Tagarchief: sweden

How to talk to strangers

Today I decided I want to ask for your help. I really hope you’re in.

What’s the matter? I’ve travelled through 2,5 of the more or less 25 countries I plan to visit. I’ve had a few really nice conversations about ageing. I met some great people. I’m having a great time, really. But I’m not satisfied yet. I’m especially not satisfied with my own guts: I want to talk to people on the street but I don’t. Or I don’t know how.

Today I spent some time strolling through suburban Stockholm, known as Solna. Solna has some large parks, is home to the new Swedish national football arena and to the academic hospital Karolinska Institutet. It was a beautiful day and there were loads of people on the streets. Many young dads and moms pushing double prams, some students, quite a lot of drunk citizens too, and then, of course, a whole bunch of elderly.

Interesting artifact encountered in one of Solna's parks

Interesting artifact encountered in one of Solna’s parks

When I was walking the streets and parks, musing on how nice it would be if I would talk to people instead of just walking on my own, I thought of Janne. Janne travels the world to seize beautiful moments and she is the uncrowned queen of street conversations. She asks people in trains, ons squares, in bars, in fact anywhere, if they want to share their most beautiful moment of that week by drawing it. Simple as that! And very powerful.

Now, I could simply start doing what Janne does. But even though I’d love to see peoples most beautiful moment of that week, it is not really what I am looking for. I am interested in knowing what people think about ageing. I want to know how they see their future. What it is like to grow older in Estonia, or Poland, or Romania. And when I think of the things I want to know and of drawing and and I see one thing: COMPLEXITY.


Therefore I request for help on this matter. Would you know

– THE question to ask – I really like the drawing part!
– any other great ways to talk to (older) strangers on the street when you don’t speak eo’s language
– or any other thing that may help me on my quest?

Please share your thoughts!

And, however sometimes quite apt or at least well-meant, I am not looking for Just Do It advices – I am quite fainthearted on this matter so I want to start well prepared. Ha.

I hope to read your reactions in Turku, Finland, tomorrow night, after an 11+1 hour boat trip. Hej så länge!

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Silence, meditation and spring

I finished my Vipassana meditation course on the 27th of April. 10 Days of learning one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation.

The silence was easy. Quite nice, even. Keeping my mouth shut for 9 days -the 10th day is for noble speaking- appeared to be a piece of cake. Sitting cross legged for 10 hours a day, 10 days in a row: somehow quite doable. Waking up at 4: pretty easy. Not eating anything but a banana after noon: no worries. In fact, the whole Vipassana code of discipline felt really friendly while keeping to it.

Meditating for 10 hours a day was a whooole other story, for me though. It was really hard work. It was tough. It was frustrating, and constantly turning frustration into acceptance was tough too. It was trying over and over again to be kind to myself, and to get back to work. It was telling my head every single minute NOT to wander away, while it was already halfway to lostinspace. It was not opening my eyes to see who in the room was having trouble concentrating too. It was definitely not starting to conduct Mozart in silence at 2.45 pm on day 8 because I was a bit bored. It was trying not to be bored at all, because boredom is no neighbor to focus and concentration.

Was it worth it? Yes it was, it definitely was. I watched the Swedish spring burst into a big bang of green and light and chattering lovebirds, like I’d never seen spring before. I practiced my skills to focus and self-concentrate. I learned a proper meditation technique I can turn to at any time. I enjoyed all thoughts that passed during these 10 silent days, for 99% were great ones about (un)important things in life. I enjoyed the silent company of some really nice co-meditators, like Elena, who sat next to me on the bench in the forest every day at 5.15 pm, and Sanneke from Oslo meets Geldrop, and Miia, who I will visit in Helsinki next week.

