Anna-Katri Raiha is the very prolific face behind Adalmina’s Adventures. With more than 11,000 followers on her Instagram page, she is certainly a travel force to be reckoned with. She talks to us today about her travels and her experiences of being a blogger.
Anna-Katri, tell us a little about your early life and how you got interested in travel.
As a child, my favourite television programmes were the nature documentaries by David Attenborough that I watched with my father. I believe it’s what sparked my interest in the different animal species and ecosystems of the world. At that time, I was also extremely interested in geography and different countries. One of my favourite things was an illuminated globe, and I would rotate it and read the names of strange places. Back then, I couldn’t even imagine I could one day travel to all those places because travel was unfamiliar to me when I was young. My family didn’t really travel outside Finland except for a few short trips to neighbouring Sweden and Estonia. Before I was born, my father was a UN peacekeeper in Cyprus and the Middle-East. I still remember how I used to admire the pictures he had taken as a peacekeeper in those exotic places when I was younger.
When I was studying at the University of Helsinki in 2006, I decided to spend a semester as an exchange student in Dallas in the USA so that I could improve my English. That trip changed my life. When I was travelling in the States with fellow students, I noticed I enjoyed travelling enormously and couldn’t get enough of it. The trip awakened a wanderlust and a huge desire to see more and more of the world.
After studying abroad, I travelled mainly in Europe before I gathered up the courage to adventure into Asia and South America. The more I travelled, the more I felt like I couldn’t leave this hobby. Travelling had become my way of life and, in a way, a part of my identity.
In 2016, I decided to pack up my life in Finland and travel around the world in 10 months to visit all those amazing destinations that I had always dreamed about. The trip around the world is still one of my greatest experiences, and especially afterwards, I have felt like I can really travel anywhere – I could even visit every country in the world.
Panama to Colombia
Finland is mainly known for the saunas and a very difficult language… what are some aspects of Finnish culture that we may not know and that we should explore?
The Finns love the outdoors! As soon as you can see even a glimpse of the sun on a winter day, I guarantee everyone will be out for a walk, and the most popular place for it is on the frozen lake or sea. By the way, the most dangerous extreme activity in Finland is ice fishing, at least if you check the statistics for causes of death. In the summer, the Finns head over to their summer cottages, and the whole nation celebrates midsummer and the midnight sun.
You should definitely experience both the winter darkness in Finland with its northern lights and the midnight sun in the summer when the sun never goes down. In addition to the capital Helsinki, small cities like Porvoo, Naantali, and Hanko are popular destinations. We call Turku the Finnish Paris. Along with the cities, Finland can offer even more when it comes to nature. Many tourists head over to Northern Finland, to Lapland, which has its own exotic nature with wilderness and fells. In the summer, the Finnish Lakeland is at its best, and you could spot the endangered Saimaa ringed seal at lake Saimaa. Oh, and the autonomous Åland offers us Finns unique opportunities to experience island life’s romanticism in the archipelago.
Tne oddity of the Finnish culture must be the tradition of “kalsarikännit,” which has been introduced to tourists for the past couple of years: it means getting drunk at home alone in your underwear with no intention of going out. Many of my foreign guests have wanted to try this out and ended up taking it with them and adopting it in their home countries too!
How has being Finnish affected your take on life and your travels?
Being Finnish has most of all allowed me to have a very down-to-earth approach to life, which of course, reflects on my travels. We Finns don’t really make a fuss about ourselves, which is an advantage, especially when travelling. When travelling to many destinations, no one seems to have anything bad to say about Finns. I feel that the Finnish passport is a definite advantage, especially in conflict areas, because we are a politically neutral country.
You are the founder of the blog Adalmina’s Adventures, mainly aimed at younger women. Can you explain the name of the site and what you hope to achieve with it? What specific content do you create to target your audience?
