With fst’s new benefits package in place, I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience of the world, working from any European city of my choice. This month, I chose to visit Copenhagen. The decision itself wasn’t influenced by much more than the fact that Copenhagen has always been on my ‘to visit’ list, and I managed to find relatively cheap accommodation. What I learned shortly after was that all the money I saved on accommodation, I swiftly lost in the price of one pint. Drinks in Denmark are expensive.
This trip was my first experience travelling alone, and needless to say it was nerve racking at times. I made some mistakes, saw a lot of cool sights and managed to learn a few things about myself. I’m still here to tell the tale – so all in all, I’d say it was a success.
In my typical style of over-thinking, I spent a little time fretting about the best way to relay my experiences without boring any unfortunate readers to death. So rather than giving you a day-by-day review of who the f**k cares, I thought I’d break it down into general learnings, and trick you into reading my experiences. So here I present you with ‘The 10 Commandments of Culture Trips’.
Hopefully you’ll get something out of it – I know I would have if I had the list 2 weeks ago.
1. Thou shalt not take the wrong plug adapter.
Starting off with a slightly silly one – mainly because I was struggling to think of a 10th commandment – but a relevant lesson none the less.
Arriving on Saturday morning I dropped off my bags, threw on a big coat, plugged in my headphones and set out to wander around the centre of the city. I figured this was the best way to settle in and familiarise myself with my new surroundings.
I found myself at Strøget an hour later when I discovered my first f**k up. After travelling since 3am, my phone was out of battery. I ventured into a coffee shop to grab a drink and charge up – only to find my US plug adaptor at the bottom of my bag. After paying no attention to my initial route and with no access to good ol’ Google maps, I managed to find myself lost in Copenhagen within an hour of arriving. It took me an hour to hunt down a shop that sells UK to EU plug adaptors (for triple the usual price). Rookie error.
2. Thou shalt not fear dining alone …or drinking alone.
Having never done it before, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of dining alone, but I really started to warm to it by the end of the week. At first, meals were spent staring at my phone. A futile attempt to disguise the fact that it looked like my blind date had taken one look at me and fled the scene. By the end of the week I was swanning around all-you-can-eat buffets without a single f**k to be given. One of the main perks of eating alone is the simple fact that nobody can see – and therefore judge – what or how much you wish to eat, which I enjoyed.
Exploring Copenhagen nightlife alone came a lot easier to me. Not a huge surprise there. On the first night I joined a guided pub crawl. There was around 40 people from all around the world – some also travelling solo – and we spent the night sampling drink deals in a string of pubs and bars across town. It was a great experience which I would have missed out on completely if I was too worried about what anyone else thought. I’d definitely keep an eye out for similar tours in the future when traveling alone.
3. Thou shalt not use Uber for every journey.
While I always set out with good intentions when it comes to travelling, I’m definitely guilty of relying on Uber for any journey that requires walking for longer than 15 minutes. In Copenhagen, Uber and Lyft doesn’t exist. Not only that, but their taxis fares are some of the highest in Europe.
Taking taxis out of the equation not only saved me money in the long run, but also forced me to figure out how to navigate around the city. This meant getting to grips with their public transport and spending more time travelling on foot. Naturally I got to see a whole lot more of the city than I would have if I was constantly paying to be driven from A to B.
Luckily, Copenhagen is really easy to navigate around. It’s one of those cities where everything just works. With this experience under my belt, I’ll definitely be more confident tubing around foreign cities in the future.
4. Thou shalt not waste time on #pointless shit.
This point came as the biggest surprise to me.
I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m honest enough to admit that I’m a typical, narcissistic millennial. A lot of my spare time is spent visiting cool-looking places, doing cool-looking stuff and taking cool-looking pictures that naturally end up on social media. I expected Copenhagen to be another Instagram-worthy experience to add to the long list.
This wasn’t really the case.
Once I had re-charged (after the adaptor dilemma) I passed a fancy bar which was undeniably ‘Instagramable’. It was full of neon lights, flowery vines and cool-girls ‘brunching’. My initial instinct was to go right in, before it dawned on me… who was even there to see? There was nobody to share the experience with, nobody to take pictures of me sipping a #martini , so really, what’s the point?
