Friday, September 28, 2012

A Trip of a Lifetime to Sweden

My family and I just returned from a trip of a lifetime. We spent three weeks traveling around Sweden and couldn't have asked for a better trip. From a Swedish crayfish festival, to private tours of the Parliament and two City Halls, to making new friends and growing much closer to old ones, to a natural-habitat zoo and seeing some of Sweden's most beautiful landscapes, it was an experience we'll never forget.

I was honored to had been invited to Sweden to speak to two groups by a family who has just started a positive-thinking blog for people with disabilities. Here's the post on the site following one of our events. I spoke to both groups about my story, as well as disability in America and the importance of a positive attitude. As I often do in my motivational speeches, I also talked about overcoming challenges and believing in your own abilities. I was proud to have the opportunity to speak with my friend and mentor David Lega, who in the recent past was recognized as Sweden's speaker of the year. We have the same attitude, drive and passion for life. We're kindred souls and made a great team.

And speaking of our similarities, I have to take a moment to say how thankful we are to have David as our lifelong friend. He opened his home to us for three weeks, showed us his country, introduced us to his friends, family and colleagues, and each day we grew closer than we were before. One of my favorite things about David is that simply knowing him challenges me - and everyone else around him - to be a better person. And I love that when we're together we laugh a lot. I don't know how many nights Jacob and I went to bed with sore bellies and cheeks from laughing so hard.

We tried to soak up the history that pulsed throughout Sweden. I guess if you live there, it may be normal, but to us it was often breathtaking. We saw churches and castles and landmarks that were up to 800 years old! It seemed everywhere we looked there was special detail and some kind of story. It really made us realize just how young our country is. Some of the landscapes reminded me of places I've seen in the U.S., and others were unlike anything I've seen before. It was interesting experiencing the culture, too. Lots of conversions of measurements and temperatures and money! We would have been lost without a few iPhone apps! We picked up a few words in Swedish, but didn't have to learn much since most everyone spoke great English.

I wish I could better describe what a surreal experience it was. We can't wait to return and in the mean time, we'll stay in touch with the great new friends we made across the world. For now, we're home and back to traveling the country with VPG. Next week we're off to Fort Lauderdale for a few days and have an exciting schedule coming up the next few months. Stay tuned!