Lessons from Abroad – The Decision (Two Perspectives)

Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Animal Assisted Therapy | 2 comments

Lessons from Abroad – The Decision (Two Perspectives)

Lessons From Abroad – The Decision (Part 2) Two Perspectives


The first part of this blog series was a lot of the “broad” reasons why it’s been a tough road for this intercultural family. Today I’m going to tackle these reasons more specifically.


-Why now?

-Where are you going?

-What happens to Solgave Animal Solutions?

-Why did the culture not fit Sunniva? Was this predicted?

-When do you leave?

-What will you do in Sweden/Norway?

-Are you excited or sad? What are the emotions?

-What, if any, regrets from the time you guys were here two years do you have?

-And finally, I’m going to touch on being   an intercultural family and what it’s meant to our life.


Before I answer “Why now?” I want to share something.


Yesterday I received a phone call I had from someone I consider to be the best role model in my life, albeit I only see him once or twice a decade these days.


But I observe, and I’m been blessed with enough time in real life to know his soul and use my intuitive gifts to follow his journey on Facebook through is posts, pictures, blogs, or articles that intrigue him.


He’s also a rare breed, a tough 50 year old man, former Army Ranger, lawyer, athlete, (completed two full ironman triathlons in his 40’s) who dares to show emotion, respects and understands sensitivity is not a weakness, but a gift… and raises the bar high on being a friend, a son, a husband, a brother and a father.


When the decision was made to not just take a vacation back to my wife’s country of origin, but move our home base to Scandinavia, and do it fast, I knew we’d have to sell the car that was gifted to me (and most of our stuff) to have enough funds to get us back there!


If you remember for my 40th birthday I had some amazing surprises. My wife had gotten several people to pass on words they had recorded about what I had meant to them, or provided me with something really powerful. The gentleman above had bought a used car just to help someone out and put new tires on it, a battery, and made sure this old cop car (95 Caprice) ran good. Man, did it! As fate would have it and Sunniva sent a group message through Facebook he thought it to be divine coincidence and asked if we had a second car. We did not. The only car we had was a loaner from my family.


It has been our pet-sitting car for those long routes, and we finally have had the chance to be in two places at the same time. I felt since it him was a gift I needed permission to sell it.


So I asked him.


His answer?


“It’s your car to do with whatever you like. I didn’t give it to you with a set of expectations or rules that came with it. It was a gift. “


This kind of giving is new to me. It’s felt like things always had subtle rules attached, or an expectation of something later tied to that “gift” The embodiment of selfless love.


Giving without expecting or asking for anything in return is true giving. Again, an example of a soul I can only hope to continue to see as a role model in my life.


Within a day of listing it, I had two people interested, and if it did sell, the funds were going in an envelope,  to get our big rental vehicle (we have two huge dog crates, 1 smaller, massive luggage, and 4 humans) and the gas to get us to the airport in Chicago along with one night at a hotel.


If it sold, I knew we’d at least have that part of the journey covered!


So one gentleman really wanted it, called me several times, but the title was not found (chaos of our last move or a one year old who’s gone through all files possibly) and needed to wait on the replacement. Another guy yesterday said he’d buy it because of the engine and was going to move the body of the car to something else. I’m not a gear head, so I just nodded a lot. It’s an old police cruiser so the engine is clearly powerful. He needed to wait till Monday to see if the kit was available, but he wanted it and would pay asking price.

giving 2

Well, then the friend who I’ll keep anonymous (he would not want the attention) who gave it to us calls and said, “I’ll pay asking price Jared, and I know a guy who could really use it”


It makes me teary thinking of this whole scenario. Where does the goodness in this guy stop? I know he grapples with the darkness in all our minds, and there is a deep spiritual kindred appreciation for people like that in your life.


So on the phone later that day he tells me the story of this family and how they’ve had some tough luck. A hard working guy in the labor world, who had a sudden heart attack last year, and a car they had was totaled.


