Our home for the next two months is located thirty kilometers east of the big city. It is barely half an hour by train, but it feels like we are riding back into nature. Mountains, forests and lakes. We breathe a sigh of relief. Emke, an old rugby buddy of Zoë, lives in Sweden for a few years with her boyfriend Remco. They just had a second child and are going to the Netherlands for more than two months. We look after the house, the cat and the two goldfish. The house is in a dead end street where about eight other families live. Through the front window we see the highway and a big lake, at the back there is only forest and nature. The house is much larger than our previous house in the north of Värmland. Way too big for the two of us, and way too luxurious for two world travelers. Suddenly we find ourselves in a real house, with no holiday vibes, but a normal life with two children and a job. We have neighbours, can use their other car and there is a dishwasher.
We don't see the sun once during the entire month of December. It is drizzly autumn weather and the forests are turning into a large pool of mud. It doesn't stop us from exploring our new environment. We look at Google Maps, take the GPS in hand and we leave in search of new trails. Soon we have more alternatives than in our previous place. In the previous house we were busy collecting, sawing and splitting wood every week. The first task in the morning was to light the wood-burning stove to warm up the house. Here the heat pump switches on automatically and heats the house all day long. We have to get used to emptying a letterbox and watering the plants. These are household tasks that return to our system after four years of traveling. Soon our routine has been adjusted and we feel at home in the big house.
The days are short in the Swedish winter. In the afternoon the sun sets at three pm and it is not light again until around nine in the morning. These days are ideal days to work on our book. Just after New Year we finish a first draft of the manuscript. We proudly send it to the proof readers and hope that the feedback is positive. We work, work, work, until we realize that we are looking at a computer screen from early morning to late at night. In reality, we hardly apply what we write down in our book. Where is the right balance between work and the outdoors? Where are the three days of work, four days of hobbying? Where are the little adventures in nature?
"I won't keep this pace for ten months," says Olivier as we walk on a layer of fresh snow.
"What do you mean?" asks Zoë
"We are working on the book 60 hours a week. By the time the book is printed, I have no energy left for the promotion, "admits Olivier honestly. "Writing gives me energy, but the whole marketing, sales and logistics is not my cup of tea"
Until now, we thought we'd do everything ourselves, from writing to selling. We realize that doing everything ourselves is madness. We write down a number of scenarios, redevelop the business plan and quickly find a solution. We are going to work with a publisher!
In the meantime, winter has arrived in the south of Sweden. The temperatures drop to minus 10 at night and the snow does not melt during the day. The grey landscape lights up the forest and the Swedish red houses shine in the snow. This is why we want to live in Scandinavia. We were a bit afraid of the cold culture of the north. The higher the north, the more closed people are, is the general idea. The opposite is true. The Swedes are not at all closed and quiet. They are calm and polite, but also curious and interested. There is a kind of calm in the culture with less rush. In the post office they are happy to help us for 15 minutes and no one behind us who grunts objects. We make camp fires outside with the neighbours and we get to know people from the village. Unconsciously, and without making any real effort, our social network is growing and we are gradually taking root in the Swedish village. It gives us confidence that we will find our home in Scandinavia, even under the grey smoke of the big city.
After more than two months, the planes flying over in the morning don't wake us up anymore and the headlights of the cars on the highway are part of the landscape.
'I can't believe two months have passed,' Zoë says as we walk to the cinema in the village in the evening. It is the smallest cinema in Sweden, which opens its doors exclusively for us tonight. While skating, we happened to meet the vice president, whose brother skated across Lake Baikal in Russia years ago. He made a film about it and we get to see it this evening.
'I told you. You're going to regret leaving here.' Olivier replies.
'Live in this village or in my parents' house?" asks Zoë. Olivier doesn't have to think about it for long.
'Here. No doubt about it'. Two and a half months was far too short.