Blog : Sweden

A letter to Ideas Island

Ideas Island is a project by Fredrik Härén, an international speaker on business creativity and author of The Idea Book. He owns three islands (two in Sweden and one in the Philippines) and rents them out for free to creatives to help them in developing their ideas. Last week, I got to stay at Ideas Island #2 Vifärnaholme in Stockholm. This is a letter of thanks to the island, for inspiring me during my stay.

Angel Ideas Island

Dear Ideas Island,

I miss you already. I dream about you since the last time we saw each other: the moment I first saw you, shining in the distance. Waking up to peaceful mornings, the sun shining on my face (“I woke up in paradise,” I thought to myself.) The ever-present birds keeping me and my boyfriend M company. The lake, the trees, the bluest sky.

It was like a dream, but it wasn’t, and for that I am grateful. There are indeed places on earth that feel like heaven, and they truly exist. During my stay, time and space didn’t seem to exist, what only mattered was the here and now. My worries weren’t present (maybe I should try to live more like how I did on the island..) For the week that I was there, the purest of thoughts came to me and I just simply felt alive.

Time flies when you’re at the island. I first thought that I would be bored, but there was no single idle moment. I was either thinking of my project, writing an article, cooking a slow meal, having extended fika breaks, or trying to sneak up on the baby seagulls. And everything was enjoyable, even washing the dishes (with a view of a luscious lake, and the sun reflecting thousand of tiny diamonds on the water!)

While on the island, I read an article on on why quiet time is essential to a full life and a quote by Cheryl Strayed struck to me:

“The useless days will add up to something [because] these things are your becoming.”

I liked the idea of “becoming”. What a beautiful word it is in itself, too (Becoming: gerund or present participle “become”, grow to be, develop into; adjective, looking good on someone, attractive, flattering) I like that some things take time and during that time, we learn, we grow, we develop, we shape ourselves and we become, even without being aware of it. I remember thinking of a similar thought a few winters ago: looms are always spinning. Things are happening in parallel to what we are experiencing personally, things always change (and that is good!) Don’t despair when things are not going your way, for you don’t know the whole picture and many things are already happening that will lead to a new situation.

I thought of the creative process and how truly difficult it is. I thought of all the doubts, the second-guessing and the countless hours of writer’s block: which often lead me to think that I am “not being creative” or “not doing enough”. When in truth, it is part of the process and without it, we are not really being creative. In line with this, I should also let go of being a perfectionist.. I need to learn to be gentle to myself.

I am grateful that I am still on the path that I want to be in. A few years ago I had a plan and a picture of who I want to be, professionally and as a person. It wasn’t an easy road, but I stuck to it and now I am becoming that image: I live in Europe (I even have lived in my dream country, Sweden) and I am working in the fields I am most passionate for: the arts, culture, writing, nation branding and promoting Scandinavia and Holland. Somehow I found a way to shape the things I love into a career.

I am also glad that my professional and personal life are not two completely separate entities. I hope I will continue to be close to my passions, and that opportunities will open up so that I can live as close as I can get to my true, authentic self. The one I am happiest and at peace living with. 🙂

Becoming, idyllic, dreamy. That’s the best I can describe the time I was there, and at the same time that is what you are, Ideas Island! May you continue to inspire many others to breathe in ideas, create things for the good, and live out their dreams.

With love,

Send my love to the three baby seagulls!


Notes from Stockholm

Greetings from Stockholm, my current home until the end of the month. It’s been great so far, as expected. I inhale and savour past memories and make new, colourful ones. The smell of Pressbyrån coffee and kanelbullar, the tingling sound of “Nästa Slussen” in the tunnelbana, the feeling of fresh summer rain.. some things never change.

And some things do, and that’s okay! I loved seeing my friends again – all of us now doing different things and “growing up” as working adults, reminiscing about our student days. But then again, we still do the same things: hanging out at Andy’s place eating candy and watching series, having fika outside, drinking loads of coffee, and just walking in the city, goofing around. I love being around their company. I love the awareness that there is always someone that I can just call to have dinner or coffee with. An awesome time is just a tunnelbana ride away.

I love that even if Stockholm seems like a bubble up in the North, with it’s hard habits and seemingly uniform culture, there are things that change in it too. New discoveries of a cafe by the lake (coffee with a new friend!), a food-court extravaganza smack in the middle of town (burrito fun times with Frida!), and the ultra hip new mall at Hornstull tunnelbana station (dumplings in the sun with Nat!)

I also met the nicest new people: colleagues of mine from the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, Dutchies who live in Sweden now. I love how my two worlds collide in their cozy, little spot in Götgatan. Plus, I got to watch the Holland-Spain world cup game at the Dutch Embassy. A glorious win for Holland!

But above all, I love that my feelings for Stockholm are also changing and growing up with me. I love that I have not two, but three places I consider “home” now, and that my heart expands to accommodate them all. A few years ago, I limited myself without knowing. Now I understand that there is always room: that a life is not contained, but extending.

A perpetual note to self: The good times are always now and yet to come.

Song: Bouquet’s Cave Life – a new favourite. My friend Natalie introduced me to her old band The Finches, where the lead singer is now making music as Bouquet. It sounds like falling in love.

Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer above the mists, 1818.

