COUNTRY 12 – Sweden: From Freezing Snow Cold, Northern Lights to Almost Midnight Summer Sun!

The present moment is significant, not as the bridge between past and future, but by reason of its contents, which can fill our emptiness and become ours, if we are capable of receiving them. –Dag Hammarsköld

After three years, we came back to Europe to explore the beautiful countries and this year (2016), we went to explore and enjoy the Scandinavian Region.

Our first stop was Sweden, which easily became our favorite country… so far. We’ve seen the country in two seasons, February winter and July summer! Both seasons are spectacular, our family travel memories just piled up with awesome moments of awe, bliss and oh-my-goodness!

With our weirdo family members aged 39, 37, 9, 6, 3 it was a dream come true to witness the wonders of nature up north. Truth be told, it was a bit scary for us, desert dweller family, to bring the kids in a negative-degree-Celsius climate but we went ahead chasing dreams. We wanted to see the Northern Lights and the parents were determined to enjoy this spectacular nature show with kids. With our hot cocoas and while kids were snowboarding in the dark, there up the wonderful round sky (it’s that far north!) we first witness the twinkling green dancing lights, until it gets brighter and brighter, like it was dancing only for us, to welcome us in Sweden! We can only hear the steady beating of our hearts and the inhaling and exhaling of the kids full of wonderment and amazement for full five minutes. After that, they were too cold not to complain. It was magical yes, mixed with the human shortcomings of not being able to bear extreme cold weather even in the state of bliss!

It was truly a magical experience, watching the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky for three consecutive nights. We explored the town Abisko and Kiruna scared yet with wide eyes opened how the life happens in freezing temperature. Our family had read so much books about the winter in the North before embarking on the trip together yet nothing could every prepare us for the wonderful nature at work.

Dreams Do Come True, Northern Lights and Turknoys for Three Awesome Nights Up North
Dreams Do Come True, Northern Lights and Turknoys for Three Awesome Nights Up North

Maybe that’s life. We can prepare the best we can, but with grateful hearts and wide eyes open for all possibilities, nature and our destiny with God’s magical will, life is still full of magical surprises.

Yet sometimes, we get taken aback and get scared and prevent ourselves from experiencing the magical suprises. We are at peace with that experience still. We experienced the fear of walking in a frozen lake for fear of plunging to our death in the cold. Yet a lot of people were walking, skating even to their heart’s delight. We chickened out, yes, but we were able to stare at the wonderful frozen lake with family, while humming.. “Letting Go!’ Ha! We take what we can do.

Turknoys on Frozen Tornetrask Lake while walking and taking pictires on its surface! scary!

Turknoys on Frozen Tornetrask Lake while walking and taking pictires on its surface! scary!

 

Reindeers will always have Santa Claus and Santa Claus will always have his reindeers. We all know the story. Yet having our own family reindeer stories to cherish is just too precious, we have a field of reindeers in frozen lake and snow mountain view early in the morning in Abisko while the mother was shouting, reindeeers, until every breath of excitement ran outs. The kids will forever remember reindeers with their mom, full of life, chasing dreams and that is a more awesome reindeer story to remember. But maybe not as awesome as the reindeer pizza supreme we had for dinner while on the train heading out of the north of Sweden.

There’s also the moose, the snow wolves and snow mobiling under the Northern Lights while scaring the kids about trolls which lurk in the frozen lake and forest, all without photographs yet those memories always cross our minds every time we talk about Sweden.

This 3-year old can conquer below freezing point cold dark days, under the Northern Lights 😊

From Abisko, then Kiruna town proper, we went to the Ice Hotel. This hotel was another level of awesome, spectacular adventure with kids. It is quite humbling to be able to see manmade innovations with kids and note the hope and admiration in their eyes. God-willing, they will be able to innovate from the levels of greatness they have witnessed already in their lives. Education through travel is the best education there is.

