Meaning in Time

 photo by Caroline McClelland

photo by Caroline McClelland

By: Caroline McClelland

Getting to Sweden from Switzerland: eight hours. We left our house in Lausanne, Switzerland, at 5:00 AM for the Geneva Airport. We arrived at the Geneva Airport at 6:00 AM. We departed for Amsterdam at 8:00 AM. We arrived in Amsterdam at 9:30 AM. We departed for Stockholm at 11:00 AM. We arrived in Stockholm at 1:00 PM. Eight hours passed before we stepped foot in Stockholm, and we had exactly thirty six hours to explore the city. Mind you, we also had to take into account the fact that the sun sets in the early afternoon. 

As a study-abroad student, travel time is a very precious and rare commodity; if not used well, one will not be able to see everything that she would like to see in a given location. 

At our house in Lausanne, we have Fridays off of school, so that we can travel for a longer period of time on the weekends. Oftentimes, we will try to leave on Thursday night, so that we can get to our designated place before the dawn of a new day, and so that we can enjoy two full days in the city we choose that particular weekend. Understanding the most efficient methods of traveling has taken me quite awhile to master — a full semester to be exact. We must learn how to navigate the train systems, to read a map, and to compare plane prices. Doing and planning these things takes up a lot of time, something I have come to find is a precious and hard to come by while living and studying abroad. 

Nonetheless, before arriving somewhere, several steps must be taken to ensure a pleasant trip. This particular weekend, my travel group was set: Carrie, the planner and organizer of the trip; she researched the train methods and local transportation; Elizabeth, the logical and practical member of the posse found us some lovely places to dine; Emily, the go-with-the-flow and happy-go-lucky girl added positivity and encouragement; I was in charge of picking the cutest little AirB&B that fit into our tiny budget (this, I have come to find, may be my hidden travel talent). 

However, all of these things take — you guessed it — time and much preparation. After much research and planning, we stepped off of the plane in Stockholm, and I instantly felt invited to join the community; Swedish people are just so kind and caring. I felt as though I was right back home in Nashville, Tennessee. I knew that Sweden would soon become a favorite in my list of places I had traveled this past semester. 

While in Stockholm, we visited several historic sites, including the Drottningholm Palace, the Vasa Museum, and the Gamla Stan. Furthermore, we had Swedish meatballs for every meal whilst there. Not an exaggeration — the only thing our stomachs saw that weekend was meatball after meatball. 

Looking back, this was one of my favorite trips. It was not the Vasa Museum or walking past the palaces that I remember and hold onto the most. It was not because we left with a story like getting lost in the city and stumbling upon an abandoned castle or missing our flight and being cooped up in the city for a little while longer. It was not Stockholm in particular that made that trip such an awesome weekend…

Ultimately, this was a favorite because we knew our time there had been well spent — it had been spent in community. We had a “normal” weekend, filled with laughter, love, and lasting friendships, as we meandered across Stockholm. We lived the way life was created and intended to be lived. We shared in our struggles and our ambitions. We laughed until we cried. We savored those Swedish meatballs. We smiled because we felt the community for which many of us long during our time as study-abroad students. 

That weekend in Sweden taught me a valuable lesson: life is not about filling up time for the sake of just being busy. It’s about where my intentions lie. It’s about taking up the mentality of living life to the fullest, something that I find hard to grasp at times. 

Throughout his works, C.S. Lewis talks about the notion of joy, and the impact that experiencing the sensation of joy had on his life. Every once in awhile, we have these all-consuming glimpses of joy that are pure and priceless. I get what Lewis means now. I felt true joy that weekend. 

How are you spending your time? Are you enriching it by every means possible to understand those around you or are you caught up in constantly trying to fill your time by just doing stuff? I know for myself, this is oftentimes hard to balance. But once you do find a middle ground, those glimpses of joy will come flooding through your senses like a hurricane.