Evan Barr is no stranger to making challenging life-changing decisions. He switched from law to engineering at university and later left his job as a civil engineer to fully commit his life to professional orienteering.
He was a runner for Australia's national team and came to Sweden to compete in the Orienteering World Cup.
“I thought I’d stay and train for a few months and then go home. And now I’ve been living here for two-and-a-half years,” he chuckles.
Barr's decision to stay in Sweden was made a couple of days before his return flight to Australia – when he got offered a job as a road traffic designer in Stockholm. His priorities have since shifted and the passion that brought him here has taken a back seat.
“When there’s a new culture, you want to get familiar with the new place you’re in – not spend every waking hour in the forest. All I did was orienteering, now I want to get familiar with the experience of living here,” he tells The Local.
But Barr hasn't completely broken his compass and forgotten the point of his favourite sport. Running remains a key hobby while the 28-year-old now devotes himself to transport planning.
As a road traffic designer, Barr designs models for new freeways and other infrastructure projects. He’s been involved in the expansion of ports in Stockholm and in Vättern in south-central Sweden.
“My job is the work before the shovels come out. It’s not just about building roads but looking at traffic in a system for people to move around in. Sweden’s got some of the best transporting structures in the world.”
When Evan Barr isn't out running, he's designing roads. Photo: Private
The Scandinavian perspective on the interplay between different modes of transportation is something that fascinates Barr.
He compares the Swedish approach to transport planning where cycling, walking, and driving are equally prioritized to that of Australia where “we build roads and if there’s money left we’ll invest in bike paths”.
Barr jumped at the opportunity to work in Sweden and says it is a decision he hasn’t regretted making. He strongly values and appreciates the professional experiences he’s been able to gain in his adopted country, despite the challenges that come with being based so far away from his friends and family.
“I like to push myself to do things I’m uncomfortable with. Like now – I’ve built myself a life here, in another country, on the other side of the world. It’s given me confidence to know I can do whatever I want.”