I started blogging in 2008, and my lifestyle blog Adalmina’s Secret was one of the first in Finland. When I embarked on the trip around the world in 2016, I stopped writing my successful lifestyle blog and founded my current travel blog, Adalmina’s Adventures. So part of the name is from the lifestyle blog because it was already well known. The word adventures, on the other hand, is a perfect description of how I travel.
The initial idea behind the travel blog was to record memories of my travel experiences and stories of my adventures for myself while I was travelling around the world. But when I started getting more and more comments on how my example had helped other Finnish women find the courage to take their first trip alone or just travel to their dream destination, I understood that my blog had a deeper meaning.
I want to provide inspiration and armchair travel to the most wonderful and special places in the world, but also, the posts always contain my own personal stories. Through my blog, I want to lead by example and change attitudes and preconceptions about women travelling alone and talk openly about the assumptions and pressures that single women in their 30s might face in Finland. I want to use my blog to encourage everyone to embrace the adventure of their life and to start fulfilling their dreams, both big and small – whether it is travel or life choices in general. Life is too short to wait around for something to happen!
What are some of the challenges of being a blogger and what are your main rewards?
Definitely the biggest reward in blogging has been the comments from followers and stories about how they have been inspired or encouraged by me. In those moments, I have felt that what I do through my blog is meaningful.
Even though blogging is kind of a lonely thing to do, it always carries a strong sense of community. I have, for example, organised my followers a trip to Tanzania, a photography course, and several travellers’ nights that provide especially solo travellers the opportunity to meet each other.
Of course, another rewarding thing has been the sponsored content through collaborations with large travel brands and tourism boards, but these types of collaborations are definitely not the most important thing in my blog. I work as an environmental consultant and entrepreneur in my day job, and being a full-time travel blogger or influencer has never been one of my biggest dreams.
The downside of blogging and social media must be the mean-spirited comments. For example, when I travelled to Syria, I received a comment where someone wished that I would come home in a coffin and not on my own two feet. Fortunately, these comments are a fraction of all the comments, and the majority are positive and to the point.
You’ve been to 2/3 of the world’s countries – do you plan to do them all, why or why not?
I absolutely want to visit all the countries in the world! The more I have travelled, the brighter the fire inside me burns to travel and see the world. Sometimes people ask me, isn’t it time to settle down now after travelling so much. No way, I still have 1/3 of the countries in the world to visit.
Even if collecting points for how many countries you’ve visited is fascinating, I’m even more interested in seeing as much of the world as possible and getting to know different places and cultures. I have always said that for me, every trip is also a journey into myself, some kind of a story of growth through all those experiences and encounters that each trip brings.
I haven’t set myself any deadline for when I need to have conquered all the countries, though. For me, it’s enough that I get to visit all of the countries in the world during my life. I don’t want any pit stops or to rush through countries. If at all possible, I’d rather stay for longer in one place while I’m there.
Papua New Guinea
And what is your travel style?
I’m definitely a combination of all because my travel style varies. Sometimes I travel with a backpack and sleep in hostel dorms or a hammock in the middle of the rainforest, sometimes I travel with a Rimowa bag and stay at 5-star hotels.
I mainly travel alone, and solo travel is my thing, but I can sometimes join groups on adventure tours at the destination. The words that best describe my travel style would probably be experiential and adventures because I am always hungry for new experiences. I often fly to a specific destination but then prefer travelling by land whenever it’s possible. I love road trips and the feeling of freedom that travel brings at that moment when you are on the road and on your way to somewhere new and unknown.
Share with us a few travel stories that really influenced you as a person…
With the risk of repeating myself, the trip around the world was a turning point in my life. It changed me as a person even before the trip when I had to rearrange my life’s priorities and save money for my dream trip, which cost around 50 000 €. While I was travelling I learned a lot about the world but also about myself. Travel is always also a journey into yourself because it forces you to face your own thoughts, fears, and prejudices in a whole new way, and that’s exactly what a trip around the world was too.