He thought this car would fit them perfectly.


“But I can’t in good faith sell a car you gave me as a gift, and then you buy it back to give it away I can.” I stammered.


“Jared, I GAVE IT TO YOU. It’s your car to do whatever you want with. I’m just saying I know someone who really could use it, and it’s listed at a good value and I think they’d really get a lot out of it.”


My conditioning says “Guilt, guilt, guilt” but my heart says “Holy shit man, people like him are what make me not lose faith in humanity”


I wanted to share that story, for reasons I’m not even sure of. I think to restate how much this guy who Sunniva knows is the one I watch to get insights into what being the best you can be as a father, husband, athlete, friend, citizen of this world we live in can be.


We all need role models.


He also shared this with me on the phone:


“I’m really happy for you man. If things were different and I wasn’t geographically tied, I’ll be honest, the vision 30 years out with the way things are going I’d likely move if I had young kids too. The core, the heart of the individual is the most important thing to keep healthy, and know that I’m really happy for you both.”


He knows enough by observing Sunniva she is a fish out of water here, and had tough doses of culture shock while here.

fish-out-of-water civil2

A baby born, and as a breastfeeding mom who also works, she is constantly fighting sleep deprivation. She’s seen both the best and worst shade of a very divisive area. Don’t get me wrong. SHE can be polarizing. Because she cares so damn much.


About human rights, children’s rights, the planet, and people that can’t fight for themselves. This is one of many reasons we align like perfect magnets. (But as I’ve shared lately some good articles on real soul mates, your battles are intense as you see the worst sides of yourself and have to face them if you stick around)


I know when she gets back home her lens will be different. Her writing, her spirit, her zest for life will be explosive and I’d give up just about anything to have that happen.


1)   Why go now?

Valid question. I always hoped our commitment here would be three years to see the business fully mature. We had to really navigate around how SAS fit into who we are. We started in March of 2012 doing nothing but a team approach of Behavior Modification initially. She loved the severe aggression-phobias-fear cases and the ones other people could not handle, or had lost hope. In fact that energy shifted us into the Second Chance idea. There will be more blogs about the evolution of the brand, and our experience here, why it shifted, and how that vision is now authentically us. I have to say, when Sunniva realized she was not on Earth to be a dog trainer, it in way means she found dogs she couldn’t handle or cases she couldn’t solve, quite the opposite. It’s like a young actor who gains tremendous success quickly and has “gifts” but realizes his purpose is something greater.  That’s her story to tell, but a realization that must be not misunderstood.


I had been pretty firm on waiting one more year to get the business a bit more mature, so that managing it remotely would be easier, but when we finally agreed that the family move would occur in one year, it became easier and easier to decide on going sooner than later. (After my initial struggle on that timeline) Gabi would enter Steiner school with the other Norwegians at the exact same time as the others. They start school one year later here and that was a major part of our decision.



Her horse Sawa, who has been leased the entire time we were gone was either going to be shipped over here ($15,000) or leased there until we arrived.


We looked at me coming in 3 months after her and the kids. We looked at lots of variables.


I can’t stress this enough, we filled up notebooks with pros and cons on why, when, and how.


This is a major life decision, but the sailors in us don’t fear change and deep down I know we could be back here one day, or the coast of Australia for that matter.


So, with us having to wait on some money to buy the tickets, we purchased them the day we could, and our departure date is August 17th from Chicago to Stockholm (versus New York to Oslo) to save us 3 days of driving time!


It’s vital for the dogs to be safe, no stops in between, etc. My wife wrote a lot about that on our way over here. We even sold our car there to get the best crate money can buy for their well being (and it has to be really huge because of how tall our dogs are)


SUNNIVA: Since we’re doing this “two perspectives” style, I will try not to overlap too much with what Jared has already written.


Why now… Up until probably mid-May, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to go back to Scandinavia. I was set on settling in the US, at least for another two years.


