On Their Honeymoon, No Matter Where They Went, Disaster Followed

Originally published on April 8, 2011 9:59 pm

Stefan and Erika Svanstrom of Sweden had an elaborate four-month-long honeymoon planned, but they had no idea that no matter where they went, disaster would follow.

As soon as they set out on Dec. 6, they were stranded in Munich, Germany because of a massive snowstorm. For tonight's edition of All Things Considered, the couple told NPR's Melissa Block they faced a Monsoon in Indonesia. Later, they flew to Perth in Australia and they were trailed by brush fire and then in Cairns, they were followed by a category 5 cyclone.

Stefan told Melissa that he, Erika and their baby girl had to be evacuated and spent 24-hours in a mall with 2,500 other people.

It doesn't end there: Just before they made it to New Zealand and were headed to Christchurch, they heard a 6.3-magnitude quake struck.

Then, they found themselves at a restaurant in Tokyo

"It was shaky," says Erika. "But it's Japan." She says they didn't know something was really wrong until a waitress started pointing to the door and telling them something in Japanese.

Erica says they never once thought about going back home. But they did learn something about each other and their new marriage.

"It's a marriage built on love and nothing can change that," says Stefan, "not even the biggest earthquake in the history of Japan."

Erika says there's no one else she would like to spend an earthquake or a cyclone with than Stefan. Here's a bit of audio from their conversation with Melissa:

Of course, the backdrop here is tragedy: Thousands died in Japan alone and Stefan, Erika and Eleanor, their baby, made it back home safely to Sweden, while the people of Japan and New Zealand were left to pick up the pieces.

Melissa asked them about that and here's what they had to say:

For the full interview, listen to tonight's edition of All Things Considered on your local member station. We'll post the as-broadcast version of the interview at the top of the post, a little later tonight.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Weddings can be complicated affairs, but we're going to hear now from two couples for whom the wedding itself may be the easiest thing about getting married.

One couple from Sweden took a four-month long honeymoon, only to find themselves jumping from one catastrophe to the next: a monsoon, a cyclone, two earthquakes.

The other couple, from Michigan, plan to marry in Las Vegas in September. They're leaving for Vegas next week, and they're walking.

We're going to begin in Sweden with Stefan and Erika Svanstrom. They returned last week from their four-month honeymoon, which I think, it's fair to say, was a disaster or a series of disasters. They join us now by Skype from their home in Stockholm.

And welcome back home after this long ordeal.


STEFAN SVANSTROM: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Now, let's start at the beginning. The trouble started pretty much right away for you guys. In Munich, you got hit by one of Europe's worst snowstorms.

SVANSTROM: Yeah. We left Sweden on the 6th of December. There's actually a storm warning all over Europe with blizzards going through Central Europe. So we missed our connecting flight in Munich and had to spend a night in Munich before moving on to Singapore, which was our first destination.

BLOCK: Okay. And then you went on to Indonesia. I gather there was a monsoon. Then to Australia, what happened there, Erika?

SVANSTROM: Well, everything was fine for a couple of days. We were driving south from Perth, and then they started to send out warnings for cyclones, and also, we had bush fires starting the same day as we left Perth.

BLOCK: Okay. So snow, fire, a cyclone and then New Zealand.

SVANSTROM: And New Zealand, yeah. On the day we were traveling to New Zealand, we get a call from Erika's mom and she says: Oh, are you okay? I want to get hold of you guys. Are you still alive? There's been a major earthquake in Christchurch. Well, we're heading to Christchurch, so we had to reschedule our plans a little bit. We couldn't obviously go into Christchurch City. But we had a good time in New Zealand, apart from that hiccup.

BLOCK: The ordeal doesn't stop there, though. You ended up in Japan right before the major earthquake there last month.

SVANSTROM: Yes. That's correct. The thing is we were having lunch, and then in the middle of the lunch, two ladies in the restaurant started talking Japanese to us and talking really fast, and we don't speak Japanese, but we got the message. We need to get out. So we walked out, and five seconds later, it really started to shake, and it shook for almost four minutes.

BLOCK: You were traveling all this time with your baby daughter. Did you ever stop and think, you know, this is just crazy, we've got to go home, we're not safe, and she's not safe?

SVANSTROM: Well, actually, not really. Because last year, we tried to go to South Africa over Christmas and New Year's, and we ended up having leftovers at home on Christmas Eve because there was a snowstorm in Europe for four days, so this is the story of our traveling, I think.

BLOCK: You know, of course, well, these were all inconvenient and then probably scary, surely scary things for you. They were deadly events for a lot of people in the places where you were traveling, right?

SVANSTROM: It's always so hard to find time in interviews to talk about the sad plight or what the consequences were for other people, and you think about people and say this could be me.

BLOCK: Stefan and Erika, did you learn anything about each other through all of this that you didn't know going in?

SVANSTROM: Well, I think we're quite similar in that we assess the situation and we try to keep calm when there's something bad happening around us, and I like that about her. I hope she likes that about me as well.

SVANSTROM: Stefan is extremely calm. I get a bit annoyed about that sometimes...


SVANSTROM: ...because he's like overcalm. But, on the other hand, there is no one I'd rather be with when there is an earthquake or a cyclone or a bush fire or anything.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Stefan and Erika Svanstrom. They recently returned to Stockholm from their honeymoon.

Thanks to you both.

SVANSTROM: Thank you.

SVANSTROM: Thank you. Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.