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A Girl Abroad: Finding the Flow in Malmö

PHOTOS AND STORY BY KARINA DE JESUS FOR THE STYLE LINE

We don’t have much time in Malmö, so we decide to wake

up early and check out of the hotel at 8 AM to explore. The idea seems great until the frigid air hits us in the face as a brutal reminder that we’re in Sweden. There’s no hope of a mild, sunny November day. However, we persist – Malmö has a very special feeling about it, at least that’s what people have told us, so we jump in the car determined to discover the magic for ourselves.

 

First stop: The Turning Tower.

This impressive neo-futurist residential skyscraper designed by Spanish architect and sculptor Santiago Calatrava is the tallest building in Scandinavia. The tower was built because local politicians deemed it essential for the inhabitants to have a new symbol for Malmö instead of the Kockums Crane that had been used for shipbuilding and symbolized the city’s blue-collar roots (it was removed in 2002). As humans, we always feel the need to build something into our lives that signifies an achievement or marks a turning point. We want our growth to be visible to everyone so we must make, buy or tell our story in a way that reflects our greatness. To this point, there’s something about this astonishing piece of architecture that leaves me unimpressed. It’s not the skyscraper itself, the building is beautiful; it’s something else.

We move on and recognize that the coastline is near.

Continuing to take in all that this quiet Malmö neighborhood has to offer, we walk towards the water.

There are a lot of new buildings; this must be an affluent neighborhood given that it’s right on the water. I keep photographing when another building grabs my attention. In a real Scandinavian manner, it’s very minimalistic and straightforward, yet there is that certain “je ne sais quoi” about it. I immediately notice that the house is built to blend in with its rural environment. The sea peeks through the pillars of the house as we get closer. Then, the front structure frames the shore like a perfect landscape painting. Why is such a simple vignette like this so captivating? I notice the flow between the house and the nature around it, and nothing else seems to matter. The house feels settled and quietly confident, unlike the majestic Turning Tower.

Of course, looking back on these moments, what made me think wasn’t the two buildings, but rather how they aligned with the way we live our lives.

Have you ever experienced a romantic relationship where the pieces just fit? Often these relationships compliment the environment, and in turn, the environment supports the relationship. It’s magic and sometimes feels so right that it’s scary. But then there are the relationships that may look good on the paper, and they may even work long-term, but the road ahead is so much harder. We want it to work so badly, and we want the status that comes with it too – so we push hard to build this tower, but the result is not as magical. It may be impressive, but there’s no quiet confidence of the house by the water.

The same goes for success in our careers. We push, pull, build, and force because we have to achieve something monumental that often is not even our dream. Instead of working with what we already have, we are dissatisfied and continuously strive to build that great big tower. And even when we’ve reached the top, ultimately we realize that it’s not what will satisfy us in the end. It may be majestic, but it takes up so much space and attention that our lives become more about the tower rather than living life itself.

How many times do we force something that is not meant to be? How often do we pursue the wrong people or careers?

The view from the tower seems enticing, however, when we slow down and allow for things to flow naturally we end up with an even greater (point of) view. Don’t get me wrong, we still have to work, as it all still needs to be built. However, I’ve learned that we should be working with the environment around us, not in spite of it. And while the result may be quieter – like the house by the beach – it may end up being just what we needed all along.

Visiting Malmö taught me to harness this idea and go with the flow – even knowing that it won’t always be constant. And as I reflect on these moments, I recognize that by returning home, traveling the world, and letting things happen, I’m right where I’m supposed to be – and the view ahead looks bright.