...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The days are just packed

I'm looking forward to just bumming in my apartment and working (yes, working!) for a few days in a row. Technically, I'm not on summer vacation, but when free for a few days here and there in the week, it feels almost like it. I've been out all weeks since midsummer. Partly because I can, and partly because I'm trying to keeping myself busy and social since other people are away in their own family vacations.

To show for my bout of outdoorsiness, my skin must be at least four shades darker by now, at least where the sun hits my skin. You should see the funny stripes on my feet from wearing sandals all month!
- - -

Before summer, some people at work were telling me, “Take a long, real vacation now. You deserve it on your last PhD year!” But actually, I like summers when I can alternate work and outdoor activities. I don't feel, like many others do, that I have to cram all my vacation enjoyment into a few tight weeks. Since no one at work cares if I'm physically sitting there, I can cherry-pick the sunny days and be spontaneous. And yet, when I'm at work, free from the obligations of meetings and teaching, I can concentrate just on writing and even get inspiration and clarity of thought from already having been out. I feel neither pre-vacation distraction nor the itch to be somewhere else, as I know I can be out when I want to.

Call it perks of the job – there aren't so many of them. But time is a limited resource, and therefore invaluable. Summers are when I can live out a “Calvin and Hobbes philosophy in life”: Life's too important to waste worrying about something like work. That comic strip – I love it! – has always inspired me with wise words from a 6-year old. On the one hand, “Let's go exploring!” but also, “There's never too much time to do all the nothing you want”.

Oh yes, “The days are just packed” is one of the Calvin and Hobbes compilations with a summer bumming / exploring theme. It also describes my summer, uh, “vacation” so far.

Midsummer tour

2 kayak days in Åsunden with Susanne and Susan (Names almost as confusing as Thomson and Thompson), 1 tent night. I had always wanted to tent out with a few friends. With some convincing and coordination, it finally happened. It's great when plans work out, and the delegation of tasks was: me as tour planner, Susanne responsible for food, and Susan for navigation and taking enough water. Susanne also managed to fish small perch, one for each of us. We grilled them before moving on to the next dish, the camping staple of grilled sausages (a must with a bonfire!). The fish was terrific, even if no one brought along some salt.

Day tours

A Sunday out with a big tour group kayaking in Järnlunden, and a side-trip with Susan and her friends to the nearby cliff:

A Tuesday car trip to Gränna, with me and Susanne taking our bikes over by ferry to Visingsö, an island in Sweden's second biggest lake. Lots of nature and culture in this trip. We biked through old forests, through fields that slope down to the water, bronze-age burials and small medieval castles. A record-warm day, which we thought of ending with a cool swim. The water was ice cold!

Lake swimming 

A couple of other days, I took friends out to the Kolmården lakes. I got a visit old friends who biked down from Stockholm, who requested we take a picnic by a lake. On another day, Sarah came for a visit. She honestly needs to be out in the fresh air some more. Now she seemes positively inspired to, which I'm happy about. We walked around Lilla Älgsjön, and found a nice little lake where we went out on a raft and had fun pretending to be in the cast of Survivor / Robinson. I can only understand my old fear of water intellectually; I can no longer wrap my head around how afraid I was of water before 2009. Gradually over the years, the fear disappeared. I wondered if there could be snakes in the water though...

More tenting - and more water 

The latest thing this week, 1 tent night. I, Susanne, her 13-year old daughter and her daughter's friend whom she hadn't seen for years paddled with canoes down a creek and a lake. It was my first time to paddle a canoe. This tour was also one of those well-working ones; no injuries and no irritations. However, the kids were too quiet sometimes and were shy even to each other, and I wondered what they were really thinking at times. Anyway, they must have really wanted to go home the afternoon of the second day when everybody was quite tired, because they kids were paddling at such a rate back to the car!

Yeah, and I'm not even on vacation! It's great, but at the same time I'm also looking forward to staying home a while, like I said. People are starting to be back in town after their family vacations too, and I can stay here without feeling that I'm missing on anything.

What's good about all these trips though – and what makes them so easy to do – is that (1) they're accessible. All of these tours were in the same region; the furthest wasn't even 3 hours away by car. (2) they didn't cost much. Or rather, they didn't cost much more above the equipment that we had with us (some borrowed or given) and some transport costs (it helps if you have a small car with good fuel economy!). Besides cost for gas and food, which we would have had anyway, none of these tours cost more than 300 a head. All these tours were perfectly do-able as day- or weekend trips, even if you don't have a long, real vacation … yet.

The days are just packed! Today, I'm working from home and washing clothes...


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