Three phone calls to a number that no longer exists - that's how I now know Anton and Elin, Ali, and Noumbissi. From 5,300 miles away, we talked about all kinds of things, and then two days ago, we met for fika, and Mongolian buffet, and drinks, and talked some more in person. The odds of us ever having met randomly, in person, seem mind-bogglingly low - there are 9.5 million people in Sweden alone - but because of an app, and then Facebook and email, we got (and stayed) connected. Because of our connection, I came to Sweden (and if we're counting technological magic, let's give the planes, trains, and automobiles their due), and I began to meet other people as well, of course, like my Airbnb hosts, Lidija and Viktor, and their two kids.
I'm on my way north right now, headed from Härnösand to Skuleskogen National Park, recommended by another Swedish Number contact, Seth, from the town of Örnsköldsvik, which I'll also be visiting. Yesterday's drive, through trees and boulders and fields, reminded me of New Hampshire, as I was told it would, only with a slightly different flavor: the flavor of deep red barns and boulders and ancient-looking buildings that demanded to be photographed, if only there were a place to pull over. Also, the flavor of malls and parking garages and kebab stands, on the hunt for an emergency phone charger. There’s a word that means the idea or concept of the almost-sadness you feel when you realize you won’t be able to experience every place and come to know everyone - it’s not exactly sadness, because it comes from the happiness and delight of meeting and befriending strangers. If anyone remembers the word, let me know: traveling also has a way of bringing you back down to earth, and for me, checkout time’s in 15 minutes, so I’ve got to go.