I have to admit something before we begin…I am by no means directionally sound. If you could or if you could not already tell based on the image of my confused face above, now you know. It is important to note that this lack of an ability is not by choice but rather by design. Although I am well practiced in cardinal directions, I am a little shy of success when it comes time to ‘step up to the plate.’ You see, I simply get lost. Well, at least at first. Then, I get better…marginally. This is not some existential crisis wherein I cannot find direction in the literal sense, so do not fret. It is, however, a crisis in the physical sense. Allow me to explain:
I had landed just two hours before I embarked on this venture around Gamla Stan, or “Old Town,” Stockholm. I started off strong: With phone in hand, I walked two blocks with full confidence. However, it took about five minutes for the day to take a turn due to my folly: I decided to store my phone in my pocket. I proceeded to walk around endlessly for hours on end—four hours, to be exact. “The Palace has to be right there,” dominated my inner dialogue the entire time. Well, the palace was right there, but I was nowhere near it. (Mysteriously, Google Maps nor Apple Maps could do no right by me sitting in my pocket!). You see, Gamla Stan is not that big. It is roughly half a mile across. In my defense, well, actually, nevermind. The ridiculous notion that I could find my way around devoid of assistance was exactly that, ridiculous. To make matters worse, I mistakenly wore a pair of stiff, brand new shoes. You can only imagine the blisters and my embarrassing limp that promptly ensued. Eventually, I found the Palace, blistered and exhausted with a newly-showered look!
(My friend had gone on the same adventure in a matter of an hour. He visited the Palace, Parliament, and the Nobel Prize Museum all with hours to spare with respect to my seemingly hyper-fast stopwatch.)
The Royal Palace
What do we look for in an individual? Growth! In the weeks following that treacherous journey, I have seen great directional improvements. Here is the proof embedded in my daily commute to class. My lab (Biomedical Lab) has taken place in three different locations: DIS, Karolinska Institutet Solna, and Karolinska Institutet Flemingsberg. To get to DIS, I take the metro: the red line’s 13 train toward Mörby Centrum, from Hornstull to Stadion. To get to KI Solna, I take the metro: the red line’s 13 train toward Mörby Centrum, from Hornstull to T-Centralen; and then the SL 53 bus to Karolinska Institutet västra. To get to KI Flemingsberg, I take the SL 66 bus from Högalidskyrkan to Södra station; and then the Pendeltåg – 41 from Stockholm Station to Flemingsberg. Would you look at that! That regurgitation was entirely from memory! Look how far I have come!
Proof of My Successful Arrival at KI Flemingsberg
The point of this post is to show you that even if you are lacking in the directions category as I am, you will be just fine in Stockholm. I chose to share this story because it exemplifies my progress so far. I went from a daunting low of being lost beyond belief to knowing how to navigate the metro like the back of my hand. You see, I could have picked a single greatest moment to write about, but I thought it would be more memorable to offer a tale of progression. Moreover, this is a tale about finding yourself in Stockholm—both literally and figuratively. That initial failure motivated me to accomplish something: to walk with the confidence of a local. And that I have done. At the moment, I do not offer walking tours, however, come 2023 I might start! So the next time I say “Hej! I’m American,” you will hear me follow up with, “How do you say, “Do you need help with directions?””