Finland in Winter

A week with youth in Piispala

Michael Freer


I’m sat on my sofa, in a dressing gown, with a pint of beer on the table next to me. I’m still unwinding from a week away as part of an Erasmus+ Youth Exchange (essentially taking a group of teens somewhere new in the EU).

Not unwinding because I was overstressed and just had chaotic days, but unwinding because the excitement and buzz around me has gone and I get to chill.

{sidenote — I don’t need a beer to unwind, I still have leftovers from the world cup…}

One of the reasons I do this specific part of the Youth Club is linked to a goal I set at 30 — to give someone else the opportunities I’ve had. I have travelled extensively and with that had some amazing experiences, trying new food, activities, drinks, meeting new people and cultures and having a go at the local language.

On these trips I encourage the young people to do the same, sometimes they do, and I’m proud of that, and sometimes they don’t, and I know it’s just not their time. I know that through my own experience, and now I strive to make sure certain times come sooner because it sure helps out later on.

First times

Watching the excitement or the nerves getting onto their first plane, their comments when seeing a completely different city or landscape, or even going into a shop where things are different. Watching their mouths drop and eyes bulge out. Seeing them turn into kids again and dropping their teenage guards at the same time.

They’re the moments I realise I am providing opportunities I had. I don’t remember my first flight, but I definitely remember that first time in Delhi, in food markets in Asia, and the thing that is Las Vegas.

Up in the Himalayas most recently I made sure I took stock of those wow moments, to look around and absorb it. I’ve been up many mountains, but we need to stop and really be mesmerised just like when you are younger.

Stretch zones

In terms of personal development, I often look for new challenges to stretch myself, most recently being when I appeared on camera speaking Croatian. I speak Croatian every day with many people, but it’s always different to have a recording of it for the world to see.

I also encourage the young people to challenge themselves, to stretch themselves and try new things. To push out of their…



Michael Freer

Social enterprise enthusiast, avid traveller and fiction writer.