Due to B’s recovery period, I have been much more domestic than usual. May I say that the worst of this domesticity is grocery shopping, which is not usually my activity. Meanwhile in the back of my mind, I’m working on my next quilting project, there is nothing visual yet. So basically, there’s been domesticity, audiobooks (where the heck did I put my glasses?), quilt ideas, and pondering. Happily, it is January so I have my budget for 2016 travel. Some of the pondering has been about our travel plans in 2016, and dare I say, early 2017. This lead me back to my 2015 solo journey to Sweden, which was an incredible adventure. I did a couple of general blog posts about the trip; ie, the general reason and route, and what I learned. I’m not a travel blogger, but I like reading about other people’s adventures, and I know some people have been looking for a detailed report, so while things are quiet around here, I’ll see if I can be more detailed about the adventure in case it helps someone else to plan and do some solo travel.
I’ll preface this by saying I have traveled alone in the USA. When going abroad, I might fly over alone, but I met up with people when there. Usually, B and I went together. I was/am the tour guide so I am comfortable with planning the travel, but I never traveled completely alone internationally. This trip I would know no one for over two weeks. For this trip, I used some of my usual systems; such as, using Kayak.com and cheaptickets.com for a general sense of prices. I pick the airlines/flights/routes that I like best and watch the price. When the price I can live with comes up, I buy directly from the airline. For hotels, I study hotels.com, booking.com and trip advisor for prices and reviews. I also looked at Airbrb at apartments for one location for this trip. I read as many reviews as possible before making reservations. I did not pay for any hotel rooms in advance, but rather chose the cancellation/pay at hotel charge.
My system of organization is having copies of my reservations and directions, boarding passes, and tickets in a clear plastic envelope for easy access in my personal item. I also had copies on my ipod. The ipod also worked as my contact with home via facetime, email, instagram, FB, whichever. I was required to post at least something, somewhere, each day so if I disappeared they’d have an idea where to start looking for me…LOL. I pondered having a travel phone, but ruled it out before I left for Sweden. Facetime would have to do. On facetime, if I have wifi I can call anyone with an iphone or an apple device. I will say that I didn’t look at some hotels in Sweden because your key and reservation is all on your smart phone. They had no reception desks, and as I didn’t have a smart phone, I skipped these hotels.
My other system was an old fashion 8″ X 5″ notebook. I usually travel with a little notebook to keep track of things, etc. However, this time I actually completed the journal! I usually lose interest partially through the trip due to busy-ness/exhaustion. On this trip I would write in my journal at the restaurant while I sipped on a drink and waited for my meal to be served. In the front of the journal, I had a double page for each day where I would put details: 1. for travel days I would include all reservation numbers, and possible transportation options with directions and cost for each, 2. For non-travel days, I would list the places from which I might want to chose to see that day, labeling what was a ‘must see’ for me. 3. I also would keep track on this page of what I spent daily as I want to know when I’m under my daily goal in case I want to splurge or vice versa. 4. so I wouldn’t have to remember things, I even went as far as making a note when to shift things; ie, in my first travel 24 hours, when I knew I’d have no sleep, these reminders were to keep me organized, secure, and not confused, such as when to put moneybelt on, when to put boarding pass for Stockholm flight in purse, when to move charge card for Arlanda Express, etc. I assumed I would be brainless from not sleeping and listed items accordingly. Yes, I can be overly organized, but it is organization to keep me sane if I need it. This is what my Stockholm arrival day page looked like:
I’ve previously discussed my luggage, so I will not cover that here. This first flight could possibly be the last time I will ever carryon, as it is a pain. Pack light, but check your bag is my new mantra. As a reminder, here’s my luggage:
So on Day 1, B. dropped me at the curb at Logan, so we said our goodbyes there. We thought I’d want to get right in line to get through security, so he went home. As it turned out, even though I was on BA, they sent me into the TSA Precheck line so I was through security in 3 minutes…oh, how I love TSA Precheck! So because security was so fast and I was going off for many days alone, I thought, this particular period in the airport was lonely. I have to add here, that was the last time I was lonely! However, next time, I’ll have B. come in (if I’m flying out at night, which is doubtful) and we’ll eat at the little restaurant next to security, like we usually do when we send people off. This restaurant’s receipt lets you skip the line and go into the first class line so it is easy peasy.
