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Bornholm: What this small island taught me was how to really, properly ‘switch off’

harbor on Bornholm

(Photo by Natalie Mierswa)

Blog |   29. Sep 2020

Natalie Mierswa


As I sit by the window in my room, looking out at the nature and surrounding student rooms, I notice that the sunlight is seeping through the trees, the birds are flitting from place to place and every now and then a gust of wind comes and blows the fallen leaves away.

Sounds idyllic, right? There’s just one problem – that view is not of Bornholm, where I can only wish I was at this very, moment.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the middle of a cramped car, with my very Danish boyfriend and his family, driving in the drizzle through an island that’s commonly referred to as solskinsøen, or the Sunshine Island.

I thought of the equally grim weather forecast that I’d found for the week ahead, the fact that the phone reception and WiFi in the rooms of our cottage were patchy at best and that I was completely out-Daned and began to wonder exactly how fun and relaxing this holiday would be.

Fortunately, I found that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

For once, I wasn’t focused on getting through the day’s activities like tasks on a checklist, always thinking about what was next

What this small island, that I’d honestly never heard about before I came to Denmark, taught me was how to really, properly ‘switch off’. I found myself hardly using my phone without even realising it. In the morning and at night, I scrolled a bit and read the news (okay, mainly Reddit) and caught up on messages from friends, but otherwise, that was it.

Usually, I’m an early riser who’s probably too obsessed with being productive and not wasting time. Somehow though, by the second day I would wake up much later than usual and lie in bed without feeling guilty about it. I was having breakfast outside at 10 am for a whole hour, nursing my coffee as I watched the family dog desperately plead for yet more food, with the sun’s rays occasionally peeping out from behind the clouds to give us that summer feeling.

woman on a beach on Bornholm

(Private photo: Natalie Mierswa)

For once, I wasn’t focused on getting through the day’s activities like tasks on a checklist, always thinking about what was next. In fact, I didn’t ask what was next because I didn’t need to. The present moment was more than enough.

This is not to say that I just sat around doing nothing, of course. On the contrary, I don’t feel I’ve ever explored a place on holiday more thoroughly. Every day we went to a new harbour town, beach or historical site. I learnt about Danish history, but also my own, German history too.

I saw swans in the middle of the sea and beaches with the finest sand and not even so much as a plastic wrapper in the water. I ate more types of fish than I ever have before and about a month’s worth of ice cream too.

I played chess again for the first time in years, and actually managed to win my first game, thus starting a new hobby. Speaking of hobbies, I was able to test out my new professional camera that I bought myself as an early birthday present and fell in love with the art of waiting and adjusting for the perfect shot.

In short, I traded in my typical, online life and experiences for physical, real-life ones.

Now, back on the mainland, it’s all too easy to revert back to my old ways. After all, part of the reason why I was able to put my phone down so easily was because using it was virtually impossible on Bornholm.

That being said, I do notice a change still lives on in me.

I don’t have a compulsion to check my phone so much anymore, and I rarely scroll through social media. I try and do more activities that feel enriching or value-adding in some way, like reading, improving my video-editing skills or writing like I am right now.

Netflix has become background noise, not the sole focus of my attention. I feel so much happier with myself for all these changes, and hope to keep them going for as long as I can.

I strongly encourage you to visit Bornholm the next chance you get.

For me, it was more than just a ‘Sunshine Island’. That ‘laid-back island lifestyle’ that is often described doesn’t just mean ‘being lazy’ like I thought.

It means taking time to reset yourself, taking a step back to re-evaluate what really matters to you and taking measures to make your life fuller. And while you’re at it, take a moment to bask in the ever-fleeting sun, feel the wind, spot the birds.

Trust me, you’ll be very glad you did.

Harbor on Bornholm

(Photo by Natalie Mierswa)


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