stores and cafés right next to the harbor and beach it`s a great place to hang out. And this is what I did my first evening and the whole next day. Due to the amazing weather I decided to just stroll around some shops, parks, sights, and viewpoints to enjoy the calm beauty of the city and its surrounding nature.
Then on my third day it was quite rainy what was totally fine since I could visit the famous Pommern museum, have a cozy fika inside, and experience a spring choir concert at church, without feeling guilty of missing the good weather outside. In between I still walked through Mariehamn quite a lot, explored more parks with viewpoints, and again was amazed by the capitals greenness and natural environment, especially within such cozy and moody weather! Also on Sunday, before taking the ferry back I took a walk towards the South to an area I haven`t seen yet and the surroundings were just stunning! I am sure, when taking a bike or car, there is even more unique nature to inspect on this island in the middle of the Baltic sea.
But for only four days it for sure was enough to focus on the area of Mariehamn, since there already is so much to do and see. Just as here in Sweden, next to the usual museums, shops, and sights, they also offer different events and festivals all year long, especially during the warm season. For example did the town organize a cute family fest during which I got to try some self-baked cake from a farm house store and saw lots of hand made and original souvenirs. In this way, experiencing the culture and getting in touch with locals is really easy, even more while traveling alone.
So, although those four days for me where quite unsocial compared to before, I was surprised how much I chatted with all kinds of people. Not only during the communal morning breakfasts at my B&B, but also at the local market, the church, or while visiting sights. Even Scandinavian people are quite open to have a conversation when you show your honest interest, especially when you are on a solo trip.
Overall I can say, this weekend was just perfect! The whole travel was not only a great new learning but also did it come to the right time, and I surely chose the right place. Sometimes, with everything that is going on, especially now that the year is coming to an end, the summer time full of travel and special events starts, and we all want to do the most and best at work and outside, it sometimes can get too much. And then, “lagom” and its meaning is coming just right to remind us of finding the perfect balance for ourselves and our adventures!