Shortly after moving to Stockholm, I noticed the sun worshippers. On every sunny day – even the chilly, winter ones – men and women sit in cafes and parks with eyes closed and face lifted toward the sun. If the weather is warm enough (above 50), women of all ages and shapes take off their shirts and just sit in their bras. Outside of a beach, I had never seen such a wanton display of sun seeking. Haven’t those crazy Swedes heard that too much sun exposure is bad for your skin, I would smugly and puritanically think to myself when I saw them. But after nearly going crazy during my first long and depressingly dark winter with unbelievably few hours of daylight, I got it. Now I also indulge in sun worship and soak up as much vitamin D as possible, sometimes even in my bra, Midwestern roots be damned. I have to have sun. It’s become a matter of survival. I suppose you could call it an obsession. I just look at it as one of the many methods for coping that I have developed in my new life.
Finding coping mechanisms is just one of the many survival tactics you have to discover when you move abroad, as I recount in my memoir: Finding Lagom: A search for home and happiness in the chilly and dark land of the Vikings. The book is my travel memoir of international living – from initial excitement to alienation and loss to finally finding a sense of balance and home. The story is a comedy of cultural manners as well as a tale of personal growth and it will appeal to anyone who has dreamed of living and traveling abroad. Evocative descriptions of the city of Stockholm – the beautiful and fashionable but rather snobbish and cold city of extreme light and dark – as well as other international travel destinations interweave with personal details about all that is exciting, challenging, humorous and disconcerting about moving to a country where Americans are typically seen as too loud and too much.
Finding Lagom is a travel memoir that will appeal to anyone who has dreamed of traveling abroad. With a mix of information and inspiration, it showcases all that is exciting, comic, challenging and disconcerting about actually taking the leap and moving to a new country, pulling the reader along on the journey and giving real insights about what the process is like.
As a long-time writer, editor and traveler of the world, I made the leap to move abroad to Stockholm almost five years ago. And in the process of doing so, I discover so much more than just how to live in a new land, including what matters to me in life, work and friendship. More importantly, I discover how to define home and lagom (just right).
The book is being written as we speak. I will keep you posted as to its progress on these pages.
All text these pages copyright ©2009 Sandra Carpenter. All photographs these pages copyright ©2009 Robert Corkery.