There is something about England that I can’t quite wrap my head around. The first time I visited London and Oxford was in 2010. England has always felt like a home, perhaps for the reason that I have met amazing people while being there. In general, travelling has always fascinated me; I would want nothing more than combine writing and travelling if that was possible. I had a discussion with one of my good friends about England; she has studied game art in Middlesbrough. I recalled she studied in Leeds, and since I will visit Leeds on this trip briefly for business, I wanted to know how she liked it and if there would be any place she would recommend me to see. I told her that I would love to travel in a converted van first in Finland, then around Europe, and finally take it to the UK and find a place for myself, and if my daughter wants to come to study, she can. Back to my friend. She loves the English countryside and old bars, culture and cuisine, too. So it was decided, someday, two friends, vanlifeing through the UK. Sounds pretty good to me; I think it will be a blast!
I took the earliest train (4.44 am) to Helsinki this Wednesday morning. At the airport, my carry-on luggage got checked for the keychains and gifts I was carrying to England. I found it funny to chit-chat about my business and what I do with the airport staff. The flight to Stansted from Helsinki departed before noon. My freelancer, Reija, phone-called me while waiting for my flight. We had a lovely 30-minute catch-up. Freelancers I have become close to, we do not only talk about the business but also about what’s going on in each other’s lives.
I plan to take the bus from Stansted to Leeds in the afternoon, and the following day I have a BNI business meeting online with people I later meet in person. I am super excited because I have noticed that I gain so much energy from meeting new people, especially if I get to do that in person. I find it interesting that I am becoming someone that I never thought I would be — a networker and a writer that holds her heart open for encounters with strangers.
Speaking of strangers, I want to do a podcast of people I call on Sundays. The first person that I want to do a podcast with is Vanessa. I told you about Vanessa on my Instagram earlier. She is a lawyer from Brazil, and she has gone through a lot in life. I wrote a grief story about my loss in her blog about grief. Vanessa is coming to Finland this year because she wants to see the Aurora Borealis, so we decided to have a little tour around Lapland together. She arrives before Christmas so that she gets to enjoy proper Finnish Christmas with me. Last weekend, me and my daughter spent a night in a tent in scouts camp. For both of us, it was our first time staying in a tent together during the winter. For my daughter, it was an experience she would remember for weeks, if not years, onwards. During the night, the sky lit up with green northern lights and orange twilight. The temperature was probably good at -15 degrees Celsius. The tent had a stove that I took care of in the morning. Though I must admit, since it was so warm right next to it, I almost fell asleep next to it several times while watching over it. I hope Vanessa will get to see the northern lights in all their beauty once she comes to visit me in Finland. It is sweet that she and I have built such a strong friendship. Perhaps this journey in England will introduce me to another person to invite into my podcast.
I will be only staying in Leeds until Friday, so I have a pretty hectic schedule, but I am looking forward to meeting all these people. I think this trip will be the beginning of starting lovely friendships, and spreading random acts of kindness, too.
It seems London is a little bit in trouble on my arrival day. The tube (underground) employees are on strike today. I took a bus from Stanford Airport to Golden’s Green. And we got stuck in traffic and arrived almost 30 minutes late. At Golder’s Green, about 30 others and I were waiting for a bus to Leeds. It was funny to see how English people were reacting to something not going their way. The weather is quite chilly, and it started raining too while we waited. One guy pulls another shirt from his bag, already having three layers. I think to myself, well, he is prepared, haha. Another lady starts singing and humming while waiting and commenting on every bus that comes that is not ours. Two friends are talking over the phone to someone, laughing and making jokes. The girl says to the boy that it could be worse — yes, it could be worse, it always could be worse. The bus finally arrived an hour late. A couple with a baby is getting quite impatient, but overall, the atmosphere at the bus stop was okay. I think it’s just the tiredness that is slowly creeping in since I left home at 4 am, and now as I am writing this, it’s already almost 10 pm. It’s going to be interesting to wake up tomorrow morning; I hope my Air BnB hosts in Leeds have coffee.