Ice Hotel

Stockholm, the capital city, will always be very special to our hearts. We stayed in a boat hotel and was a truly great experience for the kids. Walking in the Old Town and enjoying family activities in Junibacken and getting to know Pippi Longstockings who we love dearly already. We have all the books Astrid Lindgren, our family’s favorite kids’ books author!

Turknoys and Pippi Longstocking’s Horse in Junibacken

We also enjoyed a lot of ABBA Music at ABBA Museum! Full day of fun and music! 

Every family travel has a favorite story and our favorite story in Stockholm is after our visit to The National Museum of Science and Technology. The kids had fabulous time enjoying the exhibits in the museum that we got lost track of time and stayed at the museum until we were advised that the museum was closed for the day. It was winter and days are short and it was already too dark for us to walk. We went to the bus stop and waited for the bus in below freezing temperature. In the dark. Cold. With three hungry kids. We didn’t purchased the day pass for transportation access in all Stockholm because we were really enjoy walking around.

The bus stopped and we asked if we can pay cash or through credit card. Bus driver simply said, No, sorry! And drove away. Ouch, we were stunned and silent for whole five minutes. We are stucked and stranded in the bus stop with no means to get home!

Another bus stopped. We begged the bus driver. Without breathing, waited for the driver to respond. This driver has a cheery attitude. He said, Hop in, Don’t worry about it! And just like that, we were saved from a night of frost bite and death! Yes, we do exaggerate about this story a bit.

Our real take away is that in every city, there will always be that guy who won’t care and that guy who would. In everywhere we go, we want to be that guy who cares as much as we want to meet those guys who would care.
 

We can’t get enough of Sweden that we had to book another trip to Gothenburg and Stockholm again. Stockholm is called Venice of the North but yes, not really fond of Venice so we will pick Stockholm over Venice anytime.

We have explored the Volvo Museum, Haga and Botanical Garden in Gothenburg and we can’t get enough of the beauty of the city.

Gotheburg and Stockholm in Summer where days are really looooonnngggg!

We were able to visit the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and we are impressed how a huge failure can be a big tourist attraction. We believe this reflect the peace-loving nature of the Swedes, they get over mistakes easily with no desires to blame or punish and just celebrate the lessons and the benefits of the mistakes. Because yes, we always get loads of benefits from the mistakes in our lives. In tourism, in education and in our everyday life.
 

We’ve experienced the Ice Hotel, stayed in the boat hotels, enjoyed cabin in winter and summer, got fluent with Sweden’s public transportation, train, metro, ferry rides, we can say proudly, that we really love Sweden! We really really do and we can’t wait to get back.

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Let’s Be Busy Being Alive 

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” –Sings Bob Dylan 
 
Every time we visit a new country or a new place or do new activity together as family, we always have that feeling of vigor, of expanding our horizon, of being reborn (in a non-radical-religious-kinda-way!)

The feeling of excitement when we stepped out of the plane and enjoy the first breath of fresh air of the country! Lots of possibilities, places to see, lots of milestones to share with kids!

The feeling of accomplishment when we perform new activity together, no matter now trivial, the exhilaration of fresh ideas coming to mind, fresh feelings of tons of possibilities shared with kids! 

It makes all of us come alive.

When we arrived at Gangehi, Maldives from the seaplane to the boat going to the island, we can still vividly hear the gasps of WOW from all the passengers, it’s like we were almost in the paradise island! Well, the island is a paradise. Gangehi is one small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean isolated surrounded with nothing but water and white, fine sand. The parents were so busy admiring the islands that the kids almost fell off the ocean from the plane! (True story – but kids are good swimmers, no harm done!) Out of breath with the view, panting with excitement, every now and then pinching ourselves to make sure that it’s real, all nerves yearning to catch up with the logic of what is happening. Euphoria – that’s a nice busy feeling.

