I’m in love.
Not with a person, but with a country. That country is Sweden.
Hanna, Jenny and now Jonna- each individuals in their own right and incomparable apart from their shared sense of adventure, their vivacious smiles and, of course, their sheer love of life which has changed and marked us permanently and irreversibly. The dream-like stories of crossing the Atlantic, 17 days at sea, 17 days with nothing but deep sapphire on the horizon. The romanticism of the stories can easily overshadow the astounding fact that the crossing was made by fearless 16 year olds, for most of whom it was their first ever experience sailing. These incredible experiences haven’t soured the enchanting personalities but instead the sparkling temperaments they all possess have been enhanced by this wonderful opportunity to travel the world. They all have a charm, a charisma- some form of magnetism well beyond their 17 years, which allows them to effortlessly slot into any social situation and use their gay, spirited and happy go lucky attitude to effortlessly make friends.
Sweden has always been a country I yearned to visit: clogs, knitwear, Pippi Longstocking; what more can you want? I always knew the Swedes had incredible dress sense, their design and ability to marry style and quality as well as ignoring the dull, tasteless global consumer brands like Hollister and Jack Wills is something I admire. But after seeing clothes that included the handknitted thick, wool jumpers (which can only be described as beautiful) that two of the Swedes wore I can only admire their style even more. One, flecked navy and white wool in the typical knit stitch with a ribbed collar and ribbed cuffs was a jumper I could only dream of owning, it was a jumper knitted by the boy’s grandmother. That same fair haired, fair skinned boy possessed round John Lennon style sunglasses, a polka dot baseball cap and a bright fuschia rucksack and a waxed cotton jacket all topped off with a gold watch. He looked effortlessly relaxed and unbelievably current. He wasn’t an isolated case of an extremely well dressed Swede; they all were casual and effortless, the girls looked natural- it was refreshing to see.
Then when Jonna talked of her idyllic, stereotypical Swedish home-a red log cabin on the edge of a forest and I felt a sense of pure bliss, that’s when I realised I loved Sweden. I’d never been there but I loved it. The Swedish design, the clothes and most of all the people and their attitude. After spending just an hour with them, I felt entirely comfortable with them something which seems to take months in England, and after spending a day with them at school I gained some extraordinary new, loving friends. Friends who I will never forget and friends who I will visit in Sweden.
To the students on board T/S Gunilla: thank you so much for letting me get to know you, I had a wonderful time meeting you all and I will see you soon. Love, Isabel.