“Often categorized as a rationalist philosopher, Wollstonecraft demonstrates her commitment to and appreciation of feeling in Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. She argues that subjective experiences, such as the transcendent emotions prompted by the sublime and the beautiful, possess a value equal to the objective truths discovered through reason. In Wollstonecraft’s earlier works, reason was paramount, because it allowed access to universal truths. In Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, however, reason serves as a tool for reflection, mediating between the sensual experiences of the world and an abstract notion of truth (not necessarily universal truth). Maturation is not only the acquisition of reason—the view Wollstonecraft had adopted in Original Stories from Real Life (1788)—but also an understanding of when and how to trust one’s emotions.”

Sista Natten

I’m on Spotify! Me and my friends Kniven, Kalle and Carolina recorded this song in less than 20 minutes, one summer afternoon three years ago in Stockholm. My voice is as raw as it can be, there was no second takes! Sista Natten is a melancholy song about a couple who knew that they would be spending their last night together (Sista Natten means “Last Night” or “Final Night”), so they had to make the most of it. And they’re at a beach. 🙂

I remember everything! We were hanging out at Kniven’s place after eating hotdogs in the park. I had time to spare before meeting up with Andy and Suzie at the British Embassy. At that time I was doing an internship with the Philippine Embassy and was invited to an international beer fair (I miss working at an embassy, all the lux perks, fun conferences and snazzy networking). Then all of a sudden, we were making lyrics to a Swedish song and Carolina was coaching me how to pronounce the words right, and then I was in front of the microphone singing with Kalle. Then I had to fly out into the summer dusk, trying to catch a bus at Centralen to take me to Djurgarden, I was running late. I asked for directions because I didn’t know that part of the city. Felix said, “Just follow the road downhill, be like water!”

That particular day lasted forever. We ended up at Tradgarden after the embassy event, I remember Andy stealing an American flag and bringing it with him everywhere we went! When Tradgarden closed, we ended up at the most luxurious bar in Stureplan (it was terrible!) and eating at Mc Donald’s at 4 am. Me, Suzie and Felix walked around Berns and  Nybroviken and “borrowed” a raft from one of the docked boats. “Get your bags Angel, we’re going on a little trip!” and away we drifted, floating in the middle of the lake, singing Radio Dept. songs and gazing at the infinite blue-grey waters and sky.

This song brings me back to my life in Stockholm! Especially to that one scintillating summer floating in a bubble – I didn’t know how long I could keep on doing that, but I had my friends around me and we were having a good time. The constant trying and the luscious breaks in between, the afternoon picnics, the balmy midsummer nights spent at Tradgarden. I was living in my dream city after all.

It brings me back to how it felt to be like water.

Kniven Islands är en vacker ögrupp i Söderhavet. Tillsammans bildar öarna formen av ett hjärta. Dit tar sig turister från hela världen för att ha semester. Ofta uppstår romanser mellan öns besökare. Efter sista natten reser de hem till vardagen och träffas kanske aldrig igen. Kvar finns bara minnen och hoppet om att en gång få återvända.

Kniven Islands is a beautiful group of islands in the South Pacific. Together the islands form the shape of a heart. Here tourists come from all over the world for their holidays and often, romance occurs between the island’s visitors. After their final night, they travel back home to everyday life, perhaps never to meet again. What remains are memories and the hope of one day to return.

Happy National Day, Sweden!

Trocadero and me at Hermans Restaurang, Stockholm 2009.
Trocadero and me at Hermans Restaurang, Stockholm 2009.

Happy National Day, Sweden! Thank you for being awesome in general, with special mention to the art of fika, the Shout Out Louds and The Radio Dept. and liquid gold Trocadero (the best ever celebratory drink!) Grattis!

On a roof and under a bridge

Where does your garden grow? On a roof, and under a bridge.

Last Friday was Roof Garden Arnhem’s opening – Arnhem’s summer hangout of the century. Roof Garden is an initiative of As We Speak + Belhamels to transform the top floor of a parking garage into an open space where people can relax and have fun – there is a bar, a coffee corner, a jacuzzi, wooden crates, sunning chairs, a viewing deck and green plants all over. SUPER FUN!

It reminded me of Trädgården in Stockholm, me and my friends’ (and everyone’s) favorite hangout during the summer. Located under the bridge, you can’t help but smile the moment you enter the labyrinthine summer party garden. It’s the vibe of the place that makes you feel so good – everyone is just so happy there. Video installations and Nintendo games, ice cream carts and indie pop gigs, sofas and ping pong tables, dazzling people and dancefloors. I think of Trädgården all year long, even when I’m not in Stockholm and even in the middle of winter. It is place where a lot of my happy memories are stored: hazy summer moments of playing ping pong to catch someone’s eye, sitting on top of elevated crates gazing across the dancefloor, dancing with Suzy and Carol and the rest of the gang, laughing my heart out. The apple ciders and the midnight sun.

With Andy, Marina and Isabella. Tradgården, Stockholm 2010.
With Kniven, Kalle, Andy and Felix. Tradgården, Stockholm 2010.

I can’t help but experience a future deja vu! Trädgården followed me to where I am now- this time in the form of a skyline sensation. (“Joy moves always to new locations, the ease of its flow never freezing” – says Rumi, my favorite 8th Century poet whose wisdom keeps popping up with every turn of my modern life. One of my best friends Bituin wrote that line on a birthday card she gave me when I was a teenager. I never forgot about it.)

Here are my very first pictures of Roof Garden Arnhem, so in the future I can look back and say “Oh this was the very beginning of that golden summer!” Here we come, fantastic memories!

Where does your garden grow? On a roof and under a bridge. Cheers to past, present and future special places! 🙂