My dream of moving to the mountains in northern Sweden.
I first visited Åre the summer of 2017. Henrik and I had taken the overnight train from Stockholm and arrived at Åre station early on a dewy Thursday morning in late July. It was so still and quiet and as we walked through the tiny village with the mountain as backdrop a feeling of calm and happiness washed over me and I just knew that I wanted to live there.
I always wanted to live in a small town. I’m not sure if it has to do with growing up in a small suburb of Stockholm where everybody pretty much knew everyone or my light obsession with Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks and any type of small town drama that makes me romanticize the idea of a small town. I like the idea of knowing my neighbors and being a part of the community, and especially living close to nature.
Both Henrik and I love to travel and the idea of living somewhere else other than Stockholm. In 2013 we spent 6 months in Auckland, New Zealand when Henrik had an exchange semester through his university. It was such an amazing experience and to this day we both dream of going back to live there and see more of the magical country one day. After New Zealand I think we both got excited to try living somewhere else and after visiting Åre in 2017 we decided that the spring of 2020 would be when we moved to Åre, it seemed like it was far enough but still close enough in time. As it happened, 2020 became the year we moved here.
I needed a change
2019 was a really stressful year for me, I was tired of my current job situation, I had landed a dream job as a product designer at a big Swedish gaming company in late 2017 and was making good money and even better bonuses, but I wasn’t happy. I started having panic attacks on a regular basis, loss of feel in my face and hands and constantly having a stomach ache that resulted in me only being able to eat yogurt or drinking smoothies. Thinking and writing about this time still makes my face tingle like I’m losing feel in it.
In the summer of 2019 Henrik found a job that was pretty much the exact job he was then doing in Stockholm but in Åre, he applied and after a few months he got a phone call saying he got the job. We were both thrilled, I might have been more excited then he was, and we decided he needed to take the job even if it meant moving to Åre a few months ahead of me who would stay and finish the year at my job.
Henrik moved in late October and the time between then and early January was probably the slowest moving time in my life. We still hadn’t found an apartment and packing up our old one took forever, thankfully my mom pitched in a bunch and one day in early December we found an apartment in Åre, it finally felt like all the pieces were coming together.
It eventually became January, I had spent New Year’s Eve alone with a bath, face mask and a small bottle of sparkling wine surrounded by moving boxes, it might sound dreadful but it was actually the most relaxing NYE I’ve ever spent. The movers came on the 2nd of January and the day after I took the last of our stuff and boarded the 1 hour flight from Stockholm to Åre. I remember laughing (quietly, into my sweater) the entire flight since I was listening to a podcast where they did a hilarious review of the movie Cats and I was of course so excited to finally be on my way to Henrik and Åre. It was a windy, freezing cold and snowy Åre that I arrived in, I’ve never ever been so happy to see snow in my life.
Making the choice to move to the mountains
We had both been dreaming about living somewhere else than Stockholm for a long time. Henrik has spent most of his winter breaks here in Åre and had always dreamt of being able to ski more, now he can ski before and after work and all weekend if he likes. Although I hadn’t spent that much time up here, I really love the idea of living so close to nature and finally get on track with my dream of becoming a freelancer and starting my own web design business.
One thing I think made the move easier is that we both went into it thinking: if we hate it we can always move back home, but at the same time we both also went into this wholeheartedly and with the intention to do our best to start a life here and not think of it as a temporary thing, something that I felt was harder when we were in NZ and only had 6 months to spend there. It was also really nice moving within Sweden, not having to get acquainted with a whole new bank system, figuring out taxes or grocery stores. I’ve only ever lived in Stockholm while living in Sweden and it can be a very sheltered and elitist place, while Åre too is kind of sheltered, people here are way more inclusive and friendly than in Stockholm, which is ironic since most of our new friends originally are from Stockholm.
If someone were to ask me if I would still have made the move today I would say 100% yes. Sure, not seeing friends and family as much is hard and sometimes sad but there’s FaceTime and instagram, and a bunch of folks have already visited us during the summer and hopefully more will come during the fall too. And sure, the pandemic has hit small business very hard and making a good living from it is kind of hard right now – but I have my health, my friends and family and I live in a country where healthcare is free AND I get to live in a tiny mountain village and not a big city where the COVID-19 rate is way higher and best of all, I’m happier than I’ve ever been!