User portrait – A Father, Three Children, and a Pickup Truck: Milan to Lapland and Back

Babbel Portraits speaks with architect and father Giuliano about his road trip to Lapland and learning Swedish.

Here is the latest chapter of our Babbel user portraits: today, we introduce you to Giuliano from Italy. The architect and father of three had a dream: to travel with his kids in a converted pickup truck to Lapland. To finance the trip, he wrote a blog about his adventure: Rovaniemi Express. Here he tells us about his journey, and how learning Swedish helped him to discover a whole new world, and to show his children that languages are alive.


“My name is Giuliano and I work as a freelance architect in Milan. I travel a lot and think that this is also an important experience for my children. I have three children and am separated from their mother, so you can imagine how difficult it is to afford a long trip together.

Last summer I decided to do something special with them, something that is meaningful – namely, to take a long trip just the four of us. To finance this, I asked friends and relatives for help, and also tried out Crowdfunding via the Internet. To everyone who helped me, I promised stories and drawings – a little bit of our journey. In order to tell the story of me and the adventure I threw myself into, I wrote a blog: Rovaniemi Express, named after the city that would be our ultimate destination, Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, and Finland’s northernmost province.

We started in Milan with a converted pickup truck that a friendly professor lent us. Northern Europe has always fascinated me. I have already seen some cities there, but this time I wanted to explore nature while having the concrete experience of what it means to go on a journey: the whole world that opens up between departure and arrival. That’s why it was essential to have our own transportation.

Exploring a new world: that’s exactly what my children should experience in a secure environment. And to really immerse yourself, you have to be able to communicate. That’s why I learned with Babbel. I enjoy teaching myself languages. I have already taught myself French, for example. On the one hand, learning a foreign language without any pressure is an opportunity to train your brain. On the other hand, it is also a game, or even a hobby. I learn a language the way I solve a Sudoku or a crossword puzzle. In the end, without realizing it, a good deal sticks in your memory.

For my children, language learning has a very different connotation. For them, learning a foreign language is something imposed on them, something connected with school and homework. The oldest (15) is slowly understanding that you can communicate in English all around the world, or even just understand lyrics when listening to music. It’s worthwhile to take them abroad for some time to change their attitude towards languages.

Our journey was split into short stages, each lasting just one or two days, and in doing this, we got to know many of our campsite neighbors as well as the site owners. We broke the ice quickly with a couple of words of Swedish. Although the Swedes speak English very well, I always tried to communicate with them in their native language. For me, it was easy enough to express my basic needs. But then, of course, they answer you, and it gets difficult (laughs). Swedish is, despite what you might think, not an especially complicated language. The accent is somewhat peculiar, but at the same time, it is also the most beautiful aspect of the language, because it is very musical. You might not expect it from a Nordic language, but it really sounds very gentle.

There were some funny moments – when the children tried to use the sentences they had learned in the supermarket or in other situations, for example. One particular story sticks in my memory: once when we were in a sauna at a campsite, I went out briefly with the little ones to cool off, and left the oldest behind alone. Shortly after, a few Swedes went in and started a conversation with him. I watched him from outside and saw how he spoke English without me there to help out, which made me very happy. It was also an important experience for him to show that he could do it without any assistance, and he was very proud.
I believe this experience has enriched us all and strengthened our relationship. This is definitely something that we will do again!

If you enjoyed Giuliano’s story and want to know more about his adventures with his kids, you can visit his blog, available in both Italian and English. But a warning just before you read it: you will feel an uncontrollable desire to pack your bags without thinking and take off on your own journey. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!