Honeymoon Couple Survives Six Natural Disasters
They didn't set out to do that, of course, Stefan, 38, tells AOL Travel News, but he and Erika, 32, did learn a life lesson: "Always expect the worst and hope for the best. And be prepared for anything!"
The couple, traveling since they met in 2007, has visited 16 countries including the U.S. For their honeymoon, they started planning in early November, leaving plenty of time to explore, Stefan says.
They got married Nov. 27, and headed off a week later, traveling with their infant daughter.
The trip of a lifetime was made possible because Stefan, an economist, had a nice severance package from a job he had left, and Erika, a foreign affairs policy advisor for the Swedish parliament, was on maternity leave – their daughter is now 10 months old.
"We had only a ticket from Sweden via Munich to Singapore and the return from Melbourne via Beijing to Stockholm. The other flights were booked as we went along, mostly on low-cost airlines in Asia. We also booked most of the rental cars and accommodations along the way," Stefan says. Most of their stays were in hostels.
"Our plan was to get a lot of sun and beach-life early in the trip, and experience nature and culture later in the trip. Some of the destinations were chosen for the diving, as we are both keen to go scuba diving."
The honeymooners encountered their first disaster right after they left Sweden, in Munich, where one of Europe's worst snowstorms delayed them for a day at the airport before they flew off to Singapore.
"After that we had a very nice month in Thailand, with no major disasters. In Bali, we were caught by the monsoon rains, which of course is a part of the season in January," Stefan says.
Off to Australia, in Perth the Svanstroms narrowly escaped bush fires.
"In Cairns, however, we had our first major disaster experience, when category 5 Cyclone Yasi had us being evacuated from our hostel to a nearby shopping mall while waiting for the storm to pass," Stefan says. They ended up sleeping on a cement floor with other evacuees.
A few weeks later, the Svanstroms and their young daughter were visiting friends in Brisbane, "where the (massive) flooding had just passed leaving devastation on the river banks downtown."
They were at the airport waiting for a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand when they got a call from worried relatives advising them a 6.3 magnitude earthquake had struck the city.
"We ended up in Auckland, and drove down to Christchurch where we only were able to see the airport due to the devastation in the city center," Stefan says.
"Next stop was Japan, where we experienced the earthquake of 11 March while eating lunch in Asakusa in northern Tokyo. It was quite a shocking experience."
The Svanstroms had a nice and calm visit to China, before returning home late last month.
Throughout their disaster travels, the newlyweds learned to "stay calm and to stick together when bad things happen," Stefan says, important lessons in any marriage.
"I also think that every crisis that you survive makes you stronger, and the bond between us has grown with every challenge we've met," Stefan says.
The experience was also quite humbling, he adds.
"Although we've had some bad luck, we still have our lives. Our thoughts are with those who couldn't escape these disasters. In the end, we are very fortunate to be alive."
The Svanstroms do plan to continue their travels in the future, Stefan says.
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