“To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen
I’ve been in Copenhagen for just over a week now and want to report on what I’ve done, seen, experienced, and thought so far. It has been an experience for me and not quite what I envisioned. The first few days I was extremely jet-lagged, not sleeping enough, and had some serious doubts about what I thought I was doing traveling alone to a place I’d never been and knew exactly zero people. I’m proud to say I only had one meltdown and shed just a few tears in despair and frustration. (I think because I knew I was on my own and no one would save me if I really lost it.) I’m seeing now that I’m used to leaning on someone during traveling and letting them take the lead when I feel overwhelmed. A good thing to learn about myself and eight days in I already feel more independent. Yes, it still can take me 1.5 hours to get takeaway for dinner and I’ve walked in the wrong direction more than a few times but I’m figuring it out. It makes me appreciate new experiences and also have a lot of compassion and gratitude for my younger self when I moved to D.C. for university completely alone when I was very much used to being one of a pair. Maybe that’s why I like exploring a new city on foot (and apparently solo) so much – I’m seeking that feeling over and over.
Anyway, here are some takeaways so far:
- I finished a book – The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it easy to get into, to pick up and put down, and a few passages very profound. I’d suggest starting with her article, Thanksgiving in Mongolia, in the New Yorker and then pick up the book if you enjoyed and want more.
- I have been walking, walking, walking. CPH is very walkable and I’ve walked everywhere so far, between 5-10 miles a day. I’m loving it as it could not be further than driving and sitting in Texas traffic all day every day. I miss living in a walkable city that gets you out and about.
- I enjoyed my workshop with tortus so much that I signed up for a 5.5 day workshop that begins Monday! It surprised me how much progress I made in just two days and the notion of how much improvement I could see over five days was just too tempting for me as someone that is motivated by personal improvement. Eric is incredibly talented and a great teacher. Perhaps it was the structure of throwing ten hours over two days but I saw more improvement (and learned lots of tips) than I have in much of the year that I took classes once a week. Also, due to the nature of a short two day workshop, we could not keep anything and that was ultimately liberating for me. My personality is to keep everything and make it as perfect as possible but knowing that I would be scrapping everything gave me latitude to play and push myself. It has actually inspired me to take that attitude into other areas of work, particularly jewelry and photos. I want to push myself more (and feel less fear around failure or something breaking/not working on the first try), edit, only keep the very best pieces I feel most connected to, and keep trying new things.
- What can I say about the Danes? Well, I’d say that they’ve surprised me a bit. I naively assumed that Danes would be how I found the Dutch: extremely friendly, warm, and fairly open. So far, I’ve found Danes to be aloof, a bit impatient, and direct. I’d put it this way — they don’t suffer fools in any sense. Americans tend to be warm and friendly with most people and especially polite to strangers. It doesn’t really matter if it’s sincere, it’s just the norm. I feel that the Danes are opposite – they don’t do niceties or friendly greetings, they don’t chit-chat, they communicate directly with strangers. (As someone with a pretty solid resting bitch face I feel I can also say that many Danes, men and women, also have a solid rbf and a ‘don’t mess with me attitude’). But I’ve seen them in groups (they are always in groups) and they are very open and warm amongst their circle. As a solo traveler it was a bit of a shock at first and truthfully, it made me feel very alone, but I’ve acclimated to it. I can appreciate that it is their genuine nature – they are never going to be fake nice – they are always going to be 100% truthful. I can get behind that as someone who personally struggles with feeling too direct within American culture.
- Coming on the heels of feeling very alone – I have felt all the feelings while on my own. I felt isolated and lonely for the first few days and it’s only in the past few days that I’ve felt some of the highs that come with feeling those lows. I have been aware and diligent about these feelings and any attempt to avoid them. They’ve served a great purpose – I’ve spent lots of time with zero distractions (actual silence in my fifth floor walk up!) reflecting and sitting with myself. I’ve unwound and have enough space that I can actually hear myself and some of my deeper desires. It is what I hoped for in traveling alone and I think gaining clarity will pay off in spades.
- I’m listening to audiobooks to curb loneliness. So far, I’ve gone back and forth between these: one two. My tendency is to listen to audiobooks over and over to: 1. gain as much information as possible, 2. hear things I might’ve missed the first time around, 3. hear the same things (that I want to adopt) over and over. There’s also a sense of familiarity to re-listening which I find comforting.
- Before I left, I downloaded Ozark onto my ipad. Holy shit, if you haven’t watched it yet I highly (highly) recommend it. It is dark, intense, and has zero predictability. I loved it.
- I found a matcha place (apparently the only one in CPH) about 1/2 mile from my airbnb! I’ve been drinking matcha for a few months now as I switched to green tea (I’m trying to stop drinking black tea as it leaves me jittery/anxious). It is a very well-designed space (as everything in Copenhagen is) and I’m really enjoyed the honey matcha iced tea at BYOH Matcha.
- I have had decent luck with eating around my dietary restrictions (I don’t eat dairy or gluten). Thankfully most restaurants are very accommodating with allergies but it really does limit what I can eat – I have pretty much eaten a salad or a burger (no bun) at every meal. Not all that surprising when you consider that most Danes eat a few slices of bread every day, often with cheese or butter, as one of their meals. And a funny anecdote about salad – I ordered a salad with a vinaigrette dressing substitute (most dressings are made with cream or dairy of some sort) and was served a salad with a side of vinegar :).
- Dining alone (something I love to do) feels a bit strange here. As I said above, Danes are always in groups. The only time I see someone eating alone is when they’re walking down the street eating a sandwich or a slice of pizza. I have literally not seen a solo diner besides myself. I think it is cultural – there is an emphasis on community and togetherness, especially around food and dining. I guess it could be seen as a missed opportunity to dine alone? I will say it strikes me a bit funny as Danes are so independent and individualist but they are always out and about in groups. Anyway, I am looking forward to sitting down to a real meal when my dining companion, Matt, arrives.
- Touristy stuff I’ve done so far: Tivoli, Nyhavn, and Christiana + Paper Island (food trucks/street food). Touristy stuff I’m looking forward to: Louisiana Museum of Art, Botanic Gardens, changing of the guards at the Amalienborg Palace, Meat Packing District, Torvehallerne.
- Places I’ve enjoyed so far: Hay House, walking/shopping the walking street (Strøget), Royal Copenhagen. Food I’ve enjoyed: Mad & Kaffe, Sticks’n’Sushi, NOHO, Strøm bar, Danish hot dogs (food stand).
- I’m staying in Vesterbro (my airbnb), just south of the city center. I’ve heard it compared to Williamsburg in BK and that’s about right. It’s gritty, hipster-y (+ attitudes), lots of culture, a little seedy, not a lot of tourists. I’d stay in Vesterbro again and next time I’d also look at a few days in Østerbro and/or Christianshavn.
- I watched The Happy Film yesterday. I found it really thought provoking and much deeper than I expected. My two favorite takeaways:
- “If I’ve done it before I get bored. If it haven’t done it before I get anxious.”
- Seeking discomfort is a great way to build confidence
Well that’s a lot more than I thought there would be! I guess spending the better part of a week alone results in me having lots of thoughts and things to share. I’ll share more photos soon!