As I’m sitting in the dining room of my friend’s house on a beautiful island in Sweden, I realised that I am very blessed with many simple but wonderful experiences by just living a simple life with 5 adults and 4 children in the last couple of days. I didn’t actually do much, didn’t bother to put make up, to dress fashionably, to take photos or even blowdry my hair ( there wasn’t a hairdryer to speak of anyways). They say the best things in life are free and after these few days, I can’t help but agree for I have gained some irreplaceable memories and learnt more than a lesson or two about simple living.
Here’s some of the simplest things that made me happy and grateful.
1. Having plenty of sunshine (and some rain). The sun sets only for only 5 hours each day during the Sweden summer so there’s plenty of light and time for outdoor activities.
2. Having clean sheets to sleep on every night. Much love and thanks goes out to Celeste who was so thoughtful to cart a whole set of fresh sheets and covers all the way from Finland when she came to meet me in Sweden.
3. Being able to run into a warm house when it is cold outside. The temperatures for summer here can range between 11C to 26C in a single day so there are many times where I’ll head out in the hot afternoon wearing only tee and shorts or a light dress then find myself frozen when I come back in the evening.
4. Going to look for adventures and trying out new activities in a random but beautiful new location that I have never visited before or even planned for. I love throwing caution to the wind and just absorbing whatever experiences that my come my way.
5. Cycling the day away in the city and feeling healthy and accomplished at the end of the day. It also helps that it’s the cheapest form of transport in an expensive city like Stockholm.
6. Listening to your favourite tunes. When my dearest furkid, Emmie, passed away during this trip, I was quite moody especially in the mornings and evenings. But music lightened both my mood and my heart.
7. Re-reading some of my favourite children books. There were 4 kids with us for a week as we explored a typical Scandinavian summer island life on this leg of my Europe trip and I actually enjoyed reading children books to little Aurora who is 3 this year. I had forgotten how fun and happy children books are.
8. Cuddling my “chou-chou” underneath some blankies in the morning. I’m the kind of person that needs a security blanket (regardless of weather) when I sleep. Usually when I travel, I’ll bring my own travel pillow too. It’s an amazing feeling to have something familiar when you wake up in unfamiliar surroundings all the time on long trips.
9. Getting a good night’s rest. Good sleep is one of the best free things in the world. Other than having the time to sleep in, the quality of sleep is just as important. When I have no stress, no pressing work deadlines or much technology around, I sleep so much better. Of course, being tired out from playing with the kids every day helped too.
10. Knowing you have real friends who have your back, no matter what happens in the future. Real and long-lasting friendship is something special. It goes beyond chatting on a daily basis or enjoying the same hobbies. True friends are always going to be there for you, near or far, in good times or in bad.
11. Having people who loves you for who you are. I’m pretty introverted and like to be a homebody whenever I get the chance. I’m silly, terrible at housework and my spelling is atrocious. But I’m still lucky to be loved by so many.
12. Having love and support from my parents and my sister. My family gave me much love and support when my dog, Emmie, passed away back in Singapore during my trip here. They (and my dear friend, Lereyln) helped to give Emmie the most beautiful send off with me on the other end of the live video chat, half the world away. Right now, they are giving all their love and attention to my other dog, Louis, so that he won’t feel lonely and I don’t have to worry while I’m away.
13. Eating home cooked meals. While staying in this beautiful home on an island, everyone has taken turns to cook meals and it’s so nice to be able to enjoy a delicious healthy meal in a group where people actually talk to each other instead getting distracted by technology.
14. Seeing a pet’s devotion and love. My friend’s dog, Stripey, shows so much loyalty and love for his owners. He’s a sweet (and clingy) dog and I love caressing him cause he reminds me of the devotion that Louis and Emmie (my dogs back in Singapore) have towards me.
15. The smell of nature and fresh air. Waking up to greenery everywhere and being on an island with no cars is so refreshing to my senses.
16. Watching the sunlight reflect gracefully on the waters. I’m surrounded by water. There’s no shops on the island that I’m staying so we need to take the rowboat or the speedboat to buy food or to tour the city.
17. Listening to the sound of rainfall through the window. The rain here is usually short and sparse but there was one evening when the rain was much heavier. Everyone stayed indoors comfortably. There is a small little window next to my bed in the loft and for that moment I was totally relaxed sitting and enjoying the comfort that the sound of the falling rain brought.