In some ways I was feeling pretty miserable at times, in other ways I was happy. It’s not black or white. Some people say “you’re sleep deprived, rest up and things will get better,” others say “go back on vacation, get your culture re-fill and come back recharged.” Both points are probably valid. I WAS missing home. And likely I would have kept things going here for a while longer after coming back from a potential vacation.


Here’s where a side of me that most people may not know that well comes into play: my intuition, or gut feeling as many call it.




It had stopped feeling right. I’m a strict follower of my intuition, it is my guide here in life, and it by far overshadows logic and reason to me.


One day I literally woke up and felt like my time here was done, we had learned what we needed to know, and our purpose in life was re-shifting. Say what? I know – it sounds crazy. Which is why I don’t voice things like this much, I usually try to find a logical reason, and use that instead of the real one – that it didn’t FEEL right anymore.


You see, Jared had lived here before, he had had a life here before. A different one, for better and worse.


While still back in Sweden we felt it was extremely important that we would go to the US to either close out some chapters, heal, grow and move on – or keep writing new chapters, in the book that is our life.


It turns out we are choosing to close some chapters, and keep writing others (more on this later).


Why now?


Because it feels right. The logical aspects of it, such as money, school for Gabi, and other reasons are strong. But to be honest, the logic reasoning is worth little to me if my gut feeling doesn’t support it.


2)   Where are you going?

For the transition period we are going right back where we were. It’s a beautiful, dare I say typical Swedish farm home. Over 100 year olds with two levels that are pretty independent.


We will go back to living on the upstairs portion of the home, and as our long term friends know and will remember, the staircase project that allowed us to get up and down without having to go through the main house created a real apartment feel that gave us needed independence.


It’s a place called Halle, Sweden but just a few kilometers from the Norway and Swedish border. I guess you could say they get the best of both worlds. My in laws and wife are Norwegian. Do not confuse that with being Swedish, the farm is on the Swedish side of the border so that’s why my residency card in Europe is in Sweden.


SUNNIVA: I think Jared sums this up nicely! 


3)   What happens to Solgave Animal Solutions?


Great question. We’ve met with our leaders and will find out what part timers and holiday folks want to stay on board and will operate as it is now! To be honest, the excitement I have with the business is as powerful as it was when we got our first t shirt made and were off and running!


I have paid the insurance through April 1, 2015 (no small chunk of change to cover ten people or more) and our plan is to use our happiness and motivation to continue taking things to the next level through the fall and winter. More on that later.


I am working now on shifting our staff to IC’s (training is over and I had them as employees in case we opened a store, and to not skirt the law in how much we put into personal and professional development) We will have weekly Skype sessions with leaders, daily chats with our team, and a blast of creative flow again. The dark cloud of uncertainty that has been tough on everyone is finally lifted, one a plan was established.


When one of the founders is struggling is struggling with an identity  crisis, it effects us all.  She is a great dog trainer, an incredibly gifted animal communicator, but realized it’s not  the primary reason  she’s on earth and lost interest in all aspects of the business  for awhile as our vision was straying from Solgave’s roots.


Now we are on fire. Talking about how to revamp our site, spend time on all social media platforms we never followed through as well as we should. Newsletters, client emails, and so much more!


My belief is, our clients and staff will find the journey more engaging, more money potential for staff, and a great chance to expand their roles a bit as we have volunteers taking on the tradition of the community pack walks.



Pay will move to direct deposit and we are moving our last form paperless, so I can still be involved in all bookings, negotiating big deals and finally doing what I hoped to one day do, have all my time to lead, unite, and create! I know in my heart, the company will see big increases each month as we are seeing in June, and already July!


I have had to give a deep  apology  to the team for the fact we disappeared for 8-12 weeks as we were in survival mode until we figured out where we were going, how it would work, etc.


Our regular clients that only Sunniva and I take will get visits from us personally about the move, my planned 4-5 months a year here, and introduce them to new leadership.   I already use back ups on most regular clients and that back up sitter has as good a relationship as I do with them!


