It’s 9:29 a.m. here at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and I’m on onboard an easyJet flight heading to Berlin, Germany for my belated birthday gift to myself.
This marks the first time I’m leaving Sweden, since returning on October 2. Four months is the longest I’ve been outside of the United States. My original plan was to be in Stockholm for 90 days, the time allotted to Americans under the Schengen Agreement. However, in November a new American friend shared with me that I could extend my stay by applying for a visitor’s permit through Migrationsverket, the Swedish Migration Agency.
In early December, after confirming that I would not be penalized if the process kept me in Sweden past my original 90 day exit date, I submitted the application and fee.
After Migrationsverket confirmed receipt of the application, the next step was to go online and schedule an in-person interview. Due to the long wait list in Stockholm office, I was permitted to schedule my interview in another city. The earliest appointment I found was on January 2 in Uppsala, a town about an hour north of Stockholm by train.
On the morning of the interview, I took the Tunnelbana (Stockholm Metro) from where I was staying to T-Centralen, Stockholm’s main subway hub. From there I transferred to the commuter train going to Uppsala. Once in Uppsala, I took a short bus ride to the local Migrationsverket office.
With a folder holding the documents needed to prove my American citizenship and my means of supporting myself, I was ready to answer the questions about why and how long I wanted to extend my stay in Sweden.
The interview went rather smoothly, taking approximately 20-25 minutes to complete. At the end of they they took my picture, in the event my application was was approved.
The final part was simply to wait. If approved, I could remain in Sweden. If not, I could either submit an appeal within three weeks of receipt of the letter, or leave the country within the time period stated in the decision. I received my approval notice three weeks after the interview, a few days before my birthday. I promised myself that if I was approved to stay, I'd reat myself to a birthday trip to Berlin, one of the many global cities on my list to visit.
And so here I sit, on this easyJet flight to Berlin, strapped in and ready to go. Once again I’m thankful I’m able to be on this journey of discovery. Professionally, creatively and personally speaking, I’m finding out that I can honor the dreams and aspirations that are in my heart.
I’m also coming to terms with accepting that not everyone is going to understand this that I’m doing. However, what matters is that I’m as honest and as realistic as I can be, whilst giving myself permission to hope, believe and pursue. I'm okay with being branded for having larger-than-life dreams. I cannot be faulted for not trying.