Sjömantorp in Stora Hult, Vejbystrand

Adios 2023

All’s well that ends well. In a few hours, we’ll be joining friends to celebrate the old year and welcome the new one. And if only the weather gods deign to show a touch of generosity, we might even bask in a bit of sunshine on the very last day of the year. Not holding my breath, though. Unsurprisingly, 2023 revealed itself to be an eventful year. Brimming with delightful experiences, journeys, accomplished projects, invigorating workouts, and just the right amount of challenges.

I embraced sobriety for a whopping 91 out of the year’s 365 days, and that accomplishment left a taste for more…

Sadly the year also served up several new wars, an ever-accelerating climate crisis, eras that came to an abrupt end, and other stuff that hovered above, weighing down the mind and suffocating my soul at times. The saddest part of the year, undoubtedly, was bidding farewell to Sjömantorp in Vejbystrand. A rare and beautiful paradise where, for a quarter of a century, I felt privileged to be a part of. The goodbye was, of course, the toughest for Charlotte, Agneta, Allan, and Elle.

Leaving Sjömantorp also brought a great sense of relief, escaping the clutches of a chronically jealous and constantly suspicious co-owner who failed to grasp that an old house requires care and love to avoid decay and survive. It was also a relief to be free from impolite remarks and envious behavior, especially from one of the older in-laws.

Yet, despite the initial challenges of the year, life continued with about the same tenacity and enthusiasm it manages to muster almost every year. And as usual, it was the travels, experiences, and spontaneous encounters with wonderful people around the world – along with reunions with old friends – that added a golden hue to 2023.

Ah, the travels…

We kicked off with a week of surprisingly good skiing in Bulgaria, followed by a visit to the ITB fair in Berlin, then a trip to the gritty but cool Naples, and a few sunny days on the neighboring island of Ischia. After that, a weekend in Cyprus in May and a June week in Stockholm, leading up to my birthday trip to Cornwall in July, with hiking, surfing, and perhaps an excessive number of pints and servings of fish n’ chips.

Our 25th wedding anniversary was celebrated on August 15 with a walk along beautiful Kullaberg and an anniversary dinner in charming Mölle-by-the-Sea. Following that, we went on a training trip to Rhodes to write about and capture the excellent sports hotel Levante. At the end of August, I spent a few days along the Vistula River in beautiful and warm Warsaw. Really digging Poland.

After a three-month “workcation” in Asia (Vietnam, Japan, Thailand), the year’s travels concluded with a short train ride to Gothenburg and Christmas celebrations in my old hood with Charlotte’s parents Allan, Agneta, and a delightful Christmas Day dinner with family friend Ulla. We also managed a hotel feature on Choice/Strawberry chain’s relatively new flagship, Hotel Draken, where we stayed for a few nights and indulged in the extensive breakfast buffet there.

“Never do nothing” has long been my mantra, and in 2023, I dedicated a significant amount of time to several creative projects.

• Launched a Popup gallery and painting studio in Dockan (four months)
• Exhibited surf images in early summer in Helsingborg
• Showcased abstract paintings at the Town Hall (for the third time) during Malmö’s annual Gallery Weekend
• Documented four multi-year art projects with four new photo books

In addition to the travels, 2023 has also been marked by significant anniversaries and milestones:

• 60 years since my birth
• 45 years since my mother’s death and my move from Los Angeles to Gothenburg
• 30 years since working in Riksgränsen
• 30 years since attending Gotlands Konstskola
• 25 years since Charlotte and I got married
• 20 years as a Swedish citizen
• 20 years since my brother Tyko threw in the towel
• 20 years since I paid the very last college loan bill
• 20 years since my first travel feature was published in Aftonbladet (about diving with great white sharks)The heaviest burden in this “Jubilee World Cup” must surely be turning 60, a number I (and surely many others with me) find difficult to identify with. Since I am evidently (like many other ’63s) a “late bloomer,” it will likely be some time before I fully grasp the magnitude of the achievement.

The achievement, you ask?

Well, when I was 30, I honestly didn’t think I would make it to 60. I didn’t think I’d reach 50 or even 40. But here I am, with “only” 10 years to 70, 20 to 80, and 30 to 90.

Surpassing one’s life expectancy prognosis is surely a kind of accomplishment, no?

It will be exciting to see how 2024 unfolds. Do I have any New Year’s resolutions in the works? Nothing more than wanting to embrace life even more, bring to fruition some of the creative ideas I have under my hat, and, of course, to travel, experience, and write.

If you’ve stuck with my ramblings this far, you’re probably a true friend, and I sincerely hope we meet in person during 2024. I also hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful end to 2023 and a new fantastic year filled with love, good health, and plenty of travels and beautiful experiences! Above all, I hope that we all take a few extra swings (use the staves!) in 2024!