Hitchhiking to the Polar Cirlce

by Aran Pedros (Spain)

Making a local connection Sweden


The rhythmic up and down swaying of the truck seat was rocking me to sleep as I struggled to stay awake. My eyelids felt heavy. The driver had stopped smoking and all that remained was the smell of the old coffee I was offered hours ago while a pop radio station played in the distance. He dialed it down as he glanced over me, slowly sinking next to him. The twilight hadn’t ended yet, and the pinks and the oranges fused together in a never-ending fight behind the mountains that grew taller by the mile, as we got as far North as we could. ‘Nobody is going to stop’ and ‘the Swedish are too introverted to pick up strangers on the road’ were uttered by friends and strangers alike every time I explained my plan. Although I pushed them out of my mind, a different memory lurked in, and I saw myself a couple of years ago walking into a small town bar in Dalarna county late one afternoon. There were five people total inside, plus the bartender. The five of them were by themselves, fixated on their drinks or a mote of dust on their tables and sitting in a way their eyes wouldn’t intersect with one another if they were to lift their heads up. Ten hours of waiting under the hot sun, next to a battered bus station deep inside the Swedish Taiga forests, is what took for me to connect those two experiences and consider giving up. So when a trailer came brushing over fresh pine needles and swinging birch trees to the sides, I was still standing in the same spot, thumb up, holding my poorly scribbled cardboard sign as I followed the truck slowing down 50 feet away. I counted five, the seconds it took me to react. Grabbing my backpack in a whim, I ran towards the front cabin as the passenger’s door opened and the head of a toothless Latvian man appeared through it, smiling. He hand gestured a welcoming sign and I pushed my backpack upwards towards the front seat. That lucky ride kickstarted a 36h journey to the Polar Circle, as I changed transports, landscapes, and people.