Five places that made me

Saturday morning and I am reading the Age newspaper in Melbourne. There, I stumbled onto an article about Bryan Brown, the Australian actor, called “Five places that made me”. While I can not compare myself to Bryan Brown’s fabulous life, the article made me think about five places that made me who I am. After using up some brain cells, I came up with the following list:

Sydney

Moving from Stockholm, Sweden to Sydney, Australia in 1988 and living there for the next 26 years, Sydney definitely formed me. It was the first time I lived anywhere outside of Stockholm’s perimeters.

I could probably have lived a comfortable “middle of the road” life in Stockholm for the rest of my life, but that was never an option. Sydney showed me another part of the world, a multicultural largely peaceful and beautiful place with plenty of opportunities. Sydney is also where the One and Only Son was born and still lives today.

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Hiking in Sydney.

Seattle

I visited Seattle for 3 nights back in 1997, as part of 9 weeks holidays with my first wife. While we spent longer elsewhere, only Seattle attracted me to return and explore further.

When my first marriage broke down by the end of 1998, I decided to return to Seattle by myself for a month during summer of 2000. That trip was also my very first solo trip (darn, I should have done that more often). I ended up spending more time with others during that month than I was by myself.

I met somebody in Seattle on my 3rd day there, spending plenty of time with her and her friends. A friend who then worked in Austin, TX, flew up to SeaTac and we traveled and hiked together in the Pacific Northwest for a week.

As much as I missed my son, he was then 6 years old, I didn’t want to leave the area. I thoroughly enjoyed its books, art and music scenes. And it’s magnificent outdoors. Good vibes all around.

For years afterward, I elaborated, at least in my mind, whether I should attempt to move to Seattle.

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Hans The Hiker with VW outside Experience Music Project building, Seattle, 2000

Malaysia

I have visited Peninsular Malaysia 3 times. Massively enjoyed it every time.

My first time in Malaysia was with my then girlfriend, later Good Mrs. It was our first overseas trip together, a sort of test if we could travel together in an unknown country.

We visited Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Taman Negara, Penang. Our engagement rings came from a jewelry store in Penang during that trip. We must both have passed that test in 2004 as we are still married today.

Later, we returned with the One and Only Son and spent two weeks traveling the country again. He later proclaimed it was his best trip ever. We certainly enjoyed it… Again…

An oasis of a sort, for our regular “Asian fix”…

Malaysia… is truly Asia… As the jingle goes 🙂

New York City

I have visited NYC twice, first time for a week in February / March 1984. I knew then that I had to return and explore further, but outside its blizzard season. In 2013, Good Mrs and I spent all of May renting a tenement apartment on Henry Street in Chinatown, lower Manhattan.

New York City 29 years apart were two unique and very different destinations.

In the early 80s, NYC was grim, run down, gritty but… kind of exciting. In 2013, it was glitzed up and still fascinating. Although I preferred Brooklyn’s rougher edges to Manhattan’s touristy scene. We visited all 5 boroughs and found Coney Island so interesting that twice we took the subway out there. Including on Memorial Day, the official start of NYC’s swimming season.

The thought of New York City always gave me the buzz. Long before my first visit, as a nerdy 20 something boy in Stockholm, New York City was where I wanted to live. I read about it, listened to the radio about it etc etc. I fantasised about living there, doing cool things. Very impressionable I was.

However, NYC was not to be and I moved to Australia instead. As formative as NYC was, I have no regrets about that decision today!

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Tourist photo on top of Empire State Building, NYC

American Southwest (Joshua Tree National Park, Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso…)

During travel, your expectations play a large part in whether you will enjoy a place or not. Some places disappoint. Other places meet or even exceed your expectations. I believed that I would enjoy Santa Fe in New Mexico which I absolutely did, but I didn’t expect to enjoy El Paso or Palm Springs or Tucson so much. Probably because of my then limited understanding of those places.

There is something about the American southwest that truly resonates with me. The deserts, the people, the art, the music, the architecture, the split Hispanic/Anglo culture, the lifestyle, the food. The list goes on.

Yep, its music and food are a very regular ingredient in our Melbourne household today and will continue to be.

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At the Tucson Rodeo in 2013

Conclusion

So there you have it. Five places that made me what I am today. Each of them in their own unique way. I still enjoy them all, what they offered me and would love to spend more time in all of them.

What five places made you, dear reader?