Now I have interviewed Sanne Sevig again. You probably remember her. She lived with heart palpitations in her stressful life in Sweden. She left her old life for good, sold everything and started over again in a remote small island in the Philippines, where she now lives quietly. Almost exactly a year ago, I met her for an interview (read here). The world went bananas and everyone wanted to read about Sanne. The morning after the interview was published, she had 5 000 new followers on her personal Facebook account and lots of email.
One year later. How is she? What is she doing? How is her life on a paradise island on the other side of the earth? I give you: Sanne Sevig.
This time I don’t have the opportunity to meet Sanne in person. Then I hear the signals on Skype calling and when she answers, I hear how well she is doing. I do not ask the question. Her hello on the other side of the phone says it all. I can almost see before me how she smiles. With her entire body.
”I meditate every day now. I have experimented a lot and found my way. Sometimes I sit 10 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes depending on how I feel. I visualize a lot. Sometimes I go through a love meditation, she says.
Love meditation. Taste those words. Let it swirl inside your head. Let it land. Personally, I get warm inside when I hear it.
”You think of your loved ones and send your love to them”, Sanne says.
This is how she is, Sanne. From inside out. She shines though I can not see her. I feel it.
”When I am balanced and my inside light is strong enough to illuminate others I share it. I have days when I do not shine and it will be okay. I know more. But I did not know how I would handle it. I thought ”I don’t want to be sad”. I argued with myself. Now it is more ”Now, I’m sad, and it’s okey.” I argue a lot less with myself than I’ve ever done.
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For those who have not kept up from the beginning. Sanne had basically three jobs in Sweden, smoked cigarettes and could not stand (the) silence. One day she fainted behind the wheel and decided to leave Sweden for good.
That’s history. Now she is with her Filipino boyfriend, Joseph, or Coy as he is called. They run their small hostel together and Sanne is also involved in charity with her own organization ”Nature Kids of Siargao”. But especially. She is calm. And feels good.
”Now I have very few stressful moments in my life. We don’t work 9-5. But sometimes stuff happens. Like when our water tank breaks and it (would) costs 2 300 dollars (US). Such stuff has stressed me before. But now I’m thinking it will be fine. And if it will not be fine it will be fine.
It’s just Sanne who can say such a thing. ”If it will not be fine it will be fine”. I write it down in my little notebook of good quotes. It’s worth saving.
In the last interview I did with Sanne a year ago I asked her what she dreamed about when many believe that she is already living the dream. The answer was that she wanted to work full time with charity. Because she feels so good when helping others.
”I work with Nature Kids of Siargao 50 percent now and try not to take on too much”, she says.
In the midst of the interview, I hear a small child in the background that interrupts Sanne.
”It’s one of them who we gave a water bottle that came to say thank you. We’re helping a project called ”No Waste” where we teach kids in school about the environment. The children have been drinking water from disposable plastic cups (before). Now we are trying to get all the children to bring their own plastic bottle instead and we gave out 250 such bottles for the kids who can not afford to buy one themselves, she says.
Sanne bursting with energy when she talks about the children.
”All classes have been competing to become the ”greenest classroom.” When we got to give out the price there were over 600 kids around. I had thought that we would go into the small classroom, but it was a huge ceremony, all the children had been given time off from classes and the principal made a speech, Sanne says.
She laughs and bubbles when she says it. It’s noticeable that the charity work and the children’s joy has rubbed off.
Sanne’s life looks completely different and is unparalleled in Sweden. Up in the north people live in a bubble who work nine to five. Sanne is beyond that. And she is always looking for new ways to feel good.
”I traveled for one month by myself in October. A little trip in the Philippines and then Thailand for three weeks. I learned a lot. It was nice to get out and not be a hostess of the hostel, but just be one of the crowd, she says.
She tell me she tried a retreat in a type of monastery in the forest with monks and nuns. A place where you are silent for 12 days. It sounds like an eternity. And you can imagine how long it is for Sanne that just a few years ago could not stand the silence.
”It was brutal. 10 of 12 days, it is a program to follow. You are completely isolated. They take all your accessories and you must not have any contact with the outside world. Do not write, no paper and pen, no clock, and you can not read. You should follow the schedule but do not know what time it is. You follow a gong. I went into myself for 10-12 hours per day, Sanne says.
