Author Archives: mangomanjaro

Family In The Middle East vs Sweden

“How big is your house?” was a very common question we received in the Middle East. Time after time we answered that we don’t have a house, we live in an apartment and it’s only one room, 30 square meters big. Or small, if you like to think so.
“Really?” They said, perplexed and confused. Thinking we must be rich, traveling around the world, and here we are telling them that our home is a one room apartment! It doesn’t fit in their picture of a rich person. What they don’t count in though, is that Swedes rarely live the whole extended family together, as they often do themselves. Of course they need a bigger house than we do, we’re only two!

When two people are getting married in most Middle Eastern countries (and they do it like every day), the bride moves into the groom’s house with his family. If the family has many sons, they will expand more and more as each of them is supposed to get married and have children. Only the families with many daughters might shrink, since the daughters move out.

In the Middle East, people simply see no reason for a person to move out before he or she gets married. So unlike Sweden where many teenagers already live on their own while studying. It sometimes happens that bride and groom move to a new home after the wedding even in the Middle East, if the father of the groom wants to buy them a house. If he can’t give them a house, he might buy them a car, “at least”, as a friend in Iran said.

Let us assure you, we’ve written these facts down carefully to teach our parents the proper way of treating young lovers. Just as carefully as we’ve noticed that every person out of the 500-1500 on the guest list in a Middle Eastern wedding must bring an equal amount of gold as a gift.

This is a sort of life insurance for the young couple. Zarah, a young mother who we met in Kurdistan explained, as she flicked through the 3000 photos from her wedding (one with each guest): “Here in Iraq, we love gold, very much!” Of course we let all our friends know about this important tradition as well, as soon as we got home ;) …

That couples in Sweden can live together and even have children without getting married, has been very hard for our Middle Eastern friends to understand. Same thing when we told them we only see our parents every now and then, not on a daily of even weekly basis.

Male friends in Pakistan told us they prefer their mother to find them a good girl to marry, since the relationship between the mother and the bride is more important than his own relationship with his wife. Because the bride and the mother will spend a lot more time together. We learnt in Pakistan that a man’s worst nightmare is to come home from work and find his mother and wife quarreling.
So the mother simply shows a photo of a nice girl, and asks her son if he would like to speak to her on the phone. “Then we speak, sometimes two of three times, and then we agree to get married.”

Marriage based on love is considered very unstable and weak, since love can come and go. “And if you already know each other, then what’s left to discover? Nothing!” This is very difficult for us Swedes to understand. We can’t think of any friends who would marry somebody after just speaking on the phone a few times. Most couples would live together for at least a few years first.

But the family situation in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan has really inspired us. How highly valued the family is, and how close people stay together! We actually try to meet with our families more often since we came back to Sweden. Except for the father-of-the-groom-paying-for-the-new-house and the every-guest-has-to-bring-gold-to-the-wedding-traditions, we probably found the importance of the family our most important lesson from the Middle East. It’s well worth to think through. Now – time to go to grandmother’s over Easter.

Get Over Your Comfort With CouchSurfing

Let’s talk about comfort and what it does to your mind.
As long as you’re out on the road, you are constantly driven by very basic survival instincts. You’re looking for somewhere to stay the night, something to eat and new sights to thrill your already beating heart. You care for your visas, your rare Internet connection or for your stomach adjusting to the new food. All this helps you staying hungry for all the comfort you can get and all the new friends you can potentially meet. Everything is valuable.

But once you’re back home, having a fixed shedule day by day, you run the risk of loosing your interest in new things. Luckily, we have the best idea for those who want to stay hungry and not fall into boring routines.
We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again: Join CouchSurfing!

Our first guest, only a few days after our arrival in Sweden (which was by then still a frozen country of ice and snow) was Breno Cola. Breno is our Brazilian friend who we met through this blog, and who later on started his own journey and ended up in Sweden. We had a great time together, eating dinner, driving around Gotland and sightseeing in Stockholm with Breno, who was fascinated by the beaches all white and cold and beautiful. We never thought it was funny to walk over an ice covered beach, but Breno opened up our eyes. Brazilian beaches are hot and filled with tanning ladies in bikinis. All of a sudden we saw the wonder that Breno saw.

About two weeks after Breno left, we invited our first “real” CouchSurfers, Katrina from Poland and Michaela from Romania. It’s so easy to think that it is going to be tiring, or too crowded to squeeze in two more people at our 30 square meters. Why does it seem so different from when we’ve been the ones sleeping on couches all over the world? Well, the perspectives changes as your lifestyle changes. It’s perfectly logical, it is probably very normal and common too, but it is just as easy as everything else to change by one simple step. JUST DO IT.

