A Week With A Special Swedish Family
I had to wait for more than a week to continue my ride in the Scandinavia. There was some miscommunication and I was expecting a package coming from the US. After a long wait, I discovered that the package was never delivered to my address in Sweden. So I wasted nearly 2 weeks here. But it doesn’t really matter. Everything happens for a good reason. Sometimes, great experiences come not only while we are on the road, but it also happens when we stay in a place for a period of time too.
I stayed a few days in Uppsala with my friend Jonas, killing some time walking around and exploring the small town of Uppsala. We went together with Johanna to Stockholm for a night to have dinner my other friend, Pouya, who used to visit me also a year ago in Malaysia. Stockholm is only some 40 minutes train ride from Uppsala. We stayed only for a few hours there before we got back to Uppsala. It’s a beautiful city but I’m not really interested to see cities. This is probably the only city I will visit here in the Scandinavia. Don’t think I will ride to Helsinki in Finland or even Oslo in Norway. I’ll be only in the wild… mountains… lakes… and fjords!!
After a while staying in Uppsala waiting… I got bored and wanted to get close to nature… and explore the Swedish landscapes. The woman I met earlier, Karen, who is also a cyclist and a photographer, invited me to her house, where she lives in a beautiful forest. So I thought, while waiting for my package, why not I just wait there on Bjorklinge instead of Uppsala. Its only some 25km north of Uppsala. So I decided to leave Jonas house and cycled to Bjorklinge instead. I then met the husband in Bjorklinge, Fredrik, a very nice and helpful guy who directed me to their house in the forest. I arrived when its already dark and they welcomed me with big smiles and lots of food!
It was really interesting to meet them. I guess it is fated for us to cross our path in life. Karen and Fredrik used to cycle from Sweden all the way to India, and back! It was a distant memory for them to live their lives on the road. Surely they learned so many things on the road and one of them is being hospitable. They were really nice to me and took a good care of me like Im one of the family members. They cook delicious food for me all the time. Sometimes I don’t feel good that I might interfere their privacy, since Im staying with their whole family. They have 2 lovely kids and I can see that they managed to balance their lives perfectly between work and personal life. Fredrik is working in Uppsala with flexible working hours and Karen does wedding photography mostly. Shes mostly stucked in front of her computer most of the time doing editing but sometimes she would go out skiing to the forest with her kids.
Since they are experience cyclists and know the Swedish forest really well, I learned some tips from them. Fredrik gave me some tips on making fire in the forest during winter, let me to experience Nordic ski and ice skating. I tried to ski in the forest but most of the time I was struggling instead of skiing… hehehe… The snow is really deep here in Sweden, twice as what I have experienced in Central Asia and China. Sometimes I fell in really deep snow until almost my waist. It is impossible to get through these places on bicycle, especially with heavy luggage. The only way to move around here is by using the Nordic ski.
After a few days of waiting, I finally realized that the package Ive been waiting was never to be delivered. It was actually some winter camping stuff coming from the US, a strong 4 season tent, a winter sleeping bag and a Himalayan Parka. So I decided to get back to Uppsala to get some stuff from the outdoor shop. My previous tent and sleeping bag are just like a toilet paper here in the Scandinavian winter. I need something really strong. So I got myself a really strong yet bulky sleeping bag by Mammut and a very light yet strong 4 season tent by Hillberg. Since I’m here, I better try some Swedish tent rather than American tent. They told me that the American tent are way too heavy for them and the 2 person tent that I got weight only 2.3kg, that’s very sweet for a cyclist! I then went back to the forest in Bjorklinge to test the sleeping bag. I slept in the forest without a tent, just a mat and the sleeping bag to see how badass is the bulky sleeping bag. It was mostly around -2 to -3 celcius for the whole night and it reached the lowest at around -7 celcius early in the morning for an hour. Surprising I didn’t struggle from the cold, I felt really warm inside the sleeping bag for the whole night and slept really well.
I spent a week staying with them. And within that one week, it has changed us from being a complete stranger to feeling close like a family. It is true that traveling can really change a person. They trusted me and let this stranger to live with their kids inside their house. It is surely because I came with my bicycle, traveling in the most humble way. And they have tasted that life too, living the life on the road. They know what I will go through in this journey, especially riding here in the northern Scandinavia on winter, they know that I might be facing many problems on the road, since they have experienced it along their over 15000km on the road from Europe to Asia. So far in my travel days, most of the danger didn’t come from the weather or wild animals, but people. I used to get beaten and robbed in Asia. I used to get cheated many times in places where I don’t understand the local language. But somehow, life is always balance. The one that helped me to come out with the solution is also the people. And people like Fredrik and Karen understand that. They were so helpful to me and their hospitality matches the people who live along the Silk Road. They made my travel days here in Sweden colourful and I don’t feel lonely here. I don’t even feel homesick when I meet these kind of people.