After we finished preparing for our overseas trip, and we lingered with some bittersweet goodbyes, we rode an Uber to the airport and took off on our $300 flight. We were headed back to our favorite Stockholm, Sweden, neighborhood: Södermalm
Yet this was a difficult trip.
There was the possibility that we might lose a loved one. A loved one who wanted us to pretend that everything was okay, and who wanted us to continue on as normal. No crying, no carrying on, and no changing plans.
With twice-daily video sessions from afar, we could only provide a possible distraction to a very harsh reality. We did our best to share family history and to pretend, but pretending doesn’t come naturally.
It helped tremendously that we were in a location we know well.
Sweden feels like a second home. It’s where my grandparents were born and where relatives still live. It’s also a place where there is a cultural shift to calm kindness, clear boundaries, and a sense of safety.
It helped that we were surrounded by a kind community.
For example, after landing in Stockholm, the private bus we were scheduled to board at the airport (in the middle of the night) filled up before we could get on it. When it was announced that their next private airport bus wouldn’t arrive for more than another hour, a long line of us were left waiting out in the cold.
Well, a rider took it into her own hands to wave down a local public bus driver. That local public bus driver then immediately drove all of us to the center of Stockholm, more than thirty minutes away from the airport, without even verifying everyone’s private bus tickets (which I imagine were not valid for the public bus, anyway).
At the same time, another passenger kindly manned the entire pile of luggage that kept spilling into the aisle, as this was meant to be a public bus, not a luggage bus.
Then there was the tall gentleman in a coat and hat who warmly embraced us in a calm, kind energy, and was so steady that I will look up to it as the example I strive to emulate for the rest of my life. Because, with little sleep during long days of travel, one needs a few passing angels in the night to show us the wise way.
It also helped that we were in a location that is equipped to feed us well, affordably.
When going through difficulties, we need someone to feed us. An additional reality is that Stockholm’s plant-based cafes and restaurants are like none other. We truly needed Stockholm’s sustenance.
Hermans, which serves a most special plant-based (and mostly gluten-free) buffet, has cheaper hours during weekday lunch. One can arrive early, linger long, refill as desired while enjoying a favorite person, book, or fully charged WiFi gadget. It's two meals in one, over a long afternoon.
Hermitage in Gamla Stan, a little walk from Södermalm, is our next comfort plant-based (and mostly gluten-free) buffet. With cheaper hours during weekday lunch, one can even choose the takeaway meal, which is the most affordable option of all, and still provides two meals in one.
Legumes, located right around the corner and across the street from our lodging, is the most convenient plant-based (and mostly gluten-free) of all. Their takeaway is the most affordable, and still two meals in one. I just need to see if I can bring a reusable container, to avoid plastic.
We arrived, we were cared for, and we were nourished.
This allowed us to function, as best as possible under the circumstances, so we could seek out and share the special things that we hoped said loved one would enjoy…