Sofia Helin: ‘There was no running water, so we had to wash in the sea’
I had no idea that my parents’ love of the countryside – and our annual visits to the family’s summer houses in Vasterbotten, a region in the north of Sweden – would be so influential on my life and my sense of well-being. My parents took us there from when we were very small, right up to the time when I was a teenager. Every summer, my family would drive more than 600 miles north from our home in Linghem, near Linkoping, to our summer houses for a holiday. When I first started going, there were two very rudimentary properties. The first was built by my mother’s parents in the 1940s, and the second has been there since the 1950s. The oldest one is a basic, wooden, one-level house very close to the beach, with just one bedroom and one living area, plus a kitchen with an open fire in it. There was no running water, so we had to wash in the very cold sea. If we were swimming, we could measure the temperature by how much our feet or head hurt when we were in the water! Being there was a very physical experience for me – I remember the sound of the wind in the trees, the waves on the beach, and the smells of the forest. My mother became a different person when we arrived – it was as if all the stress left her body and I had another mother. To pick up food supplies, we would have to drive to the local town, Lovanger. My brother was really into fishing, so, when he was successful, we could eat whatever he had caught. From the houses, there were lovely views across the beach to the sea, and directly behind was a mountain and forest. It was the perfect childhood holiday setting. The properties had no television, radio or internet access of course, or even a telephone back then, and that secluded aspect made it feel all the more special. A third, slightly bigger summer house was added about eight years ago, with a sauna this time.