Yes, that’s Swedish for ‘hey’. As you can see we’re becoming fluent in Swedish…
Alright, we’ll be honest with you, we have been a bit lazy in that department of the integration process. However, we have been integrating into northern Swedish society quite well in the other departments. You’d hope so after 8 months not hearing from us!
So much has happened in that time, that we’ll have to tell you in chapters, but we’ll give a quick recap:
We came to Sweden in a caravan with our baby and cat, stood on a campsite for a couple of months in the coldest part of the winter, bought a house just before Xmas, bought ourselves a snowmobile, snowthrower, skis, a (hillbilly) car, a greenhouse and most recently a boat and lawnmower. Yes, we told you we’ve been busy!
Let’s start with the house…
Winter up north in a caravan that is not specifically insulated for this type of weather is no joke. If it wasn’t for the great facilities on the campsite and the incredibly friendly and helpful people that run the place (who have become good friends), this would’ve been an entirely different experience.
At some stage when temperatures dropped to around -30 °C the frost was a permanent resident within some parts of the caravan, no matter how much we heated the place up. By that time windows would already be frozen every morning and we’d struggle to open them up to air out the place, which had to be done on a daily basis, otherwise the moisture will stay inside and turn into mold and that becomes a health hazard. It’s not the cold, it’s the mold that gets you…
Now, if it would’ve been just the 3 of us (Caroline, Vince and Fraggle) we would’ve managed fine. We were cooking everyday, taking turns to go to the sauna that we had all to ourselves (there were hardly any people staying at the campsite during that time) and we got the hang of making the caravan nice and cozy, despite the freezing temperatures. Supermarkets were right around the corner and so was everything else that we needed. Life was very comfortable and simple.
But we started to get a bit worried about our sweet little Amber. She was growing up and there was really no space for her to learn how to crawl. At night, when temperatures in the caravan would also drop (we couldn’t have the gas heater on all night, but would switch it on now and again to take the chill off) Amber’s hands started to get way too cold. The rest of her was fine. The bed Vince made worked like magic and she slept real nice and cozy in it. But she refused to wear gloves and when morning came, those tiny, cute little hands were almost like popsicles. That was it; it was time to look for a proper place to live.
First we thought to stay in a cabin for the rest of the winter, as our plan was always to find a place when spring/summer would arrive. This is when the house market starts to wake from it’s slumber up north.
However, after looking at many, many cabins, Vince thought one morning to just have a look and see if any houses were perhaps for sale in the Storuman area. And to our surprise, 2 were for sale right here in Storuman itself!
We preferred one of them and called up. No answer. Wrote an email and dropped a comment via their website. No reply. So we decided to contact the real estate agent of the other house and they did reply. In fact, this one was empty and ready to move in to. Neither was it on the main road and had only a ground floor. Bit of bungalow styled house, but then with 4 bedrooms, 2 garages and a big terrace plus garden. Yes, everything pretty much needs renovating, but nothing really urgently. What was most important to us was that it was livable, had it’s own shower, toilet, running hot water, large kitchen, fireplace and heatings. The things you come to appreciate when you’ve been living in a caravan for over a year and a half!!
Several people had already made bids on the house which had all been rejected. It was on sale for 270,000kr (about EUR 26,000) and this was a no-brainer for us. We had sold our apartment in Luxembourg for twice the amount that we paid for it and walked away with a big chunk of that after paying off our debts. This house would be ours no matter what.
Next thing we did was offer 250,000kr (around EUR 24,000) which was accepted immediately! Now the payments and paperwork had to be arranged which took longer than we’d like, but the day before Xmas everything was signed and we received the keys. We couldn’t have been more excited to move into our new house. Neither of us ever owned a house before and we’d had enough of the daily struggle in our caravan, which seemed to be shrinking by the day.
In the run up to Xmas, when we knew that we’d most likely be able to get the keys the day before, there were several things we needed to buy in order to move into the house. All our stuff was still sitting in storage in Holland.
Enter Janne and Tina, the wonderful couple that run the campsite. They offered to take us to a nearby city, Lycksele, where they had bigger shops which would most likely have the things we needed in stock. They said they had to buy some stuff there anyway and could take their snowmobile trailer for our larger furniture. I told them after all this that they really saved our Xmas, cause I don’t know how else we could’ve bought a bed and a sofa 2 days before moving in.
They also lent us a kitchen table and 4 chairs that belonged to the campsite as they were in storage for now waiting to be refurbished and we managed to buy a wonderful cot for Amber locally.
Aaaaah, we were in! Janne gave us some wood for the fireplace, so we could have that on during the holidays and helped us put together the sofa.
The first thing we did was turn on all heatings and start taking in what we had just bought. In order to speed up the heating process, we also used an electrical fan assisted heater that we had purchased for the caravan, but this proved to be a bad decision. A fuse blew and we were in the dark with no heating! What the hell were we going to do now? We just moved in!
So we called Janne, who drove to our place immediately from the next village where they live and he showed me how to work the ancient looking fuse boxes they have here in Sweden. Phew! We had enduring problems with the fuses after this, but eventually a friend of Janne (the local electrician) fixed it all.
Since then we’ve been slowly renovating and fixing things indoors, but now that the weather is changing, outdoors has been a priority. We got stuck into our garden and have been working on it for weeks. We still have one main goal and that is self-sufficiency. The dream is alive and well and is starting to turn into reality and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!
For now however, this was the story of our first house.
We hope you enjoyed it.
With much love from Storuman!
Caroline, Vince, Amber and Fraggle