Starting the Winter in Style – Hikes and Handstands at DOCH Stockholm
5th December 2018
Welcome to the winter edition of Handstands on the Road! There will be a lot of handstands and quite possibly a lot of snow later on as well as I’ll be in Hetta, Finland as from January 2019.
If you want to know more about winter at circus school and on a husky farm and generally keep up with all things Handstands on the Road, you can now subscribe to my blog and I am very happy about every single person who does so. I’ll send you all my favourite hot chocolate recipe one day 😉
I am currently in Stockholm, Sweden, at DOCH – Dans och Cirkushögskolan (University for Dance and Circus) – for a five week handstands intensive. Unbelievably, I’m already half way through and haven’t yet gotten around to blogging about it! Apologies for that – I’ll come back to it in a moment, but first, let’s catch up!
Since leaving Turkey, visits to friends, lovers and family have led me to many different destinations – and I am grateful for every moment of the journey, some of it sad, some of it moving, some of it joyous, exhausting, exhilarating, infuriating… you know, the sort of inter-human stuff that happens when you reconnect with those you love!
Here’s a quick summary in pictures and on the map:
The first snow of the season happened at the beginning of November for me in Tirol on an unexpected long weekend trip that included running halfway (due to shoe and daylight restrictions) up a mountain, being invited into an incredible modernised and amazingly cozy log cabin in Sölden and visiting Innsbruck, a very rich and interesting Austrian city. There was some more cabin life to be enjoyed in Szentendre, Hungary, as well as a short visit to Steyr and the best friend a girl can possibly have, the wonderful Stephanie Sky and some catch-up time with my parents back in Germany.
Since arriving in Stockholm at the end of November, there’s been an ongoing clash between my body’s desire to go into full-on hibernation mode (mainly eat and sleep, occasionally watch some bad to mediocre TV) and my mind’s ideal of training handstands until I ache every day, hiking all of the amazing trails on the weekend and exploring every part of this gorgeous corner of the earth…
I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling a tiny bit despite all of Stockholm’s beauty and the amazing opportunity I have to train at a prestigious circus school with a very experienced teacher.
Where to start? Well, here’s why winter at circus school in Stockholm is somewhat tough:
1. The Moneys
Well, for one, there’s the bit where I’m living on a seriously tight budget in a seriously expensive city – the kind where I am debating whether to buy dinner for half of the week or lights for the bicycle. You’ll be delighted to hear that I got some decent food as well as a new reflector on top of my headlamp!
Thankfully, Swedes seem to be generous, kind and trusting people, and one of them, a perfect stranger, lent me a bicycle for the five weeks I’m here pretty much right at the beginning of my stay! I tried to buy it off him through a classified ad and he said not to worry, I could just bring it back before I leave instead of paying for it. He’d simply tell any other potential buyer that the bike was currently gone and would be back later. When I offered to give him some sort of deposit for the bike, he declined and asked me to maybe send him a message with my full name once I got home. So I guess the universe is helping me out after all, in form of super nice laid-back Swedish dudes.
2. The Cold, the Dark and the Physical
Another shock to the system is, well, cycling everywhere, in the cold(ish – it was actually quite pleasant when it was crisp and cold during the first week of my stay, instead of soggy, above zero and drizzling, like the second week of my stay…), on top of training handstands every day, with practically no daylight.
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I think the lack of daylight is really getting to me more than I’d like to admit. The sun goes down before three o’clock now and my skin doesn’t exactly get a lot of it. I feel like I could sleep up to twelve hours per day and going to train late is something I can hardly find the motivation for. My whole body just wants to hibernate and last week, there was a day when I was so depressed, I just stared into space instead of doing a warm-up and then randomly started crying in class for no apparent reason. I bought Vitamin D supplements on the way home and called it a day after less than 3 hours of training (so pretty much no training by circus school standards).
3. Comparing lives (and lines)
Don’t get me wrong – everyone else at circus school is super lovely, including the teacher and the janitor (at least that’s who I think he is…), but also between five to seven years younger than me, and sometimes, it freaks me out a little bit that I won’t be a teenage gymnast anymore, and that although I’ve been doing circus for quite some time now, I’ve still not found my place within it, my base camp, my career, my… home. I’ve somehow turned into a millennial nomad with no savings, no permanent (country of) residence and no set-in-stone life plan and while that has its positives, some days it scares the shit out of me.