Setting foot on Gangehi Islands in Indian Ocean for the first time with kids!
Exactly the same feeling our family felt when we stepped out of the airplane from Stockholm to Kiruna, in the Artic part of the world. It was almost midnight, the snow everywhere, the freezing temperature, looking up at the bright sky hoping to see the Northern Lights. Again, the parents were so busy admiring the snow-covered airport runway that we didn’t notice the kids sinking their feet to the depth of the snow. (Again, true story! They did however, find this funny and kept running mindlessly around like their parents, despite being undressed in a very cold weather!) The faces of the kids, giddy moments together, definitely a treasure to remember for the rest of our living moments.

The morning after arrival at Kiruna – awesome moments with family!

Again, exactly the same feeling we had when we experienced our first family cart-carabao ride around the village in Indang we call home in the Philippines. Kids and parents shouting with joy and excitement looking at familiar green environment and feeling euphoric seeing goats, chickens and banana shrubs! The adrenaline rush, the blissful moment of being occupied with activity so routine and trivial for some, yet so special and memorable for our family.

Carabao Ride in Indang! Home Sweet Home Adventures!

 

That exact same feeling, although a bit challenging to replicate in our day-to-day life as expat family in the desert, we always try our best to feel alive, to be exhausted with happiness and not boredom. We find bliss in sand dunes, so we always seek the thrill of admiring the desert with kids especially at high temperature and humidity! In the desert, we feel busy dreaming, busy feeling the euphoria of experiencing life surrounded by sand and  dust yet with so much comfort magnified by love and blessings of the country we live in.

 

Brown is our Green when in Qatar! Exploring is always blissful
Every day we open our eyes are God’s gift. Each day we don’t do things that make us come alive is an injustice to this gift. 

Every day is too precious not to be busy living. Such a waste to be busy dying! 

Let’s Be Busy Growing Everday. It takes full commitment to growth!

Just Go For It! 

“I learn by going where I have to go.” – Theodore Roethke

The fun thing about life is we will never know what we are capable of doing and achieving  until we know better. 

And the very unfortunate thing in life is we will never know better until we just go for it… 

Ahhh, life is great! It makes taking risks less risky because we kinda know that we all don’t know what we are doing anyways! 

(If you don’t know this, then newsflash – we are all winging it in this life!)

So, why not throw all inhibitions out of the way and just GO FOR IT!

There is a big world out there to explore and to experience. Endless surprises awaits anybody who has the courage to ask for it. So, we always just say GO FOR IT! 

These are the most common phrases we hear ourselves say to why we should not travel with kids. Just change the “travel with kids” with any goals your hearts are crying out to achieve but scared to accomplish and we’re on the same page.

Since our goals are set already, we try to be hard on ourselves to kick our a$$ to action. Usually works for us. Hope this works for you, too.

1. “Uhmm, I don’t know….” – which actually means I’m too lame (or pathetic) to even source out information from Google and Wikipedia or talk to friends and colleagues who know about stuff! Don’t be lame, JUST GO FOR IT!
 

2. “I don’t have the resources,” similar to “I don’t have time” or “It’s expensive.” – Which actually means I’m too lame (or pathetic) to even source out information from Google and Wikipedia and other sources to work my way around lack of resources. So we say, “Don’t be lame, JUST GO FOR IT!”

 
3. “It’s complicated. I have so many considerations to make…” which actually means “I’m too lazy to move out of my comfort zone. So we say, “Don’t be lazy, JUST GO FOR IT!”

4. “I don’t think I can do that..” which actually means again that  I’m too lazy to move out of my comfort zone. So we say, “Don’t be lazy, JUST GO FOR IT!”
 

5. “I really want to do that..BUT…” which means “But, I really don’t want to.” So we say, If really want to, JUST GO FOR IT!  If you don’t really want to, let’s move on, quit it! 

Eye on the ball or drop the ball! It’s that simple. The first one requires a lot of balls working, though. That’s an awesome thing! 
Yes, just go for it and then we’ll know better. That’s life and living life.

Dreams. Goals. They can come true.

  

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