[Miljøet] Travel culture


This is in English because it may of some interest to Fastaval internationals.

Recently, I visited the US to attend Dreamation, and among many fascinating conversations, I had a somewhat disquieting one with Mo Turkington about the cultural differences between Scandinavians and Anglo-Americans with regard to our approaches to travel arrangements. It may be that Fastaval’s approach to handling internationals, while natural enough to us Scandinavians, is somewhat terrifying to Anglo-Americans. Mo’s words carried some weight with me not only because she is brilliantly insightful (which she is), or because she is somewhat involved in facilitating practicalities for a lot of internationals (which she also is), but also because her characterization of Scandinavian travel culture described my own approach to my US trip with eerie accuracy.

Scandinavian travel culture

We’re “collectivists”, Mo says. Not to imply that we’re an alien hivemind bent on spreading HYGGE and NORDIC NOIR crap, just that we tend to assume that people with interests common to ours will help out if anything goes too badly wrong.

What a collectivist (yours truly) did while preparing for a trip to the US recently: First, I reserved a hotel room for three days at the convention hotel, as this was what people told me was the thing to do. At a nice convention-goer rate. Then, a couple of weeks later, I bought a plane ticket on the assumption that I’d be spending two nights in NYC, one before the convention and one after. The assumption involved the idea that I know a number of people in NYC, so one way or another I’d be able to arrange for a couch to crash on, and if all else failed, I’d find some overpriced, bedbug-infested dump to crash in. But really, somebody’s couch was the plan. Some time after that, I emailed a friend in NYC and asked for the loan of a couch. A couple of days before I actually flew in, I emailed to confirm with my friend and coordinate the practicalities. And that was it. From my perspective, perfectly ordinary and sensible…

Anglo-American travel culture

In Anglo-American travel culture, your safety and comfort are up to you. It is therefore very important that you make arrangements that you control and have paid money for, and which therefore cannot legally be taken away from you (without risking a lawsuit from you). If any part of a given package of arrangements is not under control and safe, the whole thing is unsafe. From this perspective, it makes sense to take care of both travel (movement) and all accommodations at the same time, rather than (for instance) buying a plane ticket without knowing where you will find shelter.

You cannot COUNT on anyone helping you out, so if you go in slapdash, you risk finding yourself without a roof over your head. You might also die alone, and have your face eaten by stray cats. You don’t KNOW and CONTROL that these things will not happen. And if you’re in any particular state of marginality (gender, race, orientation) all of those uncertain, unsafe feels translate legitimately at a higher risk, as does sleeping in a big open general dormitory.

This is strange bordering on the downright exotic to me, but based on the assumptions, it makes a lot of sense. I should also add that Brits and Americans, both friends and strangers, have been quite helpful to me as I bumbled around their countries improvising travel particulars.

Fastaval internationals’ accommodations

Specifically, how they are sensible and practical from a Scandinavian perspective, while striking fear in the hearts of Anglo-Americans.

Internationals have a number of options, but the central, sensible one for people who do not have five-day hotel stays in their reach is sleeping at the Østerskov school, which provides comfortable, cheap beds within reasonable-ish walking distance of the main event. Østerskov, like the collectivist Scandinavians that they are, prioritize people for accomodation according to need. Families with small children go first, then internationals, then everyone else.

Now, families with small children often cannot realistically plan THAT far ahead. Reserving rooms/beds at Østerskov opens up for families shortly after Fastaval signups open up (usually ~two months before Fastaval itself starts), then after a week or so where families have exclusive access to reserving Østerskov spots, access is opened up for internationals. Then, some time later, access to reserving spots (if any remain) open up to everyone else. If no spots remain, you could (for instance) buy a (cheap but un-luxurious) dormitory spot through Fastaval, or look for options out about town.[1]

FEARSOME, right? The timing makes it so, to Anglo-Americans. You have to clear your calendar and buy plane tickets (or whatever transportation) quite a while in advance. If you are bringing a game to Fastaval, we’re talking about five months in advance or so. And you have to do that clearing and not least dish out that money without locking down accommodations until much much later.

So what to do?

If you are an international and on Facebook, sign up to the group Fastaval for Internationals, and possibly ask one of the people in the know [2] to poke you when it’s time to book a room at Østerskov. Then arm yourself with patience and hang on to the thought that the collectivist Danes will come up with some sort of solution if things go sideways.

If you are a Fastaval/Østerskov organizer, um, well, I’m not totally sure. I agree with the current priorities that put families first. People dropping out of everything roleplaying-related when they have children is a tradition that we’re doing good work to change, and we should keep that up. However, if SOME sort of reasonably convenient non-dormitory accommodations that internationals could sign up for much sooner could be arranged, that would make Fastaval life less stressful for internationals.

If you are a Scandinavian Fastaval-goer, be your delightful self, and also appreciate that attending Fastaval is a bit more of an expense both in terms of money and personal energy for people coming from far away lands. Do feel free to talk to them and play games with them (if you feel up to playing in English — perfection is not required and it’s good practice). If you feel like going above and beyond the call of duty on this one, you could volunteer as a trånslåtør and possibly sit at one of the internationals’ tables at the Otto party. I have personally found it to be a great time!

(Also, I know there are people attending who are neither Scandinavians or from the US/UK. However, those are the largest groups, and I do not at this point have profound insights to share about how other cultures approach travel.)

Some additional help

In the form of practical wisdom from Lizzie Stark, seasoned US Nordica-farer:

An American’s Guide to Surviving in Nordica

A Guide to Tipping for Nordicans in the US


1: Such as AirBnB or the like. I am myself partial to the cabins at the camping grounds across town, 2,5 kilometers from the main venue — I like the walks. Also convenient for people with cars, who do not prioritize alcohol. Hotel Amerika is both poetically named and good value for money if you have, you know, money. The hostel is fully booked years in advance due to a combination of convenient location, popular partying and weird status games.

2: That might well be Mo Turkington, but I don’t care to make that assumption years ahead. Ask around.

~ af troelsken på 18. marts 2019.

4 kommentarer to “[Miljøet] Travel culture”

  1. Strange… when I travel to GenCon I have to buy plane-tickets well before tickets to the con. An when I get the tickets, I have to wait some months before I can get a chance in the hotel lottery. Only then can I be sure that everything is ok. So I do not see such a huge difference?

  2. Your approach to NY travel seems pretty normal to me. In a place where I knew many people, I would easily assume that I could find a couch to crash on, and if all else failed, I’d sort out and AirBNB or something. I would probably try to sort the couch out about a month in advance, but yeah, sounds pretty normal. However, that feels much less scary to me than not being able to reserve something when I was paying and didn’t have easy fallback options.

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