18. A peaceful relaxing walk. I couldn’t remember when was the last time that I walked for the sake of enjoying the walk. Even on holidays, I was always heading somewhere in the most efficient way possible to do something. In this trip, I did a lot of aimless walking. Just enjoying the stroll, the sights, the sounds and the unexpected.
19. Laughing till your sides hurts and your eyes tears. Laughter is the best medicine and to be able to laugh in abandon is one of the simplest and best presents in life.
20. Making a stranger smile by just smiling at them. I’m not sure if it’s because the people in Sweden are particularly helpful and friendly but it is a splendid thing to have such positive vibes from another human being. The taxi driver that sent me to the pier took extra care to make sure it was the right place by driving around and even asking around for me (all these with his meter off!). People are always waving or acknowledging with a “Hej Hej” (Hello!) when we go by. A passing old lady who saw us fishing even kindly offered to scale, gut, clean and cook our perch for us (if we caught a big one) when she saw us clueless.
21. Thinking back on all the funny memories you shared with your friends a lifetime ago but are as fresh in your head as if they just happened last week.
22. Having a lazy day. I’m always rushing about in Singapore so the lazy island life was really good for me. Thanks to my incredible friend Celeste, who selflessly took it upon herself to spare me from all the cleaning and giving me space to do nothing for a day or two.
23. Appreciating the outdoors and having the sun on your skin. Back in Singapore, we are cooped up in air-conditioned rooms for most of the day and on weekends we spend the time in malls or hiding away from direct sunlight. The cool weather in Sweden makes being outdoors and having the warmth of the sun on your skin a glorious thing. Of course, sunblock is a must.
24. Getting into the sauna or a hot bubble bath. It’s the perfect ending to a summer’s day in Scandinavia.
25. Receiving hand-picked flowers from the kids. There are wild flowers everywhere and the kids get to roam and run around all day, coming back with natures’ presents for me.
26. Finding earthworms under rocks. Xavier wanted to go fishing and all we had was a line and a hook. To find bait, we roamed around the island, overturning rocks to look for earthworms. Call it cheap thrill but we were always excited when a worm was found.
27. Finding something you thought you had lost. In a household with many toddlers, things go missing frequently. It’s frustrating but also very gratifying when you find what you thought you lost just a moment ago.
28. Making a child laugh or smile. Their innocence is contagious and it’s so easy and entertaining to make them laugh or smile with some simple words or actions.
29. Taking off your shoes after a day out. I really love being able to wriggle my toes and go barefoot.
30. Seeing an old friend and sharing secrets and life stories over instant noodles and tea. The instant noodles were brought over from Singapore and while I love all types of food, there is just an extra intimate bonding when two Singaporeans (especially when one of them lives in Finland and is constantly homesick) pour their hearts out over a plate of spicy ‘100 Ramen’ or ‘Indomee’.
31. Dancing with abandon to a good song. Somehow kids makes you put all your defenses down and you just dance just like them, with your soul instead of your head.
32. A table full of people at breakfast. I don’t come from a big family and I’m always traveling alone or in pairs so it’s a totally different (in a good way) experience for me to wake up to a boisterous breakfast table.
33. Being able to win the row-boat competition against the current. We went fishing in a small row-boat and when the current came in it was a serious struggle being able to get back to shore. What a relief and achievement when we finally docked the boat!
34. Fishing at the pier and watching excitedly as the fish almost bites the bait. I didn’t catch any but Xavier caught 2 perches and MM caught 3 fishes.
35. Giving comfort to a crying child. Children cry over the smallest things, and sometimes all they need is a hug and comforting sounds.
36. Spotting random deers in your lawn. They are really easy to spook so it’s hard to get close. Thses are free roaming deers that can be spotted every now and then.
37. Having line conversations with friends and love ones in other parts of the world experiencing exciting things and remembering to text or send images just to share them with me.
I’m still in the middle of my European /Scandinavian holiday so I’m sure I’ll have more wonderful experiences but I really wanted to write these down because my heart is bursting with gratefulness for the experiences that I have enjoyed this last week on this island. If you have any other lovely experiences that money can’t buy, do share them with me. Meanwhile, it’s time to pack my bags and leave this island on row boats in just a bit.
Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend.