In the tradition I study and practice, Mexica, the direction North gives teachings about transformation, death, re-birth, ancestral memories and wisdom from our grandfathers and ancestors. The past few years during the peak summer month July in Sweden, I travel to the edge of this direction: our family house in the far north. Situated in Sapmí and the Swedish Lapland, just east of the World Heritage Laponia, this truly is the far north. Reindeers show us the way as the car drives further and further along the empty roads in the forest. The outback and wilderness of Sweden live precisely here.
Every year I go with my sisters and brothers, blood or heart family or both. This year, Hubby and I went on a long road trip to get there. It amazes me that every year I long for the tranquility, the wild rivers and deep forests surrounding the mountains and it seems I have forgotten about the Story of the North. Every year I seem to forget about the hardship of North’s transformational journey. Or, most likely, that is why I go. To remember. To transform.
The trip itself is a long and, in many ways, challenging one of about 1700 kms. Last year, as some might remember, my partner and I hitchhiked and tried to find various cheap options to travel thru Sweden. We crisscrossed the country with free rental cars, local buses and trains to get here. Previous years, I’ve taken the over-night train or driven all the way with only a few bathroom stops. This year was a compromise with driving divided into smaller journeys. Upon arrival, everybody always gives a sigh of relief, happiness and gratitude that we made it. And then we rest. For several days we rest, with some occasional sauna bathing in between. After about four days the restlessness arrives. It takes over the entire body by allowing tiredness to linger while heaviness starts to make room in the emotional, mental and physical body.
One year, I tried to cure this restlessness by going for a run. It was a late summer afternoon, still warm and bright as daylight as I tied my shoes and went off. Outside the house runs one narrow dirt road and I figured it was best to simply follow it for a few kilometers and then turn around or I would get lost. After a couple of minutes, my skin was warm and moist, attracting mosquitos from the nearby village but I decided to keep going. Running the restlessness away. Suddenly, I see a big four-legged mammal some 300 meters in front of me! In the middle of the road, it stood staring at me. I tried to determine weather it was a moose or a reindeer, but it was too far away to tell for sure. My heart started pumping faster as I knew encountering an angry Mama Moose is nothing I wanted to do by myself in the middle of the forest (i.e. their territory!). The mosquitos bit hard, my pulse pumped and I decided to carry on (nothing could stop me in the pursuit for a cure against restlessness!). The four-legged ran into the forest before I got to see it properly but as I neared the place where it had stood I got the feeling of being observed. I slowed down again and started to listen. Nothingness. Slowly, I continued to run and turned my head to look over my shoulder. And there, in the edge of the forest it stood curiously starring at me! I jumped in surprise! Thankfully, it was a beautiful light grey reindeer that wanted to accompany me. But I had reached the point of return and instead started my way back.
Filled with mosquitos and bites by now, I ran faster while looking down at my feet in an attempt to keep them out off my eyes. Luckily, I kept my gaze at my feet as I turned onto the path towards the house and had to jump half a meter up in the air and to the right because of a fat and sun gazed snake that angrily opened its mouth and rose towards me! My instant jump made me avoid its jaws by just an inch. Back home, I went strait to the sauna to contemplate and decided that the mosquitos were reason enough not go running in this environment again.
Nowadays, I do my practice outside every morning and together with the mosquitos (sure, some mornings this might mean lighting all the incense at once) and the occasional reindeers passing by. I’ve learnt how to accept and embrace that they are too part of my practice and part of my story. But the deep and true teachings come from the hidden allegories inside the vast mountain stories; the endless forests filled with berries, the powerful rivers, and reindeer medicine, never ending daylight, the sauna and the stillness of Nature. Here lies the restlessness and all you have to do is to listen. Listen to the stories of the north.
The teachings of North are the stories of the un-imaginable amount of mosquitos and a never setting sun in summer, of the deep, dark, and cold winter, and of the dark energies that rest here. Dark energies coming from the history of the land(s), from our collective ancestral memory, and for me also from my ancestral blood linage memory. Here, in the silence between the mountains, death is always present. Few of the original habitants remain as they one by one grow older and pass on, their kids being long gone to the city. The abandoned villages and houses become more empty each day. Empty with stories that no one cares to listen to. And every here and there, houses and trees hold the souls that refuse to travel on because they never got to tell their story. They linger on until someone listens, giving the whole area a greyish gloom of unwelcoming bitterness and perhaps a protective shield against intruders. In the midst of this, my ancestral stories come to the surface as I climb the mountain or walk the swamps. Ancestral memories from the blood linage that are planted on this land, as well as those from my own personal story that needs to be healed reveal themselves inside the restlessness, darkness and silence. And just as in Costa Rica and the Mexica tradition I turn to the Temazcal (sweat lodge) for purification and to peel of layers to refine my being, here in the North I retreat to the firewood sauna where I can hide away from mosquitos and let my body and soul heal by listening to the stories wanting to be told. Over and over again.
Or How To Travel the World for Free
We got in to Luleå early in the morning, where we spent the day in nature together with yet a magic yogi friend. As the late afternoon came closer, we got on the local bus to Överkalix, where we were to spend the coming week in the mythical wilderness of the Northern forest.
From here our story takes a different route as we decided to buy a car and name it Björnen (The Bear)- bringing with us some of the medicine from the north! And even though traveling by car might be the cheapest way to get around (and most definitely the easiest!) Sweden and the North, it is part of another story. So, let’s summarize How To Travel Cheap in Sweden for ya:
Combine sightseeing and transportation Like we did with Inlandsbanan
Combine transportation and sleep There are few over-night travel options in Sweden, but in the North is where you can find them. Sleep poorly while transporting yourself and you save one night worth of lodging, like we did between Umeå and Luleå.
Use local buses Harder to find and time consuming but generally cheaper, offers a lot of fun through random countryside experiences and take you further than you might think. Even across county borders, like when we traveled Dalarna!
Hitchhike might be time-consuming and expensive in terms of buying shitty food and snacks in every gas station you end up at in between rides. However, when wanting to get around a certain area (i.e. shorter rides and without the heavy packing) I recommend giving it a go, like we did in Rättvik.
Drive freerider cars Especially good when you want to get from A to B quick and B is really far away, like the first part of our trip.
Travel with a portable kitchen, in that way you can cook your own food basically wherever you are and save in on a lot of money. Check out foodbymagie for tips and recipes on easy and cheap food to cook both indoors and outdoors!
Use Allemansrätten and the common fireplaces at resting areas near the roads and by the lakes. Just be mindful with the fire! Read more about how I used it and what it allows you to do here.
Learn the local plants, mushrooms and berries and just like that you have free food all around you! I will write more about this topic, if you are interested? In the meantime, check out foodbymagie and coming events and workshops here.
Forest Camping & City Camping Travel with a tent in Scandinavia and you always have a place to crash. Read more about Allemansrätten and how we camped in Umeå.
Staying with friends & Couchsurfing We actually didn’t camp all that much, staying with good friends and locals always offer great experiences!
Hidden Costs: You know what I’m talking about; toilets, Internet, and most definitely where to store the bags when you don’t have a hotel/car or the like!
Library hangout: Good place to charge your devices + use the Internet for free. I’ve used the library both in big cities like Malmö and small towns like Kalix, you might need a library card in some places tho!
Toilets: The church. Even if you can’t find public toilets, you will find a church- go check their opening hours! In addition, I like to hang out in the often times very beautiful old buildings.
Do you have any great tips about traveling without money you think I should add? Or a great idea you think I should try? Comment below!