Fall has come to Denmark. But as the locals warned us Americans upon our arrival, it’s a swift descent toward winter. While the temperatures are still quite mild (40’s to 50’s in Fahrenheit), the wind and rain are beginning to have a bite and the hours of daylight are waning fast. After all, it is November, though I thought I was hallucinating when I looked at the date a few days ago. Didn’t we just get here? Didn’t classes just start? Having every third week off for travel makes the time just fly. Two weeks ago I was just getting back from Prague, Budapest, and Stockholm, and now tomorrow morning I’m off to Krakow. The two weeks of classes in between was the blink of an eye.
While my last trip was great, I realized the price I pay for such adventures. I come back tired, having only maybe gotten more sleep and certainly having spent much more of each day on my feet exploring. When I return to class on Monday morning, it doesn’t feel like I’ve just had a week off. Sure, I had no classes, which is always a nice reprieve, but my body doesn’t recover much.
The physical drain I’ve decided I’m willing to deal with. It’s hard to go and adequately experience a travel destination if you spend all day sleeping or lying on the couch trawling Facebook or Buzzfeed. But I also realized last time that I actually lament taking so much time away from home. By which I mean time away from my højskole in Denmark. During a normal week at school, at least I come home for dinner with the other students, and on the days I don’t have early class I can join them for breakfast as well. Evenings provide hours to sit with friends, American and Danish, playing Werewolf (their version of Mafia) or Cards Against Humanity, or watch movies, or just talk about whatever comes to mind. I miss them when I’m away, since it’s weighed on me from the beginning that my time here is so limited.
Starting tomorrow I have two weekends with a week between them free of classes. Tomorrow I fly to Krakow for four days on a class study tour to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. But after our return flight lands in Copenhagen, I’m not dashing off again to use up the rest of my week. Instead, I intend to come home, and be lazy, and spend time with the Danes and what Americans will be here for a day or two at a time between their own trips. If I can muster the energy, I may explore more of Copenhagen or northern Zealand (the island we’re on), or even venture across the Øresund to Malmö, Sweden, for a day. But more than any of that really grabs me, I just want to stay home.
Because this place has become home to me. I know it’s not permanent, but home is more of a feeling in my view, and so the permanence of my stay here is irrelevant. There’s so much about this place that I simply love: the mist that rises on cool wet days, how the sky seems so close even though the elevation of the land is right at sea level, the red S-tog trains, the masses of bicyclists during morning rush hour, Danish babies in their heavy-duty identical prams, and the list goes on. I understand more written and spoken Danish now, so conversations amongst the Danes I live with aren’t always total gobbledygook anymore. I feel less like an outsider than I did at first.
One of the most popularly mentioned words in the Danish language for which there is no English translation is hygge. It’s often simply described as coziness, but more than that, as that’s the easiest way to define it without giving a long-winded account. And true, part of hygge is being cozy, but that isn’t quite enough. It’s like sitting with your friends around a fire on a cold night, sipping hot chocolate, and knowing you belong there. In my mind, it’s kind of what home should feel like.
On the nights when the Danish wind blows cold and the sun sets at 4:18 PM even though it’s barely November, home is definitely where the hygge is, and exactly where I want to be.