Updated: Oct 20, 2020
In the middle of Sweden, in the province of Värmland, there is a small town called Kristinehamn. In the countryside outside of that town, lies a small cottage in the forest. That is where I grew up. Living there was quite a lonely existence; in the forest, far from town, and without any friends close by. For entertainment, I would listen to Radio Luxembourg, with its English broadcast or write letters to my pen-pals all over the world, Asia, Europe, USA, and the Caribbean. This was of course before computers, internet, or e mail! And so, started my curiosity about that big, beautiful world that was waiting!
When I was 17, I left the forest and boarded my first airplane, setting out on a new adventure to come to Canada. How exciting that was! First to fly from Gothenburg to Copenhagen and then, take the Air Canada flight from Copenhagen to Canada. How big the airports were!! What a difference from a small cottage in the forest!
It was exhilarating, not just flying for the first time, but also leaving Scandinavia for the first time. I had studied English in school, so mostly managed to get by. There was one time however, that I was standing on the bus, not being able to figure out what coins were needed to pay the fare and not able to articulate. Finally, I just held out my hands with all my coins and told the driver to take what he needed.
This was in the 1970’s when everything was bigger in North America, including the cars. I remember being so impressed by these large North American cars that I would stand on the apartment balcony for long periods of time, just looking at the parking lot. It quickly became time to look for work, however, since I only had $300 in my pocket! Young and enthusiastic, I set out on my search. Legal secretary didn’t work out, since I had absolutely no experience at all , nor did my application to work in a bookstore. I did not know very much about English literature and my command of the English language was a bit challenged. But, I was very good at the alphabet, so I landed a temporary job as a file clerk at a major bank. This was when files still existed and had to be sorted in alphabetical order and stored in huge filing cabinets. I think I was one of the lowest paid employees in the bank, but thankfully, subsidized lunch was provided so that I had at least one full meal per day.
Other jobs followed, cashier, waitress and finally, after returning to school, travel agent. Travel agent…that opened my eyes even more to this beautiful big world! And that lead to my life-long career in travel, including the travel agency, airline, and hotel industries. Travel is still like magic to me; to get on a plane in one culture and after 8 hours or so, arrive in a completely different culture. How amazing!
I cannot help but reflect on what a contrast my travel experience as a child is to that of my own children. I had not left Scandinavia until age 17, but my children saw much of the world in their early years. I took my first plane ride when I came to Canada, but my children flew to Europe every summer from the time they were babies. I must have instilled in them my desire to explore the world, since today, the eldest lives in Asia, the youngest lives in Europe and the middle child in the USA. It has been a gift to be able to introduce my children to this big, beautiful world.
Travel has been a truly amazing experience and I am so looking forward to once again feel the joy and the magic that travel brings!