The Swedish girl Sanne fainted behind the wheel. It became the turning point of a stressful life with heart palpitations in Sweden. Now she lives a relaxed life in the Philippines, where she runs her own hostel on a paradise island.
”My yoga teacher said something so good: Remember, we are human beings, not human doings,” Sanne says.
Sanne Sevig. She was an ordinary girl from the country side in Sweden. She was this bubbly energetic type with a lots of things on her plate. She was 25 year old and studied at the University of Skövde while being a project manager at a clothing company in Stockholm. In addition, she was managing her own company and lecturing all over Sweden.
”I had too many things going on at once and was never satisfied”, Sanne says.
Ironically Sanne was studying neuroscience and positive psychology at the University of Skövde, to learn how to live a balanced and happy life, but it seemed to not matter. Sanne drove on. After several years of a stress-filled life she was showing the signs of fatigue. She couldn’t stand to be alone in silence and found it difficult to sleep at night.
”I was smoking at the time and I couldn’t even go out for a cigarette and be quiet during the two minutes it takes. I had a panic attack. It was so quiet and I felt like shit. Then came the feeling that I couldn’t live like this anymore”, Sanne says.
As she tells me all this we are sitting in a lush garden and are having a long breakfast. On the beautiful island of Siargao in the Philippines. She never had time for long breakfasts in Sweden. But now she has. This is her new life since a few years ago. Hostel owner and satisfied. She gestures, smiles with her whole body and as she describes it herself – she shines all the way from the inside out.
She is feeling much better nowadays.
”Something I’m proud of is that I’m a lot calmer now and the way I treat myself is so much nicer. I can say to myself well done today. In Sweden, I was happy maybe half an hour if I made money for my company, but then I just started working hard again. Therefore, this feeling of pride of a job well done would never be long lasting. To tell yourself well done today is taboo in Sweden. It should not be done. It is seldom I hear my friends in Sweden say that they are proud of themselves.”
How did she end up in this paradise island with all this insight? It’s a pretty big change from a stressful life in Sweden to settle on an island on the other side of the world.
Stress, panic and heart palpitations were a part of her everyday life. Sanne was thinking of changing her lifestyle for six months. One little thing made her to really take the step.
”I was at a bus stop and it was 30 degrees below zero. My car had broken down and I did not feel my toes. Then I thought – I don’t give a shit about Sweden.”
At that point she was sure. She was going to leave. But she didn’t book a ticket. Until the worst happened.
”I fainted in my car and drove off the road. Luckily, i suffered no physical injuries as a result of my accident. The day after, I quit my job and wrote on Facebook that I had decided to move abroad, and wondered if someone had something they could recommend. I got two answers. One was from a girl I was backpacking with several years earlier. She wrote that she had moved to Manila, and that I could stay with her for free. Four weeks later I landed in Manila.”
It was January 2012 and Sanne left her old life for good. In Manila, she got a job at the big travel company Apollo. Sanne worked as the link between the major hotel chains and dealerships in Sweden. But after a while she realized that she was regressing to her old patterns.
”In Manila, I was running. It took several months before I stopped and thought I didn’t move to the other side of the world to do the same things as i did back home. No matter how far I traveled, i was still leading an unhealthy lifestyle. It does not matter if I live in a tropical country because I still wrestling with all the same issues.”
The breaking point would come again. Apollo suddenly shut down the office and Sanne left Manila to go traveling. After two months of backpacking in the Philippines’ many islands, she realized that this was exactly what she needed. A quiet island with empty beaches and lapping waves.
Through her old classmates she came into contact with Robert who was running a resort on the island of Siargao in the eastern Philippines. An island Sanne at that time had not yet been to.
”When I came here, I was riding in a car from the airport, and had my nose pressed against the window and thought oh well, now I’ve found my home. I had not even had a single day on the job.”
That seemingly perfect island is now her home. Siargao. Is it perhaps the island which led her to start her inner journey and come to an understanding? The island is serene. The major tourist hordes are not privy to the islands location. The local people are mainly preoccupied with fishing and not tourism. Sanne’s hostel and a few other resorts and smaller hotels run by westerners are the only lodging facilities available. The visitors? Surfers who are drawn to the world famous rolling waves of the Pacific.
In addition to the island’s soothing effect on the soul, Sanne also finds peace in yoga sessions that she joins three times per week. These sessions have aided her in healing her mind, and controlling her emotions.
”Im not walking around happy all the time, I am more sad and pissed off now than I was at home. At least I’m feeling something. At home, I didn’t feel anything. I was living with a constantly high level of stress. I’m much more in tune with my emotions here, and i like that side of me. I want to be genuine. I do not want to be perfect. I just want to be me”, Sanne says.
Cliché question maybe, but are you happy here?
”Yes, I am”, Sanne says quickly. Then she repeats herself after a few seconds of reflection.
”Yes. I am.”
But what is happiness then?
”Happiness for me is to feel, which I’m able to do here, and to have the courage to express what I feel. It’s not quite the same thing. For me it’s two completely different things. Happiness consists of doing things that I want to do.”
”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.”
After six months of work at Robert’s resort Sanne became involved with a hostel building project that Josef, a Philippine national, was working on. Josef is also the guy Sanne started dating and ultimately fell in love with. Together they completed the construction of Paglaom hostel which they now run successfully.
But we’re not talking about big money.
”We made a conscious choice. We chose time over money”, Sanne says.
Her whole approach to money has changed radically.
”It was crazy. I’ve never been as poor as when we were building the hostel. I think we had a budget of 300 pesos per day for two people to live for (about $ 4). We ate rice, eggs and sometimes we bought chicken. Now when we go out to eat I appreciate it in a totally different way because of those months we were on an extremely tight budget.”
Now that the hostel is finished Sanne has a lot of time to do different things she couldn’t even dream of before. In addition to managing the hostel and taking yoga classes, she has also started a charity organization called ”Nature Kids of Siargao”. The idea is to educate children and young adults in environmental awareness on Siargao and donate clothes, food and school backpacks to needy children.
Thanks to her charity organization Sanne became involved in an orphanage on the island. Now she’s there twice a week and recently she painted the walls in the children’s dormitories.
”However they need more adults there. For twenty children, there are only two adults. There is no time for hugs, bedtime stories, basketball games or to help with homework”, Sanne says.
”It makes me happy to get involved with this charity.”
Sanne takes a bite of the pancake she has on her plate, and tilt her head to one side with a smile. She is wise. She has much to say.
Do you think anyone can do the same inner journey as you without having the same education background?
”Absolutely. I think it’s a great idea to get some help. I got help by traveling. It was my way to break my old patterns. Getting help can be as simple as reading a book that changes your life or start a new hobby.”
She shines. All the way from the inside out.
How do you think she introduces herself to non Swedes who have trouble pronouncing ”Sanne”?
Sunny. Of Course.