Life of an Import #12📍

Sally sees Stockholm by the seashore in @sallyhoerr latest Life of an Import!

Life of an Import #12📍
Stockholm / by Sally Hoerr

With an early departure from playoffs, the Life of an Import team (me, myself and I) hit the road for a debut solo adventure to Stockholm, Sweden!

This season has been all about challenging myself and adapting quickly to unfamiliar situations, but solo trips, particularly to big cities, seemed so far out of my capabilities. I grew up in Vermont, one the smallest states in the U.S., where the entire population is about 650,000 people. Stockholm's population itself is around 950,000. I did not think I was equipped for solo trips until I discovered a Facebook group called Girls Love Travel.

This group has over 1.4 million women and is flooded daily with beautiful photos and discussions about traveling around the world. Each day I scroll through posts of adventurous spirits embarking on incredible solo backpacking trips through Europe, multi-day road trips across the United States or to remote corners of Antarctica. Not only that, but there is an entire population of "digital nomads" that take solo traveling to the next level by spending months traveling the world and working remotely out of cafes or hostels. I knew I wanted to try at least one trip by myself and the endless success stories helped give me the inspiration I needed.

The main reason for this type of trip was to reduce my threshold for what is "too dangerous." There is a healthy caution one must have while traveling, but I felt my bar was too high. I think I developed an unhealthy level of "catastrophizing" after seeing the movie Taken. For those who have not seen it, two friends arrive in Paris and are immediately kidnapped and one of the girl's fathers, Liam Neeson, portraying an ex-CIA officer, must rescue them himself. The movie is completely fictional and not based on real events, but I think it fueled my confirmation bias that the world is scary and dangerous and if I can't be 100% safe (which is impossible anyway) I should just not go at all. This trip to Stockholm really helped me loosen that up mindset. For example, here is a photo I took around 5:30 PM of Gamla Stan, Stockholm's "old town," an extremely touristy location.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm's "Old Town" / by Sally Hoerr

You can see a very small gap between the first two building on the left where the cobblestone path continues. Some are wider than others, but almost every way into the center of the town requires passage through one of these small alleyways. I wanted to eat at Stockholms Gästabud, a restaurant in the center, but I debated ordering food to avoid "being outside after dark" ... at 5 PM. I argued with myself but eventually convinced myself that 5 PM was still "the day." Ironically, since most people are not out to dinner that early, all the streets were deserted like in this photo, making it spookier than if I had gone later. Alas, I soldiered on and had a delicious, traditional Swedish meal and stopped for a hot chocolate and apple pie on my way home. I was back home by 9 PM.

I'm glad I did because I am usually afraid of doing certain things alone, such as eating or going to a movie theater. I always feel uncomfortable walking into a small shop to browse and walking out empty-handed, even when I'm in a group. In my head I tell myself these things are not a big deal, but until I actually do them, talk is cheap - even to myself. For this dining situation, for example, I have such a hard time not looking at my phone and eating slowly when I'm at home. This forced me to be a little more mindful. I would put my utensils down between bites to savor the meal and brushed off feelings of guilt for taking my time. Equally important, I did not shame myself if I did need to flip over my phone. While I was right back to watching Chopped at breakfast the next morning, I don't think I'll ever be embarrassed to walk into a restaurant alone again - a win is a win!

Dinner at Stockholms Gästabud / by Sally Hoerr

One more thing this trip did was rescue me from another social media trap I had fallen into. The trap is simple: being a tourist is lame. Seriously, so many posts will comment on how overrated world famous landmarks or cities are. I Googled "overrated attractions," and "underrated attractions," for giggles and the lists are nearly identical. Another prime example is when you look at a restaurant that has 4 or 5 stars, but every other comment on the review page is, "this is the WORST place I have EVER been to, NEVER again!!" or "boring food, you could get this anywhere, NOT special." This send me into choice paralysis because I don't want to waste my money or time and there are too many options, opinions and reviews to filter though. My challenge for this was to accept that I couldn't see or eat everything I wanted in the time I had, make choices, and allow myself to be present with those decisions instead of thinking about what I was missing. So, here's what I did.

I booked a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus ticket because I wanted to see as much of the area as I could and, honestly, didn't feel like walking. I went to the Swedish History Museum and enjoyed my time and didn't feel like I wasted my money by not seeing every single exhibit offered. I meandered around town on my way back to the hotel, taking pictures of some unique buildings I liked - and you know the dinner story.

Södermalm, Stockholm / by Sally Hoerr

The second day I strolled around the town and went to a highly rated cafe I found on Trip Advisor. I wanted to visit another cafe across the Norrström and that was also where the overlook was to see the main city skyline. On the way there, I saw floating bird feeder on the river and I stopped to watch for maybe 20 minutes. I have never seen 30 swans (and many other types of birds) in one place and one swan was gatekeeping the top of the box against all the other swans but letting every other type of bird get on; it was peak entertainment and I had a good chuckle. I made my way to the observation lookout where I took the feature photo and while it was a trek and an ugly grey day, the view was still worth the journey. I ended my trip at the second cafe while I waited for ride.

There were a lot of things I missed, though, such as the Vasa Museum, more time in Djurgården in general, and the art installations throughout in the metros, but I am happy with my choices. Overall, I had a great time in Stockholm and was excited to share this adventure with you and what I learned along the way (you don't need goals to enjoy a vacation, though!).

As I wrap this up, once again, if you are someone thinking about playing overseas and have any questions about this but don't know who to ask, you can always reach out to me on Instagram! I can't guarantee I'll have all the answers but I am happy to provide advice on what I can. If you've encountered any of these feelings I've mentioned, such as choice paralysis, perhaps playing overseas or even a quick solo adventure to a popular tourist area would feel quite freeing! Lastly, I will always advocate for doing proper research, staying alert, trusting your instincts and taking any extra precautions you feel they are necessary.

Latte art at Café Pascal in Stockholm / by Sally Hoerr

What's on the next blog?

Since the season is over and I do not have the necessary funds to do much more traveling before I leave Sweden at the end of March, I thought I would summarize the path that led me to this moment in my next blog. I laughed the other day at how absurdly unpredictable this season has been for me and realized that has sort of been the theme of my entire career.

As much as I would like to plan out every step of my life, that is impracticable and doesn't allow the mental flexibility to handle sudden pivots, especially while pursuing a professional athletic career. I have tremendous respect for any athlete that's been traded mid-season. While I haven't experienced anything as sudden as that (except maybe this most recent move to Sweden), there are quite a lot of twists and turns!

Here's one last photo of icy Stockholm before you go.

Stockholm / by Sally