In Sweden everyone has the legal right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp almost anywhere in nature.
You may have seen the recent news about Sweden. The Scandinavian Shangri-La has turned the entire country into an Airbnb listing. As the cute and clever ad campaign from Visit Sweden notes, “the best part is – you don’t have to officially book accommodation because all publicly owned land is entirely free and accessible to everyone!”
“This is made possible thanks to a Swedish right guaranteed by the constitution – freedom to roam. This right enables the Swedish people to experience nature and enjoy the beautiful Swedish wildlife,” says Jenny Kaiser, president of Visit Sweden USA.
Known as allemansrätten (meaning “everyman’s right”), the right of public access gives people the freedom to roam just about anywhere in the countryside as long as they “Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy.” Essentially, a 100 million acre playground open to all.
In the United States we don’t enjoy this right. We get shot for trespassing, which makes traversing nature a bit more challenging. Of course we might not want strangers camping in our backyard, but we take our sense of ownership so seriously that we don’t even let people walk through a path in the woods should they be privately owned. We have very defined routes we are allowed to walk without much room for roaming off the path.
“Under the Right of Public Access we do not need permission to cross private land. This is the basis for the wide-ranging freedom we enjoy to spend time in the countryside,” notes the Swedish EPA.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t rules, but they are sensible. Here is what is allowed and what is not, according to the law:
- You are allowed to access any land, except private residences, the immediate vicinity (230 feet) of a dwelling house and cultivated land.
- You can put up a tent.
- Campfires are allowed.
- You are allowed to collect flowers, mushrooms and berries.
- Driving on private roads is allowed unless there’s a sign saying otherwise.
- Swimming in lakes is allowed.
- You can access any beach as long as you stay away from private residences.
- You are allowed to catch fish in the five big lakes and along the entire coastline.
As the conversation about public land in The States is coming to a boil, it would behoove us all to look toward countries that embrace the idea that access to nature is a natural right. How lovely it would be to go for a walk in the woods knowing we're graced with the right to roam ... and to pick flowers and berries along the way. At least in the meantime, there's a welcoming Airbnb listing in Sweden we might want to take advantage of.