Just outside Stockholm, easy-going Jon Bäcklund and Stina Ekström have a carefully considered approach to the world. In their professional lives Stina focuses on nutrition and trauma healing techniques, while Jon is something of a Renaissance man, working as both a personal assistant to the disabled, and realizing projects across a spectrum of creative disciplines.
In their private lives, they give themselves a rare space to realize their creative impulses. Over the last year these energies have been put towards renovations to a 1976 school bus. Jon originally purchased the vintage bus nine years ago as a family project, something to fix up with his brothers on weekends. Last summer, Jon and Stina came up with a new vision for the bus – as unconventional lodgings for Airbnb visitors to Stockholm. Now situated next to a quiet, lush Scandinavian forest in the middle of Bromma, in one of the cities oldest alternative communities, just 20 minutes outside of Stockholm.
Embracing the natural surroundings, the bus has almost become a part of its natural environment, and the community that surrounds it. The fairytale-like image of spending the night in a carefully renovated bus surrounded by this magical scenery, yet just 20 minutes from the city, is something its owners have worked to accomplish. The resulting fusion of comfort and creativity wonderfully reflects the life approach of Jon and Stina.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online who present a special curation of our pictures on ZEIT Magazin Online.
What do you both do in Stockholm?
Jon: I am the owner of Efraim AB where I work as project leader with a number of renovations on the property where the bus is and I am also employed part time as a personal assistant helping a disabled man. I’ve always worked alot, but I don’t even know if you can say I have a professional career. For example, for a while my brother Edvard and I lived with Sven Yrvind, a famous sailor, helping him with a boat project. It was truly a unique experience and a lot of fun. This period of my life is devoted to finalize projects and efforts from earlier in my life and to think more about the economy in the projects I do. The bus is one example, my music is another. Now I am buying studio equipment and I will start to do my own recordings. When I look at what I have done, I realize I tend to go for things that I like without thinking about the consequences or the financial benefits.
Stina: Jon is also an amazing pianist and composer, his music touches everyone who hears it! I wish we had a piano in the bus so he could play for our guests.
I work in Stockholms biggest health food store, Gryningen. Sometimes I work as a preschool teacher in a couple of Steiner kindergartens, I’ve also cooked for yoga courses. My heart beats for the earth, health of all beings, kundalini yoga and nutritious food. I’m also starting up a little company called Slow&Simple, where I want to work with stress management and trauma healing using techniques like mindfulness and tapping. That’s starting up bit by bit. I always return to the words slow and simple, which I try to apply to most things in my life. We are pretty calm and down-to-earth people.
Stina, how did you came up with Slow&Simple – what drives your very specific interest in trauma healing?
Stina: I am especially interested in trauma since I myself have a lot of trauma in my background. The human mind is tricky and interesting to work with, so is the subconscious, and also the nervous system. Also we have so much stress in our society that we don’t need, and that keeps us from directing our energy, our purpose in the right direction. What would we do without our fears, without that voice that tells us no, it is impossible? The tool and the mindset we work with is that everything is energy, everything vibrates, nothing is solid. Emotion is energy in motion. By stimulating points on the body that affects the meridian system we can release old memories, feeling that has gotten stuck in the body as pain, stiffness. And, it works.
How did you two meet?
Stina: We met through a common friend. Jon wrote an email, I saw his picture on Facebook, those eyes, and I fell…
How do you define creativity and where do you get inspired for your creative work?
Stina: Creativity for me is a power, a great force. In yoga we say that it comes from our root chakra. We need to be in tune with this strong energy, to accept it and be friend with it. To let it flow, be, follow.
Jon: For me creativity is the source of power that comes to me when I truly relax at a deep level. I think creativity is our natural state of being when we accept life as it is right now. We can not stop things from being the way they are nor can we stop things from changing but we can take part in the process in different ways.
It’s beautiful and simple, with no singular or particular style. It’s just cozy and nice. –Stina
How was the idea of the bus conceived?
Jon: I bought the bus nine years ago, and in the beginning it was a project with my two brothers, Edvard and Josef. We redid the bus and lived in it for a year on another lot at another community. Then it was just left standing for many years. We were actually considering getting rid of it. Today I’m very happy that I didnt but back then we haven’t had the opportunity to rent it out online.
Stina: I constantly was pushing you to keep it!
Jon: Yeah, eventually we moved it here. I think it was last summer, and since the start of this year we’ve been preparing it and started renting it out. My initial thought was for it to be used by the community, by ourselves and people travelling. We made the bus a little nicer in order to rent it out. It´s actually been quite a lot of work but thanks to my wonderful brothers, friends and all lovely people living in the coop we managed to do it. Besides taking care of the bus I also take care of the house and other building projects. So I have lots to do here.
You rent the bus out to travellers, what kind of guests do you get?
Jon: Perhaps it’s also a little too early to talk about a typical guest. We’ve only had about ten guests so far. Still, I’d like to think of our typical guest as someone who is curious and wants to experience something a little bit different. People who are open-minded, I guess.