I thought to myself, do I really want to spend 130 krone to sit on a pretty, but uncomfortable bar stool and sip a tiny cocktail? The answer was no. What I really wanted to do was revisit the tattoo shop I saw 2 streets back and take one of the walk-in slots advertised in the window. So that’s what I did.
This was a bit of a sobering moment for me. Travelling alone made me re-assess how much I really enjoy half of the things I do for the sake of an Instagram post, and consider how I’d genuinely prefer to spend my time, which leads me to my next point…
5. Thou shalt honour what heart wants.
I spent the rest of my free time doing what I really wanted to do. The pressure was off. If I wanted to post on social media I could, but that wasn’t going to dictate any of my actions.
I visited the Design Museum. I watched the changing of the guard in front of the palace at Amalienborg. I took a canal boat tour from Nyhavn (tourist central). I visited Copenhagen Castle and the 360° views from the top of Rundetaarn. I did a LOT in one day, all without wasting time on #pointless shit – and I couldn’t have been happier.
6. Thou shalt not book working days only.
I booked the trip for three working days and chose to fly out on the weekend, giving myself a 2 day head-start to explore the city and check some sights off my list. Almost all of my sight-seeing was explored over the weekend. Most cultural sights and tourist attractions are only open within working hours, so if I had only visited for 3 working days, I would have missed out on a huge chunk of Copenhagen.
For the first half of the trip, I very much felt like a tourist. But, in the working days, you really get a feel for what daily life is like for residents of Copenhagen. It was a completely different experience commuting through town and spending time where locals go to work.
7. Thou shalt not rely on one source of WiFi.
Working remotely from another city definitely had its challenges.
My initial plan was to commute each day to Copenhagen library (the black diamond). They had open workspaces and free public WiFi – the holy grail. This all went according to plan for a measly 4 hours. By mid-day every person in Copenhagen had the same idea and swarmed to work next to the pretty river views, making the WiFi unusable.
This sparked an endless chain of visiting coffee shops, cafes and bars to find any kind of internet connection I could.
The following day, waking up to pouring down rain, I decided to use my hotel as a back-up plan. Another poor decision. I managed to pick the one day when the hotel WiFi was down. This saw me panic running through rainy Copenhagen to a nearby shopping mall to join a Skype briefing from the office. With my back-up plan foiled, the coffee chop cycle continued.
This is where I really should stress the following point…
8. Thou shalt not buy coffee out of guilt.
Whilst coffee-shop hopping on a constant quest for WiFi, I spent approximately £55 on guilt coffees (this is not an exaggeration). An anxiety driven method to justify my existence in each shop and an over-priced apology for stealing everyone’s WiFi and electricity. This is a point I would rather forget.
9. Thou shalt not stay away too long.
On my final working day I had to make a call back to the office. Hearing all of the background commotion, home-sickness definitely started to set in. While I loved the chance to travel solo and the opportunity to work in some beautiful locations – I just missed people. I missed the atmosphere of the studio in Marlow, I missed chatting in the mornings over a (free) coffee and laughing at people’s crude jokes.
It’s another shameful admission, but I think I would have struggled working remotely for a full week. 3 days was definitely enough. While I was sad to be leaving, by this point, I was definitely excited to come back. It turns out I’m too sentimental for my own good.
10. Thou shalt not underestimate thyself
This final point pretty much speaks for itself. It’s safe to say I loved every second of my trip, but it definitely had its challenging moments – especially for an anxious and forgetful solo traveller.
I spent a lot of time outside of my comfort zone (which I’m quite proud of) and I learned a lot. I think it’s a brilliant experience to offer people and I would urge any of my colleagues to try it for themselves. Traveling alone was extremely liberating and it has given me the confidence to do it a lot more in the future. I can’t wait to plan the next one – and when I do, I’ll make sure I take the right bloody plug adaptor.
Tak og Haj Haj.
(Thank you and good bye).