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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merrill

Less Should, More Shine - Thoughts from Stockholm, Sweden

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

Enjoying an afternoon FIKA in Soldermalm

Our friends, Ashley and Tom, gave Sam and I note before we left for our 6-month trip. The note included a section that suggested Sam and I focus less on what we “should do” during our travels, and more on what will make us “shine”.

What makes everyone happy is different. Sometimes having things, we “should do” is important because it helps us get our work done, forces us to go the gym (even when we don’t want to), or achieve a monumental goal.

However, letting your life guide you by what you “should do” becomes a problem when these decisions and actions are always at the forefront, making it impossible to decipher if you are engaging in an activity or making an important life-decision because you think you are supposed to vs. what will truly make you happy.

The First Few Days

It’s been about a week since Sam and I started our 6-month journey and the first couple days in Stockholm, I caught myself racking up the things I “should” be doing on an hourly basis.

“Should we go to this museum that I don’t think will be interesting but everyone says it’s the best?”

“Should I eat Swedish meatballs even though I don’t eat meat?”

“Should I work out so I do not get out of shape?”

I noticed these thoughts coming into my head frequently and even ruining amazing moments because I was focusing on what I could have done instead or should consider doing later that day. One particular example for Sam and me in Sweden was our decision to go to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is the #1 most visited museum in all of Stockholm and we were told by everyone we had to go – “it’s a must see!”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”- Mark Twain

With all due respect to those who love museums, boats, and the amazing scientists, archeologists, and historians who resurrected The Vasa ship from the bottom of the Stockholm Harbor, this experience was just not enjoyable for us… key point.

The next day, Sam and I thought “what would make us happy?” We are both physically active and realized a bike ride would be amazing. The only issue, the forecast was 80% rain. After weighing the pros and cons and getting suggestions from numerous locals, we decided to go bike around the Island of Djurgarden because the city of Stockholm is actually made up of 14 different islands. The bike rental guy was shocked we wanted to go and said we were the only two people he was renting to that day. Multiple times we stopped in gazebos, under trees, and one time hiding under our tarp from the rain. The rain always cleared up, and we would pop back on our bikes and continue through the gardens and countryside, seeing mansions, windmills, rivers, and even a man herding sheep.

We ended up taking a wrong turn and instead of doing an hour-long loop around the island, ended up at Skansen which is a combination of an outdoor park, zoo, and amusement park where we got to see all different kinds of animal’s native to Sweden – moose, monkeys, sheep, bears, sea animals, and more. Because of Sam's love for animals animals, he was in heaven. After Skansen, we finished our bike ride around the island. The sun came out at 6:00 pm since it does not get dark in Stockholm until 11:00 pm during the summer, just in time for the bike ride to be over, and in time to have a beer on an outdoor ship, meet a wonderful Swedish couple, and celebrate our favorite day.

A beautiful view along our bike ride through Djurgarden

Our Highs, Lows, Best Bites, and Lessons Learned


Top 3 Experiences:

1. Sitting under a tree waiting for a storm to pass in Djurgarden

2. Beer in the sun on a boat in the Baltic Sea at 9:00 pm

3. Working out with our TRX bands in a Swedish park

Low: Microwavable Swedish meatballs from a trash restaurant ($17 US dollars)

Best Bite of Food: The best fried herring from Nystekt Strommning

What part of the experience do you want to stay with you: It can be really nice to sit, relax, and have a beer


Top 3 Experiences:

1. Biking by a beautiful canal on Djurgarden

2. Walking through Sodermalm (Stockholm’s “hipster district”) and stumbling across a huge 90’s themed party

3. Our Bike Tour through our hostel City Backpackers.

Low: The jet lag was real

Best bite of food: Pastry and Expresso from Johan & Nystrom in Soldermalm

What part of the experience do you want to stay with you?: Less should, more shine


Everyone enjoys different experiences as they travel – I tend to enjoy more outdoor and active experiences versus museums and walking tours. Also, as far as food, my recommendations are different being a vegetarian.

Do: Rent bikes and spend a full day riding around Djurgarden

There is a bike rental shop on the island so you can either walk or take public transit there.

Don’t: Not look at a map for reference, insisting if we stick by the water, we will end up where we need to go (cough, cough, Sam). Always stop to check the signs and roads for reference when biking!

Do: Go to Skansen and see all the animal’s native to Sweden. Do this on the day you plan to bike around Djurgarden. Side note, it ended up being ok that Sam and I biked the wrong way because we ended up doing this.

Don’t: Eat weird Swedish meatballs and vegetarian soup from a stand outside the park that probably served them out of a tin can. Instead, bring your own food and have a picnic.

Do: Go for an afternoon FIKA

and get coffee at Johan & Nystrom and spend the rest of the day walking around Soldermalm

Don’t: Buy clothes at full price. Sodermalm has amazing second hand stores where you can get cheaper options

Do: Stay at City Backpackers in Stockholm. It’s great, you meet awesome people, and they have an amazing bike tour.

Don’t: Plan on doing your laundry for a couple hours. It’s a full day event.

Vegan or Vegetarian Eating

Notorious for their Swedish Meatballs as well as other traditional Swedish food that feature meat, fish, potatoes and butter, Stockholm is AMAZING for vegans and vegetarians. You can pretty much find options anywhere. Greta Thunberg

is a famous 16-year-old, Swedish environmental and vegan activist who is in the running for receiving a noble peace prize due to her activism. As far as vegan eating, the local suggestion is Hermans. We didn’t go because we are cheap and our hostel had FREE PASTA. But, we heard a lot of good things about it.

If we had to do it all over - where to stay

We would break up our stay, 3 nights at City Backpackers and the other 3 at an Airbnb in Sodermalm. We loved staying at City Backpackers because we were near downtown and met other amazing travelers. However, we fell in love with the neighborhood of Sodermalm and wished we got to have a couple nights in a local neighborhood.

What's Next?

Sam and I are now in the process of making our way to our next stop on “Alison and Sam’s Big Adventure” - London.

Got any tips on London, traveling, or things we left out about Stockholm? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading!



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