Bring people into your home! You don’t need to do it too often. Just give it a try, and find that it can be the greatest boost for yourself. Having CouchSurfers staying over really makes you see your own life through new eyes. We rarely feel particularly grateful for the drinkable tap water in Stockholm, but our guests from Poland made us aware of the fact that this is a privilege. We don’t notice how clean the streets are, but our foreign friends are amazed! It takes us two days back in Sweden to forget how rare it is that cars stop for you in a capital city, or that the air feels fresh, or that having supermarkets and bars and parks and our offices nearby are also luxury benefits. We would not ever visit all the interesting museums in our city if it wasn’t for our CouchSurfers.

This actual exchange is in fact so eye opening that our minds are full of new ideas when the week starts over again. We’ve been traveling all weekend without moving. And the fear about our own comfort and privacy is far away since the very minute our guests enter our home.

Is you apartment really too small? Or your schedule really too busy? Or is it just your comfort that is too high for your own mind to grow? Give it a try, invite a CouchSurfer, or put yourself available for coffee or a drink. Making new friends keeps your mind fresh, and you will find overwhelming appreciation from your guests. Plus when you eventually DO move, there will be couches waiting for you in other countries.

Here you go once more: – the easies way to fight your own comfort and let your heart grow!

5 Swedish Music Creators You Deserve To Hear

Music is very important to us. It helps us understand, feel, move and it inspires us. Here comes five really good music creators from Sweden that you should know of!

Robin’s take

Fever Ray

I started listening to ‘Fever Ray‘ after seeing this video. It’s just so tribal, Nordic and spellbinding. It will trigger your imagination!

When I Grow Up from Fever Ray on Vimeo.


Pascal‘ consists of three persons. The sound is raw and rough and their lyrics sounds like mantras. And guess what? They are mantras!

Amanda’s take

Veronica Maggio

A few years back I heard an interview with Veronica Maggio on the radio. My reaction was: “What wrong with her attitude?” I couldn’t figure out until I heard her singing. She is something as rare as a Swedish soul singer, totally unique in voice and spirit.

Cornelis Vreeswijk

I want to add Dutch born Cornelis because he’s somewhat a Swedish legend within political music, and I always loved his music and creative lyrics. Unfortunately dead after heavy liver issues caused by massive drinking.

Our favorite in common


Since her first hit song in 1995 when she was 16 years old, Robyn made her way (as 5 year old Amanda’s first and biggest idol). Artists who keep producing and developing this much during 15 years are rare. She just ROCKS!

Quiting Your Job Gives You New Jobs

A few weeks later.
A few nice weeks of hot showers, coffee in the morning and movies every night. Comfy bed to sleep in, supermarket next door, friends over for dinner every other night and actually, jobs rolling in like never before. It has been an amazing homecoming.

We still wake up every morning and go to sleep every night saying to each other “This is a damn good life!”

Quiting your job to do something different might be scary. What if you don’t find a new job when (if) that time comes? What if you will fall and not fly. We’ve heard all those things. That it would be more safe and secure for us to upgrade at work than to quit. What happens when we run out of money?

Well, here we are, and we’ve already been working for a while at our new jobs. And more offers keep rolling in.
Do you know what people say when they call us in for interviews? They don’t care much about our previous working experience. They don’t look too much at our references. But they DO care for that we’ve hitchhiked from Poland to Pakistan. That we’ve driven a website at our own initiative and with our own imagination. That stands out. That is something to talk about. That seems to qualify us for any job we like.

We are not exhausted after the week when we have breakfast Saturday morning. We’re boiling over with new ideas for new project, cause our minds are fresh, and we feel fresh.

Quiting our jobs was probably the best thing we’d ever put on our CV.



Ideas, inspiration, brain-storms and support. Many of you have helped us complete this journey in different ways. Credit is where credit is due.

