In this post I’ll mostly discuss my fantastic trip to Visby, Gotland. But I’ll give a quick rundown of week 3!
I did end up going kayaking last Sunday! Already feels so long ago. It was the perfect day for it, and I would highly recommend going if you have the opportunity. It was sunny and decently warm–I even jumped in the water! The water was definitely chilly, but I’m a mermaid so I was ecstatic that I got to swim.
Side note: I was thinking as I was kayaking about how the actual experience of going kayaking is very different than fulfilling the attachment to the idea I had of going kayaking.
In other words, while you’re abroad, you’ll have tons of boxes you want to check off on the list of things you want to do. But looking back on a checked off box isn’t nearly as fulfilling as enjoying the moment you’re in, whatever it is you might be doing (maybe you’re even just walking to class).
Monday I went to the Fotografiska museum! Two of the Swedish Language and Culture professors invited their students to meet at the museum at 6 o’clock. We saw a poignant exhibit on homelessness in Sweden and then got free admission to the rest of the museum. I was pretty tired and exhausted, but I loved it and definitely would like to go back.
Adjusting to Change
So Monday was a little rough for me. I had my classes from 8:30am-2:30pm and then I stayed out until it was time to meet at the museum at 6:00pm. I didn’t get home until around 8:00pm.
And as you may have seen in my previous posts, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to my early commute and 6 hour block of classes. My body felt very confused digestion and sleep-wise that whole day. I ended up getting sick again with a more long-lasting cold the next morning.
I adjusted my routine on Wednesday so that I now do my mediation/exercises at night, and Thursday went much smoother. I feel like I’m getting the hang of it now! But I still nursed a cold that whole week. I’m actually still coughing and blowing my nose quite a bit, although I feel a lot better.
This brings me to Friday and my trip to Gotland! This trip was probably the highlight of my stay in Sweden thus far. Not only is Visby an absolutely beautiful and special place, but I also learned a lot from my experiences there and the people around me.
We took a three hour ferry with our trip leader, and arrived in Visby Friday night. We stayed in a cute and clean little hotel and woke up for a delicious breakfast buffet in the morning.
Food and walking tour
They had oats, granola, muesli, different kinds of seeds, raisins, coconut flakes, cinnamon, ginger powder and more. They also had an assortment of breads and fruits and even provided a vegan margarin spread. There were meats and hard boiled eggs for the non-vegans, too.
Food side-note: I have discovered that Sweden in general is very good about veganism. Restaurants always seem to have a specific vegan option or menu. Even at the ones that don’t, the waiters and waitresses always are very familiar with what veganism is and what substitutes are available.
Anyways, Saturday morning after breakfast we took off on a two hour walking tour of Visby. We got to see the botanical garden, the old city walls, a mythic tower, a beautiful church, statues of the famous Gotland sheep and more.
Next, we had two hours off to get lunch and recollect before embarking on a four hour mountain biking tour.
Mountain biking tour
Okay, so let me just say this was not at all accurately advertised in the tour description. The only note on biking reads: “the island is yours to explore by bicycle and on foot”. And on the list of “possible activities”, mountain biking is not noted among them.
So I thought that this meant we could take a bike rental and bike along the island or we could explore the town and walk the beaches by foot. Not that there would be a guided four hour mountain biking tour as the main activity of our trip.
Let me clarify that I’m not upset about this. This is just the reason why I signed up for this trip with essentially no bike (and zero mountain bike) experience. My friend taught me to ride a regular bike this summer for about an hour. I learned how to start and stay up. However, I didn’t learn how to remain in a straight line, and I didn’t practice biking for any extended period of time.
About ten minutes into the tour, already trailing far behind, I told the guide that I would go back. That I felt bad holding everyone up. But he assured me it was a beginner’s trip and he takes people out with my level of biking expertise all the time. He implored me to give it another ten minutes and then decide if I really wanted to return.
With this assurance, and with the previous assurance of five of the seven people on the tour that they would welcome the breaks my lagging behind would provide, I continued on to face the challenge.
It felt empowering to feel scared, tired, and at my physical and emotional limit, but to continue to persevere, knowing that I could handle anything. I took around six falls, two of them hard enough to knock the wind out of me and leave me a little dizzy.
Probably because of yoga, my body felt fine. Emotionally, though, this was very strenuous. A couple of times I had to pause and say “sorry, I’m okay. I just need to cry for a minute.” Then I would release the energy build-up by crying, while my wonderful friend Megan or our trip leader Vincent paused for support.
After a minute of this, I would begin walking with my bike again and start the difficult process of starting again. Starting was by far the hardest part for me, and took me a very long time.
This whole experience made me very grateful for the wonderful people on my trip. But it also made me miss my supportive, loving kula back home. There were one or two people on the DIScovery tour who weren’t able to have compassion. One boy said to the rest of the group while I was lagging behind “why did she even sign up for this trip?” and continued to make snarky remarks throughout the tour.
There’s a lot more to say about this biking trip from the male-designed bike seats (don’t even get me started) to the beautiful views to the beautiful solidarity of good friends to the awesome rock climbing accomplishment of a lovely peer to the lunch-break beach-side yoga done by me!
All in all, it was a wonderfully clarifying and empowering experience for me, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to take part in it.
Tandem biking, sheep, beaches, and crepes!
The next day, all the women were still in a lot of pain in the crotch area from the bike seats. However, some of us were determined to bike to a farm to see the Gotland sheep and then to the beach.
I was definitely psyching myself out a little, and wasn’t quite ready to get back on a bike. So I did a tandem bike with our trip leader who was coming with us on our adventure. The tandem bike allowed me to rid myself of the fear of falling and the need to focus on balancing, since I knew Vincent’s weight would keep the bike upright even if I was shaky.
Ironically, the tandem bike kind of started falling apart shortly into our trip, making loud noises and getting stuck every once in awhile. Which added back an element of fear that the bike would fall apart while we were riding along the highway with cars. But we made it! And it was honestly so much fun.
We rode along next to some of the mountain bike paths we had gone on the day before, but we stayed on the dirt roads instead of going onto the rocks. I got to admire some of the beautiful scenery that escaped me the day before while I was concentrating on surviving (haha).
We did find Gotland sheep! And then we got crepes before sending Megan off on her way home (since she had to wake up early for core course week the next morning. Then we headed over to a tranquil rock beach where we practiced skipping rocks, laid on the sun-soaked ground, dipped our feet in the water and listened to music.
After awhile the two remaining DIS students and I explored the botanical gardens before coming back to the beach to grab Vincent and heading off to our final dinner. Bye, Gotland!
I do hope to go back one day. It truly was a magical place.
“A happy or unhappy life is your own creation. Nobody else is responsible. If you remember this, you won’t find fault with anybody. You are your own best friend as well as your worst enemy.”
“I feel we don’t really need scriptures. The entire life is an open book, a scripture. Read it. Learn while digging a pit or chopping some wood or cooking some food. If you can’t learn from your daily activities, how are you going to understand the scriptures?”
— Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras