It’s now been about a month since I’ve left the United States. It feels unreal saying that, like I have both the feeling of barely even being overseas, and also feeling like it’s been a lifetime since I’ve been home. I have loved having the opportunity to explore the various cities I’ve been in, but I have noticed a change in my excitement to see what the countries have to offer. Initially, when I was in Copenhagen, it felt like I was always on the go, and couldn’t waste a single second. Every day had to be filled with an activity, whether it be checking out popular tourist spots like The Little Mermaid statue or visiting Rosenborgs Palace. Now that I’m in Sweden and have had much more time to acclimate myself to being abroad, I’ve noticed my sense of adventure is much more relaxed. While of course I still have sights on my bucket list to check out while I’m here, such as the Abba Museum or Skansen park to celebrate midsommar, I don’t feel the need to constantly fill my itinerary up with things to do. I am just as satisfied going to a local park and reading / journaling, or taking a leisurely stroll around the narrow streets of Sweden.
I find that this is a great way to spend my time because I’m still able to soak up what the country has to offer, without pushing my body and mind too much. I know that in Denmark, I found myself exhausted at the end of every day, and often felt guilty for not giving myself the rest I deserve. After all, how could I possibly continue to go out and explore the city when my body didn’t even feel adequately rested from my escapades from the previous day?
One of my favorite leisurely pastimes I’ve discovered while being in Stockholm is “fika”. Fika is a Swedish custom described as “a break from activity during which people drink coffee, eat cakes, or other light snacks, and relax with others.” I love the thought of this tradition, because it really highlights cultural differences from America. Back at home, there’s definitely more of a push to keep yourself busy, especially during the work day. Hard work and grit is celebrated, while relaxation and time off can be equated to laziness. However in Sweden, fika is an extremely important tradition, even in the workplace. My professor even told us that fika is the most important aspect of business deals. You can miss a meeting at the workplace, but never fika with a client. This is an aspect of daily life that I wish was implemented more back home. While of course having determination and ambition are powerful traits to possess for success in America, I think the amount of overworking I see back home can create unrealistic expectations for how one should spend their free time, and create extreme levels of stress.
Upon my arrival back in the U.S., I want to make an effort to remember these moments of relaxation and the importance of not constantly letting work or school consume my thoughts. I find this to be one of my greatest lessons I have learned thus far: balance and moderation are key.