I don’t always enjoy traveling. Dealing with the details of the trip can often feel like more trouble that the trip would be worth – child care, dog care, currency, language, dietary restrictions, laundry (pre and post trip) and packing. There are a million reasons not to go, not the least being that I like my orderly, predicable world. I moved a lot growing up – New York, Canada, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas. My kids, on the other hand, have moved 3 times, but all in the same zip code. My husband is an adventurer – having visited all 50 states but 2 and jumps at the chance to go abroad. So, despite my reluctance, here is why I go.
1. Novelty – breaking from the routine
We just returned from a trip to Norway and Sweden. My husband spoke at conferences in Oslo and Stockholm and the girls and I tagged along. One of the most striking cultural differences I notices RIGHT AWAY – those folks sit down to eat. Even in the airports. Real dishes, real silverware are the norm. The only think I saw people eating while walking was ice cream!
There were no paper coffee cups. Anywhere. We lingered long over meals. It was great not to have to rush from one activity to the next.
I was really impressed with the public transit system. We used the trains, subway and ferry. And walked and walked. When I came back to Austin and sat in traffic on MoPac. I found myself wondering why haven’t we figured this out yet.
I was so excited about taking the kids to the museums and learning some of the history of the places we were visiting. It was so worth it to see the spark in their eyes as they showed me ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin at the National Gallery in Oslo and paintings by Manet, Monet, Munch and Picasso.
Oslo and Stockholm are both costal cities, so we sought out nautical history as well. We toured the Fram Museum where we saw some amazing exhibits about Norwegian Polar Exploration. That stop was a happy accident – we were walking to the Viking Museum and got lost in the rain! In Stockholm we saw the spectacular Vasa Museum. The Vasa set sail in the 1600’s and promptly sank in the harbor. It was raised again the the 1960’s and is now on display.
I love to cook and to eat. I am allergic to soy and also to gluten, so travel comes with some complexity about what I am going to eat. Happily, navigating the dishes in Norway and Sweden was incredibly easy. We all tried traditional Norwegian cheese (it was delicious but brown) and whale (tasted like steak). The sushi was the best – salmon and tuna. We ate fiskesuppe (fish soup) at every chance – and spent time talking about how to replicate it once we got home.
We had some excellent Indian food at Happy India in Stockholm – Tikka Masala, Chicken Curry, and Vindaloo were all great.
The breakfasts are different that what we experience at home. The buffets at the hotels all included a bounty of scrambled and boiled eggs, smoked salmon, cold cuts of meat, sliced cheese, yogurt (more tart than ours) and muesli as well as other cereals. I tasted a gooseberry and ate lingonberry jam. I really enjoyed the small cups of delicious coffee and rough cut sugar cubes. The rhythm of the meals was a little different as well. We at very large breakfasts, a little snack around 2 or 3 and a big dinner around 8.
4. Seeing Differently, Making Connections and Memories
One of the greatest benefits of travel for me is seeing how other folks ‘do life.’ The summer days are really long in Scandinavia. The sun set around 10. It got dark after 11 and the sun rose again around 3 am! There were people out at the parks and restaurants late into the night. The hotel in Stockholm was close to a park. On Sunday afternoon we saw families with young kids hanging out enjoying the sun. That same park had groups of teens playing ball, others listening to music. At night we saw people gathered on the grass listening to an acoustic guitar player. I loved walking everywhere!
We talked to some of the locals about the pace of life there. I left wondering if it would it really be so bad if my day wasn’t packed as full? I sit here thinking about this as I drink my large latte from a paper cup….