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Coming home

Sanna Stefansson
Sanna Stefansson
3 min read

2015 I went nomadic. It was supposed to be a four-month-long break from my dreary Swedish routine. I would keep working in corporate but trade the 07:08 subway commute to an early morning walk on the beach, my winter coat to a bikini, and office life to something with more fresh air and freedom. But with a time limit. Four months was the agreement, and then I would be back on a plane to Stockholm.

Despite this, I handed over the contract for the apartment to my flatmate and sold most of my belongings. It was not so much of a plan as it was an escape, a desperate need for change.

Airport somewhere on my way to Bali, starting my nomad journey.

Four months later I came back, sleeping on an air mattress at a generous friend's flat. I felt sure of two things.

  1. Full-time nomad life was not for me.
  2. Living in Sweden was not an option.

As far as guidance goes, this list did not provide much help on what to do next. But a week later, my moral compass made me hand in my resignation, and I booked a flight out of Sweden. One thing we semi-nomadic people all have in common; when in doubt, book a flight.

Yes, I went back to Bali. I always seem to come back.

Little did I know it would take me five years and a pandemic before I had a home again.

Since November, I’ve been living out of a suitcase. Almost two months in the US, three weeks in Sweden and the Netherlands, six weeks in Mexico, three in Guatemala, and at the end of that whole ordeal, I was ready to hand over my passport for life if I could only teleport myself back to Lisbon.

Part of me always longs for other places, certain people, and new experiences. This restless seed took hold in me as a kid with a book constantly in hand, it kept growing, and at this point, it is thoroughly ingrained in who I am and how my life is structured. Friends are scattered over continents, my favorite hairdresser is in Athens, I have a yoga studio I can’t wait to visit again in Chiang Mai, and I know where you can get magical ice cream in Medellín (seriously, send me a DM if you’re in the area). It’s messy, and simultaneously, I can’t imagine having it any other way. But I still need a place to land, a place to call home.

Basic breakfast perfection. 

The relief I felt coming back to our Lisbon flat is hard to describe. Or maybe it isn’t. Perhaps it is simply how new this still is to me. Unpacking and knowing you will not have to pack again. Having a dedicated space for coffee and tea. Being able to cook and eat your own food. And sitting by a desk where my computer lives and I can start collecting physical books again. It sounds basic, doesn't it? But live without it for years and suddenly having that perfect storage for your clothes is akin to an orgasm.

Gloria Steinem says it best in My Life on the Road:

“I can go on the road - because I can come home. I come home - because I’m free to leave. Each way of being is more valued in the presence of the other. This balance between making camp and following the seasons is both very ancient and very new. We all need both.”

Sanna Stefansson

Lisbon-based Swede who dabbles in creative writing and has too many hobbies. By day I lead product development in a marketing agency and advocate for working remotely.