Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rad Sweden Adventures

Oh geez, where to even start? It's been a while since my last post on here, and a lot of stuff has changed in my life recently. Did I tell you that I've packed up literally all of my belongings, put the Datsun into storage and am currently living out of a suitcase in Japan right now? I'll have to tell you more details on that soon. Anyway, I'd been waiting until I had time to give iheartstance.com a bit of a makeover before I posted on here again as it looked so old and outdated! But as you can see, it now has more of a modern, simplistic feel to it, so I can get back to posting and attempt to bring you guys back up to speed with what I've been getting up to lately.

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View of Gamla Stan from a lookout point next to the Hilton in Södermalm, Stockholm.

For this post I thought I'd tell you a little bit about my recent trip to Sweden and what I did there, as it was seriously one of the coolest experiences I've had in a while! Firstly though, I better explain that back in April I left my job at Aston Martin and Lamborghini Auckland to work for Speedhunters full time. It was strange moving from a job that I really liked to a job that I liked even more, and although I miss having access to some of my favourite supercars, I'm absolutely loving my new role and haven't looked back since I left. That's probably partially due to the fact that I was flown over to Stockholm within 24 hours of leaving my old job, and everything has been a bit of a blur since then.

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Photos clockwise from top left, exploring Stockholm at night, beautiful weather and an amazing view of Gamla Stan, pretty garden area outside my hotel in Mariatorget,  incredible view of the Stockholm archipelago (cluster of tens of thousands of little islands), Kungsträdgården with full cherry blossoms in bloom, picturesque buildings in Stortorget square in Gamla Stan (this area dates back to medieval times).

I had some incredible adventures exploring the city and I totally fell in love with it, but of course the purpose of my visit wasn't sightseeing...

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It was really cool getting to sign one of the recent Speedhunters books that I contributed to - I don't think I've ever signed anything before like that!

The first part of my mission involved travelling down south to the small city of Jönköping (pronounced 'yon-shopping' - I know, weird right?) for a car show of epic proportions. I was about to get my mind blown by the insanity of the Bilsport Performance and Custom Motor Show in all of its glory!

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Beautiful Jönköping - the weather was perfect throughout our stay.

After 3 flights and over 24 hours of travel (arghhh!) I finally got to check into my first hotel and catch up on some much needed rest, and then it was an early 5am start to catch a 3-hour train down to the show the following day. When Annika (Speedhunters' Production Manager) and I arrived, thankfully our booth area was all set up and ready to go, so we could get straight to work. Part of my new role as Community Manager means that I take care of all social media, but I'd also been asked to put together an event coverage story too, so there was plenty to do.

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Photos clockwise from top left, an incredible SR20-powered FD3S RX-7 time attack build,  cool NA8 MX-5 on old-school Enkeis, the 'LaSupra' in its new #JoyOfMachine livery, an epic all-carbon Porsche Cayman with a 996 Turbo motor swap, me with Swedish MX-5 owner Daniel Frankenberg, and John D'Agostino's jaw-droopingly beautiful roof-chopped Caddy build that was brought in from America for the show.

Four crazy days of Speedhunting madness ensued, with little sleep in between, and during that time I discovered that Swedish car enthusiasts are NEXT LEVEL dedicated. I'm not sure if everyone out there knows this, but Sweden only really has two seasons, a beautiful three month-long summer, and then just COLD. Lots and lots of cold. During mid-winter they only have something like five hours of daylight, (and even then, the sun is low in the sky and mostly hides behind cloud), and they have to put up with freezing temperatures and snow and all kinds of nonsense! You'd think a climate like that would make Swedish people have a 'why-the-hell-would-I-build-an-incredible-performance-car-in-my-garage-when-I-could-be-by-the-fireplace-with-a-hot-cocoa' sort of attitude, right? Completely wrong. So wrong.

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One of my personal favourite cars at the show. The owner of this track-ready looking MX-5 knows what's up.

