Stockholm/ 斯德哥爾摩, Travel / 探險
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Airbnb Adventure in Gnesta, Sweden

One of the glorious things about Stockholm summer-time is the concept of going away from the (relative) hustle of city-life to a country retreat. The city virtually empties out as Stockholmers leave to chase the sun, with plans to return near the end of August. Of course, some do leave the country to pursue larger, saltier bodies of water and margaritas on the beach (Greece seems to be a particularly popular spot to vacation) – but many are content with the distance of an hour-long boat or bus rides out to one of thousands of  adorable country cabins in the Swedish archipelago or countryside.

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When in Sweden, do as the Swedes – and thus, my family and I found a countryside retreat to call our very own for the weekend.  The glory of the currently trending “sharing economy” is that you’re able to find all these little family-operated gems that you could never find otherwise – your accommodation actually becomes the travel experience, instead of merely being a place to lay your head and brush your teeth.

We used Airbnb to search for summer houses just outside of Stockholm, sent a message to the host, and within a few days headed to a town called Gnesta, in Södermanland County, located just an hour’s train ride south of Stockholm. It was on the property of a  Scottish-Swedish family that had bought a piece of land with an unused horse-stable and had converted it into a gorgeous little cabin. Joe, the host, made money as a roaming photographer venturing to exotic places like India and Nepal, while his wife worked as a schoolteacher. Between growing vegetables in their garden, hosting work-shops, and renting out their little stable on Airbnb, the family of five gets closer and closer each year to their goal of zero-waste and “living off the land”.

We spent a sun-drenched weekend lazing about in hammocks, taking walks through the forest, and swimming in a lake so pristine were were instructed to simply drink in the lake water to quench our thirst.

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I’ve found that vacations, to the Swedes, seem to be true retreats:  it’s the art of having no agenda other than to enjoy closeness to nature, rather than rushing about to cram in as many trophy destinations as they can (Well, I could only fit in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand during this winter break, but next winter break I plan on going to…etc etc).

The phones are off, ignored, lost, even. Life is reduced to the senses – the feeling of the sun warming your face, the sizzle of freshly caught fish on a grill, the sharp hunt for clusters of wild blueberries amongst the path to the lake. You may do the same things every single day – wake up to morning coffee, blinking lazily in the sun, biking to the lake for a swim and a tan, long lunches topped off by a nap in the hammocks, a forest walk – but again, it’s not about novelty, or the adrenaline rush of accomplishment. It’s a different type of exploration, small, quiet pleasures that are equally satisfying.

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Though I didn’t know when I planned the trip, Gnesta has garnered a bit of a reputation as a gathering place of like-minded individuals wishing to living close to the earth, simply and sustainably. It would be a disservice, as well as limiting, to call these people hippies. They’re just people who answer questions you face, I face, that thousands of Stockholmers face – and answered those questions differently. My parents were originally shocked at the revelation that we were going to live in “what – a converted stable? Are you crazy? How many stars is it rated ?” – but they welcomed us, a city-dwelling Asian-American family, into their simple lifestyles so graciously and enthusiastically hat it left an impact on us that continued even after we left Gnesta’s forests and lakes behind.

Want a roof over your head? Instead of calling in a construction company, why not build it yourself? Want food to eat? Why not grow it, or ask your neighbor if he or she grows it? It all comes back to the sharing economy – being willing to share what you have, and the open-mindedness to take what is offered; giving up any notions of what a typical “vacation” should be.

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Note: If you ever find yourself in Stockolm and are interested in renting the cabin for yourself, the listing is available here on Airbnb. Say hello to Joe and his amazing family for me, if you do.

If you don’t happen to have an Airbnb account yet, this is my personal refer-a-friend link. You’ll get $25 USD in free credit to use towards your first Airbnb booking – and hollo – when you book, I’ll get $25 USD in credit too, so help a girl out. 

4 Comments

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Susanna – Isn’t Gnesta amazing? Really hoping to make another trip out there soon.

  1. Chantelle says

    Thank you for sharing! The pictures look amazing – you always have the best luck with Airbnb. If I ever make it out to Sweden I’m going to do this.

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Thank you Chantelle! You should definitely go to Sweden – it’s a beautiful place.

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