The gravel crunches under my tires, and I’m careful not to lose traction. With the almost-full moon breaking from the clouds, I can just barely make out the path in front of me. My eyes adjust. Fog rises from the tall grasses to my right; a fenced pasture to my left. I’m beginning to remember. Horses graze there during the day. The old bicycle I have borrowed becomes a metronome, click click clicking with every passing second. It is just after 1 am, and I am trying to make my way home. Lasse – the best friend of my Danish host brother – has pointed me in the direction of a short cut, a short cut I have taken a year and a half earlier, and one I hope I can remember.
This is Copenhagen – an oasis for cyclists. In one moment, I am navigating through buildings and streets. The next, I have slipped into a covered forest, transported to a Danish countryside, with only the sounds of my own bicycle. I will come out at a metro stop, concert hall, and beautiful (read expensive) waterfront condominiums. The integration of cycle tracks, bicycle lanes, and greenways is impeccable. Not to mention the driverless metro, buses, S-tog, and regional trains – all of which will readily accept your bicycle as an additional passenger, without extra charge.
I have returned to Denmark after over a year’s absence. In some ways, my time away was only a blink. I immediately feel at home with my host family. We pick up our same patterns, jokes, and activities – afternoon coffee, hours of beach volleyball, bike rides along the shore, Danish garden parties. It has all been wonderful.
Yet, at the same time, Denmark has lost its newness. It has become a home, a home that I love but that no longer holds the same adventure. When I arrived for the first time, I was infatuated by the novelty of this Scandinavian nation, one so different than my home. Everyday brought fresh experiences. Now these experiences are rich in associations. As I bike across town, I am hit by memories rather than awe. While equally good, these are not at all the same. These memories are sweet, savory and comforting. I yearn for the zest of the unfamiliar.
I am reminded why I have chosen this year of travel – for the adventure, the challenge, the growth. At times I fantasized about simply moving back to Denmark; I am now reassured in my decision to do otherwise. While I now revel in time with people I love and a place I love, I simultaneously itch for the adventures to come. I am ready to trade the ease of familiarity for the discomfort, and fruit, of the unexplored.