Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Year Later

I arrived in Sweden a year ago tonight.

Today, I can say without an ounce (or perhaps I should say gram?) of hesitation that moving to here is the best decision I’ve ever made.

My shortcomings in the Swedish language aside, I’ve established a pretty respectable life here in 12 short months.

I wake up next to my dream girl every morning in the perfect apartment, in an ideal small town with exceptional train service. No member of my outstanding support system lives more than 20 minutes away. It’s taken a lot of effort but I finally feel like I’m starting to be able to call a few friends “close.” I have an amazing job that pays well and is secure until at least next summer.

I’ve grown accustomed to a lot of things I never thought I would, too:

  • Strong coffee, and lots of it
  • Incessant conversations about weather
  • Trying to argue in a culture that avoids even minor confrontations at all costs
  • Lunch replacing dinner as my main meal of the day
  • No shoes indoors
  • Planning everything in advance, whether it’s doing laundry or visiting a friend
  • Complete and total division of work and leisure time, with zero overlap under any circumstances
  • Outrageous food and drink prices
  • Queuing (that’s European for “waiting in line”) for everything
  • Striving to come across as modest and humble in a country where bragging is practically a jailable offense

As far as my Swedish is concerned, it’s obviously going to take greater self-discipline, but I think what it’s really going to take is a commitment to spend more time here this year.

After having lived in Sweden for only a few weeks last fall, I took a solo vacation to Glasgow. We went to Sicily for Amanda’s birthday in November. I visited Germany and Denmark with my brother in January. Then I spent more than 10 weeks over three separate trips in the United States. All told, I spent 85 of my first 365 days as a resident of Sweden, outside of Sweden. That’s less than 77% of my time actually spent in this glorious country. Pretty difficult to focus on learning a language under those circumstances, but that goal now sits alone at the top of my list for the next 12 months.

I’m looking forward to what my second year here has in store.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2,100 Miles a Week

People used to call me crazy when they learned I drove 50 miles each way to work in Fairfield, three or four days a week, during my first two years at Sacramento State.

Even my 60-mile roundtrip to Auburn the last few years shocked many of my friends.

Both commutes pale in comparison to the daily grind I started this morning.

For the next year, I’m going to attempt to travel more than 400 miles daily, five days a week.

That’s more than 2,100 miles every week. Leaving our apartment before 6 a.m., getting home after 9 p.m.

There are exactly 341 kilometers of rail between Falköping and Stockholm, which is about 212 miles. To put my commute in perspective for a Californian, the following drives are each between 210 and 220 miles:

Eureka to Santa Rosa on US-101
Reno to San Francisco on I-80
Redding to San Francisco on I-5 and I-505
Sacramento to Visalia on CA-99
Fresno to Los Angeles on CA-99

Other trips in the same distance range include Boston to New York (215 miles), Phoenix to Yuma (211 miles) Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando (213 miles), Dallas to Oklahoma City (206 miles), Salem to Seattle (219) and Lansing to Chicago (218 miles).

It’s almost like commuting from New York City to Washington, D.C. (227 miles) or Toronto to Detroit (232 miles). And back. Every day.

The trip can be as short as 2 hours, 20 minutes each way depending on train type/speed and number of stops, but the average ride will be almost three hours each way. Most people wouldn’t wish that on their worst enemy.

Granted, there’s a huge difference between traveling 200 miles by train and making some of those aforementioned comparable drives in a car. They really shouldn’t be compared. This guy is the only one I could find who commutes a similar distance on roads. But six hours a day on a train is still borderline insane.

Fortunately, mobile broadband is booming in Sweden so I’ll have internet at all times. With a computer and web access, there are far fewer things I can’t do that I would do anywhere else.

My MacBook Pro and 3 stick are going to be my best friends.