5033 km so far.
When we started this trip in Rome more than four months ago, we had big plans for free camping. We wanted to pay for as little accommodation as was reasonable all the way to Russia. Part of what we wanted from this journey was to be adventurous, to save some money, and to live a bit wild.
These are things I think everyone should experience.
As it happened we didn’t do very much of it in the first 11 countries. Jane mentioned in yesterday’s post that I was initially quite wary of waking up with a farmer’s gun in my face; the right to roam is not actually a right in most European countries. It wasn’t until we got to Finland that we were finally in a country where free camping was completely legal.
Åland, A Days Work
It was raining this morning when we woke up, which was actually a good thing. Åland is the one area of Scandinavia that doesn’t observe the right to roam. The rain meant no one was popping down to the sea for an early morning dip, and we could pack up our camp without any intrusions.
We rode across the entire breadth of five islands that make up the bulk of inhabited Åland. This would only take us three hours without stopping, as it’s just 60 km, and the boat to Sweden doesn’t leave until 6:30 pm. We were able to take it easy today.
Mariehamn (which means Marie’s Harbour, Marie having been the consort of some Tsar) is the capital and the half-way point of our journey. It is a bustling seaside town and seemed like a perfect spot to stop, get lunch, coffee, and yes, get online. If you are a regular reader, that sentence must be quite predictable by now.
The Russians did plenty of roaming of their own, and this was one of the places the came, saw, and conquered. They started building the city in 1861, so it is probably the newest city we have visited so far on this trip. They built the city in true Russian style, with wide, straight roads, and houses on large plots of land.
The town has a lot of tourist shops, selling local crafts and the Åland flag. Despite the overcast and rainy day they were also selling lots of ice cream to tourists who didn’t seem to mind that it was a chilly August day.
Just outside Mariehamn we clicked over another totally arbitrary number: 5,000 km. We won’t tick over another thousand until well after we have spent a few weeks hanging out, teaching yoga, and watching bands in Berlin. We likely won’t hit 6,000 until the still-to-be-determined second leg of this journey begins. So to me, this one seems quite important.
This afternoon’s ride was supposed to be leisurely, but with rain starting and stopping, wind blowing against us, and the final few islands unexpectedly hilly, the ride was much slower than we expected. Although we had lots of time to get to the ferry, it felt like we might never get there. But don’t worry. We did.
The ferry to Sweden was filled with Swedes who were preparing for the weekend. Since the boat momentarily enters international water, it has a duty free shop. A return ticket for a foot passenger is €10, so apparently it makes economic sense to hop on the boat, load up on booze, cigarettes, and chocolate, then take the same boat back. Today is Friday and it seemed people were stocking up for a weekend of drinking at their summer cabins. Grisslehamn, where the boat is taking us, is cottage country.
Tonight we find ourselves in Sweden. This is the 13th country our trip has taken us to. It is also one of my favourite countries. I have been to Sweden many times before, and am always happy to come back. This time is different though. This time I will get to see the country in a way I haven’t before, and I am really looking forward to this.
We have an exciting trip planned to get us from Stockholm, through Gothenburg, and down to Malmö, where we have good friends, who we haven’t seen in far too long. I’ve also been tipped off to an exceptional coffee roaster along the way. Bonus!
Apart from a few music festivals, I haven’t spent much time outside Stockholm. I look forward to experiencing what life is like outside the big city. I have seen enough of the country from a tour bus window to know it is beautiful, lake-filled, and not unlike my home. Except here there are thousands of tall, tanned, lean, blue-eyed people.
Bring it on.
Free And Easy
The right to roam is enshrined in the Swedish constitution. So tonight we find ourselves at a public beach with our wet tent waiting for us.
Fresh from a very refreshing (read: cold) dip in the sea to wash off the dirt from the day’s ride, I can’t see why everyone doesn’t come visit Scandinavia, camp for free, swim in their lakes and sea, cook by the water’s edge, and experience this great land.
It doesn’t have to be Sweden. It doesn’t even have to be far away. Near you, whereever you are, is a county, state, province, or country you have never visited. What’s stopping you from taking a weekend trip to see something new? It will give you great stories to tell, great experiences to share, and something fresh and new in your life.
This is your right. Roam around the world. ♥