This is a beginning of the story about the What of my travels.
I was on my way to Sweden, passing through Denmark where I met a few very nice, kind and warm hearted elderly. Well, errr, this were people of 65 and 67 and not not by the hair of my chinny chin chin would I ever (or at least not yet) dare to call them old. I met these cheerful people after I’d send them a request to surf their couch*. It was Birte from Sønderborg in South Denmark, and Maja and Erling who live at a very nice house near the village of Æskebjærg, on the Island Sjælland (ok to be honest, I think it is simply Eskjeberg).
[in this place I wished I could share their faces with you, but I decided not to because of of privacy matters]
In Denmark at Maja and Erlings place
The thought had occurred to me that I could interview people I would stay at. I had been preparing the stays by writing a list of topics and questions growing older that we could discuss. Maybe. If it wouldn’t seem to intrusive or unnatural in the talks we would have. I had quite a long list, with factual questions about family, mobility, spare time, work, politics, shopping, travelling, housing and food. Pretty practical questions, that turn out to be very obvious when you spend 3 days in someones house. No need to ask Birte -for instance- how she gets around, when she just showed me the surroundings in her car and talked proudly about her Couch Surfing Bikes, one for her, one for the surfers.
Then there are also questions that belong more to the personal sphere. Questions about life. About the future, the good things and the fears of growing older. About things that did and did not work out in life. Important decisions that have been made. The question “How old do you feel?” and my favorite up to now: “Do you feel rich?” (Well, what would you say?). On the list are also the more social questions, that require deeper thinking about how growing old is perceived by others in society. How old do you have to be, to be considered old? How old does society want you to become? And what practical changes would ageing mean for your life as you know it?
Pom pom pom pom (F G A Bb)
Until now, when visiting Birte, Maja and Erling, I didn’t do interviews in a strict sense. We walked, we talked, we ate, we talked, we drove through Denmark and we talked. I mostly asked questions, they talked, but not exclusively. Sometimes it felt a bit awkward asking a certain question, but since all three were prepared for an interview they were very happy to answer them.
Maja thanked me for asking these questions, for being interested, saying that the questions made them think and discuss the topic of growing older too. If this should be the outcome of my travels, that I’ve made people think and talk about it together, then I would be a happy camper. Err, surfer.
Some things I’ve learned:
– People generally like to share thoughts about their life. If you are respectful, there is no need for awkwardness.
– The age of 60-70 brings a lot of changes to life. I think I might stick to looking for these seniors throughout my travels.
– Mondays are for long travels or staying in
– Copenhagen is a great city to spend your birthday with friends (thanks for all the wishes through all communication systems imaginable!)
Oh! And then some friends told me about this nice TED blog by Elisabeth Jacobs: ‘What is is to grow old in different parts of the world‘, that I like to share with you. It covers some of the topics that I thought of, but also brings some new questions, i.e. “Do the elderly have special powers?” (haha! cool) and “What are traditions surrounding old age in your culture?”. Nice ones. I might adopt! Thank you, Marieke and Monqi : )
In 10 minutes I leave for a 10 days silence meditation course in Ödeshög, 1 hour north from where I am now. There will be no couches to surf, no questions to ask others but myself, no road to trip… I’ll be back in May.
A small gift of silence from Sweden
Happy easter, fijn pasen, glad påsk!
*Couch Surfing is a world wide hospitality network where people offer their couch (or guest room, or even sometimes their garden or simply a nice meal). It is about meeting people from different cultures and sharing experiences.