the art of traveling spontaneously

the older i get, the less i want to plan.

i think that feeling comes from the understanding that aging gives you that life almost never turns out as one plans it. there are unknown paths, unplanned paths, frightening paths, and soul-touching paths all along the road of life.

yes, it’s good to have an idea, a goal, and a dream. but, it is also very important to heed the lesson of the road: the unexpected is a huge part of the journey. and the journey is the whole point (not the destination).

learning to go with the flow, to be flexible, to simply align one’s life with the cycle of energy and movement of the journey of life is a gift. one that aids in teaching us to  slow down, to trust, and to embrace the present moment.

with all of that said, learning to follow the way of life, learning to go with the flow, to relax, and to live in the present moment, accepting things as they come and staying grounded + rooted in the depths of who we authentically are, allows us to live a spontaneous life. a life that becomes full of adventure (even without going on great adventures) and deep meaning. a spontaneous life helps us to stay alert, open, and energized, helping us live life on a higher plane, and in a deeper way, than simply existing. and, seriously, who wants to merely exist?

spontaneity soaks the best out of every single moment. it inspires us to get out of our little boring boxes and try new things. it gives us experiences that we’d never imagine we could or would have.

the older i get, the more spontaneous i become. and the more i reject rigid, planned ways of living. and that goes for my traveling as well.

my love and i woke up last friday morning knowing that we wanted to have an adventure. the sun was shining and it was warm. it was a glorious summer day in sweden. as we had done the day before, we knew that we’d like to take a little trip somewhere close to uppsala. a day trip, we thought.

so, we began brainstorming. discussing. and trying to decide. in the end, we said, “let’s go to stockholm again! and stay for the weekend!”.

so, even though this would be our third little trip to stockholm in 2 weeks, i hopped online and looked for an available airbnb for friday night until sunday. yep. last minute to the max. i found a funky apartment in södermalm (our favorite neighborhood) and sent a request to book. then we waited. and waited. and waited. no response from the host.

we packed our bags, hopped the train, and headed off to stockholm for the weekend anyway. without any place to stay. no worries. it would all work out.

soder-me-and-my-love soder-summer soder-beach soder-waterfront-feet

of course, by 2pm, as we sat by the water in södermalm, just enjoying the view and the weather, we still didn’t have anywhere to stay. and we were both totally calm about it. i finally cancelled the previous request and sent out another. this time i got a response back pretty quickly. “sorry, i am out of town and don’t think i can work it out.”

at this point we still did not panic, but we decided to begin thinking about other options. just about 5 minutes later, i got another response from the host who said that she’d spoken too soon. that, if we could meet her in the evening, she could accommodate us. perfect! airbnb booked!

getting hungry, we strolled around for a while, ate some lunch, ducked into some funky vintage shops, drank some coffee, wandered streets we’d never seen before, spied around peoples’ homes… sneaking peeks at their backyard gardens, and set a date with two friends for later that evening. all the while, taking it minute by minute, the only thing planned was meeting our host at 7pm and then drinks at 7:15.

soder-city-street

we made our way to our södermalm neighborhood, hornstull, and walked around a bit before meeting our host. turns out, hornstull was known as the sketchy part of söder just a while back. if, söder is greenwich village, then hornstull is alphabet city/the lower east side. of course gentrification had already found its way to hornstull a few years back, so its edginess wasn’t quite so edgy. still, it did feel a bit different than other parts of södermalm. which was exactly what we wanted: to discover new little gems + uncover quirky places.

we quickly got a tour of our airbnb apartment, got the keys, and then said goodbye to our host. she had done a fabulous job preparing the place for us at the last minute, and we were ever so grateful.

here’s a little peek at her vintage, funky apartment… with a balcony! (that was our goal with this airbnb visit).

soder-airbnb-kitchen soder-airbnb-living-room soder-airbnb-living-room-2 soder-airbnb-balcony-open soder-airbnb-balcony-1

as i mentioned before, we had a date with two friends for drinks, so we quickly sprayed a little perfume – we’d been walking for hours. and headed out the door for a few beers just around the corner. then we walked a bit more, getting the feel of the area and, looking up at the sky, realized that we needed to walk out on a nearby bridge to catch a view of the gorgeous sunset.

