Not too much, not too little

I arrived in Copenhagen at 10:30am. The flight was just seven hours and relatively comfortable. I sat next to a lovely, talkative couple, a writer and a sculpture artist. I slept for most of the flight- thanks to my good friend, Drew, who makes tinctures containing herbs and botanicals that aid in various ways (immunity, anxiety, etc); the one I brought with me aiding in sleep.

 

Upon arrival, I walked out of the terminal to the train where I purchased a train (Oresundstag) ticket to Lund, Sweden. One of my best friends, Moon, lives there and is finishing her graduate degree at Lund University (one of the most prestigious universities in Europe) in human ecology while teaching yoga and learning Swedish. She is brilliant, resourceful and a great inspiration. She also happens to be my half aunt which is a complex dynamic many can't wrap their heads around starting with our closeness in age and difference in appearance (she is blond and blue eyed). Thus, saying we're friends is typically the less complicated choice.

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Lund was quiet and charming. We met a few of Moon's classmates at an organic, vegetarian Indian restaurant called Govinda's; where they served us beet salad, lentil soup and yellow curry. The interior was adorable and bustling, humbly decorated with a friendly, joyful staff- a true, local favorite. Once finished eating every last bite of our meals, Moon and her friend, Nora, walked me through the cobblestone streets explaining the history and culture of the little town. We stopped by their historic church and Raja Yoga Lund, where Moonie teaches yoga. They exclaimed that it was the warmest day Lund had seen, coming in hot at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt so strange to see more bikes than cars. I observed that the Swedish people were kind, humble, ethical, careful and uniquely concerned with the greater good. It was refreshing to see a society function efficiently as a whole. Moonie told me of their philosophy called Lagom: a Swedish idea or feeling of not needing to be the best, but to be 'just right'. There is no precise English translation which I find fitting. Lagom indicates balance, just enough, fair share, making sure everyone has food and drink at every table. Swedish contentment...sign me up.

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That evening we considered Malmo where they have typical Swedish baths- you lie in a sauna and then jump straight into the Baltic Sea and back and forth. Apparently it's 'a Swedish thing' but I imagine any culture would practice the same routine if they had a sauna overlooking an ocean. We also considered a farmhouse out in the country. Unfortunately both were too far for my one night stay so we decided on another 'Swedish thing'...beer. We met with Moon's Chicago born friend, Rachel, at a bar called Inferno. It was packed and lively with an array of beer selections, my favorite being a Danish dark, full-bodied amber called Pistonhead. One of the best lines of the night came when a guy tried to engage with us in a conversation about American politics. In a bitter, condescending tone he said, "I mean really, how do you all feel about your current political state? Do you feel proud?" Moonie looked at him with a sigh and said, "I feel too tired to have this conversation right now." It's so nice to have a friend who says what I'm about to say for me.

 

That night, after returning home and after Inferno had closed, I realized I left my camera battery charging in the bar. FAIL. I kicked myself until the next morning, when I found a shop that *magically* carried gear for my Fuji. A whopping 449 kronas. So I lied. I'm still kicking myself.

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Around 8am, we took the bus into Lundgarden where we stopped for breakfast at a quaint, timeless cafe called St. Jakobs Stenugnsbageri. (Say that three times fast.) The cafe smelled of fresh bread, sugar and coffee and it was nearly impossible to choose just one thing...so I chose two, a typical Swedish pastry (essentially a cinnamon roll) and a sandwich made with in house bread. Freakin' delicious. Moonie had just received a prestigious internship at an environmentally conscious firm focused on finance in Korea. Yeah, that's my friend. The mood was happy (besides me still kicking myself over the battery). Leaving wasn't so bitter since Moonie and I will be reuniting again in Amsterdam in just a week. We stopped at the pharmacy for some powerful Swedish vitamins that help protect immunity (Berocca) and spent a few minutes frustrated at the station trying to figure out where and when the train was departing. Moonie told me of the one time she had to catch a 6am train, didn't realize the bus wasn't running that early, grabbed her bike, pedaled fast into town in the dark (but only crashed once!) before barely catching it. She always finds a way. We said our goodbyes before I made my way back to the Copenhagen airport where I took a flight to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Europe (solo)

I woke up to a text from my sister a couple months ago, 'Sissy, let's go somewhere!' It was long overdue for us to take a trip. Being a master of my own schedule I suggested May. Like most people with 'real' jobs, this was not feasible for Bryn's schedule. Ho hum.

