Oh, Swedish summer is that part of the year when we try to fit in a million activities in 3 months to compromise with dark winter evenings and Netflix. In this post, I am sharing with you a story about my short adventure trip last summer. Since train travelling became a new green/eco/sustainable hype, tickets went up. There was no way I was going to invest that much for tickets to Stockholm and back when instead I can have an adventure and experience for that money. Who’s with me? After all, we live in Sweden where we can roam freely. The love of an adventure and getting a good gym exercise outdoors sounds fantastic, eller hur?
It’s 2020 July now. Thirteen months ago I cycled to Stockholm from Skåne and back. Yes, maybe it is not that big distance or accomplishment, knowing there are world bike travellers and from North to South adventurers. Mainly this trip was for me. This was about achieving a personal emotional challenge, to get back to who I was before “Malmö happened”. Clique, yes. For a girl who hitchhiked around Sweden for 1,5 year, I had become scared from the world and people and didn’t feel safe to be alone far away from my home, boyfriend. At the beginning of the year, I made a wish that this year I want to shred off all those heavy layers and meet myself again.
“But why? Couldn’t you take a train? Are you mad, lady?”
These kinds of questions I heard from mostly men at my new workplace, while women congratulated me. My friends, well, they were saying like “of course, you cycled, that’s so you”. To answer questions – Why not? No, I couldn’t. No, I am not and don’t call me lady.
Last year I had a voluntary job in Stockholm in Lettiska förening and the team held once a month meetings. When summer approached, I had nothing to do – still had no sign of having a job or summer job, and my freelancer’s life was just beginning. Tired of endless cv sending, I had to do something off the table. It had been one of my travel-must-do-in-life wishes for some years. Having an unknown road tour, than just a weekend trip. The meeting came as a perfect excuse to cycle to Stockholm and back.
The road into the unknown
The Sunday of June 2nd arrives. All packed and that weak moment of “maybe let’s not…” or as Swedish say “resfeber” kicked in my legs. For a moment I felt afraid of something going wrong and being helpless in the middle of nowhere and wishing I wasn’t going solo. Yet, totally excited I am finally back on the roads. Before I jumped on the train towards Växjö, I had an excellent ice cream at the local Italian restaurant. Then I was ready.
Yes, I took a train. I skipped the Skåne part because, well, I live here and I cycle these roads. Starting from unknown roads were more challenging and exciting. Also, of course, to skip a day of extra 100km. I don’t know about the rest of Sweden, but in Skåne we can take bikes on trains for free. Öresundståget and Skånetrafiken pågatåg.
Malmö – Stockholm
There is no actual route to Stockholm. My route was planned by myself, but there were short periods when I caught up with Sverigeleden (safer as it was marked with a bike sign). Planned routes on google maps, kamoot or bikemap.net applications. You can find online the Naturskyddförening article, but this route seemed not appealing to me because of being close to the E4.
Sverigeleden parts were often more difficult as the most interesting cultural objects, villages and beautiful sceneries were along the hills. There are many routes I could have taken. By my calculations how soon I want to be in Stockholm I should do approx. 100km per day. Together it took me 5 and a half days.
The ideal route would be along the coastline – Karlskrona, Kalmar, Västervik, and then catch up with my original route Skenäs ferry -Nyköping – Mörkö – Stockholm. Only I was not sure if there is a bike path by E22 road. Instead, I went through the forests and fields in Småland. Finally, I learnt why Skåne is flat (when you are a local cyclist, you always say it’s not that flat).
Each day I experienced a full bouquet of moments as it happens with tour cyclists on their long trips across the world. I had all possible weathers the biggest storm which unplugged Småland, the heat draining me close to sunstroke, warm summer rain and fog.
Even different types of campsites – field, forest, lake. And diverse types of roads – gravel through forests, closed farm roads and asphalt through the fields. Also moments such as “bike vs cars”, “where am I?”, “where to get water?” and so on. Also rollercoaster of emotions – “I can’t do this anymore, I give up’’ mixed with “Wow, you are stronger and braver than you thought!”
