When asked, writers often admit that even their best work never quite matches the richness of the story in their head. That’s true for me, too. That being said, travel is the magic bullet that helps me capture the layers and nuance of the real world to make it part of my fictional world.
Meeting people whose daily lives and culture differs from my own helps me see characters and storylines in new ways. It makes me ask what if? It makes me ask why not?
The books that offer the best experience make a reader feel. Whether that’s fear, joy, angst, or optimism, it requires characters whose emotions ring true to their unique situation. Those characters’ lives and viewpoints need to reach far beyond my own.
When I ran the Berlin Marathon last month, I took the opportunity to travel. Though I originally planned to stay an additional week after the race, I also took advantage of a long layover on the way there to explore Copenhagen.
I last visited Copenhagen when I was in high school and lived in Germany. Much has changed since then. Though the first difference most people would notice from then to now is the increase in tourism—the Nyhavn area was packed—my first impression came from an alternate direction: the skyline. Look beyond the city and you’ll see wind turbines. Danes are forward-thinkers who prioritize green energy. Talk to a Dane on the street and they’ll happily tell you about their efforts to reduce both greenhouse gases and their reliance on fossil fuels.
Not only is public transportation efficient and well-used, there are bicycles everywhere. Nearly every street in Copenhagen offers a bike lane (don’t walk in it!) and most businesses offer bicycle parking. Their success in making green travel more accessible comes through in every conversation. Car ownership is heavily taxed, but many Danes see that as a positive rather than a negative, because it means more long-term investment in clean air and water. On that note, I didn’t see a single scrap of litter anywhere in Copenhagen. Everything goes into a recycling bin or trash bin, and a concerted effort is made to minimize disposables in the first place. One of Copenhagen’s new neighborhoods, Nordhavn, was designed with sustainability in mind. Even restaurant owners are keen to discuss the methods they use to create delicious, healthy meals while minimizing their impact on the environment
It’s a mindset that offers a different perspective than what I experience near my own home.
Copenhagen is also rich with history. While there, I visited Rosenborg Castle, which holds the Danish crown jewels, climbed the iconic Round Tower, which was built in 1642 as an observatory, and took a bus tour that highlighted many of the city’s other historic sights.
My stay was short but rewarding. Don’t be surprised if you see aspects of Danish culture pop up in the background of future stories.