It’s a natural progression from Living in Place to Traveling in Place.
Traveling in place is not armchair travel: it requires packing a duffle, boarding a plane, and watching movies until you’re in another time-zone. It’s what I did last week, when I flew to Denmark.
This was neither an arbitrary destination nor a strictly sightseeing adventure, but a family visit to my cousins, who recently put out an all-points-bulletin that they’d moved into an apartment with a guest room, and visitors were welcome. In the twenty years that Dan’s been living abroad, we’d only seen him stateside, in visits that were becoming brief, stale and pro-forma. So we packed gifts that are uniquely American, hard to find even in Western Europe, and special: Vermont Maple Syrup, hazelnut-flavored coffee, and bourbon. We also carried a block of Vermont cheddar for our daughter who’s been teaching English in Georgia (the eastern European country, not the state) and met us in Copenhagen; it was the first time we’d seen her in ten months.
It would be hard to imagine a lovelier apartment, with one entrance off a common green space and another to a canal where kayakers and swans paddled by; it would be impossible to find better hosts.***
Over the weekend, Dan and Lene showed us Copenhagen’s sights, introduced us to open-faced sandwiches, and instructed us how to get home by water bus. On Monday morning, they handed us a transit card and went back to work. Ruth and I went to yoga, and Tim went to the dentist to fix the tooth that broke the night before. Though a temporary crown wasn’t the souvenir he’d hoped for, Tim was nevertheless glad to have it installed.
Meanwhile, Ruth and I stretched and bent ourselves into familiar poses in an unfamiliar sequence, which had the salubrious effect of working the jet lag out of our muscles and helping us rediscover our breath. I try to practice yoga as a regular part of traveling in place, and I’ve been to classes in Cleveland, Louisville, San Francisco – and now Copenhagen, where I found a lovely studio and welcoming teacher.
For the next few days, we walked around the city, people-watched, window-shopped; went to museums, gawked at palaces, and marveled at the bicycle traffic, which is ubiquitous. Bike lanes and bike racks are everywhere, and Danes regularly commute by bike, including transporting children and groceries. It helps that it’s a temperate climate – and there are no hills.
One day, we crossed the bridge to the university in Malmo, Sweden. While Dan worked, we walked, eventually coming to rest at a grocery store a lot like our local coop, where friendly staff recommended a kanelbulle, a traditional Swedish cinnamon bun, to enjoy with our Fika, which means coffee break. It was both delicious and restorative.
Afterwards, we explored the store as if it were a museum of everyday life. I found an entire aisle devoted to whole grain crisp breads, something of which I’m tremendously fond despite my family’s belief that I could just as well eat cardboard.
Every evening, we’d return to a home-cooked dinner and lots of talk. This is the real beauty of Traveling in Place: a sense of home and family. Over dinner, while we talked politics and family, Dan and I – who’ve known each other all our lives – became reacquainted as adults in the present tense, moving beyond our shared past. We also became better acquainted with our respective long-term mates, and with our adult child, who’s matured into a world-traveler, deep thinker and delightful companion.
Midweek, we said a bittersweet farewell to Ruth, who had to return to work, and we headed out to Dan and Lene’s country house in Blavand, on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula for the long, holiday weekend, which I’ll write about next week for Part Two of Traveling in Place.
***Unfortunately, a slew of my photos seems to have been lost in my phone, so none of the water bus, canals, and few of our hosts.
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