It was almost 8 months ago now since I took that brave step onto the plane. COVID-19 would not be declared a pandemic for a while yet, so the only nerves around were if I was going to ‘fit in’ or enjoy myself. I had put a lot of work into getting this far that had exhausted me mentally and physically, so a lot of expectation obviously built in regards to wanting a fabulous lifetime experience. The thought of this filled me with excitement and nerves all at the same time for my months studying abroad in Sweden. I was there much longer than planned but I have been back in the UK for almost a week now and I wanted to update you with what is happening for me.
I am now self-isolating in my university accommodation because of travellers quarantine. It has been a strange week from having a fantastic summer filled with freedom in Sweden to being ‘locked inside’ for two weeks. I suppose it is not ideal but I guess that is the price I paid for not returning before stricter travel rules were applied. To be even more honest though and what may appear strange to many is, that I am pretty much fine with this isolation period.
YES! You must think I am extremely peculiar. But after such a busy and tiring yet enjoyable summer, even the best of us need a little time to recharge. This is just natural and healthy. I was flying from Denmark but of course, the majority of my time was spent in Sweden so that is the reason why I have to isolate. I had the most wonderful and unforgettable experience, but, now it is time to get back to and readjust to my life back home in England.
As you probably know already, I was living in Sweden to study abroad since I am a university student. I believe this is generally something that is offered in the second year of your studies, so now I have a busy third and final year ahead of me. I do not think studying in the middle of a pandemic is ideal. I am worried about readjusting to a greater workload and probably a lot more face-to-face interaction than I had in the spring. We are in a period of uncertainty and it seems like I continue to face struggles, but I am determined to persevere in the face of adversity and finish my degree.
Although I am focused more on the present and future these days, there are still so many events in history I would have loved to have been at. Of course, most of them took place years before I was born, but, there are also some in my lifetime that I simply was not present for. I will be describing multiple events as it is so hard for me to pick just one.
A Green Day concert in the 90s / pre Dookie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this band. They are by far my favourite band of all time and I love most of their music, but there is something special about their early releases. Back when their music was incredibly ‘punky’ and they were playing intimate shows at 924 Gilman Street… That forever remains an era I’d love to be in. I reckon a teenage me would be stage diving and moshing till I drop!
1982 European Cup Final
Since I was born in 1997, this was long before my time. For the non-football fans of my blog, this well-renowned competition is known now as the Champions League. Back in 1982, my team, Aston Villa were crowned champions after a 1-0 win against Bayern Munich. It is a huge event in the history of our club and is still sung about almost 40 years later. I know a few that were there and it sounds like an incredible day! Millions will have supported Aston Villa but only 12,000 were lucky enough to be there that day. I can only hope something as amazing as that happens for Villa in my lifetime.
I am really fascinated by sports history. I would love to have been around the industrialisation period so I could see the sports available at the time and how they were changing towards what they are today. I am not really a fan of violent sports but I would love to have seen a game of Mob football – which appears to be a forerunner to what we now know as Association Football, or soccer depending on where you are from. It was essentially a football match between two villages of people, which allowed kicking and biting. The only rule seemed to be no murder… Crazy right?
As an introverted autistic person, I was bound to hate small talk. I do not think research is needed to show that many people like me hate to engage in it. Many people seem to have small talk regularly whilst others can just about manage it. Me though? I absolutely cannot stand it and here is why…
The main issue I have with small talk is that it feels incredibly forced. People seem like they are scared or at the very least feel awkward around there being silence, so they force out this generic small talk. But I believe if you are with the right person silence can be comforting. It does not have to be a bad thing. I have never been a fan of fake people or fake conversation and it is so easy to spot. The questions are so boring and they invite dull or blunt answers: this actually makes it worse for me as the conversation is not flowing naturally, nor are either party really that interested in it. It is like trying to fill a hole but the two of you are just digging even deeper.
There must be some kind of myth around introverted people being anti-social but a lot of the time, it can be the complete opposite. Many of us are comfortable with silence and enjoy our own company. This means that we can communicate on our own terms and with people, we can genuinely connect with. There is no urgent desire to go chasing people that we do not need or connect with. It is nice to keep our circles small. This for me is incredibly rewarding, as I know I do not have to go through that small talk stage with people. I know that there are others out there that think and feel the same way as me. That is most comforting.
The whole small talk stage of any kind of friendship or relationship – even meeting a colleague for the first time can be incredibly boring. The same generic questions you hear and have to repeat every time, for example, “Where are you from?”, “What is the weather like where you’re from?”, etc. How do I know you are truly interested? Truthfully it feels like being attacked with question after question, with no authenticity or meaning behind it. It is like getting a snapshot of somebodies life without any real connection. It is so fake.