In the middle of nowhere Växjö-Linköping
The traditional looks – yellow, green fields, forest, red wooden houses, lakes, blue sky. Many long kilometres with just forest and strange sounds (yes, a few times I got scared and pedalled faster), just fields and fields, and countless uphills with downhills which mentally were killing me.
I had to make a song in my head to achieve another uphill. After the storm, the sun came and that day’s trip ended with a beautiful campsite by a lake near Vimmerby. Vimmerby has Astrid Lindgren park, families, something for you?
When I approached Linköping, I felt like a caveman arriving in a city. Vimmerby – Linköping route was beautiful, but no towns or people almost for all 100km. So far 266km done after my third day. In Linköping I had my first host on warmshower (it’s the same as couchsurfing, but for cyclists). His family welcomed me with a dinner, soft bed and possibility to charge up all my technical gear and father’s cycling stories.
The last saddle moments Linköping-Mörkö-Stockholm
After Linköping, the worst part began. Open fields, bright and strong sun that every time I saw a church I had to make a stop and pour over cold underground water on my head to prevent heatstroke. It had never before happened to me until the summer of 2018, so now, I knew how to stay safe. Every church I saw from far sight, literally made the sound of bells in heaven.
That day was harsh, it took a lot of my energy on motivating myself. Somehow I got through this day. I arrived in Skenäs ferry station rolling on a long downhill catching with cold sea air, and camped in the forest of Kvarsebo. Next day I cycled short route until Nyköping. To celebrate the 6th of June with my friend’s who came to pick me up and drove to Gnesta. We had not met for 6 years, I had to have this detour. Funny, my perfectionist’s side felt guilt for a few skipped km!
Arriving in Stockholm on the corner of Hornstull station, I cried! Cycling through the big city just seemed so unbelievable. Somehow I really couldn’t believe I did this and felt confused for a moment. Those were about 10 seconds of grasping air realising that I reached the destination. In 5,5 days I had done 476,9km.
Reaching my Stockholm home, I slept more than 24h or two days. Also, in Stockholm, I met with two long tour cyclists “The Mighty ride” guys, who were so helpful on Facebook about cycling Sweden. They did the route from North to South later that summer.
Rolling back to Skåne
The trip back to Skåne began. The next adventure awaited me – house sitting in the countryside. For that reason, I had an exact date to be back. My plan was to cycle at least 100km or more per day. Yes, I felt that strong suddenly. I left Stockholm at 5 am. Until I reached Nyköping, I was in a weather rollercoaster – rain, sun, rain, sun. The first day I did 133km and I felt I’m going to pass out or my legs are going to shut down, yet I kept calling them “you are monsters! Thank you for taking me this far.” That night I fell asleep as soon as I built my campsite.
Somewhere along the ride I had damaged my leg and having a pressure on, it was a nightmare. My plan was to maybe find a regional train to skip 100km from Linköping down to the South. Internet information was false as the train staff didn’t allow me to board. Let’s say I was not accepting these news lightly. I was shocked as in my homeland we can have at least 20 bicycles on a train, while in Sweden it’s really difficult.
Livsnjutare (n) – Someone who loves life deeply and lives it to the extreme
Before I even arrived in Linköping, along the road something epic happened. The part after Strömsfors… Breathtaking. Towards me cycled another bikepacker. I saw this man crying and smiling. He looked so high on life, I thought, he must be truly and madly a ‘livsnjutare‘. He stopped.
With long inhales told me that I am going to see something amazing in 2km. I won’t tell you, please, go and cycle this route and write to me that you SAW IT! That moment when breath caught up and suddenly all the troubles and worries in life seemed meaningless. Look around the world, live your life, you are here to experience it and so on hippie gibberish on “I love life” vibe.
That view was… I don’t know how to explain. It literally gave me shivers all the way downhill. I cried all the way down how beautiful it was. Suddenly all the feels of the world raised – me doing this trip after all the heartaches I had had. That I stepped out from feeling scared, it just felt so unreal. It’s an indescribable sudden awareness moment of the world that triggered emotional response too deep and mysterious for words. At that moment I understood his emotional expression.
