When you come from a place that measures distance with only increments of time, and have access to relatively cheap gas, you don’t think much about covering vast swaths of land on a whim. I have personally taken road trips that span distances that Lewis & Clark would have difficulty contemplating. In the short time I have been in Denmark, I already feel my perception of distance changing. Where once I would hop in the car for a drive to Detroit or to Chicago, there are a lot more things to consider here. Three hours in any direction and you encounter things you wouldn’t in Michigan. Oceans, giant bridges with tolls upwards of $50, entirely different countries, and ferry boats are just a few of the things you must think of before venturing outward and onward.
Costs weigh more heavily than is the case in the United States when it comes to ground travel. While we do have a car, Susanna has it on most days. This means I am limited to the busses, trains, and where my bike and feet will carry me. The transit system here is second to none, but a train ride downtown costs about $15 round trip sometimes $20 as the rates vary during the day.
There are a few other things that I failed to consider that tend to be impediments on travel. Weather, for one, can easily throw a wrench in your plans. I have come to conclude that I had a slightly unrealistic vision of weather in Denmark. I knew that it was rainier than Michigan, but it didn’t occur to me that I was moving to Seattle. I had visited upwards of a dozen times before moving here and had encountered rain only once. Also interesting to note, it rarely rains all day. It just comes down for a short time, then stops, then starts, then stops. . . The sun then comes out, most everything dries quickly, and then the cycle starts again. This can be frustrating when you are trying to do something outside. I can only imagine it’s like incontinence, I am getting better at accepting the ever-present moisture, conceding that life may just always be a little bit damp going forward.
The second thing to you need to consider is the time needed for your journey. While I applaud the Danish public transportation system for running 24 hours a day, covering HUGE distances, relatively convenient timing, relative ease of use, and general cleanliness, any trip that requires a transfer is going to take you an hour. It doesn’t matter for some reason, it is almost always an hour (an hour and a half on the weekends as the trains run on a reduced schedule). If I lived closer to city center, this would not be the case. Since I live in the burbs, I essentially have to go in to the city for a trip back out to wherever I am going.
I know this sounds a lot like complaining, in truth it is simply a readjustment. Honestly, I think the difficulties I have are best described as learning experiences. They teach you that the distance you cover is hard-fought. For me, it has taught me to appreciate our mobility. It makes me think about the fact that the average person before 1900 lived and died, having never traveled more than 30 miles from their place of birth. It is a truly amazing time in which we live.
So, in my time here, the world has gotten a lot bigger in a lot of ways. The 40 minute drive to the south-west side of CPH seems to take a lot more effort and dedication than the 40 minute drive from Grand Rapids Township to Holland or from Detroit to Pontiac. I can’t explain that sensation really well yet. I think it may also have to do with the fact that the world seems to operate in a more compact manner here when it comes to hours of operation in business. Everything is open early and is closed relatively early, especially when compared to the States. You have a finite amount of time to get things done and you have to get everybody in bed at a reasonable hour because they all have to be up early. It really feels like that impacts the choices on the rest of our time.
That being said, the afternoons/evenings start earlier. I see our son more. Susanna sees our son more. There is a heavy emphasis on work/life balance here that is completely foreign to me and completely awesome. I will do a chapter about work when I finally have my immigration papers complete and I have found work.
There is another interesting thing that I have found in regards to travel in Europe. Planes are often on par with trains when it comes to cost. I just got finished planning a weekend trip to a major European city, where I compared side-by-side the cost of train travel versus flying. The train ride was 12 hours long and the cost was about $11 lower than the flight. The flight, even with the time to the airport and going through security will take about a third of that. I would like to take some long-haul train rides, but it really comes down to the fact that we will have a lot more time at our destination for our little adventure. Our time on this particular weekend is finite. When we get our vacations straightened out, all will be fine. But, that will take a year or so.
The increased gravity of distance makes me think of the wirlwind tours of Europe that I see advertised. I never really wanted to travel like that before, but even less so now. You cross the continent in two weeks or less. In crossing the ocean, you are transporting back in time. While the amenities here are as advanced (and in some ways more advanced) as they are in the United States, you lose something when you move through the countries so quickly. You can’t ever appreciate what goes on around you when you are moving through the places at warp speed.
There is so much to see in these cities and towns. You do yourself a disservice to not take a little time to breathe in the air. Realize you are walking where kings started crusades, where world wars were fought, where simple homes can be older than anything standing in the whole of the United States. My in-law’s house was built in 1750. This home has been there longer than 99.997% of structures in the US.
If this is your mode of travel, then all the power to you, but I hope you consider taking some time at a single place. A few days and you can see some of the most amazing things, and you don’t even have to go to the most “tourist” places. Roam the towns, ride the trains, walk the streets, feel the time and history beneath your feet. Drink the beer. Always drink the beer.