By the beginning of summer 2010 I had completed my 3 year BA (Hons) in Creative Writing at the University of Cumbria and didn’t know what was to come next for me. I had also started taking, for the first time in my life, medication for depression. To add to this, my three year relationship came to a sudden, bitter end. I felt suffocated by pressure, alone and very scared – so I did what my aching heart was whispering at me to do, and the only thing that made sense at the time – I set off on a solo journey couchsurfing and hostelling through Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
I knew that Scandinavia would lift away the pressure. I knew it would help me to dispel my loneliness. I knew it would squash any feelings of fear that were keeping me from fully living my life and experiencing happiness again.
It was on my last day in Norway before heading to Denmark, when I met a young British woman by the name of Cat Cooke, an aspiring (and now very successful) tour manager. We were both couchsurfing in Stavanger and she came to meet me after I had conquered the Preikestolen hike (in torrential rain and battering gales. The wind nearly took me over the edge at the top…) so we could both bike back to our temporary home.
My host hadn’t provided much information about what Cat looked like, he just told me that ‘you girls are similar.’ But when I saw this grinning metal chick powering towards me on a ramshackle bike, I knew it was my girl. The connection we had was immediate and powerful, and we bonded over our shared devotion to metal music and all things Scandinavian. That night we hardly stopped talking to draw breath.
The following day, Cat accompanied me to the bus stop from where I’d be taking a coach to Copenhagen, and when we said goodbye I knew it wouldn’t be the last time that we’d be sharing the same space in time…
Nearly six years later and we are both living in Sweden – Cat in Gothenburg, myself in Borås. Yesterday, Cat arrived at my home and it was as though the six years between our meetings had never taken place. The connection was still real and exhilarating, and we talked and we talked and we talked. There was hardly a moment of silence for several hours.
We talked about what we love about Sweden and the few things that we find frustrating. She told me of her anxieties when she first arrived in the country four years ago…about going into places alone and not being able to speak Swedish and feeling like a fool and thinking everyone was making fun of her…and I told her I feel exactly the same now. She told me it gets easier, and I believed her. We opened our hearts right up and poured out everything – our fears, our joys, and then repackaged our hearts so they were lighter and easier to hold.
We walked in the forest for hours, I showed her the special haunts I’ve found on my adventures, and we stopped every few paces to marvel at the beauty of our surroundings and sequel with genuine joy. We sat on mossy boulders and ate cheese and mackerel with bread, folded the English way, and cinnamon buns. We walked until our legs were tight and sore then we paused for tea before another long walk to pick up pizza and candy. We watched Peter Kay and Ross Noble and Mister Bean and Cian Twomey and laughed as the sugar from the candy bolted through our systems. Hours felt like minutes and it was morning before we’d had time to break for silence.
Today was a gentle few hours of talking, thrifting and eating a cheeky McDonald’s. I appreciated each moment, each sentence that we exchanged, each laugh that we sent out into the sky. This time it won’t be another six years until we’re completing each others sentences again.
Rain was forecast…but the Gods were smiling down on us.
I felt so proud and fortunate as we hiked the forest I’ve come to know so well.
In this photo we were trying to be silly…but in my usual ghoulish way I look as if I’m about to do something extremely sinister.
Cat being beautiful.
Cats always stop for the weirdos.
Honestly, the Swedes are utterly obsessed with candy. I’ve never seen such an enormous pick and mix selection in my 29 years. The most exciting thing had to be the Black Metal licorice…even though it’s bloody disgusting.
Share a pizza? Yeah right…we’re adult women. There’s no sharing pizza.
A selection of our massive candy haul.
These beauties were one size too big. Devastation doesn’t come close…
Candle holders everywhere…
The amount of handcrafted stuff in Swedish thrift stores is unreal…
Books collected by colour. Beautiful way to arrange.
If I’m not in the forest, you’ll find me in the thrift store.