I had an uneventful flight to Europe. Fortunately, there was no one in the middle seat next to me so it was quite comfortable, even if no sleep was involved. They serve dinner at midnight and then breakfast before landing…doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Who eats dinner at midnight? I skipped dinner and had just a little of the breakfast. For the first time I reserved my seat ahead of time on this BA flight, so it was in the very front of the economy section. I’ll continue to do this as I didn’t have to wait for most of the plane to deal with their excessive carryons before deplaning. I’m not yet willing to pay to upgrade my seat, but I’ve discussed my new system elsewhere…no more overnight flights if I can help it.
Heathrow. BA, British Air, is my international carrier of choice. They use terminal 5, which is a nice terminal. Consequently, as my flight from London to Stockholm was also BA, I could remain in this terminal. But as I’m paranoid, I had almost a 3 hour layover, 2 of which were waiting. Immigration took place in Heathrow and then security again. Here is where I have to say that some businessmen can be really arrogant people. After I went through security, which always means I’m pulled out of line, wanded (word?), patted down, checked for explosives, and shoes sent through Xray. All very politely mind you so I have no problem. In fact, I feel I should lecture these young women next time as they are so polite I think they miss being brave enough to search the reason why I’m pulled out of line, IMO. If you think a particular part of the body might be hiding explosives well, you better verify. Let’s just say, Dolly Parton and I have at least one thing in common, and it’s not our voices. Anyway, I stepped out of the way to gather all my discombobulated items around me, put my shoes on, etc. I happen to be next to the security survey box: happy face button if you are happy, unhappy face button if you are unhappy. The business men apparently take offense if the security people wanted to look in their bags or hold them up in any way and they belt that unhappy button in a fury. Their mothers, if they are still around, need to remind them they are not special, in fact, to the contrary! All work is important, all workers are equal. Anyway, each time they slammed that unhappy button, I countered twice with the happy button!
Heathrow had to be 90 degrees this time! Probably because it was unseasonably hot that day in London. Here is where my difficulties began. I have since determined I am lactose intolerant, but it has been several years of illnesses to figure this out, as we don’t use much dairy at home (already used lactaid at home, duh!) Anyway, after I drank a Starbuck’s coffee with cream (as that is all that was there) I started to feel ill, and the heat didn’t help at all. However, I got the flight to Stockholm, had a pleasant chat with my young seatmate who was half Swedish and half Australian on her way to visit her grandmother. She’d been in flight for HOURS so I stopped complaining to myself!
Arlanda International Airport is quite a change from Logan and Heathrow, as it is tiny in comparison. I easily found Arlanda Express on which I planned to travel to central Stockholm. I had purchased the ticket on-line, but no paper was involved. The site said to bring the credit card used, and the conductor puts the card in his machine, and he will see my ticket. Well, I wasn’t confident about this, but hey, this is hi-tech Sweden that I was going to see. Indeed, the conductor ran my credit card, and, lo and behold, he saw my ticket. I never saw anything! This is the first of my ‘I love Swedish technology’ experiences.
Once at Stockholm Central, I needed to pass through Gamla Stan to Södermalm, the island on which I was staying. Apparently, Swedish cabs have no pricing regulations so I needed to be careful which taxi company I chose. The information I had read indicated not to go to the first taxi stand one sees when first off the train, but head farther along in the station. I had noted the directions to this stand and stuck with Stockholm Taxi , which has a good honesty rating, during my stay. I obtained an agreed figure range with the driver before taking the cab.
I had made my reservation with Hotel Hornsgatan. I used google earth to see where this hotel was and what was around it. By checking out the neighborhood ahead of time, I know what the area looks like, what the subway looks like, and what the facade looks like, which makes it easier to find regardless of what mode of transportation to the hotel I finally decide to use. This hotel does not have a 24 hour reception desk coverage, so I obtained ahead of time the codes and instructions describing how to enter the hotel and find my reservation, so I didn’t have to worry. I arrived on time, but the receptionist had stepped out to help some people from the subway to the hotel with their (excessive) luggage. Happily, I just used the codes given, entered the building and the hotel with these two codes, and waited comfortably in the lobby for a few minutes. Phew, I made it all the way to Stockholm with no glitches! However, the timing was good because it is about 7:00 PM Stockholm time, and as I sit in the lobby, I begin to really not feel well. I felt like Meg Ryan in French Kiss…”lactose intolerant”!
OK. I made it, but the “I’m in Sweden!!!” hasn’t hit me yet. I’ve landed, if a little shakily:
Part II to follow shortly. Happy adventures!