soder-harbor-sunset soder-sunset

saturday morning came and we both were practically giggly due to the fact that we had slept with the doors to the balcony open! what a luxury! we laid in bed for a while, discussing our day. making no plans whatsoever except to go get breakfast. it’s like we were completely drawn into the spontaneous, living in the moment world. what a gift it was.

soder-airbnb-bedroom soder-breakfast

the rest of the day we literally took it as it came. we made decisions to turn on this street or stop in that café as we felt the urge to. there was no agenda. no time frame. it was pure vacation mode all the way. and we remarked how blessed we were.

soder-street soder-lina-fika soder-second-hand-building soder-sticker-street

after wandering the streets and we decided that we did have one mission: to find some shoes that we were both dying to have (different shoes, mind you. we don’t match our shoes! hehe!). no luck in the shoe hunt, but we did manage to cover pretty much all of södermalm. like for realz.

on our way back towards the hornstull area, where we were staying, i decided to take us on the outskirts of the west side of the island, by the water. we walked and walked and walked. so much so, that it seemed that our legs were just on autopilot after a while. yes, our feet were so tired.

but, the views were so totally worth it. and to discover that there were food trucks all along the way… priceless. and serious asheville vibes too!

soder-harbor soder-food-truck soder-water-good-truck soder-food-trucks

tired and hungry, yet completely relaxed and satisfied, we made our way to a place to eat beside the water… brooklyn bar. we were 2 of the first 4 people there. but, soon after we arrived, people started filling the colorful, outdoor booths on the waterfront. we ate burgers + drank beer + acted silly.

soder-beer soder-dinner-lina-me soder-brooklyn-bar

lina me beer

dreading the short walk back to our apartment because of our tired little legs and feet, we wound our way through a couple of blocks and found this fantastic little cut through bridge that got us back to the apartment faster. plus, it was more scenic. and i saw tons of places to explore the next time i visit this area.

soder-hornstull-sunset-street

back at the airbnb apartment, we had some beer chilled in the fridge, popped open the bottle and plopped down on the balcony. we sat there from about 7:30 through sunset and until the stars came out. we listened to music, mostly the soundtrack to the musical rent. and chatted with each other. pure simplicity with my love.

soder-airbnb-balcony soder-balcony-sunset-2 soder-sunset-balcony-1 soder-balcony-sunset-3 soder-balcony-sunset-4 soder-balcony-sunset-5

sunday morning after we tidied the apartment and left the keys, we made our way back to mariatorget (where our previous airbnb experience was). we headed to blooms, a cozy little cafe with fun outdoor benches for people watching + breakfast eating.

soder-cafe

all full of fresh-baked bread and coffee, we hit the streets again. this time with the mission to complete our shoe hunt, which ended up taking us all over stockholm, only to find ourselves back where we started earlier in the weekend. oh well. no worries. we just went with the flow, you know?

stockholm-nk-shopping

satisfied with our shoe purchases (yay!), it was time for a beer at our favorite little microbrewery, omnipollos hatt. we drank some local beer, perikles (a rustic pilsner) + leon (a belgian style pale ale with champagne) and then decided that, since the sun was shining + we were hungry, we’d order 2 more and a pizza. yep.

soder-lina-omnipollo soder-pizza-omnipollo

soder-monks soder-me-omnipollo
finally we decided to return home and to our little zola the cat. so, we made the 40 minutes train ride and were home in time to do some netflixing and snuggling with the kitty cat. and, of course, to document yet one more beautiful uppsala summer sunset.

sunset uppsala summer

you know, i’ve always had a spontaneous soul thanks to my parents giving us so many opportunities to spontaneously have a bbq, travel somewhere, or rearrange the furniture in our entire home. but, i do believe that my spontaneous soul grew even more after this amazing, beautiful, fun weekend with my love. it really just doesn’t get much better, friends.

and, when you’re spontaneous, you never know  just how good it might be!

