In a world of postponed traveling plans, it might be the best time to remember and go through your past travels. Making a mental list of travels “to do” when we can go again. “What’s the most memorial adventure while hitchhiking in Sweden?” Is often asked to me by curious Swedish who haven’t yet explored their own country. The one I cherish the most is the last-minute idea hitchhiking to the North.
“A trip to the north” is almost on every newbie’s bucket list to-do while living in Sweden. The once-in-a-lifetime adventure with high expectations of endless northern light evenings, reindeers on the streets, and lots of snow and majestic wilderness. North sounds like a fairytale, but it’s a tricky place. The weather might make us lower our expectations of a perfect Instagram picture.
Usually, people make a good plan of a trip to the North. As it’s not really a budget-friendly place. It depends on all our own expectations, right? For my trip I used Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, and Hertz free-ride car to make the expenses low. Actually, it was all unplanned, unprepared, and unorganized. All I knew the wanderlust gene was kicking in when I was thinking of my next move as a nomad. You can read more trips to North by newbies on the blog here. Our destination was JOKKMOKK winter festival, and the rest – follow the flow.
The faraway part of Sweden, the north, is completely different in any possible way to what you know so far as Sweden. My friend and co-star of the trip Erik, born and raised in Skåne, said at some point during this trip, it felt more exotic to travel to North than Thailand for him. He pointed out how much of a tourist he felt in his own country.
The hitchhiking saga
This adventure took place in 2014 February. Erik and co-traveller Sabina hitchhiked together a day before me and got stuck really badly just outside Uppsala until they got a ride till Gävle. There Sabina simply asked a driver outside the gas station for a ride. They both did say that while waiting for a ride, during 7h in Uppsala, they were considering maybe not go. But by not giving up, they learned one good hitchhiker’s lesson: the best rides come at the right time.
Hitchhiking to North from Stockholm took me 12h. Six kind strangers decided to put trust in me. When people complain that it is difficult to hitchhike in Sweden, I disagree. You have to understand the mentality of the Swedish people and that hitchhiking is not a free ride, but an adventure. What might benefit for you to get to know Swedes? Well, first of all, we have this online encyclopedia of Sweden – newbie guide to Sweden.:)
The rest of the trip hitchhiking in North our new rides together went smoothly. It helps you if you know geographically the area, at least nearby towns of your destination. Yet, some locals had no clue of a place we were searching: Sanningslandet (The land of truth). Knowing a map can get you an offer for shorter rides closer to your destination. Swedish are friendlier than you hear on expat groups on Facebook. We experienced extraordinary hospitality. Northern Swedes are kind of known for their great hospitality. Believe it or not, but it’s true, so, when you travel to the North, just talk to people, approach, and show interest. Forget everything you had learned so far of “Shy Swedes”.
Why Jokkmokk from all the places in the North?
The market is culturally important and traditionally rich to Sámi people. It is the largest and oldest winter festival in Sweden. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not that many groups of indigenous people are within Europe.
There you can buy handicrafts made by the indigenous Sami people. See an art exhibition by Sami people graduates, taste local cuisine and see the parade, and dance folk dances, there are live music events too. Besides the festival, can visit the local Ajtte museum which tells the story of Sami people, culture, and landscape.
The full nordic experience
In those two weeks of exploring the north happened many “firsts”. Long story in short: another wild camping in Akkajaure. A night with tremendous wilderness snowstorm shaking our tents, making me pray all night to stay alive. Cross country skiing with endless falls. The best first ice-cold swim. Morning with reindeer herd organized by our Couchsurfing host Lolo. When I went on a solo trip, I searched for another Couchsurfing experience. With my new host, I get to try hiking in the snow with snowshoes. Then he brought me to the local church event, where they had the village dinner. A very large-sized dumpling called palt, is a favorite dish in the north. Palt coma is part of the experience. And he had a sheep named Babushka!
What happens in the North, stays in… No. Winter adventures make the best travel stories!
Honestly, if I wrote all about hitchhiking to the north, my blog manager wouldn’t be happy about the length of the text. This adventure was full of colorful moments, and I felt overwhelming most of the time. All I remember are short glimpses of moments… Oh, and that moment when I got my hat on fire (vibing with “Home Alone”).
While we have to wait for the green light for traveling, start researching and making a list of “to see, to do, to experience” in North. In the world of postponed travel plans, you can experience the trip digitally: check here jokkmokksmarknad.se.
Sadly, in 3 weeks of exploring the North, I saw 0 times Northern light. Apparently to disappointment, it was the warmest winter that year (-14C). Yet, maybe it was a bit of luck, it wasn’t too cold for camping. North of Sweden is mesmerizing, but in heart and soul, I will be always the lover of Skåne. So, you never know what weather to expect! Trust the flow, be open and enjoy the wilderness.
If you have been to this market, please, share your experience with the Newbie community!
Making the ice hole for swimming
Full of adventure gear
Couchsurfer’s sheep Babushka
Turtles in Luleå
This is my story for The Newbie Guide blog. If you are curious to see more of my photos and read the longer in-depth story, you can find it on my blog: adventures of an introvert. Of course, I can try to answer more questions if you need a guide for hitchhiking – let’s meet for digital fika!
All photos are from the personal archives of the article’s author.