Small talk can happen so fast and as an introvert, I like time to listen and process information before I give a response. This allows my answer to be more honest and well-thought-out. How can I tell you how I am feeling when I am not sure if you care? What would happen to the conversation if I told you I was feeling upset or stressed or confused? Would it continue? I think with many people it would not, but I am not sure as I do not open up too much to just anyone. I want to feel like I can trust the person I am speaking to and that they are likely to follow up on my answer, otherwise it is just wasted, meaningless conversation – just like small talk.
I am into the last two weeks now of my adventure to Sweden. The place I have called home for the past 7 months will soon become countless memories. This upsets me enough as it is as I have grown so comfortable being here and I am enjoying the many sights, cities and towns I have visited. Summer is ending though (evidently so with the changing colours of the leaves) and soon it will be time to return and continue my studies back in England.
An issue I am really struggling to come to term with is a 14-day quarantine that is mandatory for returning to England from Sweden. The reckless approach to the Covid-19 pandemic from my host country has cost me this freedom. I suppose this can be rich to say, considering I have had a lot of freedom these past few months because of no lockdown… But my feelings still exist. It is difficult to go from living the time of my life, to being practically locked in my room for two weeks.
I am an ‘outdoorsy’ person, especially in the summer and warmer months. I want to experience what I have been missing back home and to see friends and family. These are people I have not seen in the flesh for over 7 months now. To go that long is difficult enough but to be so close to them and to have to wait two weeks to see them is straining. I genuinely do not know how I will survive inside for so long without going a little crazy. I know for sure I have plenty I could be getting on with, but knowing there is no freedom and I am basically forced to do that is upsetting.
I think the most frustrating thing is reading about all this rule-breaking and bending back home. All of the mass gatherings happening and politicians breaking rules. I guess just about anything that has happened that does not respect the government guidelines. Even things like thousands going to beaches, or people going to the pubs. There are no doubt thousands and thousands of people who are not scared of or are taking the virus seriously in England (amongst other countries probably). Whereas I am someone who is not thinking of pub visits or visiting hotspot areas. I am simply a student wanting to see his friends & family and catch some easily socially distanced semi-professional football games.
But no, I am just a person coming from ‘high risk’ country. Why is there no exemption for a student returning from his studies, who needs to be back for his next year of study? I am just being classed in the same group as holidaymakers, who are brave or stupid enough to go on holiday during a pandemic. Is this fair? Who even knows. I guess I had my chance back in June… June 8th I think was the deadline for no quarantine when returning to England. That was a long time ago though and I thought the situation would get better. I hate the thought of quarantine but I will never regret my decision to stay and experience Swedish summer. A truly unforgettable experience.
To those reading this: Have you had to experience quarantine, whether you were a returning traveller or because of a lockdown period in your country or area. Please share me with your thoughts and how you managed to survive.
Gender and gender equality is an area that I have been interested in for a while now. Usually, I am studying and writing about it in the context of sport, but I feel so strongly about these views so I wanted to share them.
Gender equality is an interesting concept. First and foremost, I believe that everyone deserves equal opportunities, regardless of their sex or gender. This is just common sense and decency in my opinion. Doing this however accompanies a range of things and it makes me wonder, are people picking and choosing what they want gender equality to be? Is it not that simple to be equal in all aspects of life? Not just what is convenient…
There are areas people feel strongly passionate about such as equal pay and fair job opportunities. This makes me think that we are onto something, and are capable of great change towards fairer opportunities. But then I see the selfish and one-sided mind of others… The main thing I am talking about is those women who do not pay for meals or dates because “a real man should pay”. This is lazy and selfish if you ask me. This is no good reason to bail out on paying and is very hypocritical if you are preaching equality. Nothing is stopping you from contributing except these old fashioned stereotypes that you have held onto.
Gender stereotypes like this are not just evident in potentially toxic dates or new relationships but also in ‘healthy’ long-lasting marriages. You know the ‘traditional’ stay at home wife who cooks and cleans whilst the husband goes to work. It is so dangerously normalized from history, that it is baffling and scary. When will we truly move on from this historical perspective? I welcome people who challenge these stereotypes. I have the utmost respect for say a man who can become a ‘stay at home husband’ to raise his child. Also maybe he has to do this because his job earns less than his wife. It is time to destroy that toxic masculinity where men believe they need these traditional values or to earn more money.
Working together 50/50 as a couple can be much more rewarding. This can apply for any pairing of man or woman though, for instance in friendships. In any two people, the roles can be shared just as easily, for instance, the man serving his wife a lovely dinner, or a female friend coming over to perform physical labour.
Why should gender have anything to do with what we want to achieve? Anyone is possible of anything. Sometimes what we want to do it is for ourselves and to become a stronger person and that is great. Other times we must cooperate together as men and women to balance the workload fairly. That is also great. What is not great is living with outdated and questionable historical views. Time is moving on, do not live in the past.