We put our heart and soul into SAS for 8 months before even landing stateside and sacrificed EVERYTHING year one to keep it going and slowly growing.



I also have a return flight November 6th and as I said, if we continue to grow at the pace we are predicted to do so I’ll be here 4-5 months a year.


Come April 1st, we’ll take a deep look at where our Scandinavian endeavors are,  how the company is doing and make some decisions then. Nothing would make me happier than to have one of our own be a full operator or owner of this location as we start some of our ideas we’ve been establishing quietly that we’ll put into action in Norway and Sweden, part of which is animal care! One thing is for sure, this company is truly about to be global!



SUNNIVA: SAS is like our baby, our baby that we are now putting in “daycare” for the first time. We are not adopting our baby out – we are just having someone care for it in the daytime, but we get it back at night and are the primary caretakers. Jared explains the details of what this means, but that it how it FEELS to me, hah!


4)   Why did the culture not fit Sunniva and why did I know this is a risk?


Let us not forget that even I  LEFT THIS COUNTRY WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE. I have a socialist heart, and an ideology and philosophy of how the world works based on my vantage point, so leaving a country so divided and so media and corporate controlled was easy to do.  What I mean by that is, I was never part of the collective thinking of the area I am from. I’m sure there are pockets of the country where forward thinking, progressive, optimist, spiritual and not as religious people exist, but it’s not the norm here regionally. When we traveled through the summer of 2012 she loved it.


My old friends (most of which I have no relationship with today due to a fall out over things I find more hurtful as time goes on, but am learning to accept it) share no common interests in the things we are so active in fighting for, and that somehow created angst towards us by many.


I won’t apologize for our views though.   Gay rights, equality, climate change, income inequality, polluting this earth, lobby power and the smoke screen it creates to the masses, a media that divides, a gun hungry society that panics when the word “legislation” comes in and so many things are issues we toe the line for.  Sunniva can come across so strong, but in person the people that left us as friends always enjoyed time with her.  Life is just not a perfect picture in that way, ya know. I think some of the toughest growth for me this year, and there has been loads, was judgments and words said by people i considered siblings. (known each other since we were 5) I was shocked by the envy, anger, resentment of just how I live my life I guess. I try hard to not think about how they live theirs and certainly never got fired up enough to take low blows.


Listen, I come from a family of hunters. A family of conservatives. A Christian family.  I always felt like a black sheep, but the dividing issues never got in the way of love and certainly never turned into insults.


My own sweet little mom killed more than one armadillo with a pistol on the farm they live on to keep the population down as they tear up her yard. I am for RESPONSIBLE BACKGROUND CHECKS, assessing automatic rifles with intent to kill, etc. But somehow the media turns brother against brother on issues like this when the next school shooting occurs.


Not even the police carry guns in Norway. Spanking has been illegal since 1966. Please understand my wife  was in CULTURE SHOCK. Most people have really grasped how hard that type of change would be, but a surprising number of old friends took the opposite approach. “Don’t like it, go home” was said by one.

It’s mainly ideological and philosophically views of the world that are different, but it’s not just that, it’s the fear used to push it into people’s heads. I’ll be very anxious for her to write about her US experience when she is safely on the other side.


I know she’ll miss the kindness we felt from so many. Having a baby like we did means it’s much tougher year one and year two, but we believe, and now science shows that those years and the energy and attachment can effect that child well into adulthood. She sees that as an easy sacrifice, despite how hard it is.


We’ll miss the park dates, the farmers markets, and the random mix of personalities that have become our friends here.


The truth is, our friends we get to see 2-3 times a year maybe? While some think we may not be able to come back every summer, we will try hard man. It’s important for my son and Gabi to know their father’s culture. For Neo it’s truly his second homeland as he is the only one with two passports and the complete freedom to be a legal citizen of two of the greatest countries in the world (Norway and the US)


SUNNIVA: Oh. This is a tough one. I think one can adapt to almost anything, and in that… I guess it isn’t that the culture didn’t fit me, but that the energy didn’t match me. It’s also impossible to sum up “American Culture,” because the country is simply too large, with so many different sub cultures. The culture, or energy of Middle America, does not fit me.


