Self Expression Magazine

Light Travel

Posted on the 17 May 2016 by Sofia Essen @SofiaEssen


Hello there!

In my first blog entry, I told you a little about who I am and what I do. Today, I thought I would share the story of how I became an expat…

My parents always knew that they wanted to gain some international experiences. In the late 80s and 90s my father worked for a multinational company. Shortly after he joined the company, there was talk about sending him abroad at some point in the future. Several destinations were discussed. First, The United States. Then Australia and Singapore. Hong Kong was a contender for a while. Finally, it was decided that he was needed in The United Arab Emirates and on short notice too. On account of one of the managers in Dubai having left without giving proper notice, my father was needed there the next week.

This was the early 90s. Dubai was barely more than a sandpit back then, a far cry from the spectacle of glitz and glamour that it is today. Our friends and family had never heard of this foreign place. “The United what?” they asked, looking highly dubious. “Is it safe?” was another question that came up frequently. And then, “Will you have to live in a tent? Do they have schools? Can you drink the water?” While we assumed that we wouldn’t have to live in a tent, we couldn’t bet our lives on it.

Mom and Dad briefly talked about the possibility of her and I staying in Sweden until my father could get the lay of this desert land, so to speak, in person. But that conversation was quickly abandoned. This was going to be an adventure and we were going to experience it together. Now we had six days to pack up our life in Sweden.

Since my father worked all day, my mother took care of practicalities such as ending the lease on our apartment in Stockholm and securing short-term accommodation in Dubai over the telephone. She sold our furniture, gave odds and ends to friends, and streamlined our wardrobes because most of our Scandinavia-appropriate clothes would be far too heavy for the hot desert climate in Dubai. Meanwhile, I packed my toys, stuffed animals, and my Nancy Drew and Famous Five novels into cardboard boxes. With my parents help, I hauled them off to the nearest charity shop.

In the morning on the 29th of October in 1992, shivering from the chilling temperature, we hopped into a cab that took us to Arlanda Airport. Our one and only suitcase was stuffed into the trunk of the car and my pet bird sat in his travel cage, which was parked on my lap. That evening, we stepped off the plane and into a balmy Arabian night. I was half-expecting Aladdin to materialize out of thin air and whisk us off for a tour on his flying carpet.

I was mildly disappointed when one of my father’s colleagues greeted us in the arrival hall instead of Aladdin. He was a jovial Englishman. Introductions and brief, polite chit chat ensued.

After a few minutes, the Englishman looked down at our single suitcase and said, “Shall we collect the rest of your luggage.”

“No,” my father replied. “This is all of it.”

The Englishman’s face fell. “Did the airline lose your luggage?”

“No,” my mother said. “We prefer to travel light.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m a bit of a minimalist at heart. Not counting the furniture in my apartment, I can still fit all of my belongings into a single suitcase. And I can still travel with my pet quite easily. My pet is a seven year-old Yorkshire Terrier and he weighs less than three kilos, which means that most airlines will allow him to sit with me in the cabin of the plane. I would never fly with an airline that doesn’t let me keep my dog by my side at all times!

That’s all from me for now. I wish all of you a great day!

– Sofia

Light Travel

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