I found my hotel with little issue and after sending some e-mails to my school letting them know what happened I tried to get a hold of my parents. The stress of the situation was starting to get to me and I wanted to hear their advice. And I’m glad that I did. They told me not to stress, to go have a beer and discover Stockholm. So I showered, dressed in my white blazer, which always makes me feel better, and set off to make some chums in Stockholm.
As soon as I started down Kungsgaten and saw the lively nightlife of Stockholm, it finally dawned on me that the ‘visa mishap ‘o-10 was really a blessing in disguise and I quickly came to three conclusions about Stockholm, traveling and life.
One, Swedish people are really, really good looking. Like, all of them. Not an ugly face in sight. I don’t know if its their blonde hair and pale complexion, their skinny frames, or as my grandma likes to say, “their nice shaped heads”, but I suddenly felt like I was surrounded by Aleksander Skarsgaards closest relatives. And all of them seemed to be procreating. Well, good for them. If my husband and I are that fantastic looking, I’d be trying to make as many babies as possible too.
Second, Stockholm is f’ing sweet. The architecture is beautiful and many of the buildings are painted in oranges and terracottas which when juxtaposed with the water is quite nice. The city is actually made up of 14 islands, so their are bridges everywhere and beautiful riverside walking paths. The temperament is sweet-natured, the shopping spectacular and there is culture waiting for you around every corner. Starving from the stress of the day and the realization that I had not eaten in twelve hours, caused a continual gravitation towards food establishments. The comfort of a McDonalds or a Burger King beckoned to me in my still uneasy state of being stranded in Stockholm, but what kind of traveling is that? I am not some pansy traveler who frequents the only Applebees in the city- I am Kristen Steagall, world traveler and eater of blood sausage, crickets, stinky cheeses and things I cannot identify! So I grabbed a table situated on a pedestrian street next to a string quartet of teenage boys (all good-looking) playing Tchaikovsky and Mozart and ordered two Carlsburgs and a falafel sandwich. Not exactly a Swedish delicacy, but the city is flush with kebab establishments as if they are a firmly planted component of the culinary culture. Actually, the more I think about it kebab/shwarma/gyro places are kind of ubiquitous in most countries. Keep gettin’ it Isreal/Lebanon- I love those little falafels!
Third, that a city is a city is a city. What makes one able to handle a city like, say NYC, should allow them to handle any city. Walk with determination but be fine with wandering aimlessly. Is that an oxymoron? Oh well. Some of the best parts of a city are discovered on accident but you don’t want to look like you are tarting around on the sidewalks- so determination, yeah, walk with it. Stop to explore store fronts, weird statues, families of feral dogs, jkjk don’t touch those- rabies, restaurant menus, whatever. People in cities are usually too busy to be watching for other people making an ass out of themselves so don’t worry what other people think as you stop to look at what kind of litter people throw in Stockholm. Mmm, is that a toblerone wrapper?… Don’t be afraid to ask directions or advice on where to eat/what to see/what to do. People genuinely want to help you, especially if you are there to explore their city, which they naturally are proud of and want to show off! After an hour of walking around, I realized that Stockholm is the perfect city for aimless wandering, with lots of side streets offering mini-adventures for those who dare to take them. Sometimes it can take a little pushing, but really put yourself out there and discover!
I wandered down some alley ways and soon felt reinvigorated and remembered all the reasons that I love to travel. I’ve discovered in the past year that I like to have a plan, no actually, I need to have a plan. I used to believe that I was ok when the plan didn’t, excuse the redundancy, go according to plan, but now I’m not so sure because woof was I stressed when I found out my visa was wrong. I did not expect to be denied access to the country that I had been mentally preparing to live in for the past six months. I was not ready to feel the sting of inadequacy at the realization that I was daft enough not to recognize a visa- or lack thereof of one. I cried and I second guessed my capabilities as a young woman in that airport in Stockholm and had thoughts of turning around and going home!
But as my dad said to me in an e-mail, “bullshit kristen. charge on boldy.” And he is right. I was not raised in a household that admitted defeat! I was raised in a household that had me yelling “I am woman hear my roar” at soccer practices and challenging conventional wisdom at every corner. I am not a girl that gets discouraged at a little visa mishap. I am the girl who at age 16 flew herself to Colorado and went desert backpacking for three weeks with fifteen total strangers, battling tennis ball sized blisters, class five rapids and mistaking layers of grim and dirt as a nice tan. I am the girl who at eighteen flew home from Scotland alone, after spending some time with my friends, only to be escorted out of customs by a police officer for smuggling in whiskey underage. (Note of caution: when trying to sneak illegal substances over the border do not check that you had played with cows on a farm. They will most definitely pull you aside and give you a more thorough checking. Not exactly the pinnacle of stealth.) I am the girl who bushwacked her way through the Amazon to drink chicha with a tribal leader of the Achuar people and spent two months getting to know the ins and outs of Ecuadorian culture, meeting destitute mothers and ambassadors sons alike. I do not shy from adventure! I call it forward.
With this mentality reinstated, I realized that I had no limits! As long as I have my wits about me, my glasses and some money, the world is my playground.
I got tired though so I went back to my hotel. One more day in Stockholm and this time I will bring my camera!