In exactly two months from now, I will have landed at Arlanda Airport, I will have caught the train or bus into the centre of Stockholm, I will have booked into my hotel, I will have had a shower, and I probably will have gone out for a drink. That, or I will be so jet-lagged I will have passed out in a park somewhere.
To be honest, though I’m starting to freak out a bit. Have I planned enough? Have I saved enough? Have I learned enough Swedish to get by in the rural areas outside Stockholm? Have I given enough thought to other parts of my trip, such as the two weeks when I will visit my friend David in France? Should I get my “affairs” into order in case there’s a terrorist attack? These are the questions that are bothering me at the moment.
And why am I doing this trip? And why in particular am I visiting Sweden (and learning Swedish)? Whenever someone asks me that question I always reply it’s the “ABBA Connection”. They don’t seem to want to ask too many questions after that, I’ve noticed.
I’ve been an ABBA fan for over thirty years and that’s led to a certain fascination with Swedish culture. But this is not some bizarre trip where I’ll be waiting outside buildings hoping for a brief glimpse or chance meeting with Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha or Frida.
However, when a colleague asked me the question the other night, I told him that in some ways it was a “mid-life crisis trip”? He seemed, at first, a little surprised by the honesty of my answer. “You’re fine”, he said, “what have you got to be worried about?” And in lots of ways, he’s correct. I have a great job, a great circle of friends, a great family, and I’m mostly pretty happy.
There comes a time, however, when you start to wonder if there’s more to life than this. And that’s probably part of the motivation behind this trip: the desire to see what else life might hold. Part of me wonders if I’ll ever come back from this trip. A ridiculous thought in some ways, as I’m only going away for 10 weeks, but it’s possibly because of the symbolism of this trip. I’ve never been one for taking big holidays (mostly 2 weeks at tops, and mostly in Australia).
So even though it’s minor, in some ways, this trip symbolises the next part of my life. And I think friends and colleagues recognise this. In some ways, my life is exactly the same now as it was twenty years ago. And that’s leading to a certain dissatisfaction on my part and a certain grumpiness. More than once I’ve verbalised this, and I’ve had a couple of colleagues ask me recently, straight out, if I intend to return. They’ve both fairly emphatically told me I should, by the way.
But in the midst of this person who has led a fairly regular life for many years, never really rocking the boat, and never really doing anything radical, there’s the dreamer. There’s the bloke who thinks it would be exciting to just go off and do something totally different. So I guess it’s a trip that takes me into the unknown, but which gives me some familiarity. The ultimate answer is out there in två månader.