Anyone who knows me knows that I am no stranger to body positivity – this “radical” idea that no matter what you look like, you should love your body. Throughout my life, I’ve had evolving relationships with body positivity, affected by media representation, food culture, and my own personal experiences. Luckily, since coming to college and meeting my fairy bodi-posi godmother and fellow Temple student, Libby Reiner, I’ve learned a lot about how to love my body both at home and abroad!
Last summer, I reflected on my body positivity journey while abroad in Morocco (see: Body Positivity in Rabat Part I and Part II), where I learned how to live without mirrors and put my body to use for all of the amazing things it can do! One of my biggest takeaways from last summer was that it’s so much more important to love your body for what it can do than what it looks like. While abroad in Denmark this summer, I’ve come to similar conclusions.
When I arrived in Copenhagen, it was impossible not to notice how many Danes opt for two wheels instead of four – 50% of Copenhageners commute by bike every day. I had loosely thought about renting a bike for the summer, but it wasn’t until I met my Danish flatmate that I officially decided to pick up biking this summer. She said that it’s a great way to see the city, and boy was she right! Since the second day of class, I’ve been biking to and from school instead of taking the metro! I was initially interested in biking because it’s such a sustainable way to commute, but I never expected how much satisfaction I would get from using my body in this way every day.
It seems like such a small thing, but I have grown to be so thankful for my body’s ability to get me from place to place, an ability that everyone experiences and explores differently. It feels so good to coast through Copenhagen’s bike paths, surrounded by greenery and feeling the wind in my face, propelled forward by my own body’s movement! It really is something else, folks. It gives me the same kind of feeling that I get when I create something with my own two hands – of satisfaction, of capability, of joy.
My excitement about biking and really putting my body to work came with a recent weekend trip to the Danish island of Bornholm. The island is south of Sweden and is famous for its quaint villages, its beaches, and most of all its beautiful biking paths. I had an absolute blast biking around Bornholm’s outer coasts and inner fields and forests. My own two legs brought me to such spectacular sights, and I don’t think they would have been quite as spectacular if I wasn’t covered in sweat and sunscreen. It was a long two days of switching gears, pushing my bike up the hills that were too steep, and hiking through some stunning scenery.
I really put my body to work that weekend and biked a total of 56km (34.7mi), not even counting the miles that I walked on foot. I was so busy using my body that it barely even occurred to me what I looked like until I was going through photos on the ferry home. Sure, in retrospect there were moments that I don’t love how my body looked, but the important thing is that in the moment, I was too busy having fun to even care how my body looked. If that’s not body positivity, I don’t know what is. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found a physical activity that I enjoy so thoroughly that I’m entirely engrossed in, without a single care as to how I look.
And my cycling adventures didn’t stop there. Once I had really solidified my love for travel on two wheels, I immediately went to work planning my next excursion with some other biking friends who live on my floor. The next weekend, we set off to find the Forgotten Giants – huge wooden sculptures of giants hidden in Copenhagen’s suburbs. We had a treasure map (http://thomasdambo.com/works/forgotten-giants/) to guide our travels, but it was just vague enough for us to have to hunt a little in order to get to the giants!
It was such a fun way to engage my body – the giants are built in a way that very much encourages climbing and exploration, so the physical fun wasn’t even limited to cycling. Each bike ride between giants was pretty substantial, and by the end we had biked over 23 miles in just one day. When we got to the final giant, it was safe to say that all three of us were too exhausted to really care about what we looked like.
I hope that everyone can find some kind of activity like this, something in which they experience so much joy that they completely forget to uphold societal body standards in the process. I never would have guessed that biking would be something I enjoy to this extent, but after engraining myself into Copenhagen’s commuting culture, I have really grown to love riding a bike not only as a method of transportation, but as a celebration of all the wonderful things my body can do for me.