When you are a first time traveler, everything is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Once arriving in Stockholm, Sweden, I was looking every which way and just absorbing the fact that I’m really in Europe, studying abroad. Still feels kind of crazy, even though I have somewhat of a routine since it’s been a week since classes started. However, I did have the opportunity to arrive about a week early to move into DIS housing, so I took the chance to stay in a hostel to get used to Sweden, recover from my jet lag, and gain some confidence being a “solo traveler” for a week.
Thanks to the hostel app I used, I was able to meet people to explore with on the fly. No sooner did I drop off my luggage, I was on a journey to explore Stockholm with about six other young women. Within my first 24 hours of being in Stockholm, I had already checked the ABBA museum off my list, eaten really good Swedish meatballs, and been to my first ever Ikea (bonus points for the Ikea being in the motherland).
As I laid in my bed in the hostel after such an adventurous day, I had one thought to myself: I need to slow down.
I need to slow down. I need to slow down. Even though my time in Stockholm was temporary, I wanted to fully digest my experience. Exploring and experiencing Stockholm and learning about Swedish culture as a group was exhilarating, but also somewhat unfulfilling. The disadvantage of roaming around with a large group of people you just met is the fact that everyone is traveling at the pace of the group, not everyone’s individual pace. Don’t get me wrong, I was and am super thankful for meeting new people on the first day, but I felt that I would feel unsatisfied if I rushed through every museum, used Google to to explore every nook and cranny instead of going it organically, and didn’t explore at a pace that felt genuine to me. So the next day, I decided to explore a place that I knew I could reflect quietly and gain some confidence exploring in: the library.
Specifically the Stockholm Public Library was my choice for the day. And it was a pretty good plan; it was raining that day, so what a perfect day to explore inside a picturesque library.
Exploring a location in which I felt some familiarity (despite it being in a different country) helped me feel grounded. And confident. Confidence was going to be a key tool I needed to keep holstered if I wanted to get the most out of my travel and study abroad experience. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to achieve such confidence, but I knew if I took it one step at a time and abided by Ms. Frizzle’s catchphrase (“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy”…although not too messy), I would look back on my study abroad experience as a changed woman.
Fate would have it that someone would reach out to me first. A girl named Anne from Germany was also staying in the same hostel as me and reached out to hang out and explore Stockholm together. She actually had reached out when we were forming a group of people to go to the ABBA museum, but she was staying a couple more days in Stockholm, while the remaining members of our group were leaving for other countries. She asked me if I wanted to walk around Stockholm during the evening and go on a walking tour with her the next day. I gladly said yes; I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to make a new friend and get more comfortable with Sweden.
During our collective exploration, we talked about culture differences between the United States and Germany, recommendations of places to visit that the other person hadn’t gone to yet, study abroad experiences (Anne was studying abroad as well and was going back to continue her studies after her travels), and sometimes just walked with pleasant silence between us. We were able to digest some Swedish history throughout our walking tour. We relaxed in parks with warm breezes kissing our skin. We hiked up a rock (which my attire was not ready for) and witnessed a beautiful sunset that fell behind Stockholm’s skyline. I’m not sure if she knew it at the time, but her companionship helped me feel comfortable. Not simply because I was traveling with another person, but because I had found a friend. My first friend, who was departing from Stockholm the next morning, but who had also strengthened my confidence in regards to travel: exploring and embracing the unknown.
It really is the friends you make along the way.
Here is a link to view pictures related to this blog! : https://photos.app.goo.gl/mNUykjmb7yr7Lknz8