Some people want to buy a van and take the journey by the day, others make thoughtful plans where every visit has its own purpose, and some put the responsibilities in the hands of others and relax for a change. But we all have felt it, the urge to travel. Even though the motives vary, all travels share one simple fact, a distance has been created between us and our everyday lives. Something that allows us to gain perspective of what has become our routine, and explore those of others.
I’m from Sweden, and last year decided to go on an exchange, somewhere new with a trade of lifestyles. You get thrown right in to the core of a new community. You are ”assigned” a new family, school and friends from which you will gain new ideas, habits and experiences, but only if you are willing to share some of your own. It’s an exchange of cultures, benefitting everyone involved, in small or big ways. I know that my year in Fernie has made and will keep making a huge impact on my life. Looking back over my year, it has been beyond any expectations. Being part of a community with such a pure mountain culture has opened my eyes even more to the endless possibilities that nature holds. I am extremely thankful for an amazing host family and friends that generously have shared their everyday life with me.
Growing up, my family spent a lot of time in the Swedish mountains, skiing and hiking, so naturally I ended up meeting people with similar interests to mine. Thanks to many of these friends I was able to experience and be a part of the junior big mountain competitions around BC. Introducing me to a scene of skiing that seems more like a way of life than the basic concept of winning or losing. It’s an appreciation of the outdoors. An apparition reaching beyond skiing, taking all kinds of forms like fishing, biking, skiing, climbing or paddling. Seeing how the community shares its love for these sports by coming together and organizing different events like the PPP, Hot Dog Day and Wam Bam has made my experience here even more memorable.
One of the hardest questions people ask is what the biggest differences between Canada and Sweden are. I like thorough answers, but a question like that is so versatile. At first, I would just say material things, many times food related. For example, that you put mayo on your sandwiches while Swedes stick to the simplicity of butter. Or the importance of turkey as a North American meal – a dish I hadn’t tasted before but now seems as natural to me as meatballs. Later, I moved on to social interactions, the way that Canadians (or Fernie people at least) greet each other on the streets. This was a huge mystery to me the first couple of months. What I am about to say must be taken with a pinch of salt but Swedes, especially up north where I come from, are not known to be the most talkative. A ”yes, of course” is more often than not replaced with a simple nod, and greetings are usually restricted to a wave or hello. Imagine my confusion when people I only met once or twice approached with, “How’s it going?”, ”What’s up?” or ”What’s happening?” – questions or phrases that don't necessarily have to be answered with the actual answer. It makes me laugh (and my friends) to remember how hard it was for me to not full heartedly respond with my actual concerns or doings.
If someone would ask me about the differences of Canada and Sweden today, I would probably still answer with food or the social interactions, but the longer I am here a simple answer becomes more and more complex. The similarities have long ago outnumbered the differences. I connect Sweden with family, community, friends, sports, simply a reliable foundation where I feel belonging. Fernie has now become a place where I am able to relate to all of these things, knowing now that I can always call Fernie home.
The decision to come here is something I will never regret. All the things that I have learned mentally and physically have made me appreciate the many wonders of travelling, the connections I have made, and my self-growth.
Cheers, Fernie! Thanks for all the good times!