14 Sep 159 646km // SKELLEFTEÅ // SWEDEN
If I told you that we’d made 218 new friends in the past 18 months, would you believe me? People from Australia, Norway, Canada, Singapore and Italy. People aged 18, 45, and 31. People who we had planned encounters with, and people who miraculously stumbled into our lives, and now we have them on speed dial (ok, so we don’t actually have them on speed dial, because, well, we don’t make any calls these days, but if we had actively-calling phones, we’d have these people on speed dial).
It’s no secret that travel broadens your network and allows you to meet people from completely different walks of life. I guess Stevo and I expected to meet people on the journey; it’s the inevitable when you’re on the road for so long.
But we didn’t realise we’d make such tight friendships that we’d be venturing to far away places – places we’d never even heard of – to meet them.
So on that note, our recent trip to Skellefteå has this backstory:
- Two months into our journey, we visit Alta at the top of Norway, to experience our first Workaway (this was back in May 2015).
- We live in a cosy wooden cabin for five weeks with a Swedish photographer-turned-dog-musher, named Stefan.
- Stefan teaches us about Norwegian life in the Arctic circle, how to make coffee on a wood-burning fire, and how to carve spoons.
- We love our Workaway experience; we listen to 70 huskies howl daily, pick up their poop twice daily, and go running in the forests with them all the time. We collect wood, peel bark, trim branches, and build an outdoor coffee area for guests.
- Stefan proposes a photo shoot, so we jump into the freezing cold Alta river for our favourite profile pic EVER (seen on our landing page of our site too).
- Our five weeks almost come to an end, so we spontaneously decide to head off on a road trip to the northern most tip of Europe, with only the midnight sun guiding us.
- We eventually leave Alta, leave the huskies, and leave Stefan, starting a WhatsApp group called “Chats…and Maybe Hats” (the name we gave our hypothetical future joint business with Stefan), to stay in touch.
- We Skype often, hearing about Stefan’s life and watch how his new love relationship grow stronger, and his manly Swedish beard grow longer.
And then, over a year had passed, and we receive an invitation to join Stefan, his family, and his new wife, the lovely Nina, in Stefan’s hometown, for a catch-up.
“Baby, we’re going to Skellefteå!” I scream. And here’s why…
Firstly, it’s Swedish Lapland, so in our minds we’re thinking unmatched beauty, Nordic wildlife, and sunny outdoor heaven 24-hrs a day (happy to report it was exactly as we pictured). Secondly, it’s a chance to see our we-will-now-be-friends-forever friend, Stefan, and meet the love of his life (who, also happy to report, is as lovely as he made her out to be). Lastly, it’s an opportunity to explore an area that hasn’t been featured and photographed a lot, because unless you’re Swedish or frequent the northern territories of Scandinavia, you probably haven’t heard of Skellefteå (which is pronounced “Share-left-your” FYI).
Post-trip (and reflecting on the craziness) I can say that this was one of those unforgettable trips, with a series of unexpected experiences:
We watched a famous Swedish rapper give a concert on a raft in the middle of a river (while we watched upstream in a blow-up rubber dingy).
We attended a 62nd birthday party, picked blueberries in the garden, and then ate them with some birthday cake after lunch.
We completely tricked our tastebuds (and every other sane part of our bodies) by trying 4-month old pickled herring for dinner (which scarred Stevo into never eating herring again).
We visited a craft brewery (at a neighbour’s garage), had fika (the Swedish tradition of tea and cake) twice daily, and spent a night fishing in the river, sweating in the sauna and sleeping in a tipi at a secluded campsite (which we had all to ourselves) to end off our visit.
And we were only there for 4 days!
I think what I loved the most though, (besides the insanely vast vegan selection in the town – thank you Sweden!) was the warmth of Stefan’s parents, who hosted us in their beautiful hometown, went out of their way to show us a good time, and gave us a very good piece of advice: “Home is where your friends are”. Thanks again you guys – we can’t wait to come back for a little more fika and a little less Surstömming.
And thank you Skellefteå – you’re a truly hidden gem in beautiful Swedish Lapland. There’s a mountain cabin with our name on it, so expect to see us again.