I recently embarked on a much need vacation to Mexico with my husband. We had a wonderful time reconnecting, sleeping, eating all the tacos, and trying to avoid looking at two exhibitionists – if you really need details on that adventure, check out my social media feeds. I love traveling to other countries and really enjoy experiencing the authentic culture; eating foods I wouldn’t normally see at the grocery store, meeting the locals, and wandering the forgotten streets – in other words, you probably won’t find me at one of those huge, beautiful, all inclusive resorts. As nice as they are, they aren’t really my style.
When I travel I seek to find a takeaway from my experiences – little tidbits or habits a particular culture embraces that I can incorporate into my life thus allowing the culture I experience to live on in my present reality. In past years some of these takeaways have included eating more fermented foods or preparing large, family style meals with grilled meat, veggies, and tortillas, or finding creative ways to bring the outdoors inside through live plants and open doors. Usually the takeaways present themselves through the culture I am visiting but not this time. This time Ryan and I went to Mexico but our takeaway unraveled from an unlikely source.
Early on, we met a young family from Denmark, mom, dad, and a few kids, including a 10 month old baby, on a dream vacation in Mexico for a few weeks. We chatted by the pool, they thought we were honeymooners (ha!) and Ryan and I discovered we might really enjoy living in Denmark but probably not with 8 kids. We learned a lot about one another’s cultures. Most families are really similar throughout the world – they struggle with kids and screen time, they desire to have fun together, and they want the best for one another and those they live and work with.
As we talked, I remembered this book I had purchased at Barnes and Nobel a few years back – a book that spoke of this concept known as hygge, a concept originating from the Danish culture – a concept of peace and home and togetherness. I questioned them about this, what it is and how it works in their personal lives. They explained how it involves being together, lighting a candle, putting another log on the fire, enjoying peace, comfort, and love within the home and not hurrying through the process to get on to the next item on the to do list but instead reveling in the moments together that bring a true depth to the meaning of life.
If I’m being honest, this concept is a struggle – especially because it involves incorporating fun times together as a family and lately when all of us are together, there’s a lot of stress and bickering and not having fun. Four teenagers who all have different, strong opinions about everything, a special needs child who has difficult needs that only seem to become more challenging as he ages and goes through puberty, a toddler who has lots of precious sass, a few more scattered children throughout the middle years and a partridge in a pear tree. Time together is incredibly draining because it takes so much energy, and honestly wouldn’t be first choice if I completely leaned into my selfish nature, but I know to give my kids the best, they need present parents, they need parents who keep having the hard conversations with them, and they need their parents to enjoy spending time with them.
Later that I night, I dug a little deeper into the meaning of hygge through the convenience of the world wide web. This little concept involves the present: peace, slowing down, breathing, relaxing, and minimalism at the core which can be so difficult because we are oftentimes suffocated by our possessions, all of the meaningless stuff that constantly beckons for our attention when we’re home, the piles of clothes that need to be washed, all the rooms that need to be cleaned, the decorative fluff from World Market that needs dusting, the linens calling to be organized, the vehicles that need servicing, and on and on and on. So much stuff that owns us at the end of the day – stuff that steals our time away from those we love – stealing our time away from the only thing worth living for – relationships.
Hygge – stripping away the meaningless and reveling in the eternal – cultivating memories with those we share our homes with – not cultivating more possessions, and in fact, donating the items that aren’t useful to make space for time and energy to be devoted to family and the simple pleasures of life. I’m determined to bring more hygge into my home and life. Thank you for the gift my Danish friends.