If you are interested, read the Vipassana website carefully and try it yourself. What doesn’t kill you… ; )


A view with a room

A view with a room @ Kullerbacka








(ps., Still on holiday in Sweden, now at the delightful Kullerbacka Gästhus owned by my uncle and aunt. I cleaned windows, help to set out hiking routes, enjoy the dinner discussions, things like that. I’ve told myself I have to leave Sweden, though I don’t really want to. So Finland on Friday, looking forward to the 10 hour boat trip over the Baltic sea.)

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Do you feel rich?

This is a beginning of the story about the What of my travels.

I was on my way to Sweden, passing through Denmark where I met a few very nice, kind and warm hearted elderly. Well, errr, this were people of 65 and 67 and not not by the hair of my chinny chin chin would I ever (or at least not yet) dare to call them old. I met these cheerful people after I’d send them a request to surf their couch*. It was Birte from Sønderborg in South Denmark, and Maja and Erling who live at a very nice house near the village of Æskebjærg, on the Island Sjælland (ok to be honest, I think it is simply Eskjeberg).

[in this place I wished I could share their faces with you, but I decided not to because of of privacy matters]

Bij Maja en Erling

In Denmark at Maja and Erlings place











The thought had occurred to me that I could interview people I would stay at. I had been preparing the stays by writing a list of topics and questions growing older that we could discuss. Maybe. If it wouldn’t seem to intrusive or unnatural in the talks we would have. I had quite a long list, with factual questions about family, mobility, spare time, work, politics, shopping, travelling, housing and food. Pretty practical questions, that turn out to be very obvious when you spend 3 days in someones house. No need to ask Birte -for instance- how she gets around, when she just showed me the surroundings in her car and talked proudly about her Couch Surfing Bikes, one for her, one for the surfers.

Then there are also questions that belong more to the personal sphere. Questions about life. About the future, the good things and the fears of growing older. About things that did and did not work out in life. Important decisions that have been made. The question “How old do you feel?” and my favorite up to now: “Do you feel rich?” (Well, what would you say?). On the list are also the more social questions, that require deeper thinking about how growing old is perceived by others in society. How old do you have to be, to be considered old? How old does society want you to become? And what practical changes would ageing mean for your life as you know it?

Pom pom pom pom (F G A Bb)

Until now, when visiting Birte, Maja and Erling, I didn’t do interviews in a strict sense. We walked, we talked, we ate, we talked, we drove through Denmark and we talked. I mostly asked questions, they talked, but not exclusively. Sometimes it felt a bit awkward asking a certain question, but since all three were prepared for an interview they were very happy to answer them.

Maja thanked me for asking these questions, for being interested, saying that the questions made them think and discuss the topic of growing older too. If this should be the outcome of my travels, that I’ve made people think and talk about it together, then I would be a happy camper. Err, surfer.

Some things I’ve learned:
– People generally like to share thoughts about their life. If you are respectful, there is no need for awkwardness.
– The age of 60-70 brings a lot of changes to life. I think I might stick to looking for these seniors throughout my travels.
– Mondays are for long travels or staying in
– Copenhagen is a great city to spend your birthday with friends (thanks for all the wishes through all communication systems imaginable!)

Oh! And then some friends told me about this nice TED blog by Elisabeth Jacobs: ‘What is is to grow old in different parts of the world‘, that I like to share with you. It covers some of the topics that I thought of, but also brings some new questions, i.e. “Do the elderly have special powers?” (haha! cool) and “What are traditions surrounding old age in your culture?”. Nice ones. I might adopt! Thank you, Marieke and Monqi : )

In 10 minutes I leave for a 10 days silence meditation course in Ödeshög, 1 hour north from where I am now. There will be no couches to surf, no questions to ask others but myself, no road to trip… I’ll be back in May.

Lake near Bashults

A small gift of silence from Sweden


Happy easter, fijn pasen, glad påsk!

*Couch Surfing is a world wide hospitality network where people offer their couch (or guest room, or even sometimes their garden or simply a nice meal). It is about meeting people from different cultures and sharing experiences.

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