But why Denmark?

But why Denmark?

So I am going to spend three full months in Europe, and I’ve chosen to spend six of the twelve weeks in Denmark. You’re wondering why, I’m sure. There are several answers to this question.

1. It is a beautiful place.

ravnflauget

Denmark is absolutely beautiful.It is filled with beautiful fjords, beaches, waterways, farms, fields, villages, towns, and cities. I want to see all of that.

Its climate is awesome, particularly the time of year I am going. The average temperature index in Denmark is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year. Now, the humidity index still tends to be close to 80%, but here in Raleigh, we usually hover in the 90% range in the summer.

2. It has a rich history, particularly it’s medieval history.

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Everywhere you go in Denmark has ties in one way or another to Denmark’s rich Viking history. It’s museums feature ancient ships, tales of great warrior leaders, Danish kings, and so so many other things that demonstrate the ancient Vikings’ various contributions to European history.

Denmark has been populated by humans of various degrees of civilization for a long, long time. When I travel around and observe historical things in the United States, I’m looking at roughly 300 years of history. In Denmark, I’ll be looking back closer to 2000 years at times.

3. Vikings.

vikings

I loved the History Channel’s dramatic retelling of the exploits of Ragnar Lothbrook in their series Vikings. In fact, once I finished watching it, it inspired me to read The Sea Wolves, by Lars Brownworth, which got me looking up the names of places I read about on Google Maps and track the movement of the Vikings around northern Europe. All this mental exploration made me want to go there for real and see these places in person, explore this history on the ground, and walk in places where people have lived and walked for thousands of years.

So during my journeys, I very much hope to visit places like:

4. Farms.

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Of course, there are farms all over Europe that would probably also offer wonderful WOOFing experiences. But there is just something exciting about working and staying at farms so near to the water like in Denmark. One of the farms I’ll be staying at, in Nibe, Denmark, is actually established on a fjord. The farmhouse itself is U-shaped, with three wings and a courtyard in the middle, and still has a thatched roof (albeit with some improvements, I imagine) and was originally founded in 1777.

You’re going to Europe to do farming? Okay…

You’re going to Europe to do farming? Okay…

For those of you who know me well (or follow me on Instagram) this probably comes as little or no surprise. The rest, however, might find this to be a strange choice as an answer to the question, ‘If you could go anywhere and do whatever you wanted for three months and still be gainfully employed, where would you go and what would you do?’

Fair enough. I shall tell you the story of me and farming.

The inciting incident.

I quit my job two years ago (as of May 19!) and had the luxury of deciding my last day at my old job and my first day at my new job. It was a no-brainer. I would finish my time at my old employer and take two weeks off before starting my new gig at Local Eye Site as their Director of Technology, a role that I was deeply honored to be hired for, and was really excited for the challenges ahead of me.

I needed the time off from work to regroup since the stress that I had experienced leading up to my departure had been pretty intense. I wanted to get away from computers. The work I do as a web developer means I stay glued to my Macbook Pro for several hours every day with few hours, let alone days, of computer-free living. So when I quit, I shut my computer and left it in my bag for two weeks.

Then I realized I had no clue what I was going to do for 14 days.

I made good use of the first week by spending it with my parents in my hometown of Newport, NC. I read books. I watched movies. I joked around with my parents. I did yardwork with my dad. It was a very relaxing time away from Raleigh. While I was there, I remembered that at my roommate’s house back in Raleigh there was an old garden area from the previous owner, but was overgrown and unusable.

I knew what I must do.

I knew I did not want to spend the whole next week leading up to starting my new job sitting around watching Netflix and eating chips, so this would be the perfect project.

I’ll clean it up and plant it. I’ll become a gardener.

Baby plants & baby gardener

So I bought some tools, plants and fertilizer and spent my first five days back in Raleigh pulling weeds, digging in the soil, and planting tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, and green peppers.

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In the weeks that followed, I wondered (as did Garrett, my roommate) whether I would stick with it. And I absolutely loved it. I went out to check on my plants every morning, cup of coffee in hand. I watched them grow. I watered. I fertilized. AND THEY GREW! I kept at it and they started putting on flowers, and then the flowers turned into vegetables!

It was an amazing experience. I was raising plants that yielded food!

Gardener, philosopher.

What I discovered was not simply plant biology: “vegetables come from plants.” Rather, I discovered that growing vegetables connected me with the oldest trade in the world: farming. As a Christian, I found myself meditating on the realities of original Creation. God had given man work. This work. “Work and till the earth, Adam. It is good.”(Gen.2:15) It made me think differently about my normal work. God has given me another job as a web programmer, but the purpose of that work is the same: to create and steward and cultivate this world, and for this to be an act of worship to the Creator.

