The World’s Happiest

Over the summer of 2016, I booked a round-trip flight ticket to Copenhagen, Denmark, flying out of Denver, Colorado, on Christmas Eve, arriving on Christmas, and returning the eve of New Year’s Eve. What more refreshing way to reflect on another victorious and grateful year than a familiar solo adventure to the happiest country in the world? With in mind my peaceful and faith-strengthening experience in the world’s second-happiest country in Iceland, coincidentally formerly part of Denmark, I prayed that to be the case again at the conclusion of 2016, especially as this year has been the furthest thing from easy.

Landing in Scandinavia on Christmas, I prioritized finding a church to worship Jesus and remember His birth into the world. With the support of a bright young Danish girl on my plane from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Copenhagen, I conveniently located the Church of Our Saviour near the Copenhagen Airport just prior to the 10:30 AM Danish service. I do not speak the language, but I could feel what the female pastor was speaking of based on some of the biblical words I could make out. Due to the time of year, I did not spot too many tourists as I normally do when I travel and somewhat struggled with fulfilling one significant goal: befriending fellow visitors from all around the world. I should have anticipated this bearing in mind the sun rose around 8:00 AM and began setting close to 3:00 PM and generally families choose to be with one another for the holidays. I was pleasantly surprised by the climate; I had been warned multiple times by my close ones to make sure to pack heavy winter clothes, but both Denmark and Sweden felt tens of degrees warmer than Nebraska, where I work, and I even oftentimes sweated in my legitimate winter jacket.

Regardless of my detailed itinerary, I for the most part moved about spontaneously with hopes of seeing as many tourist attractions as time allowed and checked almost all activities I had researched. In five days, I covered virtually every popular indoor and outdoor site in Copenhagen and Malmö, Sweden; I visited Malmö mainly so that I could say I have set foot in Sweden. These locations include, in chronological order, the Church of Our Saviour, Tivoli Gardens, Amalienborg Palace, the Little Mermaid, the National Gallery of Denmark, various local sights on the culinary and sightseeing tour, Rosenborg Castle, the Knotted Gun, the Sankt Petri Church, Moderna Museet Malmö, Malmöhus Castle, Turning Torso, the National Museum of Denmark, Christiansborg Palace, and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Walking to and in the majority of these destinations and considering how my body felt after each day, I am confident I traveled between 30 and 40 miles on foot; however, I refused to slow down because my time was limited. The immense smoking culture made the walk quite painful because I had trouble breathing for as long as I remained outside; seven or eight out of ten people in public held cigarettes in their hands, causing me to frequently instinctively grunt. In Malmö Central Station, although fully prepared for such ordeal, I managed to get my round-trip train ticket pickpocketed. Understandably I was initially frustrated but then began to appreciate not losing my passport, wallet, or iPhone instead; the thief stole the one possession I could afford to relinquish. As my father told me over the phone that evening, “It was an important yet inexpensive lesson.”

Each night in my minute hotel room with a bathroom where the toilet and shower without a tub or glass face a foot across each other and my knees almost touched the wall when sitting on the toilet, I thought of how privileged my life has been. I for the first time while traveling even felt lonely in that clogged environment. I shared this room observation with the friendly and intelligent tour guide of the culinary and sightseeing tour, and she replied, “That is actually very common in Denmark because a lot of old buildings were renovated” and reminded me I cannot fairly compare the typical room size of Denmark to that of the US, again providing me with a reason to thank my comfortable and spoiled life.

My first of three flights back from Copenhagen to Denver on December 30 was canceled due to fog, and I spent a large portion of my final evening in Scandinavia seeking an ideal alternative. Once I did, my new first flight out of Denmark arrived in Washington, DC, thirty minutes later than scheduled, and with my bag being one of the last to come out of the baggage claim, I had no choice but to sprint over a mile to barely make the final flight to Denver. Here, I felt thankful for all the running I have done in the past half a decade, as I of early 2012 may not have been able to pull this off.

2016 has been a year of constant ups and downs, but I always try to remember how much God has blessed my life and hundreds of millions of people in this world would long for my worst possible day. This lone journey to Western Europe helped me once again realize how fortunate I am with a compassionate Jesus-following family, good health, a stable full-time job, and the ability to eat whatever and travel wherever whenever I desire. I cannot wait to witness what my Father has in store for me in 2017.

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