In spring 2022, four DIS Copenhagen students had the opportunity to pioneer the DIS Slow Traveler initiative; intentionally slowing down, meeting locals, and engaging in Danish life. Spencer (he/him), Cal Poly Pomona, reflects on the group’s time in Bornholm. Read more, in his own words, below.
I’m Spencer, a full-year student at DIS for fall 2021 and spring 2022. I was super stoked for the opportunity to be a DIS Slow Traveler and have the chance to show how one can sustainably travel while abroad. I am not completely a stranger to traveling slowly; I have done it at home as well as during other study breaks, but I was excited for this trip we planned as it allowed me to get to see a part of Denmark that I was super interested in, Bornholm.
I think when abroad there is definitely a balance that one needs to find between going abroad and seeing parts of Denmark. Since I am a full-year student, I did some “fast travel” during my fall semester and over the winter break. And fast travel is okay! But considering your impact when you do, and making sure to be thoughtful of the decisions that you are making is super important.
Even if you end up taking planes, there are things you can do to still have components of slow travel — such as offsetting your emissions on your flights, or only flying the first and last leg to and from Copenhagen, and training the rest of the way. The latter is extremely fun, and definitely saves a lot of money. Websites like Omio and Eurail’s rail planner are very helpful in finding routes; Europe is very interconnected by train, unlike the U.S.
That all being said, whenever I do slow travel, I find myself remembering the trip more fondly. I think it is mostly because the journey to get to the destination is a big part of the trip. Also, when you get there you have the ability to take your time at the location and really get to know the place. I also think that part of the fun is getting lost on the way there. One, because it makes it a little exciting, and two because I’ve very often stumbled on incredible things just by chance.
On our trip to Bornholm, I spent a few hours solo traveling on my bike, and I ended up in Svaneke, a town on the eastern side of the island. Biking aimlessly through the town, I came across this incredible concrete prism monolith out in the middle of the field. I had no idea what it was, and I continued biking until I saw a sign on the side of the road that said studio this way. Still having no plan I checked it out and it was an artist’s studio where she sold her art and art supplies. Her studio had free tea, coffee, and juice, and we talked for a long while about art and architecture. She explained that the structure I saw was by Jørn Utzon, the architect who later designed the Sydney Opera House.
After our conversation, I continued to wander the beautiful town of Svaneke and took lots of photos. Having no plan at all, I saw incredible things and met incredible people, and it is one of my favorite memories of the trip.
Slow travel can mean a lot of different things. To me, it means both traveling sustainably, and traveling with an open mind to allow the trip to develop naturally. After all my slow travel this year at DIS, I think I now prefer it over other forms of travel. Nothing beats just showing up to a train, ferry, or bus station and getting on your way. Airports are complicated and stressful and banal. If you accept that slow travel is sometimes as it says, slow, you can see and appreciate so much more.
Learn more about Slow Travel at DIS