the first stop on our ten-day tour of scandinavia was a two nights’ stay in stockholm, sweden. landing in sweden was a big moment for me as i’ve never been to europe before. over the summer, i found that each time i had the opportunity to tell someone what i was doing with my life increased my excitement yet another notch. even more than describing my pending move to london, i looked forward to telling them about this trip to scandinavia – two nights in stockholm, three nights in tallinn, estonia, and a final four nights in helsinki, finland. not only was i traveling to europe for the first time, i was about to see a corner of the world not often visited by the average american in europe. i experienced this feeling yet again as kim, emily, and i explained our reason for visiting to the customs officer in the stockholm-arlanda airport. my heart leaped at the sound of the stamp in my passport!
Monthly Archives: August 2008
touching down on the runway, the first thing i saw out the window was trees – row after row of gorgeous pines. exactly what i’d always pictured in my mind of the country. as we walked down the terminal to the baggage claim, the three of us immediately noticed the incredible quiet that pervaded the building. not just i
n the voices of the people around us, who spoke in low, hushed tones, but also in the decor of the terminal. no neon. no flashy signs. nothing screaming at us. it was all so subdued. the intense quiet continued on the streets of stockholm and into the city. everything seemed so ordered, so in place. we had to catch ourselves so many times from being too loud. sitting around in the dining area of our hostel one night, we had to laugh at another group of americans who clearly hadn’t caught on. all of the other travelers sat to themselves, quietly continuing on conversations, but a group of three american guys boisterously discussed whether or not to label their food in the hostel refrigerator. thankfully, we picked up on the subdued tone of the europeans around us, but we’re still intrigued as to the source of their silence.
back to the stockholm airport, it’s hard to express the huge sigh of relief we all let out as each one of our bags came down the luggage ramp. we did it! i am amazed at how much i have to be grateful for here. each time we get on the right bus, go down the right street, connect to the right flight, or arrive at our hostel is such a small yet wonderful accomplishment. when we reached our stockholm hostel, it wasn’t yet check-in time, so we left our bags in the luggage room, freshened up a bit, and set out for gamla stan, the old town of stockholm.
(somehow in the rush of packing, i forgot to pick up my usb cord connecting my camera to my laptop. thankfully, it’s being shipped to london, but until then, i’m afraid i’ll be using google images to supplement my writing…)
gamla stan was gorgeous. i cannot repeat that enough. it was everything i had always envisioned about europe – cobblestone streets, outdoor cafes, town squares, brownstones, window boxes overflowing with geraniums. our first afternoon, we wandered through gamla stan for hours, even passing the same italian cafe close to ten times as we learned to navigate that part of town! when we were close to passing out from hunger, we stopped at a little cafe where emily and i feasted on crepes with jam and whipped cream – pannkakor m sylt o gradde. delightful!
as we walked around in a place steeped in beauty and history, we all kept saying, “i can’t believe we’re here, this is so surreal!” and as surreal as walking the cobblestone streets of an almost 900-year old european town is, it also felt so oddly natural. it was the strangest juxtaposition of emotions. it has always been the biggest dream of mine to see europe and it was a dream that i knew would eventually be realized. it had always been a matter of timing or finances, and i kept waiting for my first opportunity to visit europe. after months of planning and working and saving, i had finally arrived. all i could say was, it’s about time! i felt so at home in stockholm. maybe it was my blond hair and blue eyes that helped me not stand out as a tourist, but it felt so comfortable. i was talking to a good friend of mine the other night on skype, and we discussed the fact that there is a basic set of city navigational skills – reading a map, learning to take the subway, etc. – that once you have learned and somewhat mastered, it’s not hard to get around in a city, minding the language barrier, of course! when you feel comfortable navigating a city, you don’t feel that out of place – even in a city where you don’t speak the language.
speaking of knowing the language, kim, emily, and i taught ourselves a few swedish phrases so we wouldn’t feel so american in stockholm. hello is “hey”- easily enough – and they often repeat it, greeting you with a cheerful, “hey hey.” not far from that is “hey do,” which means good-bye, and thank you is “tack.” even learning those few phrases helped me feel more at home in sweden. i found myself really wishing i knew the language, feeling ignorant and so american that i could only speak english. when i was in high school, i loved foreign languages and even thought about going on to work as a translator. when i got to college, though, the difficulty of upper-level language classes was intimidating and i didn’t continue on with any language. being in stockholm revived my love for languages. it’s frustrating to me that so many americans only know english. i was astounded by the number of swedes who spoke english, and even our tour guide today in tallinn was able to converse in several different languages. but there were moments when i stood in line at a grocery store or at the stockholm airport and said, “hey hey,” and the employee would begin speaking to me in swedish. i was so excited they thought i was swedish. of course, i quickly followed my “hey” with “i’m sorry, can you repeat that?” but at least i had a temporary connection with them!
i’ll leave you with one more shot from Gamla Stan…
on the walls of the day
in the shade of the sun
we wrote down
another vision of us
we are the challengers of
^ the new pornographers, “challengers”
challengers of the unknown.
i first discovered this song last summer and fell in love with the idea of challenging the unknown. it’s how i’ve been wired, it’s how i’ve lived my life since a young girl, and it can’t more perfectly express the path my life is taking right now.
so here i am – in tallinn, estonia – writing the inaugural post of my blog. ever-so-hesitant to start one over the past few years as blogging has gained popularity, i figured there was no time like the present. no greater time to share a record of my life with my friends and family than on the brink of a great adventure. i am currently touring scandinavia with two of my good college friends, kim and emily, before we fly to london on the 15th and begin a six-month stay in the city. with passports and work visas in hand, we are ready to taste the british life and experience a new culture in a way only possible by taking up residence there.
my initial idea for this blog was to focus on our travels – first, scandinavia, then on other forays into europe we might take while in london. however, as i started thinking of titles for this record, i realized there is so much more going on in this experience than just being able to see europe for the first time. my decision to move to london after my college graduation was only one decision in a string of choices i have made in the past couple of years that have changed the course of my life – for instance, choosing one major over another, simply for the love of the degree, not for the financial security and potential job opportunities it might present after graduation. in the spring of my fourth year, i was overwhelmed by my lack of direction in terms of a career. after months of applying and interviewing for jobs and hearing back nothing in return, i ran into kim and emily one night. the first thing kim said to me on that april evening was, “candace, come to london with us!” as crazy as it sounded, i knew i had to do it. one consistent desire of mine throughout my fourth year was to do something big after graduation. to have an adventure, to do something i could never do again. this was it. i read ian mcewan’s on chesil beach at the beginning of the summer and was struck by one of the closing lines in the book:
this is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.
i didn’t want that to be me. i didn’t want to wake up twenty years from now and regret not taking advantage of any opportunity i received. but on the other hand, something i’ve struggled with so many times throughout my life is trust. as an overly self-reliant person, it’s hard to let go sometimes and trust God can – and will – take care of things without me micro-managing my own life. the choice to go to london was no different. could i trust God to take care of the thousand details required to plan such a move? earlier this summer, i wrote a song all about the vital importance of taking chances in life. part of the bridge contains these lines:
when life denies a crystal ball
you have to learn to take the fall
with just a blindfold and a prayer
you might have noticed the title of this blog in the last line. while racking my brain for a fitting name, i kept coming back to this line: with just a blindfold and a prayer. as much as i wanted to focus on traveling and my intense wanderlust in this blog, there is more at stake here – it is about watching my faith and trust and courage expand exponentially through this experience.
i’ll end this post with a quote that sums up exactly why i am doing what i am:
there comes a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.