She tells me about walking meditation, sitting meditation, and that it was tough.
”I’m sitting there thinking ”Breathe in, breathe out.” But then will these thoughts come up: ”I crave chocolate. No, no breathing now. ” I fought with my own thoughts. It comes up so much stuff in your head.”
She was close to giving up after four days. With both physical and mental pain in her body.
”I did not sleep (slept nothing). We got to go to bed at 9 or 10 o’clock and your mind is all over the place so you can not just turn off your brain. I had a lack of sleep and had not eaten some unhealthy food that my body is used to, like sugar. Then I thought, ”I don’t care”, I have the finest family of Siargao and I’m not unhappy. I wanted to leave.
But Sanne was persuaded by the nuns to stay at least one more day. And then she got help from unexpected quarters. After taking a paracetamol she slept for five hours, which meant that she missed a meditation session.
”One of the girls who lived three rooms away from me made me stay. I don’t know who she is, and I never talked to her afterwards. She had got hold of an old piece of paper and wrote with a kind of eye-liner or something. She wrote, ”I know that I’m breaking the house rules now but I noticed that you didn’t come this morning. I hope you are doing well. Remember, we’re almost halfway. ”
Sanne burst into tears and thanks to the note she decided to stay all of the days.
”I cried so much because someone cares that I’m here. Without the little note, I would have probably left. I never got the opportunity to thank her. She left in the morning with a flight after we were done.
The experience is a good example of what Sanne often talks about. Seeing each other.
”What if people were more aware of others and noted that people don’t feel right, and acted. Imagine if more people were not so passive. Most people who see someone who is not feeling well think: ”But I don’t know her, imagine what she’ll say.” But what if people acted instead. How would the world look like? It would surely definitely be a better world”, Sanne says.
In the midst of our Skype chat suddenly, there is a heavenly noisy in the background. A whole bunch of dogs howling and barking. Sanne laughs at her four friends and companions who go crazy outside her little house.
”This happens three times per day. 12-15 neighbor dogs will pass on their way to the beach and both they and my dogs gets so excited to see each other and the dogs start barking, howling and singing. You can’t do anything but just wait it out”.
After the dog concert is over Sanne says something beautiful. She often looks at her dogs as role models.
”Dogs have a lot of light. They share so much energy. I learn from them every day. Imagine when a dog sees you. It will be so happy when you have only been gone for 30 minutes. What if people would greet each other like that. Someone once said, ”Be the person you think your dog thinks you are.”
After the interview last year, Sanne became viral, a online celebrity. The whole world wanted to read about her. The server crashed, Sannes personal Facebook account got 5 000 new followers, she received thousands of emails and they still come to her inbox a year later.
”I feel like a rockstar”, she says, laughing.
That is how she handles it. Laughing about it. To get some more attention is not her goal. That she moved to a small isolated island far away in the Philippines, says everything.
”I’ve never been interested in being a celebrity. I don’t want it at all”.
After the article Sanne chose to do several interviews with various media and even television channels in the Philippines. For a reason. She wants to remind people of the Philippines that there are indeed people who left everything in their homeland to come here because it’s amazing.
”If I can bring these thousands of people’s pride, I will do it. I wish that all Filipinos should feel pride ”We hear only good things about Sweden, but this girl has decided to leave it and it must surely mean that we have so much good stuff here.” I want to bring a patriotic feeling that they should be proud of the Philippines”.
Sannes hostel is fully booked, she meditates and she feels good. But she still has dreams to fulfill.
”I’m not done with traveling. This year, I will concentrate on the Philippines. When I turned 30, we climbed a mountain, a volcano. It was really exciting and tough. 1,400 meters in eight hours. It was me, Coy and my dog Batman. Batman was the first dog on the summit ever. The volcano last eruption was in 1950. It was cozy and fun to go on a trip. Every birthday, I set out to do something exciting and new. To kick start my new year”.
How does it feel to have turned 30?
”I have become a better version of myself. I don’t know if meditation made me like that but I am calm and aloof to things that could stress me before.
She feels good, Sanne. And that’s the most important thing.