You Win Some, You Lose Some
Updated: Mar 10
Writing competitions that is. The 2019 Travel Writing Competition has come and gone with no word from National Geographic but I couldn't be more proud of myself...
Back in June, Kalo and I happened to pick up a NG magazine from the corner store to get some honeymoon inspiration. In flipping through the pages I saw their competition advertisement. Fate, right? I was 6 months into my blog, was feeling confident in my writing/voice, getting good feedback from readers. I had to enter! The brief was to describe an inspiring travel experience. Vague, but we had just been to Stockholm and I had a few ideas up my sleeve accompanied by a heap of self-doubt.
I'm not a professional writer, I haven't rafted in the Amazon, hiked to Machu Picchu or summited Mt. Kilimanjaro like my adventurous husband, so there's no way the judges are going to select a piece about the food scene in Sweden. Well they didn't, but hot damn am I proud of what I put together and who's to say the wonderful trips I've been on are any less "inspiring." It's about realising your worth, your strength and believing that what you bring to the table is more than enough.
So here is my submission for you all to read and I hope this post helps ease any of the self-doubt you may be feeling. Let's be fearless together!
When Whims Take Flight
It was a lazy, nondescript Saturday in January. The holiday festivities were over, visiting family had all gone home, and on that particular Saturday, I remember our tiny top floor flat was surprisingly warm and quiet. A little too quiet for London. So I poked my head into the living room expecting to see my husband on the laptop or taking a snooze. Instead, he was bent over the coffee table writing on and then folding pieces of torn paper. As he worked, his mischievous smile made me squint and turn my head to the side. “What in the world was he up to?” I wondered.
Done with folding, he grabbed the wire basket that holds our television remotes, dumped them onto the couch cushion and added in the pieces of paper. After giving the basket three good shakes, he looked up to see me standing in the doorway. "Come over! Let’s play a game to decide where we should travel next. I’ve written down ten cities. You’ll reach in, pick one and we’ll book it right here and now,” he explained. I remember my excitement was immediate. Without hesitation, in went my hand and out came STOCKHOLM written in bold black letters. That same day, we purchased flights, packed our bags and headed north.
Later I would come to regard Stockholm as one of the most contradictory, yet harmonious cities I have ever travelled to. Blurring all distinctions between land, sea, metropolis, and nature, Stockholm thrives on juxtaposition and it’s truly a wonder to behold. In the capital, cobblestone meets metal, modern constructions neighbour medieval buildings and every day, business-driven Swedes insist on taking a fika break. Even minimalist Scandinavian decor has a home within the gilded royal palace. But as a person who lives, breathes, and dreams food, where I found Stockholm to be the most inspiring was on the plate.
At each restaurant, I could taste the celebration of opposition in every bite. Pickles cut through rich butter sauces. Red onions brought the funk to fried herring sandwiches. Sweet lingonberries elevated meatballs, mash, and gravy to new heights. At Oaxen Slip, a bistro along the docks, they’re playing with different temperatures, serving up cool poached salmon on top of warm boiled potatoes. TAK takes contrasting themes one step further by fusing Asian flavours with local ingredients. It’s all a balancing act that Swedish chefs have mastered oh so brilliantly.
Now, months have passed and the meals I ate in Stockholm are what have left lasting impressions not only on my heart but my stomach. And, that Saturday in January is no longer remembered as lazy or nondescript. It’s the day our blind selection travel tradition was born. It’s the day my husband and I chose to let passion drive all of our future adventures. It’s a day we’ll always be thankful for because some of the most unbelievable eats, memorable trips, and inspiring experiences can happen when you least expect.