Many people discuss the harmful effects or concerns around drinking alcohol from a physical perspective. But in my opinion, more should be done to discuss them from a mental or social perspective too.
Drinking alcohol seems like such a normalized event worldwide -especially if you are from a country like England for me where it is EVERYWHERE. People will drink whatever mood they are in, happy or sad, excited or nervous and so forth. But they rarely ever grasp the true dangers of it. Sometimes it can be too late and they are stuck in a difficult phase of trying to get out of it. Others may never realise how destructive their habits are.
It is nice to have a drink in moderation, or even get drunk now and then. But as I grow older I am starting to get extremely bored when I see this regularly. It is the same people in the pub almost every night, sipping on their warm beer and probably reheated food. I cannot help but feel sorry. Is this all they have for a social life? We are all welcome to our differing interests of course. But something I can not fathom when behaving like this is how self-growth is actually possible.
Maybe some people are just not ready for change. Maybe this is what they are like. But if you are like me then you always want to be moving forward. I am an ‘outdoorsy’ kind of guy (as you can tell by many of my previous blog entries) so this kind of sedentary, repetitive lifestyle drives me crazy. But now I have gotten a good idea of what my interests are and what is good for me. I know for sure now I can enjoy a drink or many as infrequently as I choose. I know now how easy it is to say no to plans that will not benefit me, or make me feel worse.
When you have been towards rock bottom or have started to make the necessary positive changes in your lifestyle, you will do anything in the future to help prevent a relapse of it. It is, of course, a difficult thing to do for many people but persevering through this transition of change is key, as it will reap many benefits for you. For instance, when I am not drinking I feel better as I feel like myself… I am not reliant on this ‘magical social juice’ to engage with others. I am quite happy now being introverted and I do not need a few drinks to be able to talk to people. I realise now that if I need to then perhaps I just do not have the interest in or enough in common with these people to engage with them.
Right now I am focused on healthy behaviours with a clearer mindset from drinking less. My social skills or events will not be centred around alcohol like they used to. This is not me. I aim to continue travelling as much as possible and drink as it feels healthy and natural. Peer pressure is a horrible thing as it is too easy to get sucked into its vicious nature, especially when you are not well or secure enough to say no. I have explored so much this summer without the need for alcohol, and I have had so many unforgettable days. Long may this strive for better change continue.
Perhaps one of the most universally known phrases of 2020 is ‘social distancing’. We all know what it is, but how many of us can truly say we are abiding by it? Should we be doing more?
To me, it seems like this is the main thing that many countries are focusing on. People think controlling the virus is as simple as washing your hands and keeping 1-2 metres away from each other. They also must think that wearing a mask (a cloth one at that) is going to save them or act as a replacement for social distancing. People need to wake up and realise that they must do all of these things to give them the best chance at avoiding catching this deadly disease, or risk passing it on. It is such simple things we could do, but are choosing not to do.
This makes me begin to question the common sense of many people… Do they not like being told what to do? It is not difficult to see that people are obsessed with doing what is ‘normal’ or at least what everyone else is doing. For instance, I have noticed that everyone is distancing in a queue, or if one or two are not, then everyone else gives up with the distancing. When did we become such sheep? Why can we not decide for ourselves what we will do, and stick with it?
To me, there seems to be a mentality going around like ‘well if they can’t then why should I?’ and this is disastrous. I refuse to bow down to this pressure and will go above and beyond to keep myself safe. For instance… I have lost count the number of times I have changed my path whilst walking the streets. I might as well be walking in zig-zags at times. It is painfully exhausting because people may recognise social distancing, but suddenly do not think it applies when they walk past you. Many will be selfish and take up the whole path with their group or family, which is even worse on narrow paths.
I think it is safe to say that not only are people more concerned about doing what is ‘normal’ but also what is convenient for them. This goes for walking on paths and moving around in tight spaces. The list goes on though… People sitting next to strangers on buses and the strangers letting it happen is perhaps the craziest thing I have seen recently. People will happily pack onto buses just because it is convenient for them – for instance so they have their fun Saturday night at the beach. It is frustrating the lack of sacrifices people have made in this pandemic. But even more frustrating when others protest how many sacrifices they’ve made or how their summer has been ruined, when in reality I would say there are very few of us who have given up enough to handle this pandemic. This virus shows and even confirms to me how selfish many people are, and how even at the most difficult of times people fail to bond together.
You must be sick of these by now… but yes, another COVID-19 related article. 😛 I will talk about my recent trip to Denmark and include my personal thoughts about Denmark opening up to all Swedes as of the morning of August 1st. They must have a ‘worthy purpose’ for going and previously (from June 27th) only people from certain regions with low infection rates could visit.
