One of my role models is my grandmother and one of her role models is the author Astrid Lindgren. I did’n understand the philosophy that Astrid had on a deeper level until I visited her childhood home Näs for the first time. It was in 2012 and I realized what a significant woman she must have been in our society. She highlighted strong women and had children in focus in a way that most of the people didn’t have by that time.
“A child that is surrounded by love and loves its parents learns from them a loving attitude towards the whole of its environment, and retains that attitude for the whole of its life. Which has to be a good thing, even if he or she never becomes one of the few who decide the fate of the world. But if that child, contrary to expectation, does become one of those who decide the fate of the world, we can all be grateful if his or her nature tends to love rather than violence. The character of even our future statesmen and politicians is formed before they have reached their fifth birthday”.
The quote is a part of Astrid Lindgren’s speech “Never Violence!”, which she held after being awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1978. A few months ago, just after I got home from Thailand, I was on a Christmas Market at Astrid Lindgren’s Näs with my grandmother, grandfather and my cousin Jakob. My grandmother gave me and Jakob a printed copy of the speech as a memory of our visit. I read the speech and found, like many others, that it’s still up to date.
In the speech, Astrid takes distance from violence against children and tyranny. To me it also symbolizes, stronger than anything else, the importance of giving the children love and respect. That’s what shapes them to what they will be as adults. The children are the most important that we have and it’s somewhere here that I want to connect the text to our trip around the world.
What can I do to feel that I’m contributing to a better life on earth? I often ask myself that question and I know that many of you are doing it too. When I look back on my trip that lasted throughout my twenty-fifth year of life, it became a way for me to show the importance of our children. I completed the trip with the same thought as the sentence that Astrid ends her speech with: “Despite everything, that might eventually become a small contribution to world peace.”
We decided to cycle around the world to raise money for the children at Barnhem Muang Mai in Thailand. Sussi and Hans runs the orphanage and together with their employees they’re giving the children an amazing opportunity for a safe childhood with lots of love. To me that’s one of the best things you can do with your time.
The children at the orphanage also became the main reason of our trip, and they made all the kilometers more worth cycling. We encouraged people around us to donate an optional amount to the children at the orphanage for every 10 kilometers we cycled. We knew exactly where the money we collected should end up and that was important to me.
It was the children who waved us goodbye when we cycled out of the gates of the orphanage the 1st of October 2016 and it was the children who welcomed us again when we came back the 25th of November 2017, so prepared for our arrival. I’m so grateful.
The journey has been amazing but also hard both physically and mentally. It has more than anything been a mental challenge, but it has also contributed to a mental development that I think would have taken me years to undergo otherwise. A trip around the world contains so much more than just incredible countries that are crossed and added to the checklist.
It contains thousands of meetings with people and together we experience trust in each other. It contains a constant compromise between us traveling together and it requires us to be kind to each other and that we treat each other with respect. The journey creates strong ties between us that we will keep the rest of our lives.
It also contains a longing for family and friends and a sadness for all the separations created by the constant movement. At the same time, I’m so happy about all this feelings. This is life, and I think that I have written about it before. The best things in life are also the worst things. When we feel strong love for someone or something, it also means that we will get hurt when we have to separate. The best and the worst will always go hand in hand and that’s life.