Does the term ‘bucket list’ raise your hackles? Bear with me, and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
I was chatting to a friend in Congo who was what some might call a ‘lifer’ in the expat context; others would say immigrant. She was settled in the country for the foreseeable future, because the family business was based there. She told me that we serial expats had an advantage: ‘You guys are always travelling! You’re so good at exploring the area, because you know you only have a short time to do it. The rest of us just get caught up in our daily lives because we think we can do it any time. And then we just don’t.’
I knew she was right, and it’s something I’ve learned to appreciate about our life on the move. Having that deadline, whether a date in the calendar or just knowing you’re not there forever – for us, it’s usually three years – focuses your attention on the opportunities. It’s the reason I haven’t seen as much of Scotland as many of my international friends have, and the reason I’ve already seen more of Jutland than a lot of native Esbjergers.
Mind you, daily life still has the usual demands, especially in a country like Denmark, where, for me as a northern European, life seems more ‘normal’ than in other places, and Sunday football, kids’ birthday parties, grocery shopping, and garden maintenance vie for attention on the weekends. As autumn rolled into our second dark Danish winter, I realised we were becoming a bit static.
Somebody asked about our summer plans the other day, mentioning, ‘It’ll probably be your last full summer here, right?’ It really pulled me up short. We’re now halfway (probably – there’s that word again) through our stay in Denmark, and I’m determined to stay focused on the opportunity.
That’s why I’ve decided to formalise my bucket lists by sharing them here. Partly for accountability, so that as I visit these places I can tell you more about them. But also because the act of just getting them out of my head and writing them down reminds me to get out there.
You might not love the term ‘bucket list’. Of course, the expression’s origin is in the list of things to do before you die, or ‘kick the bucket’. But for some, it has become synonymous with tick-list tourism, with people crossing a border simply to say they’ve visited a country, with the mentality that sees unique locations overwhelmed with unsustainable levels of crowding, full of people just there to find the best selfie spot and move on. Hashtag: I was there. Tick.
I do see the problem.
For me, though, it also still holds the meaning of finding new experiences, of living in a way that takes me out of the ordinary. It reminds me that there are things that are so worth doing, I should suspend the demands of everyday life to make them happen. So until I can think of a term that encapsulates this as well as ‘bucket list’ does, that’s what I’ll stick with!
I’m starting close to ‘home’ though, with my Jutland bucket list. I recently saw a Copenhagen-based expat express surprise at how many day out recommendations were for Jutland destinations. But, come on, Copenhageners, Jutland is MOST of Denmark! I love going across to Zealand and getting my big city fix, but there’s loads right here that I don’t want to ignore as I cross all those bridges.
In future posts, I’ll share my goals for exploring further around the region, in Denmark and beyond, to Scandinavia. I’ll also share my whole world bucket list, which expands the more of the world I see! So look out for those.
In the meantime, here’s where I’ll be planning to get to as I explore more of where we live in the next few months.
This is top of the list for me, and I’ll be making it happen as soon as spring starts to make an appearance around here. I’m looking forward to standing on the strip of land that is the northernmost tip of Denmark, where the Baltic and North Seas meet, creating dramatic currents. This region was the base of probably the best-known group of Danish painters, the Skagen group. Artists were drawn to the region for its unique wash of radiant light. Then there’s just the appeal of travelling the length of Jutland. My sense of geography defaults to thinking that here in Esbjerg we’re about half-way up, but actually we’re officially in South Jutland, and a quick look at the map makes it clear that there’s a lot more Jutland up there to see. I’d stop at Aalborg, on the way too, Denmark’s fourth-largest city.
It’s a small island, but looks to be the best spot to experience the natural diversity of the Wadden Sea National Park (Nationalpark Vadehavet). I’ve yet to take the tractor bus that carries visitors to the island across the causeway, only available at low tide, then explore oyster banks, seal colonies and bird life.
It’ll be small, for sure, but I get the impression there is a lot of interesting and very local art and craft potentially on view at the art museum on the island of Fanø. Whenever I’ve been over on the island I’ve seen posters for intriguing exhibitions, but not had the chance to visit yet, so as soon as it reopens in the spring, I’ll be making my way there.
Varde Kommune’s best-known museum is the world-class Tirpitz bunker museum, but take a different click on their website and you might be as intrigued as I am by the museum dedicated to this local 20th century artist. I’m looking forward to finding out more.
This science park is near Sonderborg, in southern Jutland. It looks very appealing, with the kind of interactive science activities that I think my kids will love. It’s not that we won’t be visiting Legoland and the Lego House during 2020, but I’m looking forward to having somewhere to go that will stimuate their creativity a little differently!
This Unesco World Heritage site is central to Viking history and the birthplace of Danish Christianity. There’s an award-winning museum on site explaining the role of Jelling Kirke in Denmark’s history. It’ll be an easy day trip to satisfy the history buff and Viking fans in our family.
Tønder is about an hour to the south, and I gather that, if you know folk music, this is a world-famous event. The 2020 festival takes place from 27-30 August and it looks like a good opportunity to enjoy a festival atmosphere with the kids. I’m intrigued to encounter some of the contemporary folk music acts in the line-up, so I’m hoping we can fit it in this year.
I’ve recently had this design museum in Kolding pop up frequently in my Instagram feed and it looks like a really intriguing and unusual collection of contemporary art and interactive installations. Whenever I’ve passed through Kolding on the train, I’ve caught some picturesque views of the town too.
I’d love to know if you’re planning to visit any of these Jutland destinations yourself, or what your recommendations are. Below I’ll list some more Jutland recommendations, with links to where you can read more (and a to-do list for me of places I haven’t written about yet!) Have I missed your favourite?
- Tirpitz Bunker Museum – read my review here.
- Henne Kirkeby Kro, Michelin-starred restaurant – my review here.
- Esbjerg Svømmestadium – Denmark’s biggest indoor pool – but a cultural cautionary tale here!
- Hanging out at the west coast beaches – articles here (p24) and here (p19).
- Fanø – historic and picturesque island just a short hop from Esbjerg.
- Ribe – Denmark’s oldest town – a must-see!
- Ribe Vikingecenter – article here (p24).
- Esbjerg Fiskeri og Søfartsmuseet – the aquarium and maritime museum, with the best playpark in town.
- Aarhus – Denmark’s second city.
- Møgeltønder – gorgeous village near the German border.
- Watching migrating sparrows with a Sort Sol tour.
- Wait, I’m sure I’m missing something…what could it possibly be…?
- Something to do with Billund…
- Oh yes…
- And especially the Lego House.
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