I met Michaël on the central station (T-Centralen) in Stockholm at 5 in the morning. I took the Flix night bus from Malmö to Stockholm (I managed to find a ticket for 10 euro, so the fact that I hate overnighters was not that important anymore) and arrived at the bus terminal in Stockholm. This looked more or less like an airport, which I find was pretty funny. It had gates for every bus company! I sat down at the benches to check if I had wifi, which you can find like literally everywhere in Scandinavia. While I was checking how to get to my host, yes, couchsurfing again, a young man came up to me and asked me if I was a traveller. I must have looked like that with my backpack and comfy sports legging… I had to admit that I was a little suspicious, or at least cautious at first. I think, in our society, we learn to not trust people who just come up to you and say hi, especially not in a deserted train station at 5 am. Michaël told me that he hitchhiked from the south of France to Malmö in Sweden, where he took the same bus as me. He is an electrician and wanted to make something special (and cheap) of his 2-week-during holiday. He had never hitchhiked before, neither travelled this far on his own. He stayed with people he met on the road, while hitchhiking, or with ‘strangers’ he started talking to, like he did to me. He didn’t even use his account on couchsurfing! He told me that one night, he got invited by a German family, from a really small German village. They even took him to a party of their really close friends. In return, he cooked dinner for the families he stayed with, chicken terriyaki mostly. Michaël asked me if we could make a picture together, and if he could post it on his Facebook. He did this for every person he shared a moment with on his trip. Also, he wrote 3 sentences about everyone he met: Who this person was, where he met them and what they did. That was one of his missions he wrote down for his trip: meeting new people. The other two were: hitchhiking from Marseilles to Stockholm and visiting the big cities in between. I was happily surprised he asked for the picture, because I wanted to ask him the same thing. One of the categories on my blog is ‘people’, and my plan was, like Michaël’s, to write about the people I meet on the way, with a picture if possible. So here it is. Michaël’s story. But it’s not finished yet. Because the most important thing here is the things you learn from those people with their stories. Here, I mostly learned an important thing about myself: the fact that it seems like I am almost programmed to not trust people. A guy like Michaël, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, would never find people to stay with, if they all had trust issues like I seem to have. I was amazed by the fact that he just goes up to people, starts a conversation and asks for help. It also made me realise that I can be way more open than I am now. I only go up to people if I really need to know something, not to just start a conversation. I stick to the people I ‘know’; my host, my fellow couchsurfers or myself. I want to change that, because I think it’s in the random encounters you’ll find the beauty: the most interesting stories of wonderful people and maybe an invite for a dinner or a place to sleep. It’s going to be my challenge for the next week.
You’ve got friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet.
I couchsurfed with Hans for 3 days in Stockholm. He lives in a tiny apartment with a stunning view. He often takes his couchsurfers to Ikea to have brunch. So he did with me, just after I arrived that early morning. With his family card it is only about 5 euros, all you can eat. You’re full for the whole day, so I guess it’s a good deal. I think he agrees because every single Ikea employee there knew Hans and his couchsurfer-girls. 9h30 at the spot we were there, so to avoid the line. He also takes his couchsurfers on Moose-safari in his sporty Alfa Romeo. He always counts the number of spotted deer. Apparently the average is 20, but we counted 23, which he was quite excited about, while I was mainly disappointed because we didn’t see a moose. Apart from the fact that Hans was a really friendly and welcoming host, I found him a really interesting person. He travelled to 70 countries and territories, including North Korea. He was just fascinated by the country, managed to book a trip there and is now good friends with the North Korean ambassador in Stockholm, who takes him (and his couchsurfers) for lunch sometimes. He also wanted to see the monkeys in Gibraltar and took his bike to cycle 4670 kilometers to get there.
Maybe it’s because he has done like over a 100 different jobs (truck driver for a post company, owning a 2nd hand bookshop, owning a youth hostel in Riga, teaching kids horseback riding in the US, banking for 17 years, commander of the United Nations for food transport in Lebanon, researcher in public transport in Stockholm… He had this dream of working on an airport (he lives near one and knows exactly which lines, at what times and which type of aircrafts are flying over his apartment) and starts working this winter to clean the airstrips during winterly weather) or maybe it is because he just reads a lot, but Hans seems to know everything. And if he doesn’t know it, he will thoroughly research it, so he has one more fact stored in his brain-library and he will know it the next time someone asks. So what did I learn from Hans? Well, I learned that Sweden switched from driving on the left side to driving on the right side in 1967. I know now that a huge amount of famous pop songs are produced by a Swede, named Martin Sandberg. This producer, who chooses to stay low profile, wrote songs for Adele, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears en Ariana Grande. I also know where some famous shots are made of the Pippi Longstocking movies, (we passed it during our moose safari). Moreover, I know why I can shop tax-free on the ferry to Finland I am currently on now, writing this post. We make a short stop at the Aland Islands, which are part of Finland (although everyone speaks Swedish and 97% of Aland wanted to be part of Sweden), but not of the European Union, because they have high autonomy. But, apart from all those facts, I mostly learned you can make anything of your life by just simply doing the things you like. Learning a new language, even if it is only spoken by a couple of thousand people, visiting a remote place, even if it is hard to travel to, go travelling solo towards Australia without flying… With every choice you make in life, people will ask you the reason why. And no matter what people say or think: ‘Just because I want to’ should be reason enough.
Sadly enough, I cannot write about all the persons I meet on my way, which does not mean I didn’t like them or didn’t find them interesting… I just want to have some time left to actually meet new people instead of writing about them haha! So here’s a series of photos of other awesome people that were part of my journey 😉