Travel + Tourism
When I tell someone I’m going to visit Sweden this summer, the first question is usually, “Why Sweden?” The second question is usually, “What other countries will be visit while you’re in Europe?”
The first question is easy to answer. I’m a travel blogger. I attended TBEX Asia 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, last year, and I really enjoyed it.
When I learned of a heavily discounted Business Class ticket on Qatar Airways from Hong Kong (where I live) to Stockholm, Sweden (where TBEX Europe will be held), I decided to book a ticket.
Dates were partially dictated but what was available. Tickets at that price were NOT available every day.
I also wanted to make my trip worthwhile - and escape Hong Kong's torrid summer heat. I ended up with four weeks, or 28 days.
Then I started thinking about where I would stay and what I would do (other than attending TBEX).
The answer to the second question - what other countries I'm planning to visit - is a bit more complicated.
The price of rooms in Stockholm was (not surprisingly) several times more expensive than the price of rooms in Bangkok.
With very little difficulty, I was able to find a spacious, very clean, and very comfortable room with a refrigerator and a private bath in a hostel a mere five minutes' walk from the convention centre where TBex Asia was held for only US$16 a night!!!
No such luck in Stockholm!
After looking first at hotels, then at hostels, I decided to try Airbnb, something I have never done before.
It took a while, but I eventually found what I hope will be a comfortable place to stay.
One of my "must haves" was a kitchen. I do not fancy eating three meals out for 28 days. I want to be able to shop at the local markets and cook a few meals at home.
By booking for four weeks, I got a 30% discount. It worked out to US$45 a day.
I briefly considered treating the room I've rented as a base of operations and trying to visit the neighboring Scandinavian capitals, as well: Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; and Oslo, Norway.
When I told a friend about my trip, she was initially quite excited and wanted to accompany me.
She did some research and said there was a voyage from Stockholm to St Petersburg, Russia, that we could take. Her idea was to hit as many places as we could to “get our money’s worth”.
For my part, I considered the overnight ferry to Helsinki.
I spent the next few days doing on-line research, which got pretty frustrating at times.
Sometimes I just wanted a rough idea of how much something would cost, but many website demanded specific dates before they would tell you.
After looking at the price of boat tickets and train tickets and airline tickets – and the times involved in getting from place to place – I came to the conclusion that these side trips could easily double the cost of my trip. But just how much value would they add?
The more I browsed through my Insight Guide, the more I was convinced that there were more than enough things to see and do in Stockholm to keep me entertained.
And what about the rest of Sweden?
Instead of making a side trip to Copenhagen or Olso, why not go to Malmo or Goteborg, instead?
If I fancy a cruise, who needs Helsinki or St. Petersburg when I can take a four day cruise along canals and lakes to Sweden's second largest city, making stops at villages along the way?
With the money I save on this trip to Sweden I can plan another trip to another country next year.
Perhaps my attitudes toward travel were shaped by the vacations my family took when I was growing up in Northern California.
Every year we packed the car and drove for several hours to Yosemite National Park, which has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
We would book a camp site, unpack our stuff, pitch a tent, set up an impromptu kitchen, and just hang out for two blissful weeks.
Water spigots were located within walking distance of campsites. But there were no electrical outlets. So lighting was provided by Coleman Lantern.
And even if we had a power generator, we still couldn't have watched television or listen the the radio. Broadcasts didn't reach into Yosemite Valley.
One day we would do this. One day we would do that. Nothing was carefully organized or tightly planned.
How to See Yosemite in One Day
I stumbled across a blog post the other day that was entitled, “How to See Yosemite in One Day”.
The conclusion was it could be done if you took a tour. And the blogger was right: you can pretty much see everything there is to see in Yosemite Valley on a one-day tour.
Notice, I said Yosemite Valley …
Just as there is more to Sweden than Stockholm, there is more to Yosemite National Park than Yosemite Valley.
The valley, in fact, accounts for only a small fraction of the park’s territory.
Glacier Point is worth a one day’s excursion – better yet, spend the night. There is also Mirror Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, the High Country, the list goes on.
Most of the time, however, we didn’t go sightseeing. We just hung around, swimming in the icy waters of the Merced River (it took three days to get used to it) and having a picnic lunch along its shores – or taking one of the many hikes.
Evenings were spent watching the nightly amateur shows at Camp Curry followed by roasting marshmallows around the camp fire.
We didn’t go to SEE Yosemite. We went to EXPERIENCE it. And that is what I hope to do this summer in Sweden.
Nine Countries in 18 Days
It was within this context that I stumbled across Slow Travel Stockholm, which is managed by award-winning Travel Writer and Photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström, who will be the Keynote Speaker at TBEX Europe 2016.
“In the same way that the Slow Food revolution has created a compelling antithesis to the burgeoning Fast Food business, Slow Travel encourages people to resist ‘Fast’ Travel – the frustratingly frequent habit of speeding through all the best known landmarks of a city in 24 or 48 hours – then leaving again,” the website says.
I think I'm going to find myself with kindred spirits!
Does anyone remember that hilarious 1969 film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”?
A group of American tourists book a European tour, which takes them to nine countries in 18 days.
So much itinerary has been packed into their trip, that they sometimes can't remember what country they're in!
I will spend 28 days in Europe this summer, including four Tuesdays. And one thing is for sure. I will definitely know which country I am in on Tuesday.