I guess you could say it’s too extreme? I turned extreme while here. I suddenly saw everything in black or white. It feels like it’s either too much, or too little of most things here. But YES – I know that it is possible to find ones tribe, and a purpose, in just about anywhere in the world. And in that I feel like I failed.


I could have spent more time with likeminded people, who cares for what I care for, and who’s passionate about what matters in the world (according to me) – but I didn’t. I had enough just managing myself, my marriage, and my children – not to mention the business!


I’m not used to only two political parties, it’s so incredibly divisive. I’m not used to this intense love of weapons, found especially here in the south. I noticed a magazine called something like “Garden and Guns” the other day, and I thought to myself, how on Earth can someone tie those two things together?


We have guns in Norway too. They aren’t semi automatic weapons flaunted in Target or at Chipotle though, but hunting rifles and such. Used for hunting, and only hunting – not lovemaking, such as you should think while seeing and hearing the gun fanatics talk. I never understood the panic of the people – I never once heard someone say that gun control meant taking everyone’s guns away? I thought it meant controlling WHO can get guns, legally.


Guns in target


There’s so much fear. So much media induced fear! I’m thankful that I didn’t experience much of that, or any at all, living in Fayetteville though. It’s a sweet, progressive, caring little town, that really is (in my humble opinion) light years ahead of its surrounding little towns and places.


I have to say, I was never very interested in politics back home. Here? Oh my. The level of insanity in politics in America rivals that of an asylum in the 1800s. I’ve been sucked in, only to find myself tearing my hair out and yelling at the computer screen, due to the idiocy I’m observing. I should have stayed OUT OF IT and never gotten involved. I regret that I voiced my opinion. It caused old friendships of Jared’s to dissolve, and divides to happen within the family.


“We all want the same thing, for our children to be happy,” was a comment I received on a political post about gender equality and gay marriage. I guess deep down, most all people want their children to be happy! But I also happen to want my daughter to grow up in charge and control over her own body, with the rights to make her own choices, and if she or my son happens to be gay? I want for them to have the same rights as straight couples. I don’t CARE about their right to carry a gun, because there are more important things out there! So yeah, we want them happy, but I also want them to be free. Free to be themselves. 


5)   When do you leave?


Well, that depends. We have a busy month ahead of scheduling clients, a pack walk, training sessions locally in their homes, and so much more to do!


We either pay half of August rent and continue to work (have some bookings for In Our Home Boarding that would/could make that justifiable) or we use the last 16 days and stay with my family in Missouri and cherish the final memories of time in the pool, coffee talks, Scrabble, and maybe a grandma trip to Silver Dollar City. We would then get the largest rental vehicle they make, and head to Chicago with a one-night stay in St Louis along the way.


SUNNIVA: What he said! ^^


6)   What will you do in Norway/Sweden?


First thing I’m going to do, drop the 35 pounds of American weight I am carrying. There is no better geography to run, hike, and work outside non-stop. With horses, stalls to muck, barn repairs to be made, cabins to build, we will be busy!

Learning from GAbi

There are two interviews lined up with private companies (we went through the state and got interviewed and had our visit home girls from Kommunes, not private agencies) to be an emergency home. This is not as common in the US but Norway being a socialist country does a great deal for the foster kids, and how they handle the social welfare systems. Foster homes get one weekend a month free to gain their sanity back, and where do they go during those times? That’s the role we would play. Sunniva’s mom has been in this field for 30 years. A psychology degreed professional working in the social system of Norway. Primarily filming families that are having issues and showing the positives to them so they can work on having more balance in the home.


