A Winter Solstice Story
One December day in 2012, Brandon and I had a meeting with SAS in Stockholm. We'd left our 3 year old daughter with my parents in Brussels, flew in the night before to attend a morning meeting and planned to be back to Brussels by dinnertime. Easy peasy.
Our meeting went great - but as we wrapped up, our buyer at SAS just kind of casually said “Hope your flight's still able to leave.” And that's when we realized that while we had been sitting in this conference room, a massive blizzard had rolled in. The buses and taxis had stopped running, so the buyer had to drive us back to the airport himself and, you guessed it, the monitors overhead were filled with lists of red “CANCELLED” flights.
We got rebooked on a flight for the following evening and then started checking hotels. All of the hotels in and around the airport were full because, apparently everyone in Stockholm knew about this situation before we did.
We jumped on one of the last trains from the airport into the city center. “Surely there will be hotels with available rooms near the train station," we said.
(And, yes, this is the part where the narrator comes in and says “But, in fact, there were no available rooms anywhere near the train station.”
Which is how Brandon and I found ourselves lugging a suitcase, a sample case, and a couple of briefcases all around Stockholm in about a foot of snow, wearing only our dress shoes. This was back before international cell phone data plans, so we walked door-to-door, hotel-to-hotel only to find there was no room at the proverbial inn(s).
I still remember the feeling of dragging our useless rolling suitcases down those snowy sidewalks, like tiny black Samsonite branded snowplows. My feet were nearly numb with the cold and sooo slippery in those ridiculous ballet flats. I even fell a couple of times.
Did we argue? Probably. Did we panic? A little (and sometimes a lot.)
And yet . . . It was also St. Nicholas Day. So at every hotel we fell into, we were invited in so warmly: “Ah, yes, I'm afraid we are completely full. The storm, you know. But, please, sit and warm yourself by the fire for a moment. Would you like a cookie? Perhaps a cup of mulled wine?” And what should have been the travel delay from hell, actually started to feel like the world's coziest (or should I say Mys-iest) two-person pub crawl. 😂
Many hours, many cookies, and four frozen feet later, we finally found a room, dropped our soaking wet bags & coats on the floor, and headed down to the restaurant just in time to place an order for dinner right before the kitchen closed.
We sat next to a fireplace in the empty hotel restaurant, we sipped our warm drinks, and waited for our food. And as I looked out the window onto the snowy street, I realized that somewhere along the way in this disaster of a day, I had fallen deeply, deeply in love with Stockholm at Christmastime. It was cold and dark outside, yet every window on every street that night had a candle in the window - shining its light, its warmth, its hope into the darkness. Every interior had a fireplace burning - glowing deep from within. And it just felt like - - magic.
Stranded in Snowy Stockholm is still one of my favorite travel memories of all time. It's a memory I think of every December but especially THIS December. And it's the memory that I wanted to share with you today - - the darkest day of the year.
✨ Remember to shine your light - - because when everyone has a candle in their window, we can collectively turn the even coldest and the darkest of places into a world of magic and hope.✨
This piece of writing originally appeared in my Dec 21, 2020 newsletter.
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