And so the story begins. At home. The job has been quit, I have sublet my room on Amager, Copenhagen. It is Friday, June 8th. A little less than an hour ago I left the house and left the house key inside. Point of no return. Rode my bike to Nørrebro, with the purpose of getting one last amazing sandwich with cheese, ramson pesto, bell peppers, fennel and other delicious stuff, I knew I could have at an artisanal shop at cozy, hip Ravnsborggade. When there I praised their sandwiches highly, and was generously offered a cake in addition to the sandwich, on the understanding that I return to the shop in the future. I certainly will when given the chance, which I didn´t tell the cashier would be many months from then due to my plans of travelling for the next six months.

The Staycation

Having said farewell to friends I now stood at the corner of Ravnsborgade looking at all the people enjoying good food, wine or beer and each other´s company under the sunshades on this warm summer day. It was time to leave the city I had been living in for the past four years and start on my staycation, (or continue it?).

So what is a staycation? The term has gained prominence among trends of more sustainable ways of living. To ensure that sustainable living means something enjoyable rather than simply endurable, the idea invites us to take a fresh look on the area or country we live in. Obviously the practice is nothing new. But for cosmopolitan oriented people, it is worth considering.

The term is flexible. If staying in your house or flat watching TV-series, reading a book or cook some good stuff for yourself and those closest to you, then that could be your staycation. Or it could be new explorations of your city, visiting neighborhoods you don´t know that well or new concert venues or other outings to cultural experiences or into nature. Holidays spent at home, whether defined as your region or the country you live in, (though this obviously varies significantly), is the simple gist of the idea.

The Road becomes my Home: From Copenhagen to Aarhus

At 6.30pm, after one last glance around the happy people at Ravnsborggade, it was now time to start riding my bicycle just where I like. Well, not exactly to roam freely. I had until Tuesday to get to Aarhus, where I had a planned presentation with a partner on the subject of a climate friendly diet.

Where I lay my head is Home

Having left the Nørrebro neighborhood in Copenhagen in the evening, I had to set camp once near the Eastern Zealand village of Gislinge some 70 kilometers from Nørrebro. This night I began a practice of camping on any free spot that is not clearly somebody´s property, and where I don´t disturb anyone. This is always free of cost, and the most serious consequence of the illegality of it in some countries seems to me only to cause a slight reduction in the profits of those providing accommodation of one kind or another for money. I slept that night on a piece of soil between a property and a grain field.

Hunting for two Holes in a Wall

Before setting up the tent another pattern had started: that of my cellphone running out of battery long before I can get to some wall with a socket. This was when I started playing the game of socket hunting. For the last part of Friday night and the next day´s ride I depended on the good old-fashioned art of map reading and making sure the coastline and sun were in the right positions, as the many small roads I took were not on the map. By the western seashore I picked up some sea sandwort and sea kale which I brought with me across the sea from Sjællands Odde to Aarhus, arriving on the harbor at 5pm, 22 1/2 hours after leaving Copenhagen.

In a bed of Ramsons

In Aarhus I slept in a bed of ramsons, having set up my tent in Marselisborg Forest. Or, rather, surrounded by ramsons, since sleeping on them would be commiting food waste, a cardinal sin from an environmental and climate change perspective. Marselisborg Forest and beach and the surrounding area is awash with delicious foods and herbs such as ramsons, elderflower, japanese knotweed, ground elder, sea sandwort, dog rose bushes and yarrow.

Two days into my stay in Aarhus I met with a friend at Aarhus Street Food, where I enjoyed a great conversation, but no food. I and my partner did the presentation The Climate Friendly Diet at café Mellemfolk on Tuesday, and, as an add-on event, Wednesday morning I made two wild appetizers: elderflower fritters, a recipe of elderflower clusters held by their stems, dipped into a batter flavored with beer (the beer is optional) and made into pancakes, and a Sandwort-tziki; a variation of the classic Tzatziki, but with sea sandwort and ramson instead of cucumbers and garlic, respectively.

10 Day staycation in Northern Jutland

Almost all of my family lives in Northern Jutland, mostly in the neighboring towns Aalborg and Nørresundby, where I grew up. So I took the bike from Aarhus to Nørresundby to say farewell to my lovely family before departing for the next parts of the journey. This really was a staycation. 10 days within 45 kilometers. I arrived, (unexpectedly, actually), on the 14th of June, the day of my step-mother´s birthday. The surprise was written on everybody´s faces, and the claim that I had done the trip by bike was not accepted right away.

One day during the stay my brother, his girlfriend and I made a foraging trip to the Island Egholm, where we found goodies such as sea sandwort, grassleaf orache, yarrow, elderflower, seaside arrowgrass, dog rose and plantain. Later that week, 45 kilometers from Nørresundby I visited my aunt and cousin in Hjørring. We foraged nettles, plantain, and some other plants, bought some glasswort, and my aunt made us a delicious nettle stew.

The Dreadful Art of Samphire Spotting

By the way, you may not necessarily need to travel at all to see exotic new plants. You can also just wait for them to come to you. Yes, the plants travel. One such case of plant migration was observed in 2017, when the Danish Environmental Agency spotted a samphire at Rubjerg Knude in Jammerbugten, (literally the Bay of Wailing) in Northern Jutland. It has never before been recorded in Denmark. Since it is common in the Mediterranean countries and in South England, and has been spotted in Norway, perhaps it has traveled across the sea to the North Jutland sea shore.

