From the moment I saw the black and pink sign hanging on a storefront in Oslo, I was obsessed. Obsessed with the modern design of the store’s interior, excited by the trendy music playing in the background, and in love with the attractive baristas making the best assortment of coffee, juices, and smoothies.
Joe & the Juice became a necessary stop in every Scandinavian country we visited, and I even went so far as to ask for a handfull of their logo stickers to wear on my shirt. As my cultural artifact, this coffee shop is a perfect representation of what I love most about Scandinavia- the slow paced lifestyle, health conscious habits, and people-centered values.
Firstly, the store doesn’t open until 10 am which is a perfect reflection of the leisurely mornings that these Europeans enjoy. A slower-paced lifestyle trumps the daily American frenzy as customers sit down to enjoy their drinks rather than rush on to their next stop. Secondly, the coffee shop serves tropical fruit juices and fresh exotic smoothies which reflects the health conscious, active lifestyles that these avid biking cities promote. And most importantly of all, the friendly interaction between baristas and customers reminds me of the value that Scandinavians place upon the rights and dignity of all human beings. Here, the government is structured as a social democracy. Public healthcare, education, and retirement homes ensures a higher standard of living for the population as individuals forego personal income to promote the overall wellbeing of their country. Furthermore, their prison system is based upon rehabilitation rather than punishment because they believe that all humans deserve the right to a better life.
If I’m taking away one thing from this trip, it would be admiration for a group of countries that have successfully balanced the need for sacrifice and the desire for achievement to ensure all citizens are able to benefit from a higher quality of life.
Goodbye Norway. Goodbye Denmark. Goodbye Joe & the Juice. I’ll always be your number one fan.
We spent today’s afternoon in the Paper District, enjoying lunch in an old warehouse that had once been used as a paper factory. Although I was intrigued by the way fifty mini restaurants could be squeezed into one space, it was actually the name that interested me the most. It made me think about a book I recently read – Paper Towns by John Green.
A paper town refers to a city that doesn’t really exist. Cartographers will put fake cities onto their maps so that if they see those same imaginary places on other maps, they know that their work has been copied. I love to think of the world and the places that I visit as paper towns. Not because their locations have been falsified on a map, but because they hold a charm that is only visible through the imagination. No map, photo, video, or book can accurately depict the true essence of these places, and so it is up to us to personally visit them and establish their existence for ourselves.
While we travel through Scandinavia, it’s interesting to see how everyone has a different opinion on their favorite experience in their favorite city. There is no objective view on any one place. They are all just paper towns, until we have the opportunity to bring them to life.
I’m standing in the second oldest amusement park in the world. I watch the bordering lights twinkle on as the sky begins to darken, and I hear the sounds of excitement and thrill as passengers descend the roller coaster peaks. Although Tivoli Gardens has adapted its rides to accommodate a more adventure-seeking generation, it still carries along a nostalgic charm that makes me feel as if I’m experiencing it the same way visitors did decades ago.
Every time I travel, it’s the concept of Time that confuses me the most. I travel to experience a new culture, but I also travel to relive the past. To tour the historic castles, admire the old architecture, and experience the deeply rooted traditions that have become intermingled with the present. Up until today, I always viewed the present and the past like two separate places- one that I could walk right into, and the other that I could admire from the outside border of the “do not touch” sign. Most times I would grow frustrated that the modern world had lost so many treasures from the past- the way the glass, cube shaped office buildings replaced detailed stone carvings. The way that minimalist clothing replaced finely embroidered, floor length gowns.
But I’m ready to stop looking at the world through these two lenses.
The past and present are not two different dimensions, they are simply layers of the same. I’m going to enjoy the present, knowing it’s the product of the past, and I will cherish learning about the way it has become what it is today.
“What we are now, you used to be. What you were then, we have now become.”
“You’re in Norway now. We trust people here.” This was the response we received from the hotel receptionist when we asked her if she needed to see our IDs for check-in. It was a wake up call to us Americans that things are done differently here in Scandinavia. We all answered her response with a big round of applause- delighted by this new mentality.
After my first two days in Norway, I’ve already decided that I want to live here for the rest of my life. I appreciate the slow paced, carefree lifestyle that all people seem to embody, and I love the happiness that they carry with themselves throughout the day. My mom’s side of the family is Norwegian and it thrills me to picture my great grandparents living in a country marked by breathtaking geographic beauty and filled with citizens who believe all people deserve to have a quality standard of living.
Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but the citizens dont flaunt their wealth. The pride they have for their country is equaled by their kind sense of humility. And I think it is best that they don’t publicize what an incredible country Norway really is- I, too, want to keep this place a secret.
I enjoy traveling because it takes me out of my daily routine. I’m forced to step out of my own little world and into someone else’s. It’s as if I have the opportunity to play a new character in the movie of my choosing, and the exotic setting only heightens the surrealism of the experience.
While abroad in this fantasy, I’m looking forward to appreciating the travel clichés—exploring new cities, tasting ethnic foods, interacting with locals. But I’m also hoping to gain a better understanding, a new perspective, on how other people value life. Does their daily routine revolve around a career? A family? Do they lead a fast-pace lifestyle or a stop-and-smell-the-roses mentality? Has their past shaped who they are? Or are progressive ideas transforming where they find meaning? Regardless of how vast our differences (or similarities) may be, traveling gives me new questions to consider. I’m able to gain a better understanding of myself and what I hope to contribute to this world.
In three weeks I’m excited to grow closer to the other students and faculty members as we enjoy our time in Scandinavia, balancing these perspective altering experiences with many carefree adventures—enjoying the chance to be fully emerged in each moment.