Part of the negotiation of getting me back, was getting our first cabin built quickly. Remember if you go back to the early Solgave blogs and our dreams it was using that farm (I have the domain solgavefarm.com) for equine therapy, outdoor education space for two neighboring school districts (we left and switched gears before having meetings with staff on this but a working model nearby shows it happens.


I’ll insert a photo of the cabin we are going to build with her dad’s help.(or something like it)



I will get to use it to write and have my own space A critical component to my sanity, hah! I hope that we work on our new site immediately (Solgave Farm- Part Eco Tourism – Outdoor Education – Workshops – and eventually a shop selling American items)  The eco cabin concept and farm vacations were very great business models, and the property was perfect for it.  So coming back full circle, we hope to approach those ideas again.


I always saw two cabins, and now Sweden has allowed them to go from 15 square meters to 25 square meters with no permits. People in Europe and many in US are traveling too more primitive ways of living to “reconnect” with nature and again, this is what Solgave began as.


My marketing, English, and selling background was excited to have that part of our operation. Farm vacations are very popular there (Google it) and we would essentially be just that if things went well and it looked as if Sunniva and I could earn enough to keep the farm.


The property of that farm is amazing. Horse barn, pasture, great big home, woods, hills, and on the other side a flat area going just up the fjord. The idea was for someone to build there if/when Sunniva or Elin got married. I took a lot of photos that year and knew that I could see myself growing old here. The geography is just soul changing.




Ten mile running

Playing at the harbour

I became the first project, and mind, body, and spirit was balanced out with no TV, organic foods, and lots of working outside and being tuned into Source constantly.


We also expect to market our Animal Solutions side now that we have credibility.   House sitting primarily is what we’ll go after, especially on horse farms.


stable time sunni

I will use that cabin and attempt to take me old Lessons from Abroad collection and self publish an E-Book. I am back to dreaming about all the things that we were on fire for when we started.


SUNNIVA: There’s not much I can add to this, I don’t know if you have noticed, but Jared is kind of “wordy” – in the best possible way (I love him)! 


7)   Are you excited or sad?


Both. Of course I’m excited and of course I’m sad. I spent every ounce of my soul with this Solgave US vision to make sure I did not have to work for the man. We sacrificed a lot, but I never missed a single benchmark of my son’s life. No video from a daycare showing his first crawl, walks, or words. I’ll always be proud of how true we stuck to our dedication to not miss these moments.


I’m sad that now I leave my country. Coming back to a place with such history, it was good and bad. I got to face people I had not seen in 20 years and even if they dodged me, no eye contact, etc they saw I had changed. I’m not going to lie that it’s odd at times. Just today I see that the ex before my ex who has a lovely husband and daughter were likely going to eat where we had brunch today and due to me being outside, stayed in. Little things like that wear on you.  You try so hard to redefine who you are and be judged for today, and what lies ahead, but I have to accept for some it takes longer or those ideas of me may be hard to rid.


And  I saw a dirtier side this time. Old friends I’ve known since 5 (just a few in particular, but the rest took neutral sides and that to me is as hurtful) let me know I was a tax burden, and other things I think aren’t appropriate for a blog.   One childhood friend despised the notion Neo could choose to be a socialist (what I just call a Norwegian) and for 3 days went on some kind of wild spree to prove how great America is and how horrible my wife’s country homeland is. I saw mutual friends I thought were really close to me, cheer him on. It was just all surreal.   This started from a “How’s it going” Facebook chat.   At the end of the day, everyone is human. I’ve tried my best to live authentically and survive what has been a tough life at times. I’m really proud of me and can’t forget that. (even though the voice of needing approval goes back to my childhood and I just hope to slowly rid the character traits of dependence or placing value of self on others, versus the value I place on myself.  I’m a work in progress, but again, proud of the work I’ve put in.


I’ve not made it a secret I had bouts with depression, suicidal thoughts, and a losing desire to even live. So for me, to find moments to celebrate I will flaunt all I want. I think every human should get their choice to live a life that suits them.