No matter how it got there, It seems to be holding on to a long-time preference of keeping out of reach: The employee from the Danish Environmental Agency spotting the samphire was interviewed to the Danish media saying he spotted it on a very unapproachable area at a hillside. This preference was known, too, In England on Shakespeare´s time. In King Lear the Shakesperean character Edgar remarks on this saying: “….half way down (the face of the rock) / Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!” (King Lear, V, VI). Even if one should be able to reach it, the Danish biologist interviewed advises us not to eat it. At the time of discovery there was, after all, only this one example of the plant. Let´s give it a chance to populate this, for it, new land.

I want to ride my bicycle: Into foreign land

Not only had my trip so far taken place in my own country, but also mostly in, to me, well-known places. Going South from Northern Jutland and passing by, instead of through, Aarhus, took me to the first hitherto unknown places. I like to ride fast sometimes, and I made it from Nørresundby to a to most people unknown spot called Hjøllund, directly West of the town of Skanderborg in one day. This is a 130 kilometers ride in one day. The next day I had expected to ride some 100 kilometers more, but found myself swaying from side to side dizzy from yesterday´s ride and ending in Fredericia, a town which came to mean the start to another new pattern of experiences during my journey: that of being showered with hospitality and generosity.

It seems to me that generally being open to people around you, curious to engage with them, means you will be met with so much friendliness and generosity. With an uncultivated beard, the looks of a 38-year-old male, (I guess), and an often not so well-groomed appearance, it should not be due to my looks. The first day in Fredericia, a couple of hours after arriving in the town, I was invited, and went, for coffee and bread with cheese in the home of an elderly couple with three grown-up children, (if I remember correctly), and 12 grandchildren. They sure had enough relatives to look after, and still they took the time to offer me their hospitality, which I received gladly. I had two fine days in this town, small but still buzzing with life, following some of the World Cup games on a public large-screen display and two beautiful nights sleeping at the nearby beach at Trelde.

Waking up the second morning on the beach of Trelde, watching the scenery of the sun rising over the ocean, the stretch of sandy beach, the green and pale pink of the dog rose bushes and the green carpets of sea sandwort, I started thinking perhaps it was time to move on, despite the beauty of the beach and the cozy atmosphere of the town and generosity of its people. Flensburg, some 107 kilometers from Fredericia, seemed a good choice. I started riding towards the town and soon I was there. Maybe I should stay some more in this beautiful town? I slowed down the bike, stopped at the curb, and pulled the bike onto the sidewalk to be in the shadow for a while, have some water and focus my mind on making a decision.

Generosity and spirituality in Fredericia

Then this woman came into view on the sidewalk asking me kindly what was up? What was I doing there? For the shadow? (Maybe I looked exhausted? I definitely had become a bit sunburned, at least). Yes, I had pulled onto the sidewalk to enjoy the shadow there. And then the conversation when on about this and that, until, after having told her my story, Maria invited me to sleep in one of the rooms in one of two houses on her big property. I don´t want to be a random passerby or tourist skimming the surface of local life. I want to connect. I want to explore adventure of one kind or another. Not being busy making other plans, while life is happening to me. So I immediately stopped my train of thought and accepted the offer gladly.

The decision to stay in Maria´s room meant I got to enjoy the company of this woman and the spiritual community that gathers at her premises. It meant I had a kitchen at my disposal for experimenting with dishes mixing the wild plants I had gathered with some produce from the local greengrocer´s. And it meant I got to go to a presentation on intuition. One of these topics I find very interesting but usually don´t find the time to immerse myself in.

Redefining Everywhere

For me, the moments, when I see a plant, that I have only read about and seen pictures of, for the first time, are very special. It is like a successful treasure hunt. You have read the map, trying to figure out where the chest has been buried, and then your spade hits something hard: You found it. There it is. For instance, I clearly remember the first time seeing sea sandwort. There it was, on the shore of Strandvejen, the North-Eastern most stretch of the metropolitan Copenhagen area, on a thin stretch of rocky shoreline. And riding my bike across Denmark, exploring different plants in different parts of the country, I got the idea of renaming the places I have lived or stayed in terms of special experiences I have had with a certain plant. Often this means that the plant is found abundantly in the area in question, but overall this mapping exercise is very subjective, often signifying, simply, that I have a fond memory of finding the plant there, especially if finding it for the first time or having been on a trip with people I love. Thus Copenhagen, to me, is the Sea Sandwort Harbor. Aarhus, a bed of ramsons. Central Denmark, stretching from Funen over East Jutland, is Cherry Land. And the little Island of Egholm – in the middle of the fjord Limfjorden – is The island of Grassleaf Oraches. The place of my parents´ summer vacation house called Blokhus in the beforementioned Jammerbugt (Bay of Wailing) is the Bay of Dog rose and Elderflowers. Much better than the Bay of Wailing, don´t you think?

The Perfect Border Crossing

After two days of enjoying Maria´s great hospitality, I packed my things, left behind a note with some wild food recipes scribbled down on it for Maria and hit the road with the purpose of getting to, and taking down, the colossus of the German border. I was approximately half a year too early or too late to experience the black sun that sets over the marshes of South Western Jutland in Spring and autumn, but I imagine this – together with the unique habitat itself – is well worth a trip to this part of Denmark.

And suddenly, in the Southern most part of Jutland I had become we, a three man caravan of the two Saudi Arabian brothers Saad, Abd El-Aziz, who were on a European-wide bicycling trip, and I. None of us noticed passing any gigantic wall or just some control post. We simply rode our bikes and suddenly the signposts were in German. “Hey, we are in Germany now. We made it”, I shouted to Saad and Abd El-Aziz. We´ve got enough walls keeping people in place, and enough plans for further walls. Let´s keep border crossings like this: Invisible. Unnoticeable. Uneventful.