The year is 2009. The 51-year-old Claes Svedberg, looking down at his book and cup of coffee on the table. There and then he realizes that those are the only thing he needs. The decision was a fact. He opened the doors of his home and put price tags on everything. He sold his life to follow his heart. We asked him what his life is like today – seven years later. This article is his answer.
Claes has two children and back in Sweden he ran his own company. He lived a good life in a small community outside of Sandviken in eastern Sweden. But one day he got tired of the material and the superficial. His decision to sell everything and leave is not unique, yet it attracted much attention. Several local newspapers, tabloids and the national Swedish television beating the drums to tell the Swedish people about the crazy life choice.
Claes Svedberg had to repeatedly answer the question why and what things he brings with him. His answer? The clothes he wear and what he can carry in a backpack. His goal? To wake up in the morning and feel free to do whatever he wants.
I decided to give Claes a ring. Today, seven years later, there are so many unanswered questions. What has happened to him? What is his life like? Does a life without a safe job and the welfare in Sweden.
I try to call him, signal after signal. Skype flashes and then I hear him. It’s Claes. All the way from India where he is right now. He feels good. Still going strong.
”I’m happy. It sounds like a cliché”, he says.
But Claes convinces me that it’s for real. He tell me about his friend Tom.
”I stopped the bike in the corner of the street, and then he comes up to me and looks deep into my eyes and asks if I’m lucky. I thought first and then I replied that I just had the happiest weeks of my life.
Those happy weeks Claes spent in a small village in the mountains where he meditated two hours a day, rode a bike for two hours and wrote.
”Thats how easy it can be”, he says.
Many think that it is a cliché. And meditation, that sounds weird.
”It becomes a cliché. You can not get away from. Cliché or wierdo. I don’t care”.
He do not care much, Claes. In a good way. It’s his way to fully enjoy life.
”I’ve learned a lot, I make everything as easy as possible. I have learned not to complicate things, it is as it is. Mentally, personally, not to go into the anxiety that can disturb the mind. I will not go into any dramas. Dramas are superficial things.”
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But Claes is not a religios wierdo. Not at all. He is wise. He has realized what is important in life and follow his inner voice.
– Look inside yourself. There are all the answers. You discover that you are happy. It’s so simple. Look beyond the external things”, Claes says.
I’m searching in my own brain archives. I’ve heard this before, I think, while Claes keeps talking. Yeah, it was Sanne who said it. Those of you who followed our page remember Sanne Sevig who moved to the Philippines. (Read here)
”When you start being grateful for what you have. That’s when you start feeling happy, and when you are kind to yourself. If you are unhappy with yourself on the inside, your relationships on the outside will be equally unhappy”, she said in our interview in June.
It seems to be the inside that people forget in all the superficial in today’s rat race.
Now Claes is in Goa in India. In a small town called Arambol. He sits at a small cafe where he has access to WiFi in order to conduct the interview. Suddenly a rumbling noise in the background. It’s the school bus passing by Claes says as he talks about music. He loves music.
”A friend back home in Sweden managed to send down a guitar to me. Now the days of music. I play with everyone and I have fun. We are a small group that gathered on the beach at sunset. It’s really exciting, I go down just before sunset and sit down. We don’t know who is coming and you don’t know which songs we will play, he says.
There are many people who thinking as Claes. To start a new life without routines, without the tedious tasks, a life of vacation all the time. Many let it stay with a dream because of financial encumbrances. How should one live without working and making money. It’s impossible.
Or is it?
Just like any other Claes saved to his pension during his long working life in Sweden. When he decided to leave his homeland, he looked at the numbers.
”My pension insurance declined every year. If I wait until I became 65 it would not have been anything left of it. I thought it was just as well to begin to take the money out when I was 55. That’s my saved money that has been in an institution for years, he says.
Claes don’t get more than 600 US Dollars every month to live out of.
”I can not even rent me an apartment in Sweden for the sum. The aim of the decision to cancel all of my old life was to remove all fixed costs. There are fixed costs that people are drowning in”, he says.
Now many people wonder how it’s possible. But without loans, car, gasoline, rental, shopping and everything else that a routine life contains there’s not many costs left.
”Here in Goa, it is a bit more expensive. Here I find it hard to save money. But when I go back to Ganeschko in March I save money each month”, Claes says.
”My pants getting a bit worn now. I bought the fabric and will go to the tailor. It’s like real luxury for me, I have to to pay as much as 12 US Dollars”, he says and laughs.
Claes looking inside, he do not work and he is not dependent on money. Yet he seems to live a richer life than most people. Richer than all those stressful chasing happiness between jobs, gym, Christmas, football training sessions and kindergarden.
”I have a favorite sentence from the book Shantaram, Claes says. ”The difficult thing in life is not to wish for something and manage to get it.”
I read it in my mind again.
”The difficult thing in life is not to wish for something and manage to get it.”
What a great sentence.
Happiness is very abstract. Easy to float away. I look at my paper. Something concrete. I ask the question I have written on my paper to get back to earth.
Don’t you miss home, Claes?
”I miss the people. I’ll call Mom every fortnight and talk to her. I have contact with my daughter. I miss the human contact with old friends. Here in Goa I have so many friends that it is hectic”, he says laughing.
Have the years passed quickly?
”I live in the present. That’s when it goes fast. What an adventure, I can’t believe it’s seven years since I sat on a rock club and felt happy. Looked at the table and saw a coffee cup and a book. And decided to just keep the coffee cup and the book. That was the origin of the insane idea. Insanely thought people. I don’t think so.
”But we’re all different. We have to be where we are. This is my way. You make your way. But we have a choice. We don’t have to be miserable. We all must walk our own path”.