Luckily for me, I am living in an region called Skåne which is one of these areas with low infection rates. So earlier this week I took the short boat ride to the Danish city of Helsingør and I was on my way. The boat was very big and at a reduced capacity which I loved to see. It is just a 20 minute trip across the Öresund strait so most guests were purchasing things – tax free alcohol whilst in the Danish border and tobacco in the Sweden border. This meant the top of the boat was very quiet and I could enjoy being at sea and my own personal space.
I love being anywhere near water, so the time went incredibly quick – especially as I was snapping many scenic photographs. Getting into Denmark was quite nervy but I managed it and we headed straight for the famous Kronborg castle. We had thought about entering due to the many half price discounts going around some of Denmark’s tourist attractions right now, but the copious amounts of people in potentially tight spaces was very off putting. Instead we had a look around the spacious and outside parts of the castle, really getting a free flavour of the castle without gathering in crowds.
The rest of the day was walking around the city and enjoying a packed lunch. Helsingør is a beautiful city with lots of street art and interesting modern buildings, which meant I was very content with simply walking around on my first visit. What I liked was that more people seemed to try and keep their distance than Sweden. There was also plenty of hand sanitizer on hand too which was very useful.
I do not know Denmark very well but it would appear that they have handled the virus well, much better than Sweden anyway. New cases are much lower in Denmark and I hope this is not affected by opening up more to their neighbours. I think there is danger in doing this as I am not so sure that everyone will agree if the situation in Sweden is improving. Denmark will need their tourism to improve and with easy journeys from Malmö to Copenhagen or Helsingborg to Helsingør available, you can appreciate how accessible and easy it is for visitors to arrive.
It is not like Swedes have many places they can go visit now, with many countries ‘shutting them off’ due to their questionable herd immunity strategy to handling the pandemic. If they hadn’t already I believe they will soon be flocking to Denmark for excursions and tourism. I liked that I could go to Denmark and experience another country. I did not think I would be lucky enough to do so but I am grateful for the opportunity.
What are your thoughts about a country like Denmark opening up their borders? Please do share your thoughts about this and the balance between tourism and protecting its citizens against the virus.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. I mean, I always try to do this. But it does not come without difficulties. It is too easy to get tangled up in the past or to have two eyes on the future, what with all the pressure we face in our everyday lives. This year though, more than any I have started to realise the importance of just enjoying the present day. I guess part of this is due to the pandemic and the realisation that things are unpredictable and can change at any moment.
It is nice to have some kind of an eye on the future though, so you have a rough idea of where you are headed. But as plans change and your interests develop, we do not always know the path we will end up on. We can strive for a certain goal or path and in fact, end up taking off to a different destination. We cannot change the past, we cannot ALWAYS predict our future. I feel that the one thing we can do though is to make sure we enjoy our time right now.
It is a hard thing to do though I must admit when you feel or know that something can change. But if you are constantly waiting for that change, you are rapidly losing the time and moment. The best thing you can do in my opinion is to enjoy the things happening to you right now for what they are, as they may not last forever. Happiness is the key, and why let it wait?
For me, my plans have changed significantly due to COVID-19 but that does not have to be a bad thing. I never thought I would be studying abroad in my life and I certainly did not imagine being here so long. But the choice to do it and to stay in Sweden has paid off. I now get to experience a Swedish summer after braving the cold and windy months earlier in the year. This is just one example of living in the moment and trying to make the most of a different situation.
“Get off the mother flipping Xbox”. That is the first thing I can think of. In my younger years, I was very different from how I am now. I would game for many hours a day, now I haven’t played a console of my own for several years. It is is easy to have unhealthy obsessions like this in our young and potentially more naive years. That is okay for me as long as you are able to acknowledge it now and obtain healthier behaviours.
Maybe I am alone in this thought but I do not think that there is much that I would want to say if I could speak to my younger self. I try to look ahead to the future more than reflecting on the past. It would be far too easy for me to change a lot of things that went wrong. But I think things have to fall apart sometimes to make way for better things and to help you to learn and grow for sure. That being said, maybe one piece of advice I would have loved to hear is to work on my self-esteem so I can surround myself with better people.
I am a lot healthier mentally wise now than I have been in the past. I put that down to the self-growth, determination and fight that comes from not wanting to ‘relapse’ or return to a previous state of unhealthiness. When you have hit ‘rock bottom’ for whatever reason it may be, then you sure as heck do not want to go back. This is like being aware of your past and mistakes, but not allowing yourself to think about too much as it is gone and you cannot change it. I feel that it is important to recognise the past somewhat though, so I can realise how far I have come and to continue such progress.
I think my younger self would want to know what he is capable of as what I have achieved so far in my life. Our life is forever changing and it is important to move forward and not stagnate. He would want to know to hold out for meaningful friendships and to enjoy his time outside more.
Please share with me your feelings and what you would say to your younger self.