have done a lot of traveling for a 17-year old but I’d say the most memorable trip that I’ve had is a three-week stay in Sweden in June 2008.
We went to Stockholm to attend a high school graduation for an exchange student that lived with us the year before. For graduation, the students file out of the school wearing sailor hats and then line up and toss their hats into the air. Immediately after tossing their hats, the students and their friends climb onto the back of flat bed trucks and drive around downtown Stockholm until late that evening. I was lucky enough to join on the trucks and ride around the city, singing and dancing.
We went to a Independence day celebration in downtown Stockholm and got to see the Queen and many national celebrities as they paraded and had a ceremony and the city zoo. There was a lot of singing in Swedish and it was neat to see the pride of the local people.
A very interesting museum is the one for the Vasa ship. The Vasa was one of the biggest ships of its time. On its maiden voyage, the Vasa capsized and sunk. Years later, the ship was recovered, restored, and reconstructed in the museum. The museum has many exhibits on the history of Sweden and interactive exhibits, such as one that you can build your own virtual Vasa and see if it would fare the seas better than the real one.
The highlight of the trip was when we took a ferry to the island of Gotland for a weekend. We stayed in a bed and breakfast by the ocean and explored the town during the day. There are many little cafes that had great lunches and even better views that look out onto the Baltic Sea. For fun, we would go swimming, but swimming in Sweden is not really swimming. We would run and jump off cliffs into the freezing ocean. As soon as your body hits the cold water it goes into shock so you have to swim back onto the rocks as fast as possible as your muscles contract.
After we returned to Stockholm on the ferry, we loaded all of our things into the car to make our way to the summerhouse in Sundsvall. Sundsvall is in Northern Sweden, on the coast of the Baltic Sea. While we were in Sundsvall we had the opportunity to celebrate Midsummer with our host family and some of the neighbors. The Euro Cup soccer tournament was played while we were in Sweden so I got to experience the national pride that the entire country embraced when the Swedish team was playing. There was excitement everywhere on a game day and when it was game time the entire country basically shut down to cheer on their team.
After a week in Sundsvall, my family boarded a train and headed back to Stockholm and boarded the plane to head home on the 13-hour flight back to the States. The trip really made me grow up. I had to learn to navigate a huge foreign city with a labyrinth of train and bus routes and by the second week, I was doing it by myself. I tried more new foods than in the rest of my life combined, from pickled herring to yak stew. I learned about a culture and government that is so different than ours but at times seems so closely related. I left for Sweden as a teenage boy but I really felt like a young man when I returned home.
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