As we all get into the bus that finally arrives, I wonder how much these drivers have on their plates. They’re working as pairs, and in times like this, I have a tremendous amount of respect for these heroes. I get it if they can’t pull a smile anymore at this time of the day. I don’t even mind being late an hour. One of the drivers said to the other driver, “It is what it is”, which made me smile; it is. That’s a phrase that has become so familiar to me.
It’s my first time exploring England further than usual. The bus windows are super foggy, the other driver grabs sheets of paper towels and tries to improve it, but it seems pretty impossible due to the weather being so cold and rainy. I came to sit in the front seat due I quickly have motion sickness if I don’t see the road. So, I am not that good of a shotgun traveller; I can’t sleep in the car if it’s moving. I love driving, though. After today, I want to take a hot shower and fill up my hot water bottle (yes, I took it with me) and crawl into a bed and fall asleep. There’s still something sweet about it all. Compared to London, in Leeds, things seem to be relatively much closer than what meets the eye.
My colleague asked how I feel so confident and brave just figuring everything out as I go, and I guess I see booking flights, bus rides, tubes etc. just easy things to do in life. It’s not a struggle at all for me to do all that. It is what I love, though — the feel of adventure. As long as I am good and happy, I don’t think anything can get to me on the road. It’s when I am happiest. I have a gipsy soul and no roots, but I love the peace too—especially those moments when I don’t even hear any cars. Just leaves rustling, a slight breeze brushing my face gently, and birds singing their tunes.
I love to wake up early, but I also love mornings when I can take my time and plan my day the way I want. When the summer is here, I feel it’s time to wake up earlier and swim in the sea before even taking my dogs out. I like adding and adding and doing things better every day.
I have got to the point in life where I am able to leave opinions about myself to the shelf and do my thing. I think opinions usually tell more about you than the person you have the opinion of. However, it is a long journey to get your mindset there. My dream is to travel around in a van, and I want to see places and people, hear their stories and culture, and take my time. Write a story, write two stories, and show up and have a blast. That’s who I am; it’s sad that I even pretended to be something else.
Stephane invited me to BNI Ignite (Leeds) yesterday. After well slept for five hours, I participated in the BNI meeting online to connect with people and listen to the presentation about his company. He has an excellent sense of humour. After the online meeting, I took myself to brunch in a local cafe (Riversque). It was a small brunch place for sandwiches, located in THE CALLS, next to a small river. After I finished, I headed towards Stephane’s office and stopped by the post office to send a package to Rick. I find it funny that I had to open Rick’s gift at the airport and that it now has red security tape on it. In the post office, there was a queue, but it went relatively fast. For a moment, I got worried that I would be late.
I strolled from the Leeds centre through Chapeltown to Chapel Allerton, where Stephane’s office is. The walk was about an hour. The weather was perfect too, not too cold, not too warm. It felt like I was adequately dressed up. David had made it before me. He came all the way from York to meet with me and the others. I met Kirsty, David, Liv and Stephane and told them about my plans. I brought some whisky and gin-tasting samples to them and told them the story of Kyrö Distillery Company, how it all began and what happened. David is a graphic designer, and he liked their strong-looking brand I sent him more info about it later over email.
Later we went to eat at Stephane’s friend Tony’s restaurant, Delioza, who also took part in BNI meeting online the same day. Delioza had the best gnochis I have ever tasted. Definitely will go and visit that hidden jewel again! Somehow the conversation got to Rick. What Rick and I discussed was kindness, compassion and media; we didn’t discuss business that much. It appears Stephane knows him and his business quite well, and he does the same thing as I do with my freelancers. I told Stephane, Liv, David and Kirsty how I felt after having a 121 meeting with Rick. How was the most meaningful discussion I have ever had with anyone before; I guess the way you meet the right people, no matter their cultural background, you can hear the sound *of clicking*.
I fell asleep quite instantly after 9 pm on Thursday. I have recognised two short nights previously have taken a toll on me. Sarah from BNI High Flyers was able to put me together with Chloe on Thursday. We agreed she would pick me up for Friday morning’s meeting with the BNI High Flyers. High Flyers has been together for 15 years, and it works. High Flyers is a hybrid group; some of the people join online, and some of them come to meet each other in person. I am sad I missed Samantha; I would have wanted to meet her. Samantha was one of the people who put me together with Rick (publisher). We had a lovely chat earlier this year through BNI High Flyers online.
