Pinoy At Heart

Swede Finds 'Key' to Happiness in a Tear-drop Shaped Island


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Choose Philippines | Aug 10, 2016

“Locks with keys or combination locks?”

For two days, that has been the most troubling thought weighing down on the mind of Sanne Sevig, a 29-year-old Swede who runs a humble hostel in Siargao. You see, her guests would often lose their keys when they hit the beach to go surfing. She’s trying to figure out whether to upgrade to combination locks or stick with the conventional ones and simply pray that her guests would take better care of their keys. While losing keys can indeed be an issue, it’s perhaps not the kind that you think about for two whole days. But since Siargao allows for a lifestyle that’s a whole lot more laidback compared to city living, such trivial concerns are usually the biggest problems Sanne has to deal with on her day-to-day.

READ: Swedish Girl Finds Happiness in a Tear-Drop Shaped Island in the Philippines

It hasn’t always been like that for Sanne, though. A few years ago, the Swede led a life that was so different from her modest existence in Siargao. Back then, she had a high-paying job as a project manager of a clothing company in Sweden. At the same time, she was travelling and lecturing in different parts of the country. She owned two homes—when most people would be happy to just have one—as well as two cars. At 25, Sanne already had what many of us work hard for and aspire to reach one day. But despite all of those, she was unhappy. She was stressed and exhausted all the time as a result of juggling two jobs. Sanne rarely saw her mom, despite the fact that she’s only a few hours away from her. Everything just became unbearable.

The breaking point came when Sanne fainted inside her car and accidentally drove off the road. While she didn’t sustain any injuries, this is what made her to finally made her decide to quit her job, leave everything behind, and start anew. A month later, she was in Manila. The bustling capital still reminded the Swede of her old life, though, so she found herself travelling once again. For two months, Sanne visited some of the best sights in the country. She’s been to the likes of Palawan and Boracay, both of which left her awestruck; but it wasn’t until Siargao that something clicked--she finally found her own paradise.

In Siargao, Sanne was able to set up a hostel that she co-owns with her boyfriend Cocoy, whom she met right away after settling down in the teardrop-shaped island. They called the hostel “Paglaom,” which is Surigaonon for “hope,” a word that strongly resonated with them because it’s what kept them going after their big move to Siargao. The couple intended it to be a budget accommodation fit for travelers and surfers who want nothing more than a clean and cozy place to stay in.

Sanne revealed that she didn’t expect her new business to make her rich, nor was it the point of setting it up. “I simply want a place to meet like-minded individuals. I wanted to create a place wherein amazing people could connect.” This statement perfectly sums up one of her heart’s greatest desires. “Life is not about collecting materials things, but collecting relationships.” she adds later in the interview.

Valuing the things that truly matter is just one of the many lessons Sanne has learned after her move to Siargao, which she now considers as her home. “I see myself growing old here. A nanay. A lola,” she fondly shares. After four years in the island, the Filipino at heart has grown tremendously as a person. There's no Wi-Fi, television, or aircon, but she always had a smile on. Sanne no longer possesses the luxuries she had in Sweden, but she feels fulfilled because of Nature Kids of Siargao, the NGO she and her boyfriend set up to help the less fortunate and educate children about protecting the environment. She's much healthier to boot, as her days usually consist of surfing and yoga, and is completely devoid of stress. Sanne's living a very simple life, but she's never been happier.

Photo from Patrik Enlund

Sanne's advice to others? Slow down and don’t just go from one place to another. Breathe, and enjoy the journey. All of those could be applied to travel; or you know, to life in general.

If you can relate to what Sanne went through pre-Siargao, perhaps an adjustment is in order. Sometimes, a minor tweak in your outlook in life is all that’s necessary. Other times, perhaps the way to go is to listen to your gut and basically start over, just like what she did. The latter isn’t for everyone, though, as the uncertainty could be truly terrifying. But on the flipside, taking the leap could take you to a better place. Maybe if you listen to your gut one of these days, you’ll find life to be like how Sanne finds it now. Maybe then, the biggest problem you'd have to deal with on your day-to-day would be something as trivial as deciding what kind of lock to use.


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