onwards + upwards! xoxo

// week thirty one (part 3) // airbnb loft living in funky södermalm

airbnb-entrance-hallit’s no secret that i love to travel. and, for the most part, when i travel i want to have the most authentic experience as possible.

in order to make that possible, i visit friends and get tips from locals whenever i can. however, there is another way to get that real experience when hoping to explore + discover the secrets and soul of a place.

airbnb.

i have now used airbnb twice when i’ve traveled. my love and i spent a week in new york city in an alphabet city, lower east side airbnb apartment – and it was amazing. for four days and four nights we felt like “real new yorkers”. of course, i know that we were only scratching the surface, or not even scratching it, i suppose. still, staying alone in an five story walk-up, having a place to call our own, with keys, a rooftop terrace and even a local, corner grocery store and bar made the experience so genuine + authentic, relaxing + exciting. we just blended right into the city, made our own little mark, and felt right at home.

since that experience had been such a success, and since i’d had about 5 months of experience on the hosting side of airbnb last fall when i helped my brother set up his own airbnb apartment, we decided that we’d try to find something in stockholm for our pride weekend celebration a few days ago.

now, stockholm isn’t but a 40 minute train ride from where we live, we visit the city quite often, and we have a fair number of friends/family who also live there. but, we thought it’d be nice to just have some time all to ourselves. so, i got to searching.

when i saw the heading “bright loft in mariatorget”, i was sold. without even seeing the photos. i ended up booking the apartment since it was located right in the middle of södermalm, or söder, the funky, hippie, artsy greenwich village of stockholm. the perfect location for us. and this place just happened to be right on mariatorget, maria square, a park filled with trees, a fountain, and grassy spots. there were cafes, pubs, restaurants, quirky shops, and beautiful buildings all around. pretty much all of our wishes boxes were ticked.

so, we packed our bags, hopped the train, and met our host at 11am last saturday outside the old wooden doors to the building. turns out, the host is from the states and his boyfriend is swedish. a bi-national gay couple. sounds familiar? hehe.

we walked into the majestic building, and entered the old-fashioned, wrought iron elevator to go to the second floor. i could not wait to see the apartment in real life.

entrance-airbnb

we stepped in through the double doors and entered a light-filled, airy, mind blowing loft apartment. it was as if my brain could not process fast enough all that my eyes were seeing. the space, the air, the gigantic windows (!), the colors: grays, white, naturals, pops of gold. the minimalist, industrial details.

it was indeed perfect.

we went through all of the practical things, got a little tour, got the keys + the code for the door, and then chatted a bit. the swedish boyfriend came blowing in soon after us, toting with him new sheets that he bought for us to use. he disappeared up the ladder to the loft, made the bed for us, and before we knew it they both were off + we are on our own. standing there with our jaws on the floor.

friends, this is what is amazing about airbnb:

you get to stay in places you’ d never, ever stay in (or even see) otherwise. plus you have the privilege of meeting people, perhaps even connecting with them, as we did with our boy hosts. 

so, now lina and i were on our own. this bright, beautiful, industrial loft apartment was ours for two days and two nights!

but, enough chit chat. here is the tour that i’ve been promising you. get ready. you will lose your mind. oh, and by the way, this was CHEAPER than staying in a hotel. for real.

airbnb-kitchen airbnb-loft airbnb-details-wall airbnb-stairs airbnb-loft-bookcase airbnb-details-fan airbnb-loft-living-room airbnb-loft-morning-view airbnb-loft-plant airbnb-stairs-down airbnb-loft-looking-down airbnb-floor windows airbnb-living-room airbnb-windowsill-coffee airbnb-dining-room-living-room airbnb-morning-coffee-windowsillhave you used airbnb before when traveling? how was your experience? and, if you haven’t, have i now convinced you? i truly, deeply, highly recommend it. you will find yourself staying in incredible places, cheaper than in hotels (which was also true in NYC, by the way), meet interesting people, and get tons of local tips, such as the best drink to order at the tiny bar two blocks away or the yummiest spring rolls deep in the heart of chinatown. all the while, feeling like you are a real local during the time that you are living your little alternate life.