And then I see someone who’s barely 20 years old with perfect skin and gorgeous long straight legs casually balancing on one arm, wondering which circus school they should audition for, and there’s a pang of something – not quite grief, or regret, or even nostalgia, just something – as I realise I’ve missed my window for being an innocent student who is making their first career choice work, and now, I simply don’t want the same things that I wanted at 22 (which makes the comparison even more futile). Often, I’m not even too sure what it is I want, but somehow, a decent one arm handstand still makes the list, so I’ll just keep working on that for now.
And here’s what I do to cope:
Over the last few years, a bunch of people who got to know me a little better have asked me whether I’ve tried meditation and I’ve decided it’s time to get more serious about it. Worrying about stuff never got me anywhere, and if just focusing on my breath and slowing down a little gets me closer to happiness, I’m all in.
A lot of the time, I am sitting and breathing and just observe my mind jumping about without wanting to calm down. Yesterday, I’ve learned that this is called the monkey mind and I have to say that the image of an over-excited monkey makes me feel a lot more compassion towards my mind instead of frustration: It’s a bit more “It’s alright, little monkey, you can relax now, you don’t have to do all the work all the time” and a bit less “Whoa, brain, shut the fuck up for once!!”
Sometimes I struggle to stay awake. And sometimes, I simply fill my lungs with air, I blissfully inhale and exhale and it feels like the most luxurious thing I could be doing in terms of self-care. So I intend to keep it up.
I mean, that’s really what I’m here for. So instead of missing climbing and aerials, I got myself a pull-up bar and set a slightly unrealistic (or just extremely ambitious) end of year goal.
I tell myself every day that cycling from Djursholm into town on a bike with chafing tires is an awesome butt workout and that cardio in the cold is great fun and that I. LOVE. BEING. OUTSIDE. even though I’d much rather curl up in bed with a lover, or binge-watching Netflix and drinking coffee and not being productive at all, or any combination thereof.
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Back to schoool! Today just casually dying in handstand class when my teacher suggests that I repeat ten more seconds on each side after I’ve just had my go… love it 😄🤸❄ #handstandsontheroad #oahs #doch #handstands #equilibre #handbalancing #backtoschool #circusschool #circus #circuslife #Sweden #Stockholm #sotired
And of course I keep doing more one arm handstands than I’ve ever done in my life and there is some progress (often followed by days of ridiculous fatigue). On my first weekend, I even went on a hike on the Roslagsleden Trail, and it was stunning, until I realised that I am spoiled rotten when it comes to infrastructure – getting home from the hike took me a 45 minute walk to a bus stop and a total of 2 hours by public transport, which I was lucky was running at all on a Saturday. Whoops.
Simply being around others doesn’t mean connecting on a personal level, but true connection always helps. If I don’t feel like training or going to circus school, I love a good meetup – it’s a perfect way to meet other expats, nomads, loners and socialites. The low pressure social events usually centre around some kind of theme, be it board games, learning a language, hiking, doing yoga or simply having a drink after work. I’ve last used meetup when I was living in Barcelona to meet other people whose knowledge of the Spanish language was negligible, and with the amount of people out there just looking for a connection, it almost surprises me that so many of us get lonely.
On my first weekend in Stockholm, I had all the best intentions of going to a meetup – but instead wound up meeting two Dutch climbers next to the statue of Saint George and the Dragon in Gamla Stan and exchanging stories and phone numbers. The next weekend, the meetup I went to brought me to a totally different part of town and kept me occupied and entertained all day.
Staying in touch with old friends, however, is at least as important to me as making new ones, if not more so. With some lack of stability and routine in my life, it makes me incredibly happy and proud to think that there are people in my life whom I’ve known for many years now and whom I keep in touch with even if we often go long periods without seeing each other. You know who you are (if you really don’t, give it a week or so. I sent the Christmas cards out today…)
When I was a little girl, I would often craft the most beautiful Christmas cards with my mum, decorating plain cardboard with spices (star anise and cinnamon are great for this), glitter, ribbons and drawings, and during the last two winters when I felt lonely, cut-off or far away from the people I wanted to be with, I revived this tradition. Knowing that this year, some people in my life have been getting old-fashioned, handmade Christmas cards for two years running is extremely beautiful and calming to me. It makes me feel like I’m closer, more connected than I sometimes feel.
Today, six cards went out to four different countries and I couldn’t be happier to have such beautiful humans in my life, especially on the days when it’s cold, and I’m tired, and I don’t feel like training. Let’s keep on keeping on!
More updates on life at the circus school and handstand progress will follow soon(ish). Until then, I’m sending much wintery love from Stockholm.