If you're wondering what I mean, you should probably read Bryn's 'Engine Swaps of Elmia' story on Speedhunters as this will give you a bit of an insight. The funny thing is, the Swedes might build absolutely mad cars, but they're genuinely some of the nicest people I've ever met. I felt so welcome there and I especially appreciated that the people I was with at the show kept talking in English around me so that I didn't feel left out!

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Mesmerising smoke clouds from a Toyota Supra competing in the Saturday night drifting competition known as 'Påsksladden'.

Travelling around the world to cover a radical car event for a job might sound like it's not really work, but when you're a weak/nerdy girl like myself sometimes it does get a bit intense. I mean, it's not called Sleephunters, you know? The cold and extremely dry climate in Sweden was wreaking havoc with my asthma, and on my third day there I was still struggling to shake off my jet lag. By the time I got back to my hotel room in the wee hours of Sunday morning after running around at the show all day, shooting four hours of night drifting in 3°C temperatures with only a light jacket on...

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I don't really know what words to use to describe this one. I'll just let the photo do the talking. After I took this photo I looked behind me and a standard-looking
Volvo sedan started ripping a mad stand-still in the middle of the parking lot!

... and then heading to a crazy post-apocolyptic-themed night meet with thousands of cars and drunk Swedish people with hay bales on the roofs of their Volvos cars, I couldn't feel my feet and my contact lenses felt like they were fused to my eyeballs. Speedhunting can be physically challenging like that sometimes, but these kind of trips bring around the coolest, I-never-thought-I'd-ever-be-doing-this opportunities and the whole time my mind was just buzzing like crazy. The Bilsport show was freakin' epic and I urge you to go there and see it for yourself. Also feel free to check out my article on Speedhunters about my experience here if you haven't read it!

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Clockwise from top left, Fredric Aasbø signing posters at the Speedhunters stand and a very happy looking Rodbot in the background, an incredible church steeple in Gamla Stan, an absolutely beautiful  40s Buick Roadmaster Coupe from the show which I fell in love with, the cute view outside my hotel window in Södertalje, me preparing to brave the cold weather outside in my new winter coat, and a sweet little cloud puff from my plane window as I was falling asleep on my flight from Stockholm to Dubai.

Upon my return to Stockholm, I checked into my final hotel in Södermalm where I spent four days working from Speedhunters head office. A lot of people (including Swedish readers) don't actually realise that Speedhunters is based out of Sweden, which was why it was especially cool to be able to meet some of our readers at Elmia! In between work training and meetings I also got to walk around the city a little bit and do some exploring, which was weird because to be honest I don't usually spend a whole lot of time by myself, so I was able to really clear my head and visualise the path I want my life to take and the things that I need to do in order to achieve my current goals.

I might be getting a little bit too personal here perhaps, but I'm the sort of person that constantly craves a sense of achievement. That feeling is probably different for everyone I guess. The weird thing is, I've only ever felt what I believe to be that feeling a total of three times before in my life. While I was in Stockholm, I had a strange and surreal moment of clarity where I felt that feeling again for the third time. If I could put that feeling into words, perhaps they would be 'you did it!' or 'you're truly good at this' or something cheesy like that. It felt so good, and I never wanted to let that feeling go.

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I was SO happy that I was able to snap this postcard perfect image of Kungsträdgården with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. You guys know how I feel about cherry blossom trees! 

But when I got back to New Zealand, I quickly realised that it's actually a good thing that I don't get that feeling very often. It's the voice inside my head that tells me that I'm not good enough; that voice that makes me be so hard on myself, that has got me to where I am today - a place that I've always dreamed of being. I think it's okay to stop sometimes and celebrate your little successes along the way, but if you ever stop pushing and start thinking that you've got to the top and already succeeded, then you're going backwards. You have to never stop pushing to be the ultimate version of yourself. That is the definition of success, and what I plan to continue to do throughout my journey, my life and my career with cars.

Thank-you so much for reading this post and supporting me. I'm a regular Instagram user so please feel free to follow my account @taryncroucher!

- Taryn x

PS. If you want any of these photos in high res, I upload most of them in bigger sizes to my photography blog at tarynrosekelly.tumblr.com