  • Hitchhiking concept: Jonas Georgsson & Jesper Lundberg for that night at Lännaplan, when we discussed the project.
  • Meet Our Drivers: Pia-Maria Guldström in the car home from Axelsro when she told us she would like to see ideas from different countries.
  • “What did you have for breakfast”: Margareta Garpe & Molly Harleb for that lunch-meeting where they asked us to make the ideas more hands-on.
  • Introduction movie: Kaspian Jakobsson when he said that it was unbearable.
  • 3D graphics: Kaspian Jakobsson
  • Post frequency: Lukas Jakobsson – “Post five times a day. Sleep, that’s something you can do in Sweden!”
  • Improved sound quality and endless support: Breno Cola sent us some money and told us to get a better dicta phone. Said and done!
  • P3 Planet: Christoffer Hagberg, Jesper Lundberg & Jonas Georgsson. Thanks for the idea!
  • Constant inspiration: Gary Vaynerchuck.
  • Blog traffic: As We Travel, Sofia and Nathan – Thanks a lot! Alastair Humphreys, Thanks! Bicycle Touring Pro, Connection Revolution, Orienteringstanten and of course – Phil In The Blank!
  • Financial support: Barbro & Claes Heijbel, Bodil Heijbel, Peter Jakobsson, Bo & Anita Jakobsson, Kim & Håkan Jakobsson, Breno Cola, Lisette Sandling, Lars Riber and Annie & Lennart Adolphsson.
  • Paid for our material: ABF, P3 & GT.
  • Podcast theme: MattyBlades.
  • Local radio: Jakob Larsson & Johannes Hallbom. Check out their new release with Tony Clifton!
  • Pins and book from Gotland: Julia Bendelin, Oss Reklambyrå.
  • Vaulable help on the road: The girls at the gas station in the Middle of Poland, Tomek & Mateusz in Krakow, The couple who bought us tickets to the ferry to Yalova, Engin in Yalova, Ali with family in Izmir, Makbule, Ömer & Doruk, Aynur in Cirali, Bahar family in Jordan, Muhammad with family in Damascus, The family in Mus, Joey in Arbil, The family in Suran, The family in Piranshar, Mohammad with family in Tabriz, Appas with family in Tabriz, The family in Zahedan.
  • Brave souls who believed in the Chicken dance and participated before we left Sweden, in Visby/Stockholm: Alice Heijbel, Andromeda Lundén, Kaspian Jakobsson, Malin Björkquist, Malin Karlsson, Razmus Nyström, Robert Söderström, Sara Eklund, Signe Ahlsten, Stina Nordberg, Torun Dahlström, Vilhelm Blomgren, Emil Jansson, Johanna Marteleur, Jonas Georgsson and Mindra Ericsson and Ulf Heijbel, for the part in the introduction movie.
  • Chicken Dance Japan: Pontus Jakobsson & Louise Billgren

Thanks again!


It was april 2010.
Spring had just come to France. And so had Robin. We spent a sunny Sunday in Céret, a small romantic town in the Pyrenees. We had not seen each other in many weeks. Way to many weeks. We had written more loveletters than it had been days since we were together. Everywhere we went, love went with us.

The sun was beautiful. The buildings were beautiful. The people were beautiful, like characters in a movie where we played the leads. Amanda with a flower in her hair, Robin with the smile of a happy child. The cars stopped for us. The people greeted us.
An old man walked up to us and offered some candy. A street choir walked the main street down and spread their tones.
Céret smelled of coffee, spring and love. When we smiled, the world smiled back at us, and we said to each other,
“We have to express this passion. We have to keep expressing it, and share it with the rest of the world”.
We will never forget Céret, or the people who live there. Maybe the people in Céret won’t forget us either, who knows.

We didn’t know it by then. But on that sunny Sunday in Céret, MangoManjaro was born.


July, 2010.


India, we said. Let’s hitchhike to India. And we did. We hitchhiked – ONLY – until we reached Pakistan. As soon as we’d crossed the border from Iran, we had to get escorted by armed guards, half way through Pakistan. “For security reasons, you are not allowed to hitchhike, sorry.”

We made it to the Indian border, the very east of Pakistan. Because of some visa issues and poor planning from our side, we actually finished this journey in Pakistan. So we did travel all the way TO India, all we didn’t do was to enter it. It will be a future project, since we are quite certain India will still be there. So will we, and along with us comes a big portion of curiosity and passion.


We want to thank you all again.
All of our drivers, the people who have hosted us, all you Chicken Dancers, blog readers, donors, reporters and other Njaros out there.
Thank you for making our personal experience absolutely amazing.
Thank you for everything that you have shared with us, and for everything that you have taught us.
Thanks for all the chai and all the joy. Thanks for being brave and open minded, and for treating us so well.

Anton, one of our drivers in Bulgaria made a wise statement that we came to like so much that we copied it and printed it at some of our business cards.
“The world is a big village”. This line has really proved itself to be true during the last few months.

We started this trip with an empashis on challenging the fears that people in Sweden have. It turned out that most of the fears are shared amongst all people, across all of the countries that we’ve passed. This is our most important lesson, our most important discovery. It is not dangerous to hitchhike, talk to strangers, or stay in a strangers home. It’s rather the opposite! The most dangerous thing you can do is to isolate yourself and only trust situations where you’re paying someone to do something for you.

Fear in itself is what’s dangerous, because it hinders us from communicating with each other. And that makes us stupid.


MangoManjaro is now about 6 moths old, in other words it is still a baby who will grow and learn.
We hope to meet you all in our future projects!

Love, magical Mango energy and best wishes,

Amanda and Robin