Owning a travel business most certainly has its perks. Finding multi-destination airfare at the same cost as the round trip airfare you would otherwise have purchased? WIN. (Actually, it was about $30 per person cheaper to route through Norway, but who's counting?). We can't travel in the US nearly as easily.
So instead of flying from Texas to Israel and back the same way, we headed north "on the way" home. And we are LOVING it. I mean, is un-immigration a thing? Because I'm feeling very strongly called to reclaim Geoff's Norwegian roots. There must be some relatives somewhere in this frozen paradise willing to take us in.
We celebrated Easter in Stockholm and are now enjoying the INCREDIBLE beauty of Norway. With flights between Stockholm and Oslo at $40 per person, we couldn't help it. (On a side note, we are still trying to figure out how the cheapest entree at a restaurant is around the same price of that airfare...but we're too hungry to think clearly, lol.).
Though we certainly travel a lot, it is almost always related to "work" in some way. It has been very good to take an intentional step back from visiting locations that are "dual purpose", and instead deciding to visit a destination solely because we've always wanted to travel here. We are still getting some work down while traveling, but are doing our best to relax as a family and enjoy some quality time together after the VERY busy last month of leading back to back study trips.
From the airport baggage claim to the trains, parks, hotels, etc. there are kid focused play areas, changing rooms, nursing areas, safety seats, you name it. It's like they realized a large portion of their population are KIDS/mothers/fathers - and responded accordingly! Even the men's restrooms have places to change babies diapers. AMEN.
I've NEVER seen so much attention to childcare and family friendly atmosphere. I had heard how much this part of the world prioritized family by offering extended leave for mothers AND fathers when babies were born, among other incredible family support systems. But I didn't expect it to benefit us so much as short term travelers. But there wasn't a bus, train, restaurant, museum, or hotel where it wasn't clear the child/family was considered a priority.
As if that wasn't heart warming enough: "Fair Trade" dominates. "Fair Trade, it's a given!" is a slogan we saw several times, especially where coffee, chocolate or bananas were sold (which are some of the most important items to purchase fair trade, by the way, due to the incredible corruption in those industries in particular - among others). It was so encouraging to see first hand that a modern society could demand better, and provide it in majority.
No society has it all together. I could list some of the serious weaknesses I know of Scandinavian countries from basic research. (Though I didn't experience them myself as a weekend tourist). That being said - it was BEYOND impressive to experience even a glimpse of how this country operated. And I have high expectations, and an inclination toward cynicism. Stockholm. It was for real.
Here are a few pictures of our three day Easter weekend in Stockholm. We're enjoying Norway now. (Spoiler alert: it just keeps getting better. Keep all the family friendly/fair trade going and add STUNNING landscape - we may miss our plane. On purpose.)