Why is the city of Luleå in your heart? What is it about Luleå that makes you feel good? What is your best memory of Luleå? With these questions as a starting point, Luleå residents were invited to send in their best Luleå Story, with the chance of winning a day and night with the best that Luleå has to offer. Below you can read Shilpi Sinha’s winning contribution.

My best Luleå experience took place after one year and 1,400 kilometers.

I remember standing at Luleå Airport, bags packed with my possessions and soaring expectations. I was moving to the big city of Stockholm. Finally escaping the constant darkness of winter, and the summer sun that never lets you sleep. Never again minus 30 degrees Celsius or 40,000 mosquitoes as dinner guests. Just nearness to shopping, nightlife and non-stop action. Finally!

But Stockholm was not quite as I always imagined it would be. Sure, I had visited there on my annual shopping weekends in the capital, but in the throng of ZARA bags and B-celebrities I never really looked at the city in all its honesty. I did not see the commotion at night, the hostility on the subway, or the “true” Stockholmer’s judgmental glances, as if I did not belong there. I did not realize that all the homeless I passed during Saturday’s shopping spree would still be there again next Saturday. And the next Saturday. And the next.

When winter came, I noticed quite quickly that, yes – it is actually pretty damn cold here! And when summer came, it did not come alone - mosquitoes and midges are not only nightmares of the north country. Cycling in the city also appeared to be a sin. If you ride the street, well you are in the way of all the pedestrians. Ride on the car road and you would probably would not live long. Able to bike to work? Forget it! What is meant by “proximity to town” in Stockholm more likely means “proximity to the metro, which is probably so jam packed that you must stand up for 40 minutes and try to keep your balance”.

One year I gave to Stockholm, one year after living 20 years in Luleå. It was enough. I had a great job, but I was not happy in the big city. So I packed my bags once again with my possessions, but this time with a deep feeling of homesickness. In the end, I found myself once again at Luleå Airport. The airport that could easily be mistaken for a bus terminal or the arrivals hall to a “real” airport like Arlanda International Airport in Stockholm.

I stepped outside and laughed to myself a little. Funny how I once thought that Luleå was in constant darkness, as I walked around I was dazzled by an environment bathing in glistening snow crystals. The chill was palpable, but not nearly as harsh as the damp Stockholm air. The ride home to Porsön was really idyllic. No rush hour traffic and no noisy motorists on the road that was bordered by beautiful nature instead of greyish pollution.

When I got home to Porsön, which would continue to be my home for a while because I planned to study at the university, I felt a heavy burden ease from my shoulders. I went to the town center, in a warm and cozy bus with nice travelers who all had plenty of room. Once there, I took a walk and for the first time in a long time did not feel like I was constantly in the way of a stressed out horde of people. I looked up and saw the sky instead of gaping up at skyscrapers, and saw a beautiful streak of aurora. Suddenly it felt like I had traveled 1,400 kilometers just to realize that what I was looking for was here the whole time. Nature. Closeness. Peace. And the freedom to be able to bike to work. I was at home. Finally!

Shilpi Sinha