Monday, 27 August 2018

A Life Less Ordinary

Wow, how time flies! This blog has been up and running for almost four years now. In October 2014 we started this little blog, back then called "A Year in Marrakech", to reflect what was supposed to be a one year break from the rat race of being executives in Sweden. The main purpose of it was to act as our travel blog and keep friends and family up to speed with our new life in the Red City.

Another day in the office

The very first blog post talked about "a change is gonna come" and we were both filled with anticipation for the one year break ahead of us. We already owned our Riad in Marrakech and had used this little Medina palace as a more exotic second home spending long weekends and vacations there for some years. After careful planning we decided to take one year off from our roles as CEO of Fiskars (Per) and Communications Director for the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Patrick) and invest in the ultimate luxury: having time and spending it in an exotic city we really love to see what would happen when we broke free from daily routines and had time to say yes to whatever would come our way. It was the adventure of a lifetime to be totally free of obligations for one year and a well deserved break mid careers we thought.

Riad Arabe in magical Marrakech is our Moroccan base

It was honestly supposed to only be a 12 month break. We therefore named our blog "A Year in Marrakech" and this blog became our travel journal for what was be a one year adventure. We were both actually on sabbatical leaves from our executive roles in Sweden. A kind of parental leave without the kids as we described it to our friends who wondered why on earth we would give up well paid jobs and a very comfortable lifestyle in Stockholm and move to Northern Africa.

A Life Less Ordinary

But sometimes things don't turn out as you plan. In the beginning we stuck to our original vision: we traveled all over the beautiful Kingdom of Morocco, we studied Arabic and French, we met so many interesting people and went to so many amazing parties and we made the maze of the Marrakech Medina our home. We had the time of our lives, all the time in the world and we loved it. New acquaintances turned dear friends, sunny days in one of the most exotic places in the world became normal everyday and the foreign became the familiar. And before we knew it Morocco was the new normal.

Our hometown since 3,5 years

After a while we found ourselves involved in several new projects. We founded a communications agency Red City PR since no one in Marrakech seemed to do PR on the same level as in Europe. We arranged highly successful TEDx events with our new friend Andrea. We became board members and driving forces of the charity organization Project Soar working to empower Moroccan girls together with our new best pals Maryam and Chris. We made so many great new friends and were really established as a part of the inner Marrakech circle. We had so much fun and so much we still wanted to do so we couldn’t really go back home after only one year, could we?

Project Soar - empowering Moroccan girls

When that first year in Marrakech came to an end in the beginning of 2016 we decided to stay. We quit our jobs in Sweden for good and made Marrakech our permanent base. We subsequently re-named our blog to "A Life in Marrakech" to reflect this change and now our life in the Red City really took off! In the following year Red City PR became one of the leading communications agencies in Morocco working with both local and global brands serving clients in Morocco, UK, Scandinavia and Italy. Project Soar grew from supporting girls in one village to empowering girls on 23 sites all over Morocco. TEDxMarrakesh exploded from being a small expat happening to be one of the great events in Marrakech attracting world class speakers and international guests as well as involving the local Moroccan community. Per got involved in more board work back in the Nordics and is now the chairman of three boards and board member of additional four board of directors.

Here are some of the brands that Red City PR works with.

Now we find ourselves being deeply involved in the local community and the crazy, buzzing and exotic Medina of Marrakech is really our home. We have managed to make the transition and had become true "Marrakchis". We are global nomads with an international lifestyle based in Marrakech. Marrakech for sure is an amazing place to call home but after a long time in the middle of the Medina you start to feel the urge to leave for a while, to put some distance between you and all the exotic magic so you can start to miss it and long to return again. We of course continued to spend some time in Sweden and to do trips outside Morocco and suddenly an idea took form: maybe we needed a third base to complement our homes in Marrakech and Stockholm? Wouldn’t it be perfect to rotate between the well organized and minimalistic Sweden and the over the top colorful, chaotic and chic Marrakech and one more location? Maybe some place between Scandinavia and Africa?

The idyllic island Runmarö in the Stockholm archipelago is our Swedish base

There was never really any doubt about where our third home should be, Italy of course! We love the Italian food, wine, culture, art, fashion and way of living. Italy is also the perfect middle-way between hedonistic Morocco and strict Sweden, both from a cultural and geographical point of view. Leaping to action we bought a cute 18th century townhouse in the divine medieval hill-top town of Arpino just south of Rome (more about Arpino HERE and HERE). Once our townhouse was renovated and we moved in we realised how much we loved Arpino and how great it was to work from there. We started to also spend more time in Italy. And history repeats itself. We met many cool new friends, found lots of new projects and now in 2018 our tales are not only about Morocco and Marrakech, we also make new tales in Italy and Sweden.

Casa Colle in Arpino, south of Rome, is our Italian base.

The projects we are working with, both in Red City PR and other assignments, are not dependent on where the two of us are geographically and we are lucky to have a very competent team of professionals on the ground in Marrakech to take care of daily business which enables us to travel and to execute most of our strategic work from anywhere in the world. After all digitalization and new ways of communicating are key for our clients and luckily this is our core business.

A pretty good view from the Italian office.

