Jet lag came at me disguised as postpartum with varying degrees of aftershocks. I had not intended my 10-week trip to Europe to give birth to something that had been growing inside me the past year. My goal was to bake some bread, eat as many frøsnappers and morgen boller filled with butter and cheese as possible, hang out with old friends, make some new friends, and be home for my 31st birthday. I had spent the past year emerging from my own chrysalis, but what now has emerged from me?
I did not expect to have reverse culture shock. Being surrounded by mostly bare white walls all summer while learning the Danish meaning of hygge, coming home became this constant reminder about how cluttered and un-free my American life was. Prior to my trip, I had already given up half of my closet, half of my books, revealed the corners of my room, but it wasn’t enough. When living in Europe, I ended my evenings by candelight, awoke to hand-ground coffee or congee, and only enjoyed the good things in life with good people. I gave myself a week to adjust. A week became two weeks. Two weeks became three weeks. I don’t think a lifetime would give me enough time to adjust.
My daily sun salutations have become an honoring of how much of this life could I feel.
Instead of fighting hygge, I have chosen to settle in the path of least resistance. Deliberate footprints litter this path, with the dusty shimmers of forks in the road so far below the horizon that they can no longer tempt me to turn around. If you dare take this journey with me, I can’t say what we will run, walk, swim, or climb into or what direction the doors will swing; but, if you hold my hand and keep walking us forward, the candlelight will feed off the fresh air and light our way.
I had been planning this summer for a year now, planning to be in Europe for ten weeks and to be a minimum of 10 degrees cooler than the coldest summer day in Houston. I bought one round trip ticket six weeks before I left and figured the rest of the details as I encountered them. My intention was to stage at Mirabelle (Copenhagen, Denmark) and De Superette (Gent, Belgium). In the end, I breathed the air of six different countries and eleven villages/cities and laughed a hell of a lot.
In preparation for this trip, I had been trying to undo some of the things I have been far too comfortable with, things that could lead to unpliability: being OCD about frivolous things, being too type A, showering daily, exercising like I was still an athlete, using exhaustion as a measure of success, having an opinion about things I know far too little about, traveling only to cross things off a list. I began to question why I did things, if my habits were good for me, why some things were necessary habits–basically everything. I tried to break any cycle I could visibly discover so that I could free myself to be perfectly irregular.
I still brush my teeth, wash my face, and drink out of my water bottle daily. In the quest of finding who I am and who I want to be, I could only hold onto these three habits.
My decisions in travel were based more on making memories and less about bragging about where I ate or saw. I slowed down a lot, sat in parks, took naps, and ate falafel or pizza multiple meals in a row. I read many books, went to the same places to get coffee or wine, became a regular, and tried to live like everywhere was my second home. This summer was strictly for me and no one else. It was a journey in finding me.
When you leave life up to possibilities, sometimes you end up in Paris, in Rihanna’s Golden Circle.
A part of me lives in Copenhagen. I leave a spare pair of shoes and a wool jacket as a place holder.
Things I do every time:
– Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: pack a lunch (make it a day trip and go all the way to Helsingør, cross on a ferry and visit Koppi coffee shop in Helsingborg then head south to Louisiana)
– take a Goboat out on the canal
– Kunsthal Charlottenborg
– rent a bike (do that) or get a Rejsekort
– Coffee Collective
– Democratic Coffee (and a croissant)
– 108 (and a slice of cake)
Drink places I frequent:
– La Bachina
– Ved Stranden 10
– Naturs Vinebar
– Rødder and Vin, for your bottle needs
Food places I frequent:
– Mirabelle, for morning buns with butter and cheese!
– Meyers Bageri, for the frøsnapper and hindbær snitter
– Atelier September, when I’m wanting to treat myself
– Durum Bar, for falafels
It’s funny how almost anywhere or anything can feel foreign. Obviously, traveling to a foreign country will evoke lots of feelings of newness and uncomfortable moments; but if we open our eyes and use them like a child would, our eyes can see the world with unlimited inquisitiveness.
I don’t wear watches. They get in the way when working with dough. Ironically, I have purchased two watches in the past week—a summer watch and a winter watch—to match the hues of my ever changing skin tones. We are in a small town, with the Alps pretty much everywhere. There are yellow sunflowers in the garden, spreading their golden petals as far as they will go. A few memories flash by, as vivd as the wall of grafitti behind the sunflower. Why is it wherever I travel in Europe in August there is alway a patch of sunflowers growing by a wall of grafitti? I try to peel myself away, but I am stuck like a second hand trying to move. I sense the surroud sounding noise, but I cannot hear it or feel its vibrations. The picture begins to fade out. Time is now forcing me to move with it—but only after I catalogue the memory away.
I had gone back and forth for the past ten years on what my first tattoo would be. I thought it would be a Longhorn, since I bleed burnt orange and OU sucks. But lately, I’ve made it my mission to love endlessly, since loving is the best thing I know. It is the one thing in my life that won’t stand still. I had tried to stop the future a few times, but the world just finds creative ways to remind me that I can’t. So, after summer, I will always be reminded to love endlessly and that I bleed orange. Why get one when two is always better than one—just like the wall of grafitti and rogue sunflower.
There’s always talk about how mothers plan pauses in their careers to have a family. What we should also be talking about is everyone who “pauses” for all other real life opportunities, and investing in themself. My personal pause was a desire to be a better me, and to be a better source of laughter; thus, down the line, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. A desire for a work-life balance that allows me to see my friends, have time for small art projects, and travel has changed how I approach a career of living life.
I believe this slight pause at not going full-speed will enhance the world around me. I sleep more; but, when I am awake, I am much more present. I exercise more; but, when I’m sitting down, I am much more still. I play more; but when I work, I do the same amount of work in less time. I feel so much more a part of me, like I’m finally living inside my own self – living my life, the way higher being intended me to live. I’m not rushing to get anywhere; I’m already here. The waterfall always ends up in the same place. I am here to accept what this world has to offer—all of it, even its imperfections.
I am discovering that we are a generation who defines success differently and less linearly. I’m learning that as I plan to not let work define me, I make time to do the things that really define me.
Traveling slows me down, takes me away from distractions, allows me to sway back and forth a bit until I find my center again.