 

Curious and excited about the notion of going abroad, I started looking at tickets. I should've known I was tricking myself into something wonderful. I've been itching to visit Europe and so, when I saw a direct flight from Boston to Copenhagen for $169 I was, well...extremely ready to buy it. And just like that, I was planning a 2 week trip to Europe.

 

I'm traveling to Copenhagen, Lund, Chambery, Paris, Giessen, Amsterdam and London. Sound like a lot? It is and I'm ecstatic. It is such a privilege to visit a foreign place, grow and explore. I'll be visiting family and friends and using the time to reflect on some business ideas that have been brewing. Amazing how time away from the familiar can offer such clarity!

 

I'll be documenting my trip as much as possible. For now here are some helpful tips that have aided me thus far:

 

Flights:

First, I found the best budget airline; be careful here, sometimes cheap is expensive. Some airlines have extreme hidden fees, regulations and/or horrible service leaving you in the dust. Do your research and weigh all options, even the more costly ones.

My choice: Norwegian Air

Second, in order to find the best rates search from major hubs. Austin isn't a big airport, therefore flights are typically more costly than say, Houston. So I looked at flights from New York/Boston/Orlando/Ft Lauderdale/Houston/Dallas into cities like Copenhagen/London/Paris/Barcelona, etc. I tried different variations with the low fare calendar and voila! Boston-Copenhagen for $169 was born. Granted I had to purchase a seat but after that, I didn't come out of pocket a dime.

You're probably wondering how I got to Boston. I took a megabus to Houston, stayed with my grandma a night, then flew to Boston for a mere $65.

 

Sites to use when booking:

Kayak

Skyscanner

Hopper

Google ITA Matrix

Voyages-sncf (for trains)

 

Accommodations:

I'm so lucky to be staying with friends and family in Lund, Chambery and Giessen. In the other cities, I'll be staying in air bnbs. I considered a hostel for Amsterdam but because of the time of year most were sold out or egregiously overpriced.

When looking for air bnbs, because of my short amount of time in each city, location was at the top of my priority list. Don't be afraid to scroll through 3 or 4 pages and know that the newer apartments with fewer ratings are going to have the best deals. They're trying to get bookings!

 

Packing:

You don't need that much stuff. Keep telling yourself that. You can still be stylish and fabulous with a humble amount! I'm traveling with a small carry on (roller bag) and an oversized purse.

 

*note* they will weigh your bags collectively, purse included. They require your carry on to equate 10 kilos (which is absurd). Hence:

 

The attendant at Norwegian Air alerted me that my carry on/purse were 5 kilos overweight and that I would therefore have to check my carry on for an additional *arm and a leg*. You're kidding me, right. I asked her if she planned on weighing me too. "Of course not!" .....I then asked her if I could use the bathroom. I pulled out my handy baggu bag and stuffed what I thought was 5 kilos inside. I strapped the bag to my back, threw my trench coat on (over extra layers) and walked slowly and squarely back to the attendant with a wide smile and a large hunchback. She weighed my bags, a nice 9.2 kilos, stamped my ticket and I was on my way!

 

My full itinerary:

 

May 1: bus to Houston (Megabus), stay with grandmother

May 2: fly to Boston (American Airlines), 8 hour layover

May 2: fly to Copenhagen (Norwegian Air)

May 3: train to Lund (TGV)

May 4: fly to Geneva, train to Chambery

May 6: train to Paris (TGV)

May 9: train to Frankfurt (TGV), car to Giessen

May 12: train to Amsterdam (TGV)

May 14: fly to London (easyjet)

May 16: fly to Orlando (Norwegian Air)

May 18: fly to Houston (spirit)

May 19: bus to Austin (Megabus)

 

I hope my journaling offers you an insight into my love for culture, aesthetic, and doing things frugally yet efficiently. À la prochaine!

Four Seasons, Houston (I did not stay there...just used their bathroom and had an espresso ☺️)

Four Seasons, Houston (I did not stay there...just used their bathroom and had an espresso ☺️)

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The market at Eataly  

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Seaport in Boston