Tag Archives: hostel

Jailhouse Stock-holm

I have backpacked around the world, but rarely have I stayed in hostel that was a convert from something funky. Which is why I jumped at the chance, even though it was a bit pricey, to stay in a former prison.

Stockholm was never on my Bucket List, but after making friends with Swedish guy during my 2012 backpacking trip, I had to say ‘yes’ when he asked me to visit.

10410845_10152277056537198_8415154174289285449_nWhile Peter did offer for me and my boyfriend to stay with him, we opted for the quirky hostel, Långholmen. It was not haunted thankfully and the rooms were clean, cute and sound-proof. The chefs there also made a delicious brekkie each day which we enjoyed on the patio with our fellow guests and by night we watched a bit of television in the privacy of our room, which was a rarity when staying in hostels.

10530844_10152275469267198_5306087670874910252_nEach morning, during our stay in Sweden, Peter would ride his bike to meet us and take us exploring his beautiful city. Below is a story I wrote for the paper I worked for at the time. It best describes the highs and lows of exploring Stockholm on a bike.

A closer look at Stockholm

IT looked like a scene out of the Tour de France.

I was puffing, panting, sweating and cursing under my breath, as I took on my first hill climb.

Unfortunately, it was just the beginning of what was meant to be a “leisurely” ride around the city of Stockholm.

In my mind, I had pictured me cruising alongside the waterways, waving to locals on their way to work, while listening to a bit of ABBA.

The reality was much grimmer.

10407731_10152279340827198_5633958536888878536_nMy boyfriend Lion and I had gone to visit my good friend Peter, who offered to show us around his city, as it was our first time in Scandinavia.

I first met Peter in New York City, when I was backpacking solo through the States in 2012.

We became instant friends and have kept in touch regularly through Facebook ever since.

We decided to visit him during our world trip last year because we were keen to catch up with him again and explore Sweden.

He said renting a bike was the best way to get around his city and cover a lot of ground in a short time – words no doubt by the end of our visit he was regretting.

None of us factored in how fit he was and how unfit we were.

I, for one, did not realise Stockholm had an endless number of hills.

10502095_10152280435592198_4324952846379389572_nI thought the city would have had a landscape like Amsterdam or Copenhagen – both of which I rode around with no difficulties.

A distance that would normally take Peter 10 minutes took us half an hour (or maybe it was even closer to an hour).

Either way, it was not a pretty sight and I am sure it was not enjoyable for Peter, who literally rode circles around us.

To be perfectly truthful, riding a bike is just as bad as driving a car when you are trying to sightsee.

You can’t take your eyes off the road for fear you will end up in a ditch, submerged in the river or worse – hit by a truck.

However, riding a bike does give you an opportunity to stop as often as you want, wherever you want.

There is so much beauty to experience in Stockholm and it is best captured by riding.

Despite my best efforts to stay out of harm’s way, I had a few bingles.

The worst was a collision with a concrete slab and the fence it was holding up.

I was black and blue by the end of my first day exploring Stockholm, and the bruises just kept coming.

I ran into Lion and Peter, almost hit pedestrians, slid in puddles, got my leg caught in the bike chain, caused on-coming bikers to almost crash trying to avoid me and ran into multiple walls and fences.

When I was super-puffed, close to what I imagined as my last breaths, I would ask for a photo stop to capture some of the city’s beauty but also secretly to have a rest.

While the bruises from riding around Stockholm faded quickly, the memories of the (somewhat traumatic) experiences I had are still vivid and now are some of my favourite from our trip.

It goes to show that at the time things may seem hard, but we are a lot stronger than we think.


New York, New York

THE city of New York is said to be one of the least forgiving in the western world. Or so I was told before my first visit two years. And yet, I find the majority of its inhabitants are some of the most amazing, considerate and brilliant people I have ever come across.

Unlike most big cities where you become so used to your surrounds, Big Apple dwellers don’t seem to tune out the rest of the world.
Maybe because they are constantly reminded that they are on borrowed time in this incredible city and never seem to forget that once upon a time they too were new to the city.

Since the second we stepped off the plane, we have been assisted without even asking for help. I don’t think that even happens in Australia. On a couple of occasions I have questioned whether the helpfulness of the New Yorkers were actually genuine or if they were just trying to lure us to where they wanted us (we gave the really sketchy guy the slip in the subway, so I guess we will never know).

I put all this amazing (and some possibly dodgy help) down to Karma and in particular travel Karma. As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe in paying it forward and not expecting anything in return. Today, in the subway at 103rd and Broadway, we were about to board the 1pm train, but we literally couldn’t fit on, so we waited for the next one. Before the doors of the train closed, a man pushed his wife through the doors and somehow managed to squeeze through them himself. And she practically collapsed onto the ground in front of us in a coughing fit, dry-reaching and crying. The woman had (as far as we could tell) had been crushed by the overcrowdedness of the train. I had never seen it so packed. It looked like a can of sardines.

The African-American woman continued to choke, cough and splutter, while her husband held her up. I felt so helpless, I have no medical or first aid training, so I couldn’t do anything medical to help. The only thing I could do was offer a bottle of water we has just bought to the man. He then was looking for tissues to wipe his wife’s face and thankfully I had some. So, I handed them to him. The look he gave me will stay with me always; it was a look of restored faith, appreciation, hope, and genuine heart-felt thanks.

We were about to jump onto the next train and he simply said “thank you so much, hope you have a great day”.

There is no better feeling, than helping.

I think as a society we are all so focused on getting ahead, buying posessions to show off our “wonderful lives” on social media that we can’t see past the ends of our noses (I got that from Mary Poppins – she could teach people a thing or two).

So, when you are next in a foreign city or see people visiting from other countries in your home city, don’t be closed off.

You never know what can happen if you open your mind and heart.

Finding the perfect travel buddy

FOR seven years I had been travelling alone. Then came along my boyfriend. Some backpackers would say that could throw a spanner in the works and at first I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. But, my boyfriend of two years has fit into the world of backpacking surprisingly well, despite a few moments when he was obviously completely overwhelmed by the lack of comforts when travelling this way. 

I had similar thoughts when I started backpacking in 2007. How do I shower and get changed in a shower cubicle with no bench or hangers? How do you hang up the wet clothes that can’t go in the dryer? And what happens if you need to rest during the hours you are not permitted into the hostel, due to cleaning?

Last night, while in San Francisco, due to washing our clothes late, we ran out of time to get them all dry. Thus, the question how do you dry clothes without a clothes horse or dryer, in a room where there are no hooks? Lets just say this was the question or straw that broke the camels (my boyfriend’s) back. 

This morning, after temporarily checking out of our hostel (room change), we took our 15 items of clothing to the nearby park, which had a couple of picnic tables and chairs. We laid all the clothes out in the sun and waited for two hours until they dried.

Queue the National Parks officer and accompanying police officer. I don’t know if there was a complaint made about “two hood-rats” loitering or two homeless people airing their clothes, but the two men with badges came an d grilled/interogated us. Their first question, which was very obvious was: “what are you two doing here”. To which I replied: “Trying to dry our clothes because the hostel laundry wasn’t open until 4pm”. He said “do you two have any alcohol or marjuana on you?” I innocently said: “No”. To which he asked another question about when the last time I smoked any marjuana. My next response shocked me, as I never lie to police, but I said it without thinking: “2004” (it was actually 2008). And then I followed that up with “We are good, I promise”.