Swedish travelers embrace the unknown

September 7, 2017

By David Nordby The Brillion News

AROUND AMERICA – There is a lot said and written about traveling. For instance, like one quote from writer G.K. Chesterton: “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” That was certainly the case for Arwid Nilsson and Jacob Nilzén over the summer.

The two Swedish-born 22-year olds saw many tourist attractions around the nation, but also traveled with open eyes in their trip around the United States that they had worked more than a year for with no set plans. Nilsson had been to America before, but this time he was traveling with his close friend, Nilzén, who was seeing the country for the first time. They visited the biggest cities, small rural areas and entered each day not knowing what their plan would be.

The two purchased a conversion van that served as their transportation and sleeping area, traveled with limited materialistic items and saw cities including: Chicago, New York, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. San Francisco was a favorite to both, as were the national parks.

“National parks were really cool,” Nilsson said. “Yellowstone was my favorite.” The two were also impressed by the background of Mount Rushmore, which included the use of dynamite. They tried to learn the history of monuments or cities wherever they went.

The two slept in the van most nights, even when it was more than 100 degrees. They admit they drank beer to help fall asleep and put fans close to their faces. The two didn’t live an extravagant trip. There were no fancy meals or hotels. They lived primarily on rice and beans – or what they refer to as surviving – and sometimes went days without showers.

“You have to [prioritize] … I think food isn’t that high up on our priority,” Nilsson said.

The two are as easy going as it gets, which is perfect for some of the challenges they faced. On the first leg of the trip, they had a flat tire. Like their sleeping regimen, they decided they would have some beer while they figured out where to change the tire. Instead they ended up entering a grocery store filled with guns and were asked to leave.

Later in the trip, the steering in the van quit. They laugh about it now like it wasn’t a major deal after walking in high temperatures and hitching a ride from a truck driver outside of Amarillo. They also realize how fortunate they were that nothing happened to the steering while they were traveling throughout the day.

“We were so lucky. We had been driving for 16 hours that day in the middle of Texas,” Nilsson said. “We had just pulled off [the interstate] … That was scary.”

The two also expected to be able to park their van in more places than they could, but still managed to find spots like Wal-Mart parking lots. They also spent a lot of time driving because, as Nilzén says, America is a lot bigger than he realized. “Are we driving today or are we staying. The question we’d have every day,” he says.

They went out to clubs in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, had reconnections with people from Sweden they had met on previous travels and met people from Switzerland that they will see again in future travels.

The two both admittedly love beer, and found local breweries to be much more fitting to their taste than popular American brands. They tried many local flavors that stood out to them, like an oatmeal beer at a brewery in Lake Tahoe.

As for the people in America, the two say that they were outstanding in all regions of the country.

“America is not as dangerous as many people think,” Nilzén said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re from Sweden or somewhere else, I think, they’re just as friendly to anyone.”

“Everyone was very open and friendly to strangers,” Nilsson adds. “They were happy to help.”

Please see the complete story in the September 7, 2017 edition of The Brillion News. 

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