When I returned to Finland after travelling around the world, I noticed that how I looked at normal everyday life in Finland had also changed. I realised that the traditional Finnish dream life with a wedding, a detached house, an estate car, and children might not be for me. I was hungry for freedom and wanted to explore the possibility to build a life that looked more like me. I resigned from my day job and started a business with the thought that I would shape my work into something more meaningful and, of course, into something that allows for more travelling.
My last trip was a solo trip to Syria in March 2020. That trip was the most touching one I have ever been on, and it permanently shifted something inside me. I noticed I was thinking about what I could do to bring more good into this world and how to use my blog to help more people notice the countries, places, people, and animals that need it most. People have found some of my previous trips notable, and some of them have been featured in Finnish mainstream media’s headlines, for example. In the future, I would like to use my influence more and more for good purposes – even if it is only one person, it warms my heart if I can change how they think about another country and even more so if it generates a will to help. That, for me, would be the best kind of influence.
Apart from your passport and your phone, what can you not travel without?
When I travel, I nearly always pack a headlamp because I have noticed it’s useful in nearly any destination. I also pack earplugs because I have used them so often when travelling that now I can’t sleep without them even at home. One thing that I never pack but that I often have suddenly needed is a wine bottle opener.
How has the covid situation affected your life and travels and what have you, as a blogger, done in order to keep going?
In 2020, when covid hit Europe and countries started closing their borders, I was travelling in Syria. I couldn’t cross the border into Lebanon and get on the flight as planned, and I was stuck in Damascus for several days. Finally, I managed to book a seat for an extra flight from Damascus to Dubai and from there back home.
Of course, it would have been possible to travel to certain places this year, but it wasn’t advisable in Finland. On the contrary, large groups of people have been heavily criticising and publicly targeting people who have chosen to travel. I haven’t been tempted to travel during the pandemic with all the restrictions and changes in regulations. For me, travelling means above all the freedom to travel where I want and when I want, and now the preparations with quarantines and changing test requirements have replaced that freedom. On top of that, the destinations I would have wanted to travel to most during the past year were mostly closed. I haven’t felt the need to travel just “for the sake of travelling somewhere”. I have preferred to wait until the world is fully open again and I’m able to take a longer adventure trip. I have also wanted to act responsibly in all this.
So for the past year, I have focused on running my business and finished many projects that have to do with environmental consulting. The travel blog has naturally been pushed a little to the side as I haven’t travelled, but I have sometimes posted about previous trips and listed some of my new dream destinations.
Only recently, after I received my first covid vaccine, I started to travel again.
What’s highest on your bucket list for further travel and why?
One trip that I have been thinking about for a while is an overland trip from Gibraltar to Cape Town. On my bucket list, I also have destinations like Turkmenistan’s Gates of Hell, Socotra’s dragon trees, a volcano hike to Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan, Angel Falls in Venezuela, and many others!
And finally, if you could invite any four people from any period of human history to dinner, who would you invite and why?
The first people on my list would definitely be Steve McCurry and David Attenborough, who are both real trailblazers in their respective fields. I’ve wanted to meet David Attenborough since I was a child and instead of sitting at a dinner table I’d love to travel to some special destination with him. During the last couple of years, he has made strong statements on climate change, so I believe we would have a lot to talk about in addition to travel when it comes to the future of the world. I come back to Steve McCurry’s striking photos again and again, and at the dinner table, I would like to ask him to share the stories behind these remarkable images.
I would also like to invite Finland’s former president Martti Ahtisaari to the dinner table. He has received the Nobel peace prize for his significant work on solving conflicts on several different continents. I would like to discuss the Syrian crisis and what kind of solution he sees might benefit the country. I would also like to ask him what he would wish the EU and other countries to do to solve the Syrian conflict.
In addition to these men, it would be interesting to invite Isabelle Bird, one of the first female solo travellers in the 19th century. I would like to hear her stories about what it was like to travel back then and especially what it was like as a woman. It would be fascinating to hear what the destinations she visited were like centuries ago before the explosive growth of mass tourism.