Every single person from my county home, since this happened has pulled back like I’m a leper.


I’m sad about that. My wife will vouch I never once said bad things about anybody. I’m a good dude with a sensitive heart, who is overwhelmed many days at being a new dad to two kids, a husband to a soul mate who tests every aspect of me forcing growth I’d just soon avoid like the rest of society.


But with a few months now that has passed, I’ve realized it wasn’t them, but me who clung on to the idea that people change and are friends naturally for life. Some are, some are not. And that’s okay…


Anyway, we had and have supporters who love us, kept in touch, showed us much we’ve overcome, let us know how proud we are to face things head on and boy it doesn’t take many nudges to keep going. Thank you to the ones that have held on, and inspired us, and let us know this international family is doing things the world is proud of. Another one that would prefer to be nameless, but is a big asset to this state and calls Little Rock home now, has been the largest supporter of our Solgave vision from the inception in Sweden, our move here, and a strong support system and friend during a tough transition back.  Thank you MCY.


So, yeah I’m excited to have our home base where I can easily travel to most countries in that part of the world that I’ve yet to see. It’s easy to get a 30$ flight on Ryan Air and spend the afternoon in London and come home. Those are the things that keep me excited, and remind me that being international once we get a bit more established, will be a great journey for us and our children to respect this planet and see it truly as one.


I’m excited about the geography. If you follow #natureporn shots on Reddit most of them are from Norway or Iceland. When I lived there year one, we did not have the funds or time to travel much as we were navigating just how to stay together without me coming back to the US.


Spending time by the ocean, exploring.

Spending time by the ocean, exploring.

Love is a risk - do it anyway


I’m excited to be fit again! You’ll see what happened last time, happen again. I dropped 30 lbs. the first 3 weeks alone! It was a rapid transformation and I miss the horses, I miss the physical work that comes with the farm.


I’m excited to be an outsider again, where I can observe and start writing like I was capable of doing when living there that year. I’m excited about possibilities! I’m excited to see my wife happy!


I’m excited to possibly ski! I’m excited to have air that feels so pure! I’m excited to just be around new cultures!


I’ll miss a lot, but I’m going to follow up now that we’ve announced things more formally with blogs more specific. What I’ll miss the most about the US, as an example.


SUNNIVA: Excited, sad, happy, pensive, relieved, hopeful, grateful, torn, sensitive, appreciative – all of the above!


This is a big deal, this move across the world! It’s one that I have done before, and the fear of failure does seep in at times. I remind myself in those occasions that this is NOT a failure, in fact we achieved everything we wanted and more!


We moved to the US to cement our family as a unit, to start a business, and to heal old wounds. This was not about me wanting to be a dog trainer or not (because I have to admit, it’s not my deepest passion!


While I love dogs, I want to work with humans using dogs as the teachers and therapists, to heal the human spirit), this was solely about our family, and a large scale dream, and taking the first step on the staircase toward that dream.


I am proud of us,  and all that we have achieved.  And to be honest? I’m proud of us daring to dream and taking the chances we did, and then seeing that we were  slightly on the wrong path somewhere down the road, and that we have the courage to realign our sails a bit. 


8.) Any regrets from the time you guys were here?


You know, that’s a tricky one. I try to live my life as if every uncomfortable situation is a learning experience…so regrets are not easy to roll off the tongue.


I regret Tricia Jennings doing things that cost her time and money for the Solgave Project.

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I regret not spending enough time with people I really like. Even our neighbors, or friends across town…all of us have young children and despite having so much in common just rarely see each other.


Ya know, I wish I could have spent more time with my own family but that’s a complex thing to talk about and more suitable for a specific blog. My biological dad and his mom (my grandma) have not met Neo. That could be really hard on me, but by living honorably and with a code and I can’t let the conditions of guilt eat me up. I extended an olive branch out once this year to my dad (and I by no means had too) and he did not respond.


