My wife told me the other day that only three percent of Swedes buy their own summer house. However, it’s not that Swedes don’t have summer houses. I would say at least half, if not a huge majority, of people in Stockholm have a place they go to in the country for at least part of their long summer break.
But the houses stay in families, bound by tradition and the home village. There is no American equivalent because Americans don’t have summer cottages like this – cheap and rustic and gorgeous, spread out through this California-sized country with only 10 million people. It explains why I talk to people at work, and some are heading for summer homes six hours away in a flat forest by no body of water.
We are part of that three percent, our old house that used to be split into apartments for two sisters with no water. It is in a clearing down a hill, which protects us from the noise of the trains and the road. We can walk to the lake in five minutes, the beach in ten.
And we chose this, and that makes us proud. We chose not to buy a car, and subsequently chose a house near a train line, like some 19th century vacationers headed for the Catskills out of New York City. We chose not to move to a bigger apartment. We chose to stretch our parental leave. We chose for E to go to grad school. We chose to buy a summer house close enough to her family so they can visit on her birthday.
For a good while there, we didn’t feel like we had a chance to choose much – and I get this feeling about much of modern digital life, that it spins away from a lot of people. And I am now bound by a lack of car, the needs of two toddlers and swarms of mosquitos in the forest shadows. But it is still a good feeling to be living a life that you consciously created, for better or for worse. And right now, with the sun still up at 9pm, with two kids asleep and a sneaky sleepiness coming over me, it is definitely for the better.