My husband and I just returned from visiting our daughter in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she is studying for the semester. Before we left, we had gathered from frequent text messages, video chats and Facebook posts that she was having the time of her life—embarking on new travel adventures, assimilating to a vastly different culture and learning to deal with unfamiliar challenges.
Nevertheless, we were unprepared for the adult who greeted us at our hotel, nearly three months to the day since she had left. Her face lit up with a huge smile, and a frenetic excitement permeated her very being. She gave us each a huge hug and promptly asked: “Are you guys tired after your flight, or are you ready to see Copenhagen?”
Without hesitation, we chose the latter. If our daughter was ready to show us her city, we were ready too. Sleep would have to wait. As she led us adroitly through the winding, cobblestone streets, it struck me that this was the first time in all our years of traveling as a family that I had not planned and organized the trip. I had not even consulted a Copenhagen guidebook. I realized that my husband and I would be following—instead of leading— her for the first time in our lives.
For the next three days and nights, our private guide led us on an exceptional, and very personal, inside tour of Copenhagen. Highlights included climbing a narrow spiral stairway to the top of Church of our Savior with panoramic city views… lunching at her regular café, Paludan, housed in an old library…. Bicycling through the city and learning its unique history (an excursion our daughter had booked with a crazy Dane as our leader)… jumping on in-ground trampolines in a local park… strolling through Nyhavn, the picturesque harbor filled with colorful houses and bustling cafes… visiting Christiana, a local hippie enclave where marijuana is legal (and prevalent)… sampling dozens of local and international eats off the food trucks at Copenhagen’s Street Food market… discovering the magic of the Tivoli Gardens amusement park…
Each day, we travelled several miles by foot, bicycle and metro, our every move expertly led by our knowledgeable guide, who also made all of our dinner and brunch reservations, complete with menu suggestions gleaned from friends. She even taught us a few Danish words like Hej (“hello”) and Tak (“thanks!”)
Yes, we stayed in a nice hotel and dined in a couple of the finest restaurants in town, but the defining moments of this journey were not spent in fancy hotels and 5-star restaurants. They focused on exploring a magnificent, new place through the eyes of our daughter and marveling at her ability to navigate a foreign city with ease, independence and supreme confidence. As parents, nothing could have made us prouder than observing the young woman our daughter has grown into during these three months abroad. It was extremely gratifying to be able to share in her happiness and contentment with the new life she has built for herself.
Copenhagen is known as the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Our exceedingly happy girl, who embraces life fully each and every day and whose favorite motto is YOLO (you only live once,) could not have chosen a more fitting location for her junior year abroad experience and transition into adulthood.