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Finding my Hygge at the Living Future Conference

by | June 23, 2016 10 Presentations, SERA General

I recently attended a Living Future Conference workshop in Seattle where we explored the Danish concept of Hygge. To the Danish, Hygge (pronounced ‘Hue-gah’) can mean many things, including a calming environment, comfort, warmth, friends, home and nourishment. We were first introduced to this concept by leaving the busy behind – our bags, phones and laptops held outside of our conference room. The lights were dimmed, thin tree branches emerged from tables with soft mood uplighting. At each table setting was a piece of chocolate. Soft music played.

This was so different from a typical conference setting. This room was created for us with a great attention to detail and forethought. It was in this setting that we discussed what nourishment meant to us.

“Riding to the conference gave me a chance to see the Seattle as well as feel at home in myself.”

The term itself, Hygge, is new to me, but I understand it to be a merge of cozy while living in the moment to enjoy life. One might have a corner in a room dedicated for quiet reading time or tea. It might be an evening spent with friends or family. It could be a solo candlelit dinner. The Danish have long, dark days in the winter, thus Hygge has evolved because of their environment.

These cozy environments are lovely and who doesn’t love chocolate? While sitting in this class, I realized my Hygge is found in a different way – on a bike. I ride almost every day of the year, so I guess bikes are a part of me. It was pretty awesome to spend time learning at the conference, but 12+ hours straight of listening and talking – well that’s a long day. Riding to the conference gave me a chance to see the Seattle as well as feel at home in myself.

Hygge-collage

During my time in Seattle, I deliberately chose an unconventional path by staying at the International Youth hostel in Chinatown rather than a hotel by the convention. After taking the train to Seattle, I explored the neighborhood and sat down at the local sushi bar Tsukushinbo for a traditional and delicious Japanese dinner of local food. I then walked across town to hear the opening keynote for the conference, and following the speech, I reserved a Pronto rental bike for the next few days. I then rode back to the hostel as any first time rider in a city would do, picking a street not really meant for cyclists. Oops!

The next morning after stopping at the front desk to ask about a better bike route to the conference, I hopped on my heavy rental bike and rode up the hill toward the convention. Getting a chance to participate in Seattle’s bikeways, alongside other commuters, gives a little insight on this big city life.

“Travel by bike allows one to slow time and experience the surrounding environment.”

Cyclists share a comradery and wave to each other in passing. I had a chance to see the real Seattle and travel as a typical bike commuter, even if only for a short moment. After each long day of learning about the new happenings in the exciting world of Living Future, I slowed down to ride home for the night. Travel by bike allows one to slow time and experience the surrounding environment. During our class, bicycles didn’t get brought up in our conversation about nourishment. However, reading more about this concept after the event, I discovered it’s true: the Danish believe bicycles to have Hygge. True enough, the Danish are to be very well grounded in bike culture.

I didn’t see anyone else at the conference carrying a bike helmet, but I realized I am proud to be different. I arrived each morning full of energy, with a little sweat (Seattle is hilly!), and ready to engage and learn. And arriving to a ‘green’ conference by bike seems pretty logical, doesn’t it?

What is Hygge for you? Describe a space through the perspective of nourishment. How can you introduce Hygge into your design work? These were some of the thoughts and conversations that we shared during the conference. I encourage you to explore it for yourself!

10 Comments

  1. Shelby Schroeder says |

    Beautifully written, Karin. I identify with having a ritual that comforts me when I’m in new surroundings. For you it’s biking; for me it’s meditation. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Thank you for sharing this Karin! You know that I share your love of cycling as a practical and sustainable means of travel… now I can add Hygge to the reasons I love travelling, commuting and just moving by bicycle. I’m glad it was part of your Living Future experience!

  3. Morgan Maiolie says |

    Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed thinking about Hygge. The nourishing space that came to mind for me is a broad, standing-height table in the kitchen of my coworking space where we meet every Thursday to for coffee, fresh bread, and conversation. Both because it is in the middle of the room and becomes surrounded on all sides by wonderful people and because its contents literally nourish our bodies, the table forms the center of the most nourishing moments of my week.

    I also thought of the opposite: a place that’s meant to be nourishing, but misses the mark. City Park in New Orleans is bigger than Central Park in New York. Full of live oaks and ponds, it should be a welcome oasis in the active city, but it’s developed with so many roads, buildings, and parking lots that a visitor never escapes the sound of traffic, heat of asphalt, or litter of overuse by people who rarely step out of their vehicles. The park becomes no more than a well-landscaped continuation of the industrial city around it, offering limited reprieve from the constant barrage of urban stimuli.

    Between the two, I really enjoyed thinking about the health-making and nourishing potential of the spaces we inhabit. Thanks again for your thoughtful post!

    Cheers,
    MM

  4. Karin Wohlert says |

    Morgan,
    Thank you so much for your thoughts. Your work kitchen sounds wonderful. We have a similar space at SERA. It offers a good place for respite and camaraderie.

    I have not seen City Park in New Orleans but the web shows us that it certainly has some beauty. This large natural space in the city is important for so many reasons. It seems that sometimes we have to overdevelop to realize that change is needed. There is always an opportunity and possibility to revitalize the park for the people and nature. It just takes time and perseverance.

    Keep on the path! Cheers,

    Karin

  5. Mark Perepelitza says |

    Great blog post!
    Thanks Karin!

  6. Scott Shumaker says |

    Thanks for the post Karin. I think my Hygge is my am and pm walks with my dog. Great reminder to take advantage of those things that calm us.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share.

  7. Karin Wohlert says |

    That’s perfect Scott! I’ve started walking my neighbors dog on occasion. Pure joy!

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