Changing Adventures

25 Jun

Sven Lundberg describes himself as a man who, in the past, did not want to be tied down – particularly by serious relationships.

An independent and self-sustaining individual, he found freedom on his motorcycle, driving over 180,000 miles in 8 years alone. After enduring a year highlighted by loss and pain, however, Sven finds himself now embarking on an entirely different journey.

“I was in a physical adventure,” Sven said. “Now, I’m in a spiritual adventure.”

Sven’s life had been surrounded by spiritual influences from the very beginning. His parents both worked for the Salvation Army for a time, and Sven’s father, Ake, worked 12 years as a photographer for Christian speakers such as Billy Graham and Luis Palau. Sven says leaders like Ethel Waters and George Beverly Shea babysat him during religious conferences.

Despite being marinated in a religious world, Sven says he felt disconnected from the people around him.

“I grew up around all these spiritual icons,” Sven says. “But I never felt I could measure up.”

The Lundberg family moved to Oregon when Sven was 12. A few years later, Sven began using illegal drugs – a habit that stuck until he was 26, when he decided to become serious about his relationship with God.

“I woke up one sunny summer day, burnt out from drugs and partying, and I just knew,” Sven says. “I liken it to the thumb of God pressing on my head.”

Ake later baptized his son in the Baltic Sea, and Sven says he felt relieved to finally be on the right path in his life. While he admits he still dabbled in drugs over the next few years, he was on his way to recovery. At 28, Sven was drug free.

Through the years he struggled with illegal drugs, however, Sven developed his passion for art.

Sven’s high school art teacher, Judy Vogland, inspired Sven to pursue art in his junior and senior year in high school. After he graduated, he worked for Judy in a variety of art media for several years, until his first motorcycle wreck at 22 left him physically disabled.

His love for art did not fade, though. Sven continued working in the art media that he could, including photography. Having grown up with a professional photographer as a parent, Sven was no stranger to cameras. He shot pictures for different publications, as well as for rescue missions on the coast and social projects.

While  overcoming his addiction to drugs and developing his love for art, Sven continued to ride his motorcycle. He says he loved experiencing new adventures, seeing new places and meeting new people. He often would strike up conversations with strangers at public parks and at bars, saying that some of his most interesting conversations were with ex-convicts and elderly men.

One particular man Sven met in Montana drove his lawn mower five miles into town each day. Carl, who lost his driver’s license from drunken driving, puttered to the local bar from his ranch at 7 a.m. each morning to start his day off with several alcoholic beverages. Sven says that meeting people like Carl is part of what makes traveling by motorcycle so interesting.

“It’s very liberating to have an open mind,” Sven says. “We’re all so unique.”

But Sven’s motorcycle days came to an abrupt end when he was 40, after sustaining serious injuries from a third motorcycle accident. His latest injuries only added to the pain he endured since his first accident at 22.

“Everything changed, because I loved riding, going places and meeting new people,” Sven says. “I loved it, and it was really hard for me to get over. … I don’t regret it, even though I’m damaged from it. I got to see so much, so early.”

Sven says it was at this point his journey became more relational rather than geographical.

For instance, most people had never seen Sven’s artwork, which he produced mainly at night. A friend and fellow artist, Greg Lewis encouraged Sven to display his work to the public, but Sven was hesitant about the idea.

“I didn’t do art to be public,” Sven says. “It was a sanctuary place.”

Sven says his doctor calls him a “stubborn Swede,” a character trait Greg faithfully battled against to help his friend become more artistically expressive. After years of providing encouragement, Greg finally convinced Sven to display his creativity in 2010 through a 30-year retrospective art show at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.

The art show highlighted the beginning of many changes for Sven. He recently had to short sell his home and live with friends for three months. He also has dealt with chronic pain on a daily basis from his motorcycle injuries, as well as anxiety, stress and depression from his pain and housing situation.

But through overcoming the dark side of these difficulties, Sven says he has a clearer view of life.

“I’ve actually been liberated from attachments,” Sven says. “I’m beginning to see that suffering is needed. It’s a gift – it really is. … Now, I’m so much more empathetic with people.”

Sven says he is excited about his future. He currently works at John Growth Glass in Hillsboro, Ore., and he plans to help Greg Lewis with a design project at an Oregon monastery. Now settled in a quiet condominium with his dog, Thor, Sven also prepares for his upcoming marriage to his fiancé, Cindy.

Realizing the value of the support his friends and family provide, Sven says relationships are what carried him through the difficult times and continue to keep him strong. But like the stubborn Swede his doctor accused him of being, Sven continues to live life to the fullest, encouraging others take risks but to never take one moment for granted.

“Your time is the most valuable thing you have – it’s where the gold is,” Sven says. “Give your time. It’s the best thing anyone can do.”

All images have been provided by Sven Lundberg, other than the photo of his dog, Thor.

Until next time,

LoveByrd

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