I bookended my trip to Sweden and Denmark with two somewhat expensive dinners. I didn’t have dinner at all in Copenhagen, and I had more than one early night in Sweden, so it kind of equaled out, in that way of strange trip math.
The first night, I woke up at ten pm after a surprise six-hour nap and headed to the best-reviewed restaurant that was also going to be open for another hour (meaning I chose from two options and elected for the one that sounded the most Swedish). I talked them into making a one-person herring sampler platter, despite the menu saying that two herring lovers were required. I realized there was a $20 American beer on the menu. I ate myself stupid and ambled home happily, about $70 poorer but pretty satisfied with my choices in a pinch.
On the last night of the trip, I went to Fotografiska and then walked, sore of heel but glad of spirit, to Akkurat, which my guidebook promised held all manner of splendid Belgian beer. I sat at the bar (one thing I would have never done a few years ago) and had a nice, intermittent, meal-long chat with the bartender (another thing I would have not even thought myself capable of a few years ago). I started with a Cantillon sour, and even just typing those words makes my heart thud with the most expansive happiness. With that in my hand (and rapidly going into my belly), I studied the menu. It was then that I said some of the gladdest words I have ever said:
“I would like the kilo of mussels, please.”
They come in kilos.
Also: I can dispense of a kilo of mussels quite handily.
In the interim, my friendly bartender gave me a sample of a local IPA that he swore didn’t have the boring DNA of most IPAs (shockingly true), and I tried a local brown ale too. The Cantillon still sang in my veins, and I wanted to try even more of Stockholm’s finest, as I was very pleased with every local beer I had.
There was only one problem: if I had any more beer, the certainty of me being able to get home on my own two increasingly unsteady legs was going to diminish severely. To put it plainly: shit was going to get messy if I had any more.
So, in a deeply responsible move that I still grieve, I paid my check and swayed out, heading back to my boat/home for one last glorious night.
Darkness had fallen, and I meandered along Stockholm’s harbor, as leisurely as a person can be while deeply, seriously needing to pee. The moon was gently embraced by wispy clouds just this side of iridescent, and the water lapped against the seawalls in a way both pleasing to my ears and exacerbating to my bladder. I pulled my camera out and began to test the steadiness of my hands.
Behold, my ship – for one night at least. I like longer exposures (these are all a quarter of a second or so) because this is closer to what the world often looks like to me. This depth and richness, the glowing of the lights over the water: this is how it was.
Gently blurry and glowing with warmth, I had just finished nine days across the world on my own, nine days where I proved to myself that I am capable of getting myself places, of finding wonderful things to do, of connecting with people wherever I go. I am more than able to create my own rich and nourishing path. And I took a joy in choosing my own direction from moment to moment that even I, comfortably solo visitor of movie theaters and restaurants alike, couldn’t have predicted.
And, animated with the joy of discovery, the pleasure of the previous days, and the singing ABVs of some of Europe’s finest beers, I walked myself home for the last time that trip.
I was fine. I was going to be fine. More than fine, as has become my refrain.
I walked from one island to another until I reached my boat. It was perhaps 8 pm. “You can go pee and go lay down for a bit,” I told myself, “and then you can go back out if you want.” I didn’t, and I didn’t want, as was my pattern throughout the trip. I’d had my day, and a morning of some last wandering was more important to me than one more bar, one more chilled wander through the darkness in some misguided quest for more and enough and making it worth it.
It was enough, and so was I.