When I was blessed with the opportunity to begin traveling the world through a job on a cruise ship fresh out of high school, my first port of call was Stockholm Sweden. I remember that I was eighteen and I’d never been to Europe. I flew across the world and staring out the airplane window as we neared the airport it seemed like such a foreign terrain to me: moody steel colored rock boulders with needle-like pines surrounding lakes sprinkled throughout.
Sweden was the first truly foreign place I ever visited and it’s been lodged in my heart forever for a variety of reasons. When Global Child became a reality and I was choosing any ten countries in the world to visit, Sweden was in my immediate top three. I think that what drew me to it was that it was exactly the opposite of Mexico where I grew up. At first glance, Sweden is orderly, clean, modern, the people are tall and blonde, there is almost no poverty, it’s safe, they create the best electronic music in the world and they also throw the best parties. I had one friend who said he’d show me around and he recommended I stay in the Ostermalm area, the most upscale and trendy in Stockholm. My friend Manu from Spain and I had landed, changed our outfits and immediately set out to explore the city. The original plan wasn’t to film an episode of Global Child, it was to stay for three days and explore. Spoiler alert… I ended up staying 30 days and coming back three times over the following two years because of one word only: friendship.
Here’s how it happened. I walked the gorgeous modern streets of Ostermalm and instinctually headed towards the water. The sun was shining because we were in the middle of the summer and the weather was perfect. As you can imagine, Sweden doesn’t get a lot of sunlight during other times of the year, nor good weather, but in the summer there is no better place than Sweden. It’s like the entire country is in a good mood, all the time. Everyone. If you ever want to make a Swede happy, just take them to a sunny place and they’ll be happy. So, strolling down the street I noticed bars and restaurants full of the buzz of life and the buzz of booze. People were extraordinarily attractive and dressed better than in Paris and for whatever reason, everyone seemed to be wearing white.
Manu and I stepped onto this large awesome barge called Strandbryggan that is also a restaurant and bar. Everyone seemed to be drinking rose sparkling wine. That’s what they drink in Sweden in the summer. I struck up a couple of conversations when suddenly I was interrupted by a cool guy, my age, build, and height. He looked like Jon Snow of Game of Thrones, except this one spoke Spanish to me and asked me if I was from Mexico. At first I was taken aback but of course, I stood out like a sore thumb and so did he; I was exotic there! Something working in my favor and I enjoyed that feeling. He introduced himself as Aaron, a Mexican that had been living in Stockholm for seven years and spoke perfect Swedish. We became instant friends and he began to introduce us to all his friends. Next thing I knew I had a new amazing group of friends that welcomed me with arms wide open. Through Aaron, I met a good ten to fifteen people that I hung out with over the next two days. Three days later it was time to leave, but I was just getting used to Sweden and I wasn’t going anywhere. That group of 15 friends introduced me to several more and now I was traveling outside of Stockholm to summer yacht parties, to party islands like Visby where they have the number one day club in Europe with some very beautiful Swedish people.
I also developed a routine of waking up and going running around Djurgarden, the largest urban nature reserve in the world. I loved Sweden and how easy it was to make friends. If I had to define friendship I’d say it’s a bond developed by an ongoing choice to act towards a person with affection and genuinely good intentions. The secret of friendship is that like many things in life, in relationships we’ll end up harvesting the seeds that we plant. When we’re generous with our attention, our intention and we let our barriers down so people can really know us, it’s incredible how quickly real friends can be made. Since we filmed the show, I’ve had more than twenty Swedes visiting me in Miami over the last couple of years. We’ve all stayed in touch and now we’ve met in different parts of the world. At the end of the day the beautiful thing about being a Global Child is that we can all be from different places, regions or religions but what we have in common is so much more than what sets us apart. The secret in friendship is actually no secret at all. I’d sum it up like this: treat others as you’d want to be treated. Be transparent and genuine. Be generous. Plant these seeds anywhere in the world and you’re sure to get a lifelong reward: amazing friends to share the journey. I’m thinking I’ll visit Sweden again for a weekend this summer. Who knows… maybe I’ll end up staying there for good.