"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
~ Viktor Frankl
My husband and I are getting ready to head Across the Pond for a long planned and highly anticipated trip to Denmark and Germany. In Denmark, we will be revisiting an earlier chapter of my husband Tom's life, where he spent his senior year in high school as an exchange student. Along with sleeping in the same house that was, and still is, the country home of his host family, he will have a chance to re-kindle his fluency in Danish, renew old friendships, and eat his weight in pickled herring. I'm looking forward to all of the above. I love to crawl into any bed with him, he's especially sexy when he speaks Danish, (which is crazy, because to my ear, it mostly sounds like he is clearing his throat), and the only reason I eat the herring is to follow it with the customary shot of Aalborg Aquavit, a 90-proof, caraway flavored distilled spirit.
The trip to Germany, however, will have a different flavor to it, as one of our main reasons for going there is to spend time at Dachau. One year in college I took a J-Term course called The Holocaust in Jewish Literature. For a month we steeped ourselves in Viktor Frankl and Elie Wiesel. We read Ann Frank's Diary of a Young Girl and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Ever since then, I've had a deep need to stand in the midst of one of the darkest periods in recent history.
Our time in each country will be, in a sense, historical pilgrimages. One a chance to savor a rich time in the life of the man that I love. The other, a choice to swallow the bitter taste of death and the kind of destruction that can result when evil and fear-mongering hatred are let loose in the world.
Both experiences feel important and laden with meaning. And they are.
Both experiences feel weighty. And they are.
To that end, I've thought long and hard about how to make the most out of this trip.
So it was fascinating when two trusted friends, independent of one another, suggested that I "travel lightly".
How does one travel lightly, even when visiting Dachau?
I'm not sure.
But I think it has to do with leaving behind expectations and preconceived ideas, and making room for wonder and surprise no matter where we are.
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