Chloe picked me up, and I think she is such a charismatic young lady. We instantly hit it off, discussing everything other than business. The car rides are often good because they force you down that path of conversation. I found it super kind of her to pick me. We drive off Leeds towards Bramhope. Going through the suburbs of Leeds, we see a dead fox on the side of the road, and both of us get upset over it. I don’t even really recall what we went on about with Chloe; it just felt like I was talking to an old friend.
Finally, we arrived at Bramhope; the countryside caught my eye completely — that green. It just nurtures my heart most gently. I came to Leeds at night, so that I couldn’t see any of it until now. I’m afraid none of the pictures I took do justice to how beautiful this country is. I especially love the old architectural buildings and the countryside.
After we get to Hotel Britannia, I am introduced to several people; Rob is taking care of me as a guest responsible. Since Chloe and I arrived not early nor late, I got to eat some breakfast and chit-chat with charming fellow BNI colleagues, but shortly we moved to the meeting room. I find it lovely that everyone is so welcoming and interested in what I have to say. The agenda in BNI works pretty much the same way as it does everywhere. So it’s easy to follow and be a part of. Everyone introduces their businesses. I observe their behaviour and tone of voice, group dynamics, smiles and interactions. I find it essential to listen and hear what others have to say, how it works down here. Since I want to move to England, I must learn about the culture. The way I want to learn it is to inhale it, every bit of it.
I get a bit nervous as the presentations go on. I left my speech in my bag, and I left it in Chloe’s car. So I quickly write an even better one. I keep telling myself I love this, and the nervousness settles down. I used to be more nervous back then, but finding ways to make myself content has helped me get over it. It’s like this aura of confidence I try to imagine around me. The atmosphere I want to bring into the room is yellow, kind, bright, humble, and understanding.
I am asked to come and introduce myself; I find everyone’s eyes in the room on me. I wish everyone a good morning and tell them I am honoured to be here amongst them this fine Friday morning and how I have come a long way from Finland to join them in person. The whole day has been beautiful so far. Sun shone through the windows, and someone left the air condition high, haha. The room feels hot.
I continue how I have started to visit BNI chapters in England at the beginning of this year, BNI High Flyers being one of them. I tell them how Samantha put me together with Rick. I had a 121 meeting with Rick, and I felt I had always known Rick. I hear laughter as I tell them that. I can only hope Rick wants to publish my book once I have finished it. I tell them that this is the power of BNI; it reaches beyond country boundaries, and if you learn to harness that, it opens doors to places you have never been to. This is genuinely how I feel. I tell them my name again and how I’m looking forward to the day I live in England. The Yorkshire area looks just so pretty. David and Rob casually say they live around the corner, hinting how that beautiful countryside is their backyard. I like how modest they are.
During the presentations of others, I marked an X on Tommi’s name. Something about it felt like I have to have 121 meetings with him. And that got confirmed by Rob and Rachel afterwards once I got to the networking part. Sometimes you know the ones that you need to be in contact with. So, Tommi, I will contact you once I get back to Finland.
Chloe agreed to take me back to the outskirts of Leeds. We started discussing about dating, relationships and men. I find it funny how similar mindsets we both have on that. It’s like I tell one thing, and she fills in with another, and we just keep agreeing. I told her about my book and how I write it. How I have been journaling and how those journals work as fuel and bits and pieces here and there of my thoughts, and voice notes recorded of the surroundings I am visiting to remember how it sounded like while being in these places. Or how sitting on the bus and writing about the raw stuff, overhearing what people are talking about and using those stories in my book. The conversation with Chloe flows naturally. I promised I would send her my book once it’s finished. It turns out she is a creative soul, too. We say goodbyes, and I feel we get to meet up with her again, perhaps many times.
I stroll through Leeds Center to Coach Station and take a bus ride towards Brickendon and Ware. Travelling around on buses has given me confidence as well; everything seems to work nicely, and I fill the wait times by reading a book I took with me about Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser. It’s St. Patrick’s Day today. I will take the weekend to enjoy the scenery in Hertfordshire.
Be kind & don’t go changing,