Well, here I am.
Eleven days ago, I boarded a plane for Calgary, one of the closest major cities to my hometown. A lot of people I know have moved there over the years, and since I hadn't been there in a while, I thought it was time to catch up with everyone, especially since I was going away. I had already been to visit a cousin and his family in northern BC, and tried to meet up with everyone I could in Toronto and Kelowna, and since there are only a few ways to fly to Europe from Kelowna, this was a logical stop on my way across the ocean. Also, I had seen the dog. That was important.
The bulk of my time was spent with a cousin who is close in age to me, since I was staying with her. She had some work things to do in Edmonton, capital of the province, so we headed up there for an overnight trip. She has some contacts in the Alberta provincial legislature, so we went on a special tour of the place, and I got to learn all about its history and meet some cool people. It was a real treat, and I'd like to thank my cousin here for all of her hospitality, kindness, and good tea. I was able to have a nice visit with a good friend of mine as well (I spent most of May working on and celebrating her wedding with her). We've been friends since we were kids, and talk all the time despite living in different cities for our entire adult lives. She's now expecting a baby that will be my godchild, due in the spring, so it was great to see her. I also spent some time with my nephew, niece-in-law and great-nieces, and with my aunt (mother of this cousin). It was a nice, peaceful four days with friends and family...
...and then I got a cold.
Every. Flippin. Time.
I get sick pretty reliably every time I travel, and especially every time I move. It never fails. And each time I swear that next time I'll wear a mask, I'll take Vitamin C, I'll do anything to keep from getting sick my first week somewhere. Somehow, I never manage to do it.
So I was sorely tempted to stay in bed for another week and fight off this beast, but there was no way I could put the trip off. This day I had been planning for almost two years, this wonderful trip, was going to be given over to a vicious little rhinovirus. I decided I would just have to endure. My poor cousin got to hear all my complaints about the cruel Universe that would make me sick just as I'm about to achieve my dream. Sorry, cuz.
The route I took was Calgary-Edmonton-Reykjavik-Stockholm (Iceland is probably the easiest way to get to Europe from Western Canada). The first flight is only about 40 minutes long, but I had a three-and-a-half hour wait in Edmonton. Edmonton airport is pretty small. Not a great place to be stuck. Fortunately, I had my ereader with me, which remains the greatest thing to bring on your travels. Over a thousand books for the weight of less than one. Sign me up.
After what felt like forever, and ever, and ever, we were finally on our way with Icelandair. They're a good airline, relatively inexpensive, and very easy to fly with in Western Canada, which tends to be somewhat under-served in that regard. The only disadvantage is that you have to buy any food, and at airline prices, but that's fine if you plan ahead. The flight was about six hours, and pretty much uneventful.
Now for the public service announcement: DO NOT FLY WITH A COLD. Seriously, do not do it. 0/10, would not recommend. I couldn't sleep, even for a little bit, despite being on a red-eye flight. The worst part, though, was landing. Apparently I used to get ear pain during landing when I was a kid, but my memory seems to have mercifully blocked that out. It was bad, you guys. I felt as if my head was going to split in two, and I was sure I would rupture an eardrum. Fortunately, my ears held together long enough for us to land in Reykjavik-Keflavik. So dear readers? Next time you're feeling sick, take some time and wonder whether you really have to leave NOW. Easier said than done, I know.
I didn't have enough time in Iceland to go out and see the country (and it was pretty dark anyway), and in fact it was something of a sprint to get through Immigration and find my gate in time. I was so sleep-deprived and stuffy-headed that I'm surprised I managed it. Plus I couldn't hear thanks to that horrible descent (it took a good two or three days to get that back). I have no idea what I said to the guy at Immigration, but it must have been relatively coherent, because they let me in. After two and a half hours in the air, and a repeat performance of the ear pain (not as bad as before), I was in Stockholm, dazed, excited, and terrified, and all I can say is thank god for the Arlanda Express.
Sure, it's expensive, but this train gets you into the city in twenty minutes, and then you are right at Centralstation. It's also very comfortable. Within about an hour of landing, I was at my hostel and into the blissful arms of sleep.
I'm staying at the Generator Hostel, which is about 5-7 minutes' walk from Centralstation. It's a really nice place, with comfortable rooms (and the option of women-only), nice common spaces, great facilities and HUGE lockers. My only problem is that you are not allowed to bring in your own food, and there are no kitchen spaces. Anything in Stockholm that isn't home-cooked is EXPENSIVE. But it is a very nice hostel - it's a chain all over Europe. I stayed in the one in Copenhagen a few years back and had a good experience then, too. That said, I am eager to be settled somewhere more permanent!
Since then, I have been working during the days and apartment hunting in the evenings. I'm at a film archive in Stockholm for the next six months. Three days a week, I do archival tasks like cataloguing, re-housing, and moving stuff. Then I spend two days working on my thesis. I absolutely love my new workplace. Everyone is super nice, the equipment and facilities are top notch, and I get to work with some really cool films. I'm also having a lot of fun putting my thesis together, and there are a lot of resources in close reach. It's a long commute to the archive, but my trusty e-reader saves the day. I'm hoping to be a bit closer when I do get a place, though. (And looking for a place to live in Stockholm is somewhat...Sisyphean, so that may not be soon.)
Some general impressions of Stockholm:
- It feels more like a city to me than Toronto does, which is weird because Toronto's bigger - it's very fast-paced and busy.
- 7-11 seems to rule the town.
- Everyone was telling me how cold Sweden would be, but in fact it's hovered around zero the entire time, warmer than most Canadian cities.
- It has incredible transit and you can get basically anywhere with ease.
- It is also very walkable (more so than the traitorous Google Maps would have you believe).
- Everything is stupidly expensive.
- They play Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" on the radio all the time, making me wonder if I have accidentally travelled back in time thirty years.
- Everyone is thrilled that I am trying to learn Swedish, but getting them to actually speak Swedish with me is another story.
- Sometimes, I stop and look around me and can't believe I'm here.
And just like the last time I moved, and the time before that, and the time before that, I am stuck inside fighting off this cold my first weekend. History repeats, guys. It's okay - I would much rather be healthy after this weekend than exhausted after sightseeing, and I have six months to see the things I want. (I also really needed to do laundry.) My only disappointment is that I wanted to check out the Women's March, which was held in Stockholm today, but I didn't find out where it was until it had already started. I guess I will just have to be content with supporting them in spirit. I do think I moved to Europe with excellent timing, though.
I am happier and feel more peaceful here than I have pretty much anywhere else. Stockholm, despite the short amount of time I have spent here, has always felt like a home to me, and I feel that I will fit in. The next six months are going to be fabulous. I can't wait.