This year we invested in the German fair-trade lifestyle luxury brand ABURY, where we also became board members and advisors. So exciting! We have made lots of new friends from all walks of life, encountered many new situation, adapted to different cultures, learned new languages and ways of living, fought bureaucracy in two new countries and learned a lot on the way. It’s been a great journey and so much fun. Almost every day for 3,5 years the sun has been shining from a clear blue sky and the bougainvillea has been blooming. We feel very fortunate to have been able to create a lifestyle and work situation that enable us to rotate between our homes in three very different countries, each with it’s own charm and challenges. Of course there have been downs, disappointments, some thunderstorm and tough days as well but overall a very positive experience. A life less ordinary you might say and a life full of adventures for sure!

German fashion brand ABURY - a new business project for us.

This blog continues to reflect our lives and adventures. "a YEAR in Marrakech" became "a LIFE in Marrakech" and now it’s time to re-name the blog once again to reflect our next phase that includes more places than Marrakech so starting today this blog space is called  "A LIFE LESS ORDINARY". We think it’s a pretty accurate description of our lives and the stories we tell here. This little blog has grown from being our travel journal to have over 100.000 (!!!) readers and won several blog awards. We do love to share our insiders tips on where to eat, where to stay and what to do.

Two Swedes rotating between Morocco, Italy and Sweden

We hope you have enjoyed the ride so far and will continue to follow our adventures in Italy, Morocco, Sweden and around the globe!

Thanks for following us from Sweden to Morocco to Italy! Stay tuned for the next phase!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Gonfalone Festival

There is always something going on in Arpino, like food festivals, religious processions, art exhibitions, rock festivals, wine tastings etc. But the biggest event every year is the Gonfalone - a three day colourful festival in August where the different neigbourhoods in the village are competing against each other in different sports, dressed in ancient national costumes and traditional shoes.

This year there were seven teams and six races; the donkey race, the wheelbarrow race, the clay pot race, the bag race, the relay race and finally the tug of war. Every team has their own flag and dedicated fans cheering them on. It's all taken very serious and it's super competitive, this year there was even a bit of a blood bath during the wheelbarrow race when two ambulances had to be called in to take care of the victims of some foul play on the finishing line.

Most races start down at Corso Tulliano climbing up to Piazza Municipio, it's about 300 meters long so it is all over almost before you know the race has even started. It's also quite a long wait between each race and the tension is building up with the fans who have made innovative flags and signs in support of their neighourhood team. There is lots of chanting and loud horns going off in between the races and when each competition starts everyone goes crazy, jumping up and down and screaming on top of their lungs.

 The Donkey Race

The competitors run with wheelbarrows made of wood and iron wheels with a sack of wheat weighing 40 Kg.

The clay pot race is reserved for women only. The terracotta pot is filled with water up to the brim and the contestants run with them on their head with the help of a rolled-up cloth in the shape of a donut. They cannot hold the pot and they mustn’t spill one single drop of water during the race.

The bag race is what is sounds like, a race where you jump inside a bag. It’s forbidden to walk but the trick seems to be to jump on one leg at a time.

The relay is a 610-meter race with four athletes per team passing the baton by hand.

Then there is the tug of war that takes place at Piazza Municipio. This is the sport that takes the longest time to complete. Several hours in fact. The anticipating and ever so growing audience usually sit at one of the bars surrounding the arena, screaming and hollering between the sips of their beers.

We were lucky enough to be invited to our neighbours Salvatore's party at Bar Sports where you are able to watch all the races from the balconies. There were so much great food, nice prosecco and fun people around and we had such a wonderful time.

The best of views

The winner this year was Quartiere Ponte, they have had in total 9 wins since 1971 when the Gonfalone festival was launched. The neighbourhood with most wins through the years is Quartiere Arco with 18 wins. Next year we look forward to the 49th edition and we guess the 50th edition the year after must be even more spectacular. We can’t wait!

Quartiere Ponte's fan club

There's only one disappointment with Gonfalone, our own neighbourhood Colle is not represented any longer. One explanation we've heard is that there is not enough young people living where we have our house. Someone else told us that some contestants were bought over to the other teams some years ago so there's not enough talent left. Maybe we should just form our own team for next year. Please let us know if you are good with donkeys, wheelbarrows or pot clay racing so we can start training for Quartiere Colle.

The Gonfalone gang √° la 2018


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

An Amazing Swedish Summer

We have had just an amazing Swedish summer this year with lots of friends, lots of fun, lots of sun and lots of dips into the refreshing ocean. The weather has been almost like in Marrakech - very hot! Temperatures over 30 degrees are in general very rare in Sweden but this summer the thermometer has stayed around those numbers for several weeks. And no rain in sight for so long. Luckily we have been spending most of our time on our beautiful island in the archipelago which means it's close to the sea and the luxury to jump into it whenever we needed to cool off.

Sweet Swedish Summer

Our Swedish hangout

Summer in Sweden means getting to spend time with so many dear old friends and both our families. This year we managed to have countless long lunches and memorable sunset dinners. This Swedish summer goes down in history as one as the best ever.

Patrick's niece and her boyfriend visited us.

So did Per's parents.

We had dinners with our neighbours on the island.

Some of them with sea view.

Then we had visits from friends from neighouring islands.

And then we had lunches with friends on neighbouring islands.

 Some nights we had pizza on our jetty...

...were we took so many dives into the ocean.

And other nights we went to the theatre on the island...

Our beloved moped is a lifesaver on the island.

Thank you so much Sweden and this year's unforgettable summer! Now it's time for us to go to Italy where we will inaugurate our newly built terrace.