too bad the guys are moving to LA on thursday!! guess we won’t get to visit this apartment again – but we have been invited to visit them in LA! and, the memories of our slow mornings sitting in the window sills sipping coffee, or bounding out of the apartment building and right in the middle of the funky söder street vibes, or grabbing snacks at the local 7-11 late at night + enjoying a walk down cobblestone streets after sunset, will stay with us forever.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

// week thirty one (part 2) // celebrating pride weekend in stockholm

stockholm-pride-parade-me-and-lina

on saturday morning, just a mere 24 hours after my brother left to go back to the states, lina and i headed back to stockholm for the big stockholm pride celebration.

the actual pride festival had been going on all week long throughout the city, and we were pumped to get to be part of the closing celebrations: the big pride parade!

stockholm’s pride parade is always the biggest in scandinavia/northern europe, and from what i could tell, that is most definitely true. helloooo people! what was amazing was to see how many couples of all kinds, families, elderly, gay, international, and straight people all took part. this is not just a day for the lgbtq community to get together, but a day that the general swedish public makes its way to the center of stockholm to celebrate the right to simply be who you are. it basically took my breath away.

speaking of rights, lina and i decided to go all in with this parade, having never even been to the stockholm parade before. and we decided that we’d kill two birds with one stone by walking  with an eating disorder organization that seeks to work for a community where everyone is free to be themselves, just as they are. (that’s their slogan!). so, to be able to support this eating disorder organization and lgbtq rights at the same time ws a double powerful bonus for us.

here’s how the day went.

we met up at noon with our group and found our place in the parade line. the sun was shining, it was super warm (the first time in about three weeks), and everyone was pumped. love was spilling out all over the streets. the energy itself would get you high.

we waited + waited for our turn to finally start walking, all 20 of us who were marching together. in the meantime, we snapped pictures, ate snacks, people-watched, and got more + more excited.

by the way, we waited so long because there were 45,000 people marching in the parade! what?! amazing! (and just a measly 400,000 ish lining the streets).

stockholm-pride-parade-waiting stockholm-pride-parade-me-lina-friends

finally it was time to start walking through the streets of stockholm, starting at mariatorget in södermalm and ending at östermalm’s sport park. it would be a long, slow walk that took about 2 and a half hours. but, the time flew by!

all along the way people cheered, clapped, yelled, laughed, and lined the streets and bridges. many people hung out of their apartment windows, or decorated their balconies with rainbow flags. it was seriously breathtaking and overwhelming.stockholm-pride-parade-group stockholm-pride-parade-me-lina-walking stockholm-pride-parade-window-lookers stockholm-pride-parade-hornsgatan

it was at this point, near the beginning of the parade that i was overcome with emotion. so many people. so much love. so much support. eeeeeee!
stockholm-pride-parade-sodermalm stockholm-pride-parade-me-lina-excited stockholm-pride-parade-slussen stockholm-pride-parade-walk lina-me-stockholm-pride-parade stockholm-pride-parade-bridge frist-och-fri-stockholm-pride-parade photo from frisk & fri.

after the celebratory parade came to an end, our feet were aching, our stomachs were growling, but we were so satisfied + happy. we met some friends/family at a restaurant to refuel, swung by our killer airbnb apartment, then headed out for drinks in the late swedish sunshine.

stockholm-pride-parade-friends-family-apartment stockholm-pride-parade-mosebacke stockholm-pride-parade-mosebacke-sunset stockholm-pride-parade-mosebacke-sunshine stockholm-pride-parade-slussen-sodermalm stockholm-sunset-stockholm-pride-paradeall in all, it was a day + and experience that i will never forget. a day that i was proud to call sweden my home. and a day that most definitely exceeded my expectations. what a celebration of love + acceptance + the basic human right to simply be who you are!

my wish is that all people, everywhere, one day have the opportunity to feel so welcomed, so loved, so accepted. that different is beautiful. and that we are all created to be exactly who we are. we’ve got work to do, my friends, to make that dream come true!

onwards + upwards! xoxo