I arrived in Ostersund in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, August 31st. My itinerary from Stockholm had kept me up all night with exchanges and wondering if I was on the right train so I was exhausted. The high school friend I was in Ostersund to visit, Brigit Reder, was busy with an activity with her soccer team that morning so I found a nice bench in the bus station and passed out for three hours.
Around 10am when Brigit got back to her apartment I ventured into the city. To be honest I was pretty nervous. Brigit and I had never been super close but rather had just ran in the same circles and were good acquaintances. I hadn’t seen or spoken with her for nearly five years. But I was also insanely excited. For circumstances as amazing as my packing trip and her playing professional soccer in Sweden to be how we see one another again is a very special thing. All of these thoughts were running through my mind when I turned the corner in downtown Ostersund and saw a girl with a Cincinnati Reds hat sitting on the balcony in front of me. That hat made me smile.
Brigit was immediately an incredible hostess. She told me to make myself at home, where everything was, and made it very clear I was free to do anything while I was here. We jumped right back into the friendship we had in high school, using our stronger connections with mutual friends to connect. It was kinda funny that we went right to that again, but soon that was no longer necessary. I think the last three days were the most I have talked to Brigit in my whole life and it was pretty awesome.
Brigit showed me around the city for a bit that day and took me to the grocery store that sponsors her team to stock up for my upcoming hike. The team didnt have practice that night so for dinner I got to be a part of their tradition of one or two teammates cooking for the rest of them. We had delicious black bean burgers with homemade fries and the entire time I was thinking, “Real food never tasted so good.” That night we all watched the WNSL championship game between Seattle and Kansas. It was really cool to see Brigit and her teammates have so much knowledge and personal connections to the players on the field.
On Monday I woke up and didnt know what to do with myself. No tent to take down, train to catch, or new city to find my bearings in. It was a weird but wonderful feeling. Brigit and I explored Ostersund some more; walking down along the huge lake the city is built next to, splurging inside a Swedish candy shop, and then driving around to see her stadium and the overlook of the city from an island in the lake. She then treated me to a delicious Japanese buffet that had me feeling full like I hadnt felt in two weeks. Seriously, Brigit went above and beyond even my wildest expectations. I was able to do some laundry, too! This was a big plus because things had started to smell prettty funky.
When Brigit and her roommates left for practice, I stayed behind and was able to Skype with some people from back home. It is incredible how soothing it can be to hear a familiar voice and reassuring it is to hear your plans and thoughts out loud as you explain them. That night I ran into a bit of a roadblock buying my train reservations up to Abisko. There wasnt a rail office in Ostersund that could sell me just seat reservations but my US card wouldnt work on the website. Brigit once again csme to the rescue and said that tomorrow her team manager would be able to help me out.
On Tuesday, September 2nd I had a lot of energy going through me. The past two days had been the slowest I had moved since my trip began and, while it was good to rest and slow down, I was itching to get going again. I also had a lot of excited nerves over my next stop, the Kungsleden trail that I would spend the next week hiking. We got my ticket situation figured out, I finished packing (Brigit was letting me keep some of my unnecessary stuff at her place so my pack would be much more manageable for the hike! #saint), and then relaxed for the rest of the day.
That night, I got on my train to Abisko. It’d be a long but easy journey; nearly 14 hours of travel but only one exchange.
To Brigit, thank you so much for your hospitality and generosity over the past few days. It means the world to me that you and your teammates would open your home to and share your experience here in Sweden with me. I cannot wait to return to Ostersund to cheer you all on on the 13th!!