My first week as the Golin Untern has been a week unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Volunteering for one week on an organic farm, I’ve been roughing it in the countryside to get insight into this alternative Danish lifestyle…
Organised through the website ‘Workaway’, my host for the week would be Mel – a tall, warm and exuberant presence. Her favourite shops are thrift, her food is 100% home grown and her smile always invites you to do the same.
We meet outside the empty Skalbjerg station and despite the long journey, I find my energy levels raised as we greet one another like old friends. We walk and talk on the way to her home, and discuss her own ‘pursuit of happiness’ — swapping the familiar city life for the alien countryside. This change was quite recent, and as a result, she states she’s currently living “quite primitive” and goes on to make a joke of having no access to the internet.
At the time I paid the statement no mind, however upon entry to her humble abode, I realised ‘primitive’ was as accurate as can be. The tour lasted less than 2 minutes and included the likes of a plastic box which acted as the ‘fridge’, a toilet which didn’t accept paper, one broken tap with only cold water, a garden hose with complimentary shower head adapter and a bedroom decorated with cobwebs and partial flooring. It was at this point I genuinely wondered, what an earth have I gotten myself into?!
However in the spirit of ‘going all in’, I simply smiled and responded “this’ll do”, when the tour culminated with the patch of grass I would be sleeping on.
New home for the week
In a way the last sentence epitomises my time at Mel’s. A week of continually challenging myself and adapting — all done with a smile on my face. I fully embraced every experience and ultimately had an incredible week full of knowledge, selfless giving and personal contentment.
On reflecting why this was, I believe my complete indulgence in this somewhat extreme version of the Danish countryside, led me to fulfilling all 5 happiness actions within one week!
I connected with Mel and Halu (fellow workawayer from Japan) through many great conversations on topics such as history, cultural intricacies, philosophy, music, food etc. A key contributor to this was meal time, where we would regularly make time and get together to share breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wouldn’t necessarily say the regularity of meal get-togethers is Danish, however the element of sharing food and great conversation over a candle light, certainly is.
Making time for the sunset, warm beers, cold pizza and new friends
This whole week was about giving. I completely indulged in the Danish countryside culture of selflessly helping others. In my normal day-to-day back home, I try to do this, however I’ve found it’s very easy to get caught up in my own life. Giving quickly became much more than the mandatory 4 work hours and I seized every opportunity to give my time and energy to someone else. Whether it was giving English lessons to Halu, helping restore Mel’s old bike or creating a lampshade from wallpaper for a bright bedroom light.
Through these experiences and conversations, I continually learnt so much. From Danish values, to how to grow pumpkins, and even the recipe for a deliciously sweet vegan cake we repeatedly made and devoured (recipe on twitter! @leslielatchman)
My time was also spent being very active, from the weeding in the garden to exploring nearby forest and hidden lakes. Even more interesting though, is the weeding of the fields became almost therapeutic. I found it forces you to take notice and be more present. A combination of doing a great job and not wanting to become a serial killer of insects/slugs, my focus became completely captured by nature.
I noticed the intricacies of the surrounding flowers, the competing birds as they performed in the crop fields and at the risk of sounding like a complete hippy — my favourite moment was with the bees, which would occasionally land on the weeds/flowers just before I was about to remove them. Conflicted, I would often concede and leave a bunch of weeds for their use.
Looking back on each day’s work with a strong feeling of pride, I can see why this simple lifestyle could achieve such levels of content.
Although this week wasn’t what I had originally envisioned, it surpassed all expectations and I’m excited for what the rest of my journey holds!
In stark contrast, I’m now off to Aarhus – the 2017 European capital of culture to get an insight into the city life of the Danes.
If waiting a week for the next blog post is too much, then follow me on Instagram @lesliealfonso for a sneak peak and exclusive content of my weekly adventures…
Find out more about Leslie’s Untern adventure here.