Kronborg Castle. Helsingor (Hamlet’s Elsinore), Denmark

The title comes from an old Soulside song I love. I haven’t had many problems traveling in Denmark. It is a clean, beautiful and intellectual country, rich with history at every turn.

The supermarket carts are rented here. You drop a 20 Kroner coin into the slot of a little device hooked to the cart, which unlocks it from the rest of the carts. Then when you’re done shopping, the cart is returned to the row of carts, and as soon as you lock it into place, your Kroner pops out. It keeps people from stealing the carts. Makes sense. It’s just one more of those little life experiences I’ve had living in Denmark for a month versus the two times I’d visited as a tourist and one time I traveled there to teach. Everyday there’s something new to discover—like a mossy green forest or fruit-juice-based drink called saft—as well as new chances of looking like an idiot, from trying to turn on a faucet to taking the bus or reading ingredients on products in grocery stores. It is all character-building, educational stuff, of course. The beauty of traveling far from home is its ability to force you out of your comfort zone. Such interactions cause much self-examination and inevitable thoughts comparing and contrasting one’s home country (why don’t we or why do we do the things we do?).

Eavesdropping on a city bus or dining in a museum café is not the same when you can’t understand anything being said around you. Every approach to a stranger is a gamble… they may speak English or may not. I have made an effort to learn some Danish—enough to ask questions, read signs and be polite. My hosts have been beyond generous with their time and attention. But I miss hearing my native tongue. I’ve found myself watching any stupid American tv show that’s on—things I’d never watch at home—just to feel less isolated. I found myself watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which is called “Little Doctor on the Prairie” here. In this particular episode, a woman in the town writes a book based on people in the town, causing all kinds of reactions. She suffers insomnia, which Dr. Quinn tries to treat. The writer concludes it is the book that is the problem—that she must quit writing. Some people come forward to tell her that her book helped their marriages or their businesses, and when a reporter comes to town, one man calls it “a bunch of gossip.” The writer apologizes, saying perhaps she hadn’t thought the book through before publishing it. She hadn’t meant to hurt anyone. Dr. Quinn takes a stand and tells the reporter that the book has helped the town to talk about things and that sometimes hidden things can harm us most. She tells the writer to keep writing. “You’re a writer. That’s who you’re meant to be,” she says, then asks her to inscribe a book.

I wrote my first book thinking no one would read it. I have received funny fan letters, enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime experiences and made lifelong friends because of it, but I have hurt some people with it, too. I am truly sorry for such unintentionally painful  consequences. I still stand by my truth and thank the universe for giving me the opportunity to tell it. I am entitled to have both of these feelings and more; it’s part of being a writer. It’s part of being human.