On the 11th of January my husband and I and our daughter landed at Arlanda airport in Sweden. Not for a holiday but to live here. Maybe for a year, or maybe for 10. We don’t know and NOT having a plan feels so FREE!
This is actually the third time I have moved to Sweden and although I found the winters very hard, it feels good and right to be back.
My husband’s sister and a friend met us at the airport to bring us a car and take some of our luggage. This was a big help, as we three were going off to isolation. NO seeing family and daughters who we haven’t seen for years, just direct to isolation. But we are not just here on holiday and have endless time ahead of us, so it’s ok. After being locked into West Australia for so long (due to protecting the covid zero status) it feels THRILLING just to have arrived in another country. Seeing loved ones will be the icing on the cake later.
I should mention that hardly anyone travels overseas out of West Australia the last two years because it is near impossible to get back in. The W.A. govt has locked up the state like a fort to try keep out covid! WE do not need to go back to W.A. for a long time so no problems for us. We just had to show our Swedish documentation at Perth airport to be allowed out. They don’t want you boomeranging back and Sweden is currently not letting anyone in except citizens and those with PR.
We took the car from the airport and drove northwards through the snowy Swedish countryside. Unbelievably beautiful. We have seen it before but we stared anyway. Then we arrived at the cottage. I doubt there could be a nicer way to start our life in Sweden than in this beautiful little stuga (country cottage) surrounded by forest and snow. It is owned by relatives who have lent it to us. SO grateful.
Contrast. Before we flew out we worked like trojans from sunup to sundown. Every day for months. Packing and sorting and doing endless administration. And a major thing was finishing 100 renovation jobs on the house ready to rent it out. Also it was SO hot. 41 degrees some days.
Now we sit here in the cabin on PAUSE. You can’t get anymore paused than in isolation in a forest blanketed in snow! It is so quiet and so still. And we are loving the cool weather. It is about 40 degrees cooler outside here!
The biggest challenge of the last months was packing all our stuff. I had thought we were minimalists. Our house even looked a bit bare! But when you pull your stuff out of every cupboard, draw and shelf it’s plain horrifying. It’s overwhelming but you can’t ignore it. It has to be sorted and packed.
What we brought to Sweden. Between the three of us we packed 4 big cases of check-in luggage, plus our 3 cabin luggage bags. A total of 120kgs went with us on the flight! We also packed another 4 boxes that went by air freight which were another 120kg! We packed most of our clothes, our best shoes, around 15 favourite books each, and some favourite housewares. It was tiring brain work but fascinating to assess what you really would take with you if you were moving to a desert island. Ok not really but similar! Then there is the weighing of every case and box and a trip the Chiropractor afterwards… It is SUCH a relief when it is all done.
During the last weeks before we left we sold ALL our furniture and white-goods. A radical step yes but storage and shipping is so expensive. I am a human though, so I did grieve for a few months thinking about how I was going to disassemble our home. A home I had creatively put together over years, with all things in their place and looking beautiful. A home full of memories with our girls and friends.
The shock for me was that when each item of furniture actually got picked up by the buyers at the end, I was not bothered! I didn’t care! I was obviously ready.
So we sold all the furniture and set ourselves free. It’s the most amazing feeling! Who knew! (Not that I would recommend home disassembly for the sake of it!) And we brought a modest 240 kilos to Sweden. Thats not bad for a family of three moving countries!
However I have to confess we are not living the minimalist adventure-junkie dream totally. We did leave 44 plastic storage tubs of small stuff in storage! I have calculated we brought 25% of our belongings here, and left 75%! We culled so much, but evidently not enough. While I was packing it all, which took a thousand hours, I thought about those adventure minimalists who only own 34 items in total, in a backpack, and have a photo of it all laid out. Yeah. I so wanted to be one of them. All that sorting and packing did steal time I could have spent with people, or enjoying the beach.
At the cabin. Anyway… I want to tell you about Iso. Iso being that awesome Aussie abbreviation for isolation.
Here we are. Blankets of snow outside and blankets around us inside. There is the quiet that you only experience in times of snow. All we hear is a bit of wind in the trees. The sun creeps up over the southern horizon for a while each day, and then goes down to rest for another 16 hours. Shot days and long nights. Perfect for rest. And we have music, candles and the fire.
We also have food, which is an obsession when you are isolated. We are eating many of the Swedish foods we had missed. Crispbreads, pea and ham soup, kaviar spread, fläderblom cordial, ostbågar, and godis (Swedish lollies).
During our first week we took walks down to the ocean. We drove to the nearest small village and got some food when we needed. We also went to a bigger town – Norrtälje – to register ourselves at the Tax Office as being IN the country. That is vital so that our personal numbers get re-activated. Yep that’s a thing here.
Our lovely teen daughter was here with us until day 6 when we sent her on a bus to Grandmas ahead of us. We planned to clean and leave the next day. But then my husband got a cold. Omicron is everywhere so I drove to the nearest small town to get a covid test kit. $13 at the ciggie counter. I nearly laughed at the casual availability of tests, after living in the fearful covid free West Australia. In W.A. 2 cases is a drama that gets the whole state masked up. After 15 minutes my husband had a positive result from his DIY nose swab. So convenient to get instant results! And the next day I got omicron too. So then we had to stay here in the forest another week.
After considering this move almost daily for three years, I guess we can wait another week to properly arrive! And thankfully we are not too sick. It is not as bad as the non-covid flu I had in Perth last year. We have been weak, and had some fevers and a bit of cough. But not too bad. We had our second vaccination recently in November and maybe that is why it is mild. Anyway, we rest and eat and sleep. We are longing to leave iso and see our family. But also treasuring this rare moment of stillness. It is a once in a lifetime experience.
And as I just said to my husband; another week of stillness may help us be nicer people after the utter exhaustion of the move. Moving a family across countries involves so much work and administration and organisation. It’s like building a whole business. It is relentless. You need to be desperate to do it.
So for us to STOP here now and rest is a GIFT. God knew exactly what we needed.
So… until my next installment, hugs from here and thanks for reading.
You are welcome to leave a comment or check out my earlier posts on living simpler and slower.