Coming from a regional town in Central Queensland, moving to Sweden as an exchange student shortly after my 18th birthday was an ‘eye-opening’ moment for me. It was my induction into all things culture, history, language and ‘negative degrees’ (I had never heard of the term ‘plus degrees’ before or owned more than a cardigan)… A decade has passed and I still consider the Swedes I lived with during that life-changing year as family.
I was speaking Swedish to my host mum recently and she told me about ‘smultronställe’, which directly translates to ‘the wild strawberry places’ which are the most extraordinary places you go or travel to, a term which comes from the fact that every Swede loves wild strawberries (plain and simple).
I just LOVE this word, I can’t stop thinking about it because that’s all I’m doing and what I love, what gives me pure joy – searching for smultronställe; places in this world that I never knew existed or thought possible:
- it’s the jet black sand of the Icelandic coast, with its rolling green hills dusted in snow;
- the shaggy sheep scattering the lusciously green Welsh countryside;
- walking out of Lugano station to be stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty of the Swiss lake set amongst majestic green mountains, the late September sun shimmering on the water;
- drinking the first coffee of the morning as a deer hops through the crops in the backyard of a Swedish village farm house;
- it's watching the locals throwing their summer 'house' parties on narrow boats in Amsterdam as I'm perched from a dry bar precariously close to one of the endless rows of canals;
- swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in crystal clear water as a wild sea turtle breaks for air only a short distance away;
- it's climbing down a tiny hole in the earth to discover the hidden underground Cenotes of Mexico and bomb diving into the breathtaking blue water with friends;
- walking along an ice blue glacier river high in the Swiss Jungfrau mountains, with the soft chinking of cow bells and rushing waterfalls heard in the distance;
- it's eating my first authentic Thai curry in Chiang Mai at 21 and reaching for the Baileys and milk to try help with the spice!;
- it's sitting alone on a cramped Croatian airport bus as I get my first view of the deep blue Adriatic Sea contrasted with the old orange terracotta roofs and ancient walls of Dubrovnik;
- it's cruising under the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun sets, throwing hues of dark pink and orange against the towering skyline of this beautiful city;
- it's drinking cheap wine in a windcheater on the trampoline of a yacht as it sails under the Golden Gate Bridge;
- getting value from a 24 hour unlimited drinks cruise at a dock bar with friends as the sun sets over the old palace of Budapest on the River Danube;
- talking with old friends eating from a board of local cheese and meats, drinking wine straight from the cellar door in an authentic French winery as a fire crackles in the fireplace (using old vineyard branches for extra charm); and
- it's riding on a snow scooter over the Swedish mountains at dawn, huskies pulling a sleigh in the distance and an ever expanding sea of white and gold in the crisp, Christmas winter air.
These are my secret, wonderful paradises where I find my spirit and feel most alive and aligned with my true, authentic self. Maybe this is my intention - to find the smultronställe; the hidden gems, the true wonders of this world and share them with whoever will listen.
To find where the wild strawberries grow...