Excerpt published in Rangefinder Magazine.
To the Rask family, a home is not merely a physical space. It's a feeling that they carry inside them. It's about having the freedom to do as they like. It's manifested in the unconditional love they receive from each other every day.
On a crisp October morning, a rock melody intertwined with the repeating words “it’s a beautiful life” plays softly in the background. It’s 6 AM. Peter is kissing his youngest son, Viggo, goodbye as Viggo’s eyes flutter open after a restful night’s sleep in his parent’s bed. Henriette is in the shower, getting ready for her day. Peter heads to Niels and Anders for goodbyes, Niels had left his bedroom the night before and is sleeping peacefully next to Anders.
The Rasks are a common family, but they still have their own views on what makes a good life and what they want to pass on to their children. To them, it’s important to go out of their way to spend time slowing down together. They use adventure as their tool. It’s one way they show their children how important the bond of family can be.
When they were in their youth Peter and Henriette both wanted to get away from the place they both grew up in, but never met. Traveling the world seemed more intriguing. Henriette became an excursion leader in Egypt and Peter became a fisherman in Greenland. This is where their passion for adventure began.
They met through Peter’s sister, who thought they might be a good fit. They then married and decided it would be best to return to the north-western coast of Jutland that they once left behind. It was where they wanted to raise their children. It was home.
Today, their quaint yet cozy house, decorated with items found while traveling, is built on five and a half acres of grassland and forest. There is plenty of pristine land for Peter’s hunting, and trees for their three young blonde boys to climb. Currently, Henriette works at a hospital and Peter is studying to be a teacher.
“Rask” actually means “fast” in Danish. From Viggo having a fit about not getting what he wants to Anders playing video games at a friend’s house, Henriette said it seems that her family is constantly battling the stereotypes of the modern world.
“The world today is so different than the one we grew up in. You have to go so fast,” Henriette said as she longingly stared into space.
“Curling parents”, a modern term in Denmark, is used to describe a select group who are notorious for coddling and controlling their children late into adolescence. This can mean anything from letting them stay inside and play video games for hours, to accompanying their 20-year-old to job interviews. They allow them to do what they want and prefer to control their outcomes. Henriette said she and Peter try to not be curling parents.
It’s important to them that the boys know that they need to figure life out by themselves. However, it’s equally important that if ever they get caught between a rock and a hard place, they know that they can go to one another for help. No matter how many feelings may have been hurt, or tears may have been shed, they will always be okay in the company of their family. Henriette and Peter try to lead by example, even after they fight themselves.
They say that when their boys are older, they know they’ll make the same mistakes they did. It will be hard for them to watch their kids suffer, but they know they can’t control their actions. Whether that’ll be getting into trouble with friends or smoking cigarettes, it’s all considered lessons to character to build. In the end, Henriette and Peter just want their boys to know that they can always come to them- and can rely on one another as well.
The little green campervan
Years ago, Henriette and Peter bought an army green campervan to travel with their boys after reading about primitive lifestyles. They thought it would be a good way to challenge themselves by living in minimalism. No bathrooms, no rules, no problems. For three years, every summer was a European adventure. While in the van they peed in bottles, not showering for days.
“We were free. If we found a place we liked we would stay there for two days. However, everything is routine after two days- same places to eat, same places to go. After two days, you must leave. It’ll always be adventure when you use that rule,” Henriette smiled warmly as she reflected on her fond memories of the van.
They eventually sold the campervan, starting to use a camping and hunting shelter Peter built just a few yards from their front door. They wanted to be close to simple living whenever they’d like. The shelter allows the family to sleep under the stars together. It allows them to slow down together.
In the perimeter of their house, Henriette considers making a fire at the shelter the most ultimate thing her family can do together. The boys beg to go out there. She said it’s hard to find an activity that everyone enjoys, but for a campfire it doesn’t matter if your two or twenty. When the family strikes the matches, gathers kindling and makes bread dough for hot dogs together, Henriette feels a strong sense of being united. If one doesn’t do their part, then the rest can’t enjoy the full experience.
How to make a home
According to Henriette, you must first have a feeling of home inside of you to call a physical space a home. For Peter a good home is a feeling of belonging, though also a physical space you feel connected to after time. For both of them, home is a place where you give and receive love. Every morning Peter makes sure to say, “I love you” to his wife and kids, which they return. Every morning when he says goodbye, they share a hug and a kiss.
Every night, Viggo, Niels and Anders, come with sleepy eyes and soft voices to say goodnight to mom and dad. With a quick kiss and a warm hug, Niels and Anders head to bed. Tonight, Viggo stays behind for a bedtime story. He loves when his mom reads to him.
Dressed in his jammies, he hands his mom a book he got from a weekly library trip. This one includes a famous Danish lullaby, “Elefantens Vuggevise.”
“Sleep tight, little jumbo, you little delight…
…You little cute beetroot.
…You asked me to tell you a fairytale, now you’re already sound asleep.”