Eleutheromania – The intense desire for freedom
The rest of the trip I rushed through the same route I was before, Linköping-Vimmerby. After Vimmerby I took a different route. The route seemed in the number of km as shorter, but it turned out to be with several steep hills, so, in time it was not a shortcut. The views – worth it.
Even got to pass Lönneberga (I didn’t meet Emil) the famous TV show house. All of these uphills and pain in leg, stomach, head or eyes, it all was worth it.
How else to feel alive as if not challenging yourself?
It was unforgettable. I really needed this adventure to find a desire to change and alter my life and feel my strength more than it was about getting likes on Instagram.
How to end this story?
The road after Lönneberga was just all about being as fast I can get to Växjö. Lonely empty roads, talking to cows and birds and singing loud. The feeling of melancholy caught up on me on my last night into the wilderness. On the road, I felt myself again. Being on a journey is from where my strength is drawn, where I feel at home. As my comfort is what most people describe as “out of comfort zone“.
The routine I had developed, had grown on me. The feeling in the heart the need for drifting solo, to just continue cycling into unknown. After all, I am a nomad in my spirit.
Should you do it?
Go for a bike adventure. If you live in Stockholm, the trip to Linköping or Nörrköping is worth it. Gothenburg, you got the path down to Skåne. Honestly, you don’t need advanced gear, you can find cheaper or rental gear.
Also, camping gear now is in any budget-friendly price. There are outdoor friluftsliver groups on Facebook, I am sure someone could lend you or rent out the gear if you plan one time trip. The most important thing is to have enough dry extra cloth if you get soaked and it’s not a warm summer day. I had very limited packing with vegetarian/vegan food and zero waste nature-friendly shampoo, toothpaste and only cloth for cycling, sleeping, city. No extras.
We are lucky to live in a country where we have freedom to roam and camp anywhere (except with tiny exceptions), cycle and hike, and be outdoors that easy. Only mosquitoes and ticks can ruin your outdoor fun. Always be prepared. Take and challenge your vacation to a new level – explore Sweden by bike. Make your vacation into experience!
How to plan? Preperations
There is so much information on adventure cycling – blogs, vlogs and Instagrams, although I didn’t have the patience to research all of them. I watched some nice videos which mainly just focused on the artistic sense of the trip. Read a little bit on packing, and connected on a Facebook group with bikepackers in Sweden. The only research I really mattered to find was: how those cool vloggers kept all their technical gear on battery? How they packed all of that? However, I still don’t know the answer.
To clarfiy, I didn’t just jump on a bike and cycled. I have been living a friluftsliv life in Skåne. Also, I started road cycling in 2016 and the weekend escape bike touring in 2018 summer around Skåne. Therefore in my experience bag I packed what I knew so far. Things I didn’t know – I learnt along on the adventure. As I was not following a designed route, instead my own – I did try gather information about optional routes. At least to know if that road is safe to bike. Yet, it’s not a bad idea to go through some information or meet someone who has done an adventure cycling.
My trip in numbers
Växjö- Stockholm 5,5 days
Stockholm- Växjö 4,5 days
Average 70-100km per day
Shortest ride: 6th June 30km Day 5 To STHLM
Longest ride: 12th June 134km Day 1 From STHLM
Water – free at every church
Batteries – solar panel and sometimes I planned to be longer near ICA or COOP
Food – very minimalist vegan and vegetarian, only bought zucchini and tomatoes in the shops
I met 2 long term bikepackers both men. 1 young girl from Stockholm cycling to Vimmbery visiting friends. 2 elderly ladies on a tour around Stockholm-Trosa (rental bikes).
Apps, links, information
The worth to see routes
Vimmerby-Djursdala by – in this area is Astrid Lindgren bike route
Västra husby – Kvarsebo
Gnesta – Mörkö via Vagnhärad
This is my story for The Newbie Guide blog. If you are curious to see more of my photos and read the longer in-depth story, you can find it on my blog: adventures of an introvert. Of course, I can try to answer more questions if you need or if you cycle to Malmö – let’s meet for fika!
All photos by the Author, Elina Nomad photography.