What-is & Wanted vs. Unwanted: move to Sweden

A few months ago I decided to move to Sweden. It was during the summer heatwave and the thought of a cooler climate sounded so appealing. As did being someplace more urban.

I liked the idea of downsizing too.

After all, Sweden is the birthplace of IKEA—the master at utilizing every inch of space with good design and function. I got goosebumps thinking about shrinking square footage and the utter absence of clutter, a place for everything and everything in its Swedish place.

I daydreamed about learning a new language too… The Love of My Life holding my hand as we strolled along the waterfront in Stockholm practicing our pronunciation of tågstationen and spårvagnshållplatsen.

I even delighted at the thought of Hans being in a country where they treat ice hockey like a religion. It made me happy thinking he’d be in his element. It would be like he was finally home. His hockey home.

So I camped out at the bookstore reading about the nearly 100 museums and 1,000+ restaurants in Stockholm. I looked into the Rosetta Stone for Swedish, Levels I, II, and III. I learned about the Swedish commitment to sustainable living and the societal code of conduct—lagom, which loosely translated means just enough or in moderation.

It all resonated. We were moving to Sweden.

But then I learned about the 6 hours of daylight in December and the snow-rich winters that drop below 5 degrees Fahrenheit. And the smoked meats and cream sauces…and squeezing food out of toothpaste tubes.

Beyond the cold and culinary drawbacks, there were also pesky things like work permits and residence permits. Oh, and it turns out Hans wasn’t quite as keen as I was on moving 4,123 miles away without a plan.

And so—just like that—my dream of a move to Sweden went poof!

But as my Scandinavian dream disappeared, my inner detective emerged. What was it—really—I was looking for with my Stockholm scheme?

Because just as with any dream, there’s the outer layer that presents itself, and then there’s the inner essence.

What was the essence of my desire? What could I extract that was still worth pursuing—and perhaps much more easily attained than moving to Scandinavia?

When I put my Swedish dream in the distiller, here’s what I extracted:

  • Climate: The birth of my Swedish dream came during 100+ degree days. But a reality check made me realize I don’t want to trade hot summers in Michigan for longer, darker winters in Sweden. The answer? Maybe it’s as simple as planning an excursion to a cooler climate when the mercury rises next summer.
  • Urban: While I love my wonderful adopted Ann Arbor, I’m missing a bit of the city vibe. To up the urban quotient, we’re exploring a move downtown next year. While Ann Arbor will never be as urban as Stockholm, moving downtown in the heart of all the cafes, restaurants, and shops will feel more like city living.
  • Downsizing: Most of us know money doesn’t buy happiness, but knowing and embracing are two different things. It sometimes feels we live in a culture that espouses more square footage is better. The essence of my Scandinavian dream was, in part, a desire to live happily with less—and perhaps be surrounded by like-minded people to make it a little easier. While a move to Stockholm might have been a less-is-more catalyst, I’m not going to use staying stateside as an excuse. So as we explore moving downtown next year, we’re also hoping to halve our square footage.
  • Learning a language—not for pure pleasure, but to navigate a foreign city—was alluring on many fronts. Learning Swedish would be—well, learning (which I love), would offer an opportunity for immediate, real-life application (going to the market would be a chance to practice), and would bond the two of us together in a common pursuit (sort of Us against the World—or at least the Swedish-speaking world). When I play detective, I interpret the essence as a desire to share a common goal with Hans. It’s been a busy summer and though we spend oodles of time together, maybe I’m looking for a purpose-driven pursuit we can share. I don’t think we’re going to take up learning Swedish anytime soon, but this would-be move to Sweden has started a conversation about what our next common goal might be.

This Scandinavian dream is my dream and the interpretation of its essence is uniquely mine, too. But you get the idea.

I see too many give up too easily on their dreams.

Not because they should necessarily keep pursuing the original one, but because they don’t take time to be curious and explore the intrinsic nature of their dream.

I’ve found at least some part of most dreams can be salvaged and reclaimed by distilling down and extracting. By peeling back the outer layers to reveal that inner essence.

Distill and extract. Distill and extract.

I’m not moving to Sweden—at least not in the foreseeable future. But I am making sure to honor and resuscitate the essence of my dream.

What about you? Is there a dream you’ve given up on? If you extracted its essence, is there something to pursue? Is there still something worth reclaiming?