This blog post follows Part I of the same title, which, if you don’t feel like reading (honestly I don’t blame you, my blogs are pretty haphazard), is about couchsurfing with strangers in a foreign country. More recently, I’ve decided to treat myself to real beds in hostel dorms—living the high life, as some would say.
Though hostels are generally much more convenient (I don’t feel obligated to anyone, and their typically central locations make my non-stop comings and goings slightly more efficient), they don’t provide that same feeling of ‘home’ that a welcoming host can offer. So upon arriving in Stockholm, by far my largest city assignment yet, I felt I’d plunged into the deep end, wearing a rather heavy pack.
I knew absolutely no one, and in the midst of a large music festival, my hostel’s common room was deserted; everyone was out having fun without me *cue existential panic and soul-crushing FOMO.*
Desperate for companionship and eager to explore, I decided to try finding people to run with, and check both boxes at once. After a few online searches and email exchanges, a run club leader kindly invited me to their group run the following morning. Immediate relief washed over: I didn’t have to wallow in solitude for long.
We enjoyed wonderful waterside scenery over lively and thoughtful conversation, reaching more interesting and meaningful topics as the run went on.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I love the way running fosters community. From a utilitarian perspective, it’s also a very practical hobby, considering my current job is essentially to cover as much ground as possible in very little time. I laced up the next morning, excited to meet new people and see new things.
The running club convened at a café in Stadshagen, where members smiled and introduced themselves, warmly welcoming me into the group. It didn’t matter to anyone how competitive or casual an athlete I was; all the group revolved around was community forged by running. After a round of friendly exchanges, we were off for a jaunt through the city.
Unlike my half-marathon experience last week, the run was refreshingly social. The entire group stuck together, and people talked the entire time. We enjoyed wonderful waterside scenery over lively and thoughtful conversation, reaching more interesting and meaningful topics as the run went on. Every so often, we’d break into full sprint to race each other up hills, like little kids do at recess, laughing and high-fiving breathlessly at the top before continuing on.
By the end of the run, it felt like we were old friends, despite knowing each other for only an hour or so. Though I’m probably vastly overestimating how much these people actually liked me, I appreciate their company and welcoming attitudes nonetheless. Some offered to show me around running trails in other areas, others invited me to go swimming that afternoon, and we all enjoyed lunch together after the run.
When I said goodbye and thanked them for welcoming me, they insisted I join for their next run later that week. Though a fairly minor gesture on their end, it meant the world to me: I no longer feel like a stranger in Stockholm, and can’t wait to go [run] clubbing around Sweden again soon.
To take full advantage of the Northern summer’s endless daylight, Marissa will squeeze every last minute of hiking, running, splashing, and climbing into her outdoor adventures through Iceland and Scandinavia. Bananas and coffee are all she needs to fuel up for marathon-treks through rugged mountains, thundering waterfalls, jagged cliffs, and rocky fjords, though trying to keep her two sets of clothing clean in the process might be one of the greatest challenges this world has ever known. Marissa studied engineering and environmental policy, with lifelong goals of saving the world’s glaciers, oceans, forests, and wildlife from the perils of anthropogenic climate change. When she isn’t busy reading about solar panels and cursing modern consumerism, Marissa enjoys rowing on the Charles River, stopping to pet every dog she ever sees, running the occasional marathon, and cooking plant-based feasts for forty at the Dudley Co-op/commune. Her favorite legume is decisively the garbanzo, for its incredible versatility and protein-packed punch.