Chapter II: London

I almost never talk about London but it is a big chapter of my life. I lived there for, in total, about two years. I walked the kilometres of its streets, indulged in its senses, breathed it, enjoyed it, loved it. Then I left, and with an exception of a short stint for an interview with Shell during my INSEAD year, did not come back until now, seven years after. A month ago, Louveteau and I went to London to celebrate his birthday. And just for the weekend in London, quoi. It was a good opportunity for me to reconnect with my memories of the British capital and to reflect on the aftermath of this city’s magic on me.

London has shaped me in many ways. The education I got there might not be the most relevant for my career (well, actually, you never know with education: something learnt a decade ago can suddenly come handy. Actually, that’s what usually happens.) However, the experiences I got there, the risks I took and the decisions I made, good and bad, affected many of my life choices. Maybe that’s why it seems very important to me to resurrect my time in London.

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Writing this chapter took me some time. Impressions fade over years, memories are getting replaced sooner than we realize it. London, however, stays with me in many ways, more than I probably know of.

When addresses, places, shows and fireworks leave the memory, when things, once precious, are worn out and thrown away, something inside, something forged by the dialogue with the city, by its gifts and the sacrifices it demands, by its generosity, its history, its magic, – this intangible something stays.

So I took my time to go through my first notes about London from as far as seven years ago, to reconstruct my first impressions, feelings about London, to breathe in my past. To cherish it.

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Chapter I: Finland

The question I get almost every time I list the countries I lived in is whether it was for work or study. A close favorite one is whether my parents are diplomats (for a check, my parents are scientists). I then say that, in fact, behind most countries on my list there is a school or a job but it is misleading. In reality, my thirst for places has always been much stronger than my thirst for knowledge. I fall in love with cities, cultures, experiences much more than I do with educational institutions. Every time I plunge into a different culture, it expands my reach, I learn something about myself, some new little way of being, and I am constantly amazed by it (even now, after almost a decade of plunging). I believe that travelling – with your heart, absorbing culture and values as well as monuments and food – is the best thing that can happen to anyone. After love.

My story with geography starts in Finland. From the places I lived in, about some I think as cities, and of some as countries. My experience in Finland has always been about the country, even though all the five years I stayed in Helsinki (with some occasional enchanting trips to Porvoo and some job trips, if a 20 something min commute can be called a trip, to Espoo). Staying for five years is an exaggeration, but facts first.

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