All in all, I don’t regret much. I have lived a life that should have left me dead times over so to be sitting here and thinking if I regret anything during our time here is sort of silly if I think about it’s context.



SUNNIVA: I aim to live so that I regret nothing, but I do regret not having to have spent more time with the people who really matter to me. I’ve gotten a couple of really good friends, who’s also acted as mentors and supporters to me, and I will miss them terribly. Beyond that, I can’t say that I have any regrets. I have a lot of positive experiences, that I cherish, and I will continue to do so. Those experiences does not go away, simply  because time passes.

Regret is a dangerous emotion, one which is not aligned with living in the moment or letting go. I choose to not focus on the negative (regret), but the positive.


9) What is it like being an intercultural family, and what has it meant to your life?


Being an international and intercultural family is rough on every person I’ve talked to. Especially, when each family is from a very good country, with solid traditions, and reasons to want to stay there.


My wife landed in the Midwest. You can look at a map of how the country is laid out politically and what those views mean. I used to have a shirt that said “Blue State Proud” The map shows we lie in red state America.


She is surrounded by people (and it isn’t people as much as the energies in pockets that share ideologies) where she comes from; the Liberals here are conservatives there.


They have happy lives there. Her family wondered why in the hell she would come to the US but we wanted to cement our tribe and show that we can create something from nothing. The brand Solgave was not an official non-profit; it was a project in Sweden based on our spiritual philosophies on life. We knew we did not work for anyone else, or have me gone 50 hours a week so that we can drive a nicer car, so we sculpted out an animal care company and in my opinion are building one slowly that with our team, and our leadership both abroad and locally (remember I’ll be here chunks of the year without the wife and kids to keep SAS growing)


I think both her mom, and especially the time of year her dad and step mom came to visit us they LOVED this town. The COOP, Arsaga’s Depot and the unique vibe of this liberal city we have called home for almost two years.

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The truth is that one of us, had to lose the comforts of their home country. Unless, and we are working on this, we can create something that allows 6 months per year (at least for me in the beginning, and possibly the whole family at some point) It’s a far fetched idea to some now, but we are looking years out and never stop believing in our dreams.


So there will be lots of new chapters written. The book of our life and brand we call Solgave is just getting a Scandinavian home. This is my 3rd move across the world, and may not be the last.


Sunniva and I share a pirate like spirit to keep moving, traveling, seeing, learning, and realize the more culture our children can see…. it outweighs the history books they learn in class ten fold.



SUNNIVA: It is hard, in so many ways! Some days I feel discouraged, thinking “are we always doomed to have one of us not fully happy?” One of us will always be away from home, and may experience homesickness or cultural differences that makes everyday life hard.


 However, I believe the hardships by being an international family is outweighed by the good, the advantages and the fun parts of it. Speaking two languages, having two home countries (it improves our odds of winning at something during the Olympics!), and learning more deeply about two different parts of the world. 


No, this was not easy. There are unanswered questions and tough things to face on the other side during our transition.

But follow our journey, and watch our team keep SAS going here, not just going, but growing, and through our blogs and Facebook posts you can see that first cabin go up and here how our interviews go with the first private agencies that could mean children staying with us at the farm. Mentoring and helping kids through nature, animals, and alternative learning styles is a big part of why we began this journey almost 3 years ago.


Stay tuned for Part 3 of this unique journey of a family with children, and dogs moving across the world one more time.


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  1. Seriously, this is so beautiful I’m over here trying not to cry. T and I are so happy for you all. I just don’t know how we’re gonna deal with you being so far away again!

  2. It’s such a tough decision to make, but when I was talking to my mom about the upcoming changes, I said to her, “Sunniva doesn’t want her child raised here.” And to be honest, I don’t blame you. I have stayed here and will continue to stay here unless life takes me somewhere else. I’m glad to be a part of Solgave and I really hope that with the rest Sunniva will be able to finally get and the environment you all will live in – without the chaos and the frustration – that this company can grow. We shall see; I have hope.

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