I'm ashamed to think I almost said no to my husband's invitation to go to Copenhagen for the weekend. He was there recording interviews for a documentary on Noma but said he would have free time to meet me in between. In fact, I did say no at first, my pathetic excuse being, won't it just be another cold city? Well, I'm writing this blog on the plane back, feeling utterly invigorated after my trip.
The truth is I've always been such a chicken. I have never travelled alone or have ever wanted to. I have never roamed across a foreign city by myself, at least not for very long. Half the reason I went travelling around South America with my friend in 2007 was because I knew if I got into any problems, at least I could speak Spanish.
My first approach of panic came after my first couple of hours alone. I'd been searching for the National Gallery, but my map reading skills were so poor I'd managed to walk in a huge circle and had ended up back at the Botanical Gardens. I didn't want to see plants, I wanted history and art. Mostly, I wanted to find the place I'd set out to find so I wouldn't feel this lump of failure in my chest. Not knowing what to do, I walked a little way into the gardens, but I didn't get far before a woman stopped me.
"Is that the exit up there?" she said, in an American accent. I said it was. I also said I was lost and did she know where the National Gallery was. It turned out she wanted to go there too. Both her map and map reading skills were superior to mine and five minutes later we'd found it. The woman was from Chicago and one of those open, friendly people who laugh easily. We had a great afternoon and ended up drinking wine together inside a lively foodie market. I met my husband later that evening, happy that I had not retreated to our apartment early.
On Day 2 my map reading was more successful. I walked until my legs ached and felt triumphant every time I found what I had been looking for. It was like a huge treasure hunt! I had never thought about visiting Denmark before and here I was alone with my map, in its beautiful clean capital city full of vibrant red brick, tiled roofs, pointed church spires and people riding about on bicycles.
I got lost again on Day 3 and felt the return of panic. A walk to the little mermaid, which should have taken twenty minutes, took me over an hour. At one point, I thought I might hit Sweden. I found her in the end. She's actually very small and doesn't really have a face, but the satisfaction for me, was in locating her.
The bonus of taking an hour instead of twenty minutes was that I arrived for the changing of the guards, where a band played some beautiful music. I felt a surge of positivity. It occurred to me I didn't have to spend my whole life being a bad map reader, that I could and was getting better!
This is the first time I've ever gone to a country where my husband has been working on a job. I'd always imagined it was going to be like that film, Lost in Translation, me hanging about in a hotel too intimidated to go out. What a boring chicken I've been!
After this weekend I feel really excited about life and all the countries there are to visit. Of course, Copenhagen is a great place to start if you're a scaredy cat like me. Everyone speaks brilliant English and there's a green man at every crossing. But with a bit more map reading practice, I'll soon be ready for the next difficulty level. I just wonder where he'll be called to next...