Why I talk to strangers.

May is my New York month. It is one of my favorite places in this world, because it looks like how I feel inside. The sense of belonging is crazy every time I visit. That’s why everybody is in love with NYC — it’s so relatable. Even if it is everything my home city is not, strangely it’s the place where I feel most at home. The brick walls, smell of bagel, friendly strangers with a twangy accent, everyone heading somewhere fast as they can. Also a big part of my favorite NYC lives under the ground in the subways. All those little details and decorations, I didn’t even know you can miss them so much. Last year when I left I thought I wasn’t in a hurry to get back, because I felt I had too recently visited some places too many times and it seemed like a good time for a change of scenery.. but that was last year.

The locals have a weird way to make you feel like you know them. Or that they know you. Or both. Even if you’re a total stranger. People throw you high fives on the street cause you got cool hair. We could not be farther from that here in Finland. That’s why it feels like oxygen for me to get out every now and then. I enjoy all that’s foreign and I probably look like a complete idiot walking down the streets with that stupid smile on my face. Every time in NYC feels like the first time and because that place is HUGE it’s so easy to find new things to do. Here in the center of the center of the center of my country I take a look out the window and stay reminded I live in a friggin’ raisin. Don’t get me wrong —  I love Helsinki — but it doesn’t really get bigger than the Three Smith Square. And then there is Times Square.. and that’s what I wanted to talk about.

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It’s a given back here people are much more reserved. We even got our own meme about it (check out Finnish Nightmares by Karoliina Korhonen) and I’m probably not the only Finn that gasps for air if a stranger smiles at me or something. The old Finnish values are guts, loyalty and perseverance, but we pretty much missed the line where they dealt openness and flirtation. We are generally good and honest people who keep their word, but we might require a bit of time to let others in and we can be very careful with showing affection to anyone who we don’t quite trust yet. Trusting is hard. It can be a real bitch actually, but I believe all the magic happens when you talk to strangers. Just think about it: even all the best people in your life used to be strangers to you once. The things you’ve missed out on if you hadn’t taken the chance to know them.

So, to Times Square. The reason why I talk to strangers. 3 years back me and a former friend travelled to USA for a two week trip — one week in NY, another one in Pittsburgh. Her friend was getting married and we were invited. However, on our last night in NYC, I met a guy who worked in a bar located on this particular square and he asked me out for a drink. I had about six hours before our bus left, but it was one of those moments when carpe diem hit me in the face with a chair and I had to say yes. The drink turned to several and as it was getting closer to 4 am we decided I was not going to Pittsburgh. We got a cab to Bushwick, packed my bags and left for New Jersey — the land of opportunity. Only a few stops away from Manhattan, but it wasn’t really like I had an idea of where we were going. I admit it could’ve been the wrongest of them wrong calls but because I don’t believe that staying on the safe side gets you anywhere in life, I would do it again. That’s the stuff money can’t buy. Experience.. moments and memories. I don’t know about you but that's the stuff I breathe for.

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Altogether it was a very weird vacation with a few close calls and odd twists, but also my greatest adventure so far. Those extra days on Manhattan turned out to be the best part of it. I spent some time bonding with the city, sang in a subway tunnel with a local troubadour and met some really cool people. We went to binge at Katz Deli, raved quickly at Verboten and had the kind of time you can only have with people you've just met and instantly click with. And of course — my first NY slices. ❤︎ I did go to Pittsburgh eventually, but it was actually unexpectedly great. I ate the sandwich of my life and attended one of the best parties ever. There’s nothing like grandpas dancing to Backstreet Boys. ❤︎ No, but seriously —  there was some next level warmth in that place. I hope I won’t ever forget what it felt like.

The best things always happen when you leave the house — mine usually when I leave the country. I’m not telling you to move in with every guy you meet in a bar, but I’m giving you my strongest recommendation to do the thing you want to but are scared of doing. And when you do it, find other crazies to share the moment with. And take a helluva lot of photos.

 

Happy friendiversary guys. ❤︎

/H

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I should probably get some tickets.