Lifestyle & Culture

‘Freedom to roam’: Sweden uses unique law to post the entire nation on Airbnb

Sweden, which on any given day is our favorite destination in Europe, has come up with another spectacularly off-beat travel promotion.

After the success of the brilliant “Call a Swede” campaign last year, the Swedes (collectively) have listed their entire country on Airbnb for 2017.

But there’s more to it than that. Sweden has built a clever advertising campaign on the cultural norm that separates it (in a good way) from the United States.

First, the gimmick … and it’s a great gimmick. In the promotional video on the Visit Sweden website, Åke (speaking for his 10 million countrymen) invites you to book his “home.”

Then he lists the fabulous features of the “relaxation area,” which include:

• 100,000 “tempered infinity pools.” Also known as lakes.

• A stunning “terrace, with custom-designed panoramic floor-to-ceiling views in every direction.” Translated: A ledge on a mountain overlooking the ocean.

• Okay, the bathroom leaves a little to be desired, though it does have a view.

What Åke is really selling is “freedom to roam,” which is something that makes Sweden and much of Europe completely different than the U.S.

In the U.S., there are actually laws giving property owners the right to shoot people who trespass. Walk into the wrong field and the souvenir of your visit could be a behind full of No. 2 buckshot.

In Sweden, right of public access laws mean you get to treat the whole country as if you own it. Sort of. It gives citizens and visitors alike the right to, well, roam the countryside pretty much to their heart’s content.Which opens up 450,000 square kilometers of the most perfect biking, hiking, camping and picnicking destinations in the world.

From the website:

When you are in Sweden you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation.

The website has details on how right to public access is applied, and it’s amazing!

Freedom to roam in practice

It is somewhat more detailed in its own section of the law. Breaking it down, here is how it goes:

  • You are allowed to access any land, except private residences, the immediate vicinity (70 meters) of a dwelling house and cultivated land.
  • You can put up a tent.
  • Campfires are allowed.
  • You are allowed to collect flowers, mushrooms, and berries.
  • Driving on private roads is allowed unless there’s a sign saying otherwise.
  • Swimming in lakes is allowed.
  • You can access any beach as long as you stay away from private residences.
  • You are allowed to catch fish in the five big lakes and along the entire coastline.

This is an entirely alien form of freedom for us Americans, but it sounds really good.

We were in Stockholm last year at this time, and it was absolutely the most welcoming, beautiful and efficient place we’ve ever been.

Here are a couple of posts from that trip in case you decide to roam:

Expat Essentials: Stockholm Arlanda Airport is a traveler’s paradise

Staying in Stockholm: Dispatches details four great hotel options … and one dream destination

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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