When I wrote the last post on reading I left out an important ingredient in the success of the effort: I was alone.
It is a rare thing to come by, in these vagabonding days. When I took off In January 2013, I was under the mistaken impression that solo travel = plenty of time alone. I didn’t realize just how much I would end up relying on the guidance of others to help me find my way through many paths on a daily basis; that learning about the world requires interacting with its people, a lot; that sharing as much as possible helps tremendously when you are on a budget. Now I travel, live and work with another nomad, so we are around each other a lot, as our lives intersect in so many ways.
Solitude used to exclusively mean shutting myself in, when there were available walls and doors to do so. I’ve spent my entire life in various cities, so being alone meant being able to go into a room, if not a whole apartment, close the door, and occupy that space, unimpeded. Eighteen months on the road, this is something I still find difficult to do without: long stretches of alone time removed from other people. Tiny living spaces are perpetually shared, and I may have them for five minutes or a couple of hours if lucky, but they are never mine to truly inhabit.
So I am learning to get time alone in other ways.
While the hole-up-in-hermit-cave option is still essential when there is too much of the world screaming in my head, these days I wake up early to read or write for a few hours, go for a walk, and/or find a bench in one of the many gardens in this city to rest.
Much is said about Copenhagen being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, but it is also extremely walkable. The surroundings are picturesque and peaceful, there are maintained sidewalks everywhere, the weather in summer is conducive to life outdoors, there an an abundance of beautiful green spots with benches to pause and “smell the roses.” Importantly, it is safe to walk alone in, day or night.
I don’t do it enough though.
Summer has been more action packed than normal, with the many summer festivals and their associated miscellany. And significantly, because Flemming and I now work for ourselves, many of the hours we would have spent lazing around the city on foot or bicycle, have been spent on our business instead. I don’t wish to do less work than I do now, as my work means a lot to me, but I often find myself struggling to work more productively, get my head in gear faster, so I spend less time at it. It didn’t matter while the days were long, as we still had many sunlit hours to enjoy the city after a long day at the keyboard, but as the sun sinks faster, I start to feel it.
Walking by night has always been a form of healing for me. It started a lifetime ago, in suburban Perth, and it never really stopped. Being cloaked in the darkness, padding through artificially lit paths, is suspending the reality of my human frailty, which is very cathartic to someone whose physical health has been often compromised.
So as the end of our time in Copenhagen is signalled with the chill of autumn, we set out to walk the cities in the evening, to enjoy some meditative time in the quiet of the darkness, together or alone. As relevant now as it was then, this is the kind of solitude that can sometimes be shared. The night is often thick enough to accommodate two, or even three collectively, who appreciate that particular stillness.