Ellen Hu ’24
A month ago I was stranded in the middle of Jutland (mainland Denmark), stress-eating a pizza at the bus station of a town I could not pronounce, and thinking that I was never going to make it to my final destination. The sad thing is that I did this twice. On the same day.
Worriedly eating entire pizzas on the side of the road was the result of a brash decision I made to visit Billund: home of the Lego and the first-ever Legoland. A friend and I finalized our plans, booked all of our transportation, housing accommodations, and tickets less than eight hours before I headed to my train the next morning. I would be traveling alone on the way there, and we would meet up at night.
Everything went well at first: I woke up at 5 a.m. and grabbed all of the final toiletries that I needed to pack. By 6:30, I was out the door and headed to the train station with lots of time to spare.
As my early morning implies, I’m usually someone who has everything planned out. I create itineraries down to the minute, print out all documentation in case my phone dies, and create a packing list at least one week in advance so that I’ll have everything I may need while I’m away.
While you can never ensure your trip runs smoothly, I’ve found that those three steps act as a recipe for success in at least getting through the foundation of your trip — in other words, getting there and back. Unfortunately for me, I had done none of the above.
As a result, I found that I was missing my phone charging cord and portable charger about five minutes into my train ride out of Copenhagen. Great. My phone was already at 65%.
In my first challenge of the day, I sat through the rest of my three hour train ride researching where I might be able to purchase a phone charger. If I had not been wearing an extremely heavy backpack, my movement to the nearest electronics store the moment I stepped off of the train would have been considered a brisk run. I’m sure all of the local Danes were wondering what was going on, including the man who I first tried to purchase a charging cord from.
That attempt was a failure. The man seemed genuinely apologetic, but in the end he couldn’t sell it to me because the store’s network connection was down. What? How does that have anything to do with selling me a charging cord? My patience, courage, and resilience were being tested.
I was eventually able to purchase a cord from a store down the street and made my way back to the bus station for the second half of my journey. That’s when I ran into my second challenge: getting on the bus.
All of my travel ticket purchases so far had been through an app, so my heart dropped when that exact app said “no tickets available” for all of the buses leaving that day. At this point I was on the verge of tears, trying to decide whether I should buy a train ticket back to Copenhagen or find a different way to get to Billund.
My next move was to purchase a pizza for lunch and jump into more research on how I could get to my final destination without taking a bus. I eventually figured out that I could take another train north and then take a bus from there. One step forward — I would not be giving up on this trip.
The only problem was that I had a noon reservation for Lego House, an interactive Lego exhibition, but the soonest I was going to be able to get there was around 2 p.m. My stress levels were through the roof, yet I was proud of myself for having figured out how to get there in the first place. It was one win in a day filled with so much that had gone wrong.
As I sat there eating my pizza, I started to get curious. Surely someone on the internet would have given the heads up that you needed to purchase your bus tickets to Legoland well in advance, right? I whipped out my computer to do some research, only to find that bus tickets weren’t available to purchase on the app because you had to pay for the ticket in cash.
I could have hopped on the next available bus and made my way to Lego House only an hour after my reservation had I not already bought my train ticket. Now I was feeling stupid as well as stressed and overwhelmed.
A rollercoaster of emotions piled on my plate as I boarded the train on the second leg of my journey. As tense as I was, I couldn’t help but remind myself that I had made it this far – I was officially in a part of Denmark that I had never experienced before!
Even in moments of true chaos on the trip, I found ways to settle into a state of calmness and take it all in. For the first time that day, I sat back and focused on enjoying the views at hand. I had no idea what I was going to see, but I loved every second.
I arrived in Billund a few hours later. The joy I felt after arriving in the city center was insurmountable. I had made it, and that was all that mattered. Lego House, here I come!
Except for the fact that I accidentally attempted to get into the Lego headquarters, located about 10 minutes in the opposite direction, rather than Lego House. Usually I’d be embarrassed by this, but I’d grown numb to any sense of self-consciousness throughout the day. It felt good to move through life without constantly worrying about how other people perceived me.
Once I entered the correct building, I had the greatest time of my life. I spent hours in the building: watching Legos being made, building my own Lego creations, and staring in awe at the amazing Lego creations on display. I wasn’t even halfway through my trip and my troubles had already been worth it.
However, the building must have been a little island of paradise because my problems started up again the moment I stepped outside. The final stretch of my journey was to make it to my lodging, so after grabbing another pizza for dinner I walked back to the bus stop as it began to rain.
10 minutes. That’s how long I had before the next bus was supposed to come, and yet when I arrived at the bus stop, a bus with the exact same name as the one I was looking for pulled up on the other side of the street.
My split second decision to run across the road after figuring it was the bus I needed came with no avail – the bus pulled out of the driveway right as I reached the sidewalk. There I was with a giant pizza that was quickly beginning to go cold and my heavy backpack that I am sure is going to give me back pain for the rest of my life.
The next bus to my destination wouldn’t arrive for another hour. After panic texting my friend, all I could do was sit in the rain and eat my pizza. It must have been a sad sight for everyone else at the bus stop.
However, if the first half of the day had taught me anything, it was that I couldn’t give up on myself. I had already gotten through so many mishaps, I was going to get through this challenge as well.
As a result, I got up and walked back over to the side of the street I had originally started at after swallowing my first piece of pizza. I would wait with the rest of these Lego employees and hope that my first instinct was correct.
I should have trusted my gut all along. It turns out that the bus that had previously arrived on the other side of the street was just 20 minutes later than scheduled. In my antsy state I had thrown all of my intuition down the drain.
I’d like to say that was the end of my adventure, but it wasn’t. I missed the bus stop I was supposed to get off at and struggled to get into my Airbnb because my phone died moments before I was able to read the last few digits of the entry code.
All this being said, I had the greatest adventure of my entire life within those 24 hours. It challenged me every step of the way and pushed me to get around problems I could not have even imagined the week before.
I figured out ways to look on the bright side and problem solve through it all. The way I overcame issues and emotionally responded to each bump in the road revealed more about how I act under pressure, something I’ve begun to use in my daily life.
While it tested every ounce of my being, this experience has taught me the value of jumping in headfirst and putting an effort into creating adventures for myself. Hear me out: we should all take at least one spontaneous trip in our lives. Not only does it provide you with great stories to make you more interesting, it also forces you to be resilient and shows you just how capable you are.
Image Source: Ellen Hu ’24