For this week’s Stamped, Damilola Odufuwa, a 31-year-old London-based Nigerian, walks us through her magical trip to Finland with her best friend. She talks about unexpectedly loving the winter holiday, and why she thinks travelling with your girls is the best.
This is her story, as told to Daniel Orubo, Content Lead at Backdrop.
Pinja and I have been best friends for over a decade now.
I met her in 2009, in my first year at university, where we both studied Economics. We quickly bonded over boys, feminism, and our love of food and travel (Pinja has travelled to almost every continent). We’ve been inseparable ever since.
After uni, Pinja did her Masters in Cambridge, and I went to visit her, but I don’t really count that as a trip — anything within the country is not a trip. Our first proper trip together was to Tunisia in 2014, and it was magical. It was actually one of the first times I posted a picture on my Instagram, and she took it. Pinja is great at taking pictures. That’s one of the best things about travelling with her. I mean, she can be a bit annoying when taking them because she’ll make you awkwardly stand and do a million poses in the middle of the road, but the results are always worth it.
Even though we don’t travel together a lot, one thing we try to do is see each other in whatever country we can. It’s like our little tradition. We both lived in England for a while, but then I returned to Nigeria, and she returned to Finland. So, whenever I was back in London, she would fly to see me. And when I worked for a French publication and would have to go to Paris, she’d come and spend time with me. Things like that — taking out time out of her very busy schedule to come spend a few nights with me — mean the world to me.
Honestly, Pinja is my soulmate. My husband is my second soulmate.
After our trip to Tunisia, and all the times we flew to meet each other, our next proper trip was to Zanzibar. We did this with our other friend, Simita, but the trip was a nightmare. Kenya Airways stressed my life. I was meant to be there for four days, but due to terrible delays, I ended up spending only 36 hours there. So, I barely count that; we needed a real trip.
Thankfully, we got that in 2019, and it turned out to be our best trip yet. It was in Finland, but unlike those times where she’d come to the city I was in to spend a few nights, this was a properly planned holiday — and it was me flying to meet her.
I flew to a village called Ivalo, where people go to see the Northern Lights, one of the natural wonders of the world. Wilderness Hotel Nangu, the cabin we stayed at, was super cute. Pinja understands what I like — it’s very important to me that I have a nice room. She also likes luxury when it comes to hotels; a minimum of four stars.
On this trip, I got to eat things I’ve never had, like reindeer meat. I had it with cranberry jam, and it was super delicious. I visited the stunning Helsinki Cathedral. We also went husky sledding [a sled pulled by sled dogs used to travel over ice and through snow]. We both love dogs, so that was really cute to us.
We also got to walk on a frozen lake, Lake Inari. Then later at night, we rode quad bikes on the same lake to go find the Northern Lights. It was a stunning evening; the moon was so bright. The only annoying thing about that night was that we didn’t actually get to see the Northern Lights. We went on the last day, and it didn’t come out. Still, it was a magical holiday.
Since our trip to Tunisia, we hadn’t spent that much time together. On this trip, I got to spend more than a week with her, and it reminded us of our bond in uni. There are certain friendships that no matter how long you are away from each other, they’re very easy to come back to. That’s what Pinja and I have. We’re like an old married couple, always bickering, but we love each other. She’s literally my favourite person to travel with.
When you travel with your girls, you don’t have to talk too much before you get a nice picture. You know with men, you have to train them to get your angles. And beyond that, romantic feelings complicate things. It’s easier to get into fights with your partner. But, with your girls — or, at least, with me and Pinja — it’s just easy.
We’ve actually decided that we’ll do the Finland trip again, with our partners this time. And whenever I have kids, I’d love to take them there. I never thought I’d like a winter holiday because I usually like the beach, but there was something very magical about it. I mean, it was -28°C and our car battery got so cold it refused to start, but it was all worth it.
We are trying to plan our next trip together but COVID has made it really tough. The last time we saw each other was in September. I went to London, and of course, she flew in to see me. Before that, she came to Nigeria in April for my wedding. 2020 was the only year, since we met, that I didn’t see Pinja.
She’s like my sister. We understand each other, and travelling together, experiencing things together, is definitely our love language.
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