Five Favorite Things: Sweden

Five Favorites, Travel

I’m coming up on five years since I flew to Sweden.

For those who don’t know, I spent six months in 2016 studying abroad just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. My time there allowed me to travel extensively through Europe and enjoy Stockholm from darkness to never-ending light. When I arrived in January, the sun began to set at 3 p.m. and it would be pitch black outside by 4. While this didn’t stop me from taking trips to IKEA or adventuring around European cities like Brussels and Prague, it did put a hamper on my ability to enjoy Stockholm. It wasn’t until later months, when the sun never really set, that I found myself learning to love Sweden and all Stockholm had to offer. I thought I would reflect on my five favorite things about Sweden five years later.

Number one: the mixture of the new and the old. Stockholm, in particular, is a great example of how Sweden mixes the new and the old. Gamla Stan (the old town) is filled with rich history and is right across a bridge from modern style buildings. You could spend hours wandering the narrow streets and feel like you’ve been transported back in time, before stepping across a bridge and eating a hamburger (at Max Burgers) in the modern day. Not far away is The Vasa Museum – a museum dedicated to a failed war ship pulled mostly intact from the bottom of the harbor – located right next to the Abba Museum.

Number two: the smaller cities. I’m not a huge fan of big cities – there’s too many people and too much going on. But the smaller cities that I was able to visit in Sweden were wonderful. Sigtuna, Sweden’s first city, is a small town that is a day trip away from Stockholm. You can spend a day wandering the town, hanging out by the lake, and eating along the pedestrian street. Stockholm is nice, but I really loved my time wondering roads in Malmö and Gothenburg; though not as small as Sigtuna, they offered a reprieve from the big city.

Number three: the public transportation. The biggest thing I miss about Sweden (but also Europe in general) is the public transportation. You can get just about anywhere on a train or bus. Relatively easily (and for relatively cheap) you can go from the suburbs where I lived in Flemingsberg (near Södertörn University) to the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, to Drottningholm Palace to the coolest cemetery, Skogskyrkogården, to the airport. Even when there’s a disruption to the service, you have multiple options that will get you where you need to go.

Number four: the adaptability. Though I might complain about how cold it was in Sweden when I first arrived or about how dark it got at 3 p.m. for the first month I spent there, I loved that the country adapted as needed. Sure you didn’t stay out as late in the winter months, but you still bundled up and powered through – a blanket and a space heater to eat outside and some proper shoes will keep you going. And then just six months later, when the sun never fully sets, you spend as much time outside as possible. I try to keep this adaptability in mind when I’m freezing on D.C.’s one cold day a year.

Number five: the Swedes. So much of my enjoyment of my time in Sweden was based on the very basics of life in Sweden. Things were efficient. People were polite, welcoming, and orderly. Everything was clean. There was an emphasis on living with nature, rather than fighting against it. And everything just felt balanced.

Sweden is definitely on my list of places to return to and explore so more, but I might just do that when it’s summer. I’ve had enough cold, dark days for now.

Five Favorite Things: Finding Joy

Five Favorites

On January 1, 2020, I wrote little notes to myself, reflecting on the night I had and looking forward to the next year. I didn’t really write any resolutions, but I did challenge myself to spend this year finding joy. This year has not been easy for anyone, but finding little spots of joy has helped tremendously. So here are my five favorite things that sparked joy in my life recently.

Music. I’ve rediscovered Spotify playlists recently. As I’m working from home and not bothering anyone else, I can put on tunes and take a dance break between data entry or a FaceTime with a friend. My favorite joyful Spotify playlists right now are Feelin’ Good, the Cleaning Kit playlist, and Songs to Sing in the Shower.

YouTube. I’ve found it really difficult to laugh recently – it just doesn’t seem right. But I give myself a reprieve sometimes and it makes me feel a little better. One of the ways I do that is by watching YouTube blooper reels. Many shows post their blooper reels on YouTube (or fans put them up for everyone’s enjoyment) and I often times find them funnier than the show itself. Can 10 out of 10 recommend. Another bonus of YouTube is a British show called Taskmaster, which has been uploading an episode each week.

Plants. My love for my plant roommates is not new. They’re a core part of my adult life and seeing them grow genuinely makes me happy. At last count, I had fourteen individual plants living with me, soaking up sun, and giving me structure. Once a week or so, I spend time watering them, checking for dead leaves, and making sure they are happy. And it brings me joy.

Reading. This year in general, I’ve reached for books more frequently than in the past. Perhaps because I don’t have academic reading in the way or maybe because I’ve been spending so much time staring at a computer screen, but the ability to spend an afternoon with my nose in a paperback has been really calming. Recent reads include We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Normal People, and Things You Save in a Fire. (If you are searching for new reading material, check your local library for an Overdrive or online rental account or buy from local bookstores through Bookshop.org.)

Yoga. Sitting all day has wrecked havoc on my back. But my weekly yoga class has moved to Zoom. While I’m not a huge fan of Zoom classes, doing yoga twice a week has made my back a lot happier and given me a reason to put on a sports bra (the only type of bra I’m even considering wearing right now) and get a tiny bit sweaty. Though I may get frustrated with my class, I genuinely feel better when I get up afterwards. (If you’re interested in yoga, YouTube is a good place to start.)

Basically, it’s little things everywhere. Where are you finding joy right now?