This week ATW features a guest blog post from Jonathan Agosta. The Atlanta-area native lived in the same host family house as I upon my arrival in Lima, Peru. Jonathan’s passionate about language, always wanting to speak the local language like a native. He makes friends easily. His maturity belies his young 20-something age. What’s more, he works his way through college, saving money along the way to afford his international travels. Truly this guy has impressed me. Here ATW shares a tale of his first solo trip abroad.
SAS flight SK944 departing from Newark began boarding at 8:05 p.m. Jonathan had just turned off his cell phone and put it away in his backpack while realizing that that conversation would be the last time he would hear his mother’s voice for a few months. The blond haired stewardesses were greeting each passenger with a smile as they made their way into the Boeing 747 aircraft. Everything was moving fast, Jonathan thought, and now the plane was already in the air and the crew was serving beverages.
“Would you like wine or beer?” asked the Scandinavian stewardess. There was a brief silence as 19-year old Jonathan stared her in the face. “I’ll take a beer, please,” he replied to the attractive woman. “Tuborg,” he tried pronouncing as she placed the green can on the tray table in front of him. Once the cabin had all been served the seat belt sign turned off and passengers began walking freely about the plane chatting amongst themselves with either a beer or baby in hand, treating the seven-hour flight as a sort of social party.
“You’ll be backpacking around Europe all by yourself?” the middle aged women seated next to Jonathan asked. “Yes, I worked a lot of hours to fund this trip,” he told her. The plane flew through the night and Jonathan’s excitement prevented any attempt to fall asleep. He knew that soon he would be under the sun in a big field at Roskilde http://roskilde-festival.dk/uk/, the annual Danish music festival where young folks from all over the continent congregate for days in a sort of community listening to their favorite musicians.
The plane landed and pulled into the gate at 10:16 a.m. After completing customs and retrieving his backpack, Jonathan walked aimlessly around Kastrup International trying to locate the entrance of the train station as he listened to a new, strange language reverberating throughout the airport. Danish sounds quite harsh at first, at least to any native English speaker, but little did he know how beautiful it would sound later.
Jonathan arrived at Roskilde in awe. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. Stages, tents, a plethora of recycling bins, windmills, a bicycle-powered ferris wheel, blond haired people, deliciously healthy cuisine, and live musical entertainment were all located in one enormous field in what some statistics show as one of the happiest nations in the world. The festival raged on as headliners like Nine Inch Nails and Coldplay played the last few nights, but it then came to an abrupt and exhausting end on Sunday when everybody collected themselves and crawled to the train station where they began a dreaded journey home. Jonathan, however, wasn’t heading home because he had plans of his own in store.
He had just finished packing away his tent into the depths of his pack as Sarah and her unborn child’s father, Lukas, were approaching.
“Well, we appreciate all of your hard work for the past couple weeks, especially since you came here directly from the festival,” Lukas told him.
“If you need any more days to fill during your trip I am sure we’ll have some more work for you later,” concluded Sarah.
Jonathan told them both goodbye and then started what would be a long hike back to the nearest city, Aarhus, and then it would be an additional four hours to Germany by train. However, sometimes things don’t go the way they were originally planned. A cool breeze reminded him to put up his hood as he trotted down the country road back towards the highway. It was early in the morning and the summer sun was starting to shine as he noted how peaceful the Danish country side was and that he was glad he actually went through with the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteer program for the previous two weeks. After less than an hour of walking Jonathan was sitting in the passenger seat of a tow truck on his way to Aarhus. Jonathan knew that he wouldn’t get to Aarhus in a timely manner unless he hitched at least some of way. It wasn’t the first time he had accepted a ride from a stranger either, as he remembered how his friend Marc and he hitched in the back of some truck during a backpacking trip in North Georgia. Except this time it was a tow truck and the driver was just as if not friendlier than in Blue Ridge.
“I’m going to have to drop you off here,” the driver said as he pulled into an auto shop parking lot located on the outskirts of Aarhus. “I really appreciate the lift and I’ll enjoy walking the rest of the way, too,” Jonathan told him.
He walked through the town and even through the university campus where people were zipping along the sidewalks by either bike or skateboard between classes. It was a well-kept little town, charming, he thought. A long, but enjoyable tour of the city finally made him realize that he was not finding the train station. However, at that point he had already crept down Havengade and was standing in front of City Sleep Hostel which automatically seemed more decent that the European hostels he had been told about. He let himself in only to find that the reception was not open during the mid-afternoon, so he decided he would wait in the courtyard, where he unexpectedly bumped into seven girls from Copenhagen who were vacationing for the week. He soon was able to check into his dormitory where he became acquainted with his Belgian and French roommates. The three of them began the night with a short walk with drinks in hand cruising down some of the city’s main streets laughing at the kind of jokes that only guys think are funny. Later, they returned to the hostel and quickly assembled a group in the courtyard with the Danish girls, a brother and sister from Colorado, and two road-trippers from Switzerland. One of the Danish girls, Louise, had her iPod speaker system that blared music as everyone tried to talk over each other. The next few nights consisted of the entire group prancing down what seemed like streets paved in gold getting to know the town, and cheerfully singing, “Jonathan, giv aldrig op! Glem de nederlag!” (Jonathan, never give up. Forget the defeat)
The last night together Jonathan and his friends spent one more time enjoying each other’s company in the hostel courtyard and around Aarhus. As much fun as everyone had had, the thought of separation seemed unbearable to them all. The following morning, however, Jonathan was riding in the backseat of a Honda CRV on his way to Germany with two Swiss friends up front. He was thinking about how much fun it had been the past few weeks coming all the way from the United States to Copenhagen, to Roskilde, to the farm, to Aarhus, and now to Germany with two months remaining in the European tour. He especially thought of Aarhus and how his experience and the people he met there made him feel overwhelmingly happy and alive.