Stina: Usually it’s people who want to experience something different; they like to experience nature and are interested in the community. Not so many party people.
What’s the reaction been?
Jon: Well, visitors seem to like both the people living in the community as well as the experience of staying in the bus.
Stina: We had a couple from Belgium who were not as used to nature as we are here in Sweden. For them it was amazing. They thought they were in the middle of a big forest. In actuality the woods surrounding the bus are quite small! It’s so nice just to be here. Both the community and the bus are very close to nature.
What do you personally enjoy most about being a host?
There are many aspects we appreciate and enjoy. Getting the opportunity to meet international and cool people is one of them. Also it is great to help them with something that’s such an important part of traveling: having a place to stay. A place where you feel safe and comfortable. Trough Airbnb we can come together and create interesting meetings. Most of our guests are open, curious and also brave in a way. They’ve chosen a place to stay that is completely different from a hotel. And before they travel back to their hometown you can hear about their experiences in the city. Also it is important for us to receive honest and constructive feedback about our place so we can improve.
You live with your two children, right?
Stina: Yes, my daughter Edith is 8 years old and Jon’s son Liné is 9. Edith has grown up in the community. Both of them have helped us with the bus and are looking forward to travel with it.
What inspires you in regard to interior design?
Stina: For the bus I wanted to make it simple, beautiful and Scandinavian. Initially, I wanted it to be hippie-like, as the bus is from that time in history. But then I realized that guests come here to relax. While the housing community in itself is nice it can be a little overwhelming, there are many different impressions. This is why I wanted the bus to be simpler. The interior design needed to appeal to different tastes. It’s beautiful and simple, with no singular or particular style. It’s just cozy and nice. I have this picture of Gotland – the Swedish island on the southeast coast – with sheep skin and nice wool blankets; things that make you feel cozy. Other than that, I’m interested in yoga and meditation, which is something I wanted to imprint in the aura of the bus and its surroundings. The nature combined with the bus makes you feel calm and relaxed.
I want to do a lot of things, but I always return to the words slow and simple, which I try to apply to most things in my life. We are pretty calm and down-to-earth people. –Stina
Since the bus is standing in the garden of a community, keeping the bus busy with lots of people doesn’t seem like such a big issue.
Jon: No, not at all. It’s enriching for everyone involved as long as we make sure it works out for everyone. Down to the last detail, you know? But so far the response has been almost exclusively positive.
Stina: I think it’s inspiring! In March, we had a week totally dedicated to fixing the bus. Jon’s friends came over and they started building in and around the bus. They put up a separating wall inside the bus and then we suddenly had two beautiful rooms. The community just kind of came along and started to fix up the garden surrounding the bus. I think they look at the whole thing like, “We’re going to have guests,” more than the fact that we’re renting out the bus to strangers. It’s so nice and comforting.
What do you usually recommend your guests do in Stockholm?
Stina: This summer was super hot, so we recommended that our guests take a swim in the nearby lake. But we usually tell them to visit the Fotografiska museum or Artipelag, a new art museum in the archipelago. We usually tell our guests to try and take a boat out to the different islands, but a lot of the guests already have a pretty solid idea of what they want to do. We had some guests from England who went to Gröna Lund and a video game convention, which I never would have recommended!
Jon & Stina’s favorite places in Stockholm
This a beautiful garden in Rosendal, located on the island and Stockholm borough Djurgården. It focuses mainly on biodynamic cultivation. There’s also a garden shop, a small restaurant with selected organic meals and a café. Each has a plant-house architectural touch and is packed regardless of season, time or day.
Stina: I studied at a biodynamic school in Järna south of Stockholm, and we came here with the group. That’s when I fell in love. It’s so nice that you’re able to see and touch all the plants and vegetables sold in the shop and restaurant. They also have have a Christmas market that’s very nice.
Kalf & Hansen
This place serves 100% Nordic, organic fast food. Even though you don’t often hear the words “fast-food” and “organic” in the same sentence very often, it’s a bullseye description of Kalf-Hansen. Located in Mariatorget in Södermalm, the concept is simple: meat, fish and vegetarian fricadelles served in a variety of dishes. The names for each dish are Nordic cities. Even though the place is a tiny corner-shop, they keep themselves busy.
Stina: Everything here is season based and of the highest quality. They provide you with some of the most eco-friendly vegetables and meats you can find in Stockholm. You’d think with a place like this that is so conscious of where all their ingredients and products come from that it would be expensive, but it’s actually very affordable. The interior is made from recycled materials mixed with organic birch.
This is one of Stockholm’s few strictly vegetarian restaurants. Located on the mountain right on top of the Fotografiska museum, the view is nothing less than spectacular. Even though the prices for the impressive buffet change quite a bit depending on what time you get here, it’s worth it. The view looking out onto the canal with the connection between the archipelago and the south of Stockholm is beautiful.
Stina: This place actually charges you more for the view than the food. We found this place when I was living in the community and we had a house meeting here. I actually think my stepmother was the one who suggested it.