Secondly, it gave me a tangible way to observe God’s hand at work each day, still creating Good things amidst all the pain and suffering so painfully obvious in our world. Every new leaf, every flower, every fruit screams to me “I am still here, and I am still at work. And all my work is Good.”

Thirdly, eating food that you grew yourself is really, really satisfying. And yeah, I take a lot of pictures of them on Instagram. Expect to see plenty during this trip as well.

So that is the story of me and farming. Well, gardening. I will save my story with farming proper for another time.

A rough sketch.

A rough sketch.

So what are you doing for three months in Europe? And where are you going?

Glad you asked.

I am headed to Denmark and Ireland to work on farms and explore their beautiful places and cultures. No, I am not getting a new job. I am not giving up on web development. I am not even taking a haitus from Local Eye Site/Rise Hire. In fact, my amazing employer is generously working with me on all fronts to allow me to do this. Clearly, I’ll be working less, but the idea right now is to work a lot now and work whenever I can during the trip. It’s an incredible opportunity to explore, stretch and grow, and I get to do it while remaining employed as the Director of Technology of a small business. But I digress. I promised you a sketch of my plans.

Chapter One: Farming in Stengåden, Birkerød, Denmark.

(pronounced Beer•keh•vol)

This is small-scale vegetable production farm located just a few miles north of Copenhagen. I know very little about the farm itself other than what they have posted on their HelpX.com profile. The interesting highlights are:

  • 5 hectare with over 100 kinds of vegetables
  • 3000 egg laying hens
  • 50 grass-fed meat cows
  • 100 hectares of grains and clover
  • 50’000’000 bees:)
  • A puppy!

I’m particularly excited about the bees. Beekeeping and honey production is something I’ve been interested in for a long time and have never had the opportunity to explore it hands-on.

I’ll come here after a week on my own in Copenhagen and stay and work for three weeks.

Chapter Two: Farming in Ennis, Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

After my stay at Stengåden, I’ll hop back on a plane and fly into Dublin, Ireland and take a bus ride straight west into County Clare to a town called Ennis. From there I’ll meet my host, a man named Aidan. I’ll be working on Aidan’s small farm for three weeks and will hopefully have a chance to see, explore, and experience one of the most traditional, authentic and ancient parts of Ireland.

I know very little about Ennis, but it is located northwest of Limerick in County Clare, and is only about 30 miles from the famous Cliffs of Moher (pictured above)

Chapter Three: Farming in Nibe, Denmark.

(pronounced Neeb)

Aalborg

When I return from Ireland, I plan to take a train across Denmark for my first experience off the island of North Zealand and will disembark at the city of Aalborg in Jutland. My host here is the Sissgard family who own and operate their small deer farm / bed and breakfast that was originally founded in 1777!

Chapter Four: European Tour

It would be a bit of a waste to travel to Europe for the first time and not do a little tourism. So when I finish chapter three of my adventure, the plan is to fly south and work my way back to Copenhagen. Thankfully, I won’t be doing this alone. One of my good friends, Josh Bielick, is planning to meet up with me so we shall enjoy the last two week of this adventure together.

We don’t have definite plans yet, but so far the list looks a little something like:

  • Rome, Italy
  • Florence, Italy
  • Assisi, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Paris, France

Cameron, what are you doing?

I get it.

Picking up and flying to Europe for three months is a bit strange. I have a great job, a great church, great friends here in Raleigh, and an amazing family only hours away. So why would I want to press pause on being part of and enjoying all that?

The answer is more complicated than you might think. But suffice it to say for now that I need to hit the reset button. Perspective is quite possibly the most important factor to happiness. I feel like I’ve been living my life too close to the page for a while now. Get up. Drink coffee. Read Bible. Work. Exercise. Hobbies. Sleep. Repeat.

I want to step out of all that for a while. Those are all good things, but I’m convinced that I don’t quite have the right perspective to appreciate them properly. My job, my family, friends, health and hobbies are all Good gifts from a Good Creator. I want to step far enough away from the norm to actually see the Gifts God has given me and recapture the capacity to enjoy them, and enjoy God through them.

So this is possibly not what you expected—not quite what I’m doing, but mainly why I’m doing it. And that is the short version. I’ll probably write more about my goals and expectations later. (The ones I’m willing to share anyway, there are others only my close friends will hear about.)