Charlotte BULKELEY CREDLE
From the Travel Journal: On the Mid-day Train to Malmö
One of the fun(ni)est parts of travelling with friends is the people you meet, but I hadn’t really experienced the joy of meeting random people. Another funny element of solo-travelling but also being married is that there is a slight reduction of the creep factor when talking with strangers. Although not something I thought about before leaving, it’s a unique recurring experience when people notice you’re married, especially when they’re a peer, that the conversation energy changes because they now know something about you that impacts how they interact with you and therefore what they can go off to chat about in a conversation between strangers that’s beyond the impersonal realm of itineraries but inherently marks a personal boundary of reality. I’ve found it actually really reassuring several times when travelling alone for reasons like if I am approached by a talktative stranger (usually a man), I can say that my husband is nearby or that I’m going to meet him, providing that extra sense of security when things feel a little touch and go, or my interlocutor needs a clear sign that I am not a lone pair with no particle to come after me.
Another interesting personal development is that I’ve found I feel much freer to open the door of a conversation that I don’t particularly have a personal interest to walk through but someone else I’m with does. This idea is one I’m still mulling over, but it’s where I found myself on the mid-day train to Malmö.
My two travel friends and I (one from Iowa, the other from NYC, and myself from North Carolina), were sitting on the 11:30 train to Malmö, Sweden, just 1-hour from Copenhagen where were staying. Amidst our lively conversation of Elmo’s bit with Rocco on the good, old Sesame Street, our ears perked up at the sound of American accents right behind us. Our four block of seats back to back with a four block of four guys our age and ask we all took turns looking over to see if we could actually see who these fellow Americans were, I heard the all too familiar sounds of voices from the South East. How did I know? Because they sounded just like me. I turned to Chloe and Kaitlin and said « they are from the south east and I will bet you money we can guess where they’re from just by listening. » So, we listened and the next thing we heard was « So, are you baptist or presbyterian? » which, for me, was absolutely hilarious because being a pastors’ child and with an accent just like whoever was speaking, I cast my bets with either, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee. The three of us cracking up at the sheer bizarreness of hearing American accents two feet away from us with what sounded like such a normal conversation in a country across the ocean, our curiosity got the better of us and we wanted to meet our fellow compatriots on the other side.
With our stop closely approaching and a little shy of just popping around and asking where they were from (which, to be fair, if someone did that to me, I might be a little skitched out), with one more laugh about Elmo losing it over a pet rock, according to Kaitlin, I said, « I’m going to do it, I’m going to ask them if the next stop is Malmö. » So, Up I got and walked in the opposite direction.
Quick pause: if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my lawyer-pastor father (even though I have undoubtedly learned more from him that I will ever be able to articulate) is that you never want to ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. So, after a quick look at the map above the exit of our car, to double check our stop, I turned to walk back to our seats and ended up making eye contact with one of the Americans. The door was open and I stepped through to drag my two pals along with me. Out came the question « Sorry, but do y’all know if the next stop is for Malmö? ».
With traditional, heart-warming, southern manners, out of that south-eastern voice came a « Sorry, I don’t, but I think it might be on the map over there or maybe you can ask someone. We’re going to Lundt, so we’re not really sure. » (it’s important to note that most answers, especially from a Parisian would be « non » and a quick step in the other direction).
« Ok, thanks anyway. By the way, where are y’all from? » My bet was 33% correct: turns out, our new friends were from South Carolina, Chicago, and Taiwan - the pair of glasses, the beanie, and a crewneck sweater were all studying at a business school in Paris. Kaitlin and Chloe jumped into the conversation, adding our own personal residence in the land of cheese and wine, and an ensuing conversation of « oh wow, me too, » ensued. As we pulled up to the station, no information or anything exchanged at all, we hopped off the train with a new burst of laughter bubbling up.
Between the haha’s and the what-are-the-odd’s, the clear Malmöian air and the excitement of a new city to explore pushing the laughter out of my lungs, I side-eyed my two pals, « well I guess all the greatest love stories lead to Malmö, » with a heavy sprinkle of sarcasm and glee. « I just have a feeling that will not be our first encounter. » Our laughter and several renditions of « how is Rocko gonna find the stop to Malmö, Zoe, tell Elmo, » we exited the station and entered the sweet, slightly mis-advertised (by the bloggersphere), Swedish town (full itinerary and day-trip details here).
Fast-forward to the end of the day, we arrived back at Copenhagen Central Station where we made our way back to our hostel, Next House Copenhagen (not sponsored (lol), just highly recommend for the vibes). Our aching feet made it up the stairs (to the elevator) and back to our room to change before heading out again to find dinner.
Bundled up anew with our heavier coats and an extra scarf or two, we exited the lobby onto the sidewalk only to find the train gang on the steps of the hostel chatting it up with another traveler over a cigarette. All seven of us did a double take (which would that be 7! single takes?) and the glasses called « American train Malmö! » We doubled back to chat for a second and ended up going to dinner, even though we went to multiple places before finding one that was open and not seafood.
At the end of this fun, fun day, the list of take-aways include:
Say hi to the potential friends on the train.
Chloe is a very nice girl and glasses can chat it up even though they’re typically used for seeing.
It is possible to have 5 wheels on a surprise date at a Danish descendant of Burger King.
You’ll most likely not be laughing until your sides hurt in Copenhagen over Elmo and a pair of glasses, a beanie, and a crewneck at 23 ever again.
From the travel journal. October 2022.