One morning, Alex, the oldest in the family, was scrolling through the National Geographic Instagram on his iPad when he came across a stunning photo of a snowmobile, a guy, and a night sky full of colors. He’d heard something about the Northern Lights before, but had to do a quick search to understand a bit more. He was then directed to an article on NatGeo about the best places to travel in 2017. The first place was Hawaii, but he had no interest in anything tropical at that moment. He scrolled, and came upon more photos of the Northern Lights. He was intrigued. Finland. Lapland. “Why had we never talked about visiting a Nordic country before? What was up with our family always going to tropical places?” he thought. The photos hooked him. He started researching, reading more about the kinds of things to do in Finland, and more specifically in Finnish Lapland. He’d heard people say that it was too cold to live in the Arctic Circle, but he knew this was completely untrue. Finally, Alex came across a small ski resort town named Levi. “Hmm, like the jeans!” he thought.  

Meanwhile, his 16 year old sister Annie was having a similar experience of her own.  She’d just returned from a volunteer trip in Bolivia, and had met a girl from Finnish Lapland on her program. They bonded over their passion for traveling and immersing themselves in foreign cultures, and got to talking about their homes, where they’d traveled, and the places they wanted to visit. Hanna, the Finn, explained how the summers in Lapland are endless, and the winters in the Lapland, also endless, are something Annie absolutely must experience at least once in her life. The nature, the warmth of the people, the snow, the awesome skiing, the great outdoor activities that Annie loves so much. According to Hanna, there truly is something for everyone in Lapland. From the foodie, to the nature junkie, to the athlete, to the one who just needs a little bit of R & R. Annie was riveted. It was all she could think about.  

Soon after Annie returned home, the whole family was in the kitchen having breakfast one morning when mom announced that they’d be taking another family vacation in a few months. She asked if anyone had any ideas. Alex and Annie, almost in synch, said Finnish Lapland.  Everyone was stunned by their immediate reaction and excitement about a place so foreign to them. They all sat at the table for a minute looking at each other. They’d do some research and reconvene later that evening to discuss more. By dinner time, all five of them were fully on board. The skiing, the outdoor activities, relaxing in an authentic Finnish cabin, experiencing the healing effects of a traditional sauna, the beautiful scenery. It would be the trip of a lifetime.

Dad was excited because he’d get to go snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Being from Vietnam, he loved taking any chance he could to experience the snow and cold weather. Until he moved to New York City in his twenties, he’d never seen snow before. He was not prepared for winters in New York, but knew there were places far colder. He put himself through school in the city, and worked to build an extremely successful career in sustainable architecture, focusing on building environmentally friendly homes in low-income neighborhoods. His work allowed him to travel frequently, but mostly to warmer climates. He’d never been to Finland before, so he was thrilled at the idea. Perhaps he’d even learn a bit about Finnish architecture.

Mom was ecstatic because she’d get to go skiing again, something she hadn’t done since visiting Canada when she was a teenager. She’d experienced some amazing skiing there, but after moving to NYC from Texas, she sort of forgot about it, occupying herself with her work, family, and other travels. She went on to build a thriving athletic wear company, met her husband, and they eventually had their three children. They traveled often, but mostly to warmer places to get away from the cold New York City winters. It seemed that they all needed a change this year. Instead of the tropics, they’d explore the arctic.  

The youngest brother Mark, the quietest of the bunch, had been doing some research of his own and was really excited about the idea of having an authentic sauna experience. He was interested in the health benefits, and read about the different traditions involving saunas in Finland. He read about how people would sit in a tiny sauna with a nice cold drink for a while, and then hop their butts outside into the snow, or if they were really feeling it, into a hole in the frozen lake. This was hilariously intriguing to him. He read this one article, that said there are more than 3 million saunas in Finland. “That’s one sauna for every 1.8 people,” in a country with about 5.5 million people! Needless to say, his sauna game was slacking in comparison to the Finns. The closest he’d gotten to a real sauna experience was walking around in Southern Vietnam in April with his father. No ice baths, no snow, just ridiculous humidity and heat. He was ready for the REAL DEAL.

Everyone started doing more research, figuring out logistics of where and when they’d depart.  The oldest brother mentioned Levi, and they all agreed. According to the internet, Levi is the largest ski resort in Finland, about 170 km north of the Arctic Circle. The area had lots to offer, from skiing and snowboarding, to hiking, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides, to fully equipped spas and wellness centers, to ice fishing and traditional sauna experiences, and so much more. This place seemed to have it all. The vote was unanimous. They’d go at the end of November, when they were all on break from school, and stay for the month of December to celebrate the holidays and to fully experience all the winter weather activities.

I mean, come on. Who could pass THIS up?

Or THIS?

Or THIS?!?