Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the community Sun-Ahonlaita just 10 days prior to Christmas. Needless to say, the trip was unbelievably remarkable and full of beautiful memories. The snowy winter in Eastern Finland together with the genuine and welcoming people at Sun-Ahonlaita was a richly rewarding experience that anyone had been lucky enough to encounter would find it difficult to forget.
Community life surrounded by nature
Would I ever stop talking about Finnish nature? – Probably not. Because I am constantly mesmerized by its incredible beauty and the peaceful feeling it always generously offers. As soon as we arrived, I could immediately feel the relaxed pace of life, and understand why people love coming to this place. Sun-Ahontaila is conveniently accessible from the city Joensuu, yet you can go straight to the beautiful lakes and forests from their backyard. Again, as someone who was born and raised in a crowded city of 8 million inhabitants, it was unfathomable to me still how the forest can be that close to anybody’s houses’ backyards.
Since I visited the community in the winter, my impression was “This must be the winter wonderland!” However, it is not difficult to imagine the magnificent beauty of nature here blooming with colors and scents in the summer time. As I was completely in awe walking on the frozen lake, I was told that people also go swimming and fishing there when it is possible.
Environment first before anything else
Another thing that greatly impressed me is how deeply nature integrates into the community life there. I have heard stories about Eco-living lifestyles in Finland, since the nation is globally famous for being the “greenest country in the world”. I was still surprised to be able to closely witness how the locals live so sustainably yet effortlessly. One example is how the community classifies their trash and makes use of their bio-waste. I was shown how their bio-waste is separated, gathered into a big bin, and made into compost. The compost will be used for their gardens later on when the spring comes. Another example is how the community always chooses local food and organic products whenever it is possible. They also try to minimize their environmental impacts by producing less waste.
Reading all the good news about Finns consider nature as “a caregiver and a provider that must be respected”; and now I was able to experience it. I finally came to the realization that because they constantly have the environment’s interests at heart. Thus, living sustainably comes firstly from those small, daily practices that make significant impacts. No wonder that Finnish people and Finland have earned themselves the above-mentioned title.
The center of human well-being
I have to be honest and admit that I knew very little about human well-being and everything in between. Thanks to many fruitful discussions with the people I met there, I am now open to learn more. Besides being a sunny communal living where both residents and travelers are welcome, this is also the place where one comes to seek their inner self through peaceful yoga or mediation practices. I did not take part in any of their practices so I cannot say anything more. But still, based on my observation of how people kept coming back for the yoga retreats or mediation lessons, I can tell there must be a good reason for this.
The authenticity of living in a community
Well-being values are visible also in the way the residents sharing their lives. The community spirit can be seen through various activities that they do together: from making the place a beautiful place to live to their weekly-shared meals or how they take responsibilities for the mutual tasks. I was lucky to attend some of their communal activities; one of them was the Christmas Songs Night in which many local residents from nearby towns attended. Despite the snowy weather, many people had come to enjoy a lovely evening and celebrate the holiday season together.
I was super thrilled to taste Finnish Christmas traditional food and listen to many beautiful Finnish Christmas songs. And interestingly, I was not the only non-Finnish speaking person there. Apparently, the community is home to many others from different nationalities, who somehow find themselves deeply attached to the Finnish way of life and community values there. The night perfectly ended up with homemade joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas pastry) and warm glogi.
Coming back to the “city life” in Turku, I feel so grateful for this heartwarming experience. I have learnt so many new things throughout the trip, and I have come to greatly appreciate both the Finnish-ness and multicultural diversity that I had encountered during my short stay in Sun-Ahonlaita. As a traveler, there are still so much more of Finland that I would love to explore & this special community is one of those “roads less traveled” that I strongly recommend.