By: Matt Morris
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to study and travel in Uppsala, Sweden for a month. The trip was very amazing and provided me with experiences which the United States didn’t quite have to offer.
One of the first, and in my opinion, one of the biggest and most memorable differences that Sweden had to offer was purely in the country’s age. Sweden was founded in 1397; inhabited much earlier; and is rich in history, culture, architecture, and art which the United States simply doesn’t have. For example, just a five-minute walk from where I stayed in Uppsala is a 16th century castle which, has housed royal families for much of Sweden’s long history. Waking up to a castle just outside was an amazing feeling and very exciting. Unfortunately the United States has few, if any comparable castles of such age and importance.
Similarly, close by is a prominent church which is still home to the Archbishop of Sweden.One of my favorite trips (and pictures) was taken in Sigtuna, Sweden, the oldest town in the country founded in 980. The town was home to Viking runic stones, medieval churches, and original homes which have been continuously repaired yet maintained to stay as close to their original state as they could.
Outside of architecture and history, another major difference which has left a lasting imprint on me was found within the culture. In Sweden, the word Allemansrätt refers to Outdoor Access Rights – the right to walk, bike, ski, or camp on nearly any land in the country. Swedes simply call it the Freedom to Roam. Early on during my trip, I learned the importance of Allemansrätt in everyday Swedish life. Coming from America I found it hard to believe that well over half of Swedes own a lakeside home or cabin where they spend their vacations. This means that from birth, most Swedes likely spend a portion of their year immersed in the outdoors, moving away from any metropolis or surrounding urban areas.
While traveling throughout Sweden, aspects of Allemansrätt were apparent throughout the country, whether in the actions of the people or their infrastructure. During lunch breaks at work, people would spend a portion of the time exercising or spending time outside. Most Swedes rode their bikes to work – so many that some stats estimate over half the population are cyclists. Nearly all towns that we visited had plenty of green spaces creating stunning scenery.
Allemansrätt, or perhaps just the general appreciation and healthy use of the outdoors by the Swedes was something that I value greatly. It reminded me of the importance of the outdoors and nature, something that I realized I was slowly losing by living in a city. Today, I try to keep the outdoors in my life each and every day, something I absolutely recommend to everyone.