Kirsten Kester is a Danish Tripper who has traveled to nearly 70 countries and when she’s not traveling has art exhibitions and inspires other people with disabilities to see the world. Meet our Tripper of the Week…...
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Kirsten K. Kester and I grew up in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. In the 70′ the streets were dominated by the working class, women fighting for their rights with their hair combed back.
When I was 17 years old I decided to move to Aarhus where my dad originally came from. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark and the main city in the peninsula of Jutland. The peninsula is attached to the northern part of Germany.
When I was a child one did not travel from east to west as easily and often as one does today. And to us from Copenhagen, the people from Jutland could as easy have come from another planet. They were; or we thought they were very different from us.
The truth is that we are not that different from each other but we have so many accents in Denmark that a person from the East might have difficulties understanding a person from West and vice versa - and for that reason people from another region would seem very strange. Today people move from north to south, west to east due to work opportunities and the many accents are slowly fading.
I’ve studied art as my major interest but traveling has always followed me as a dear friend. Every year I’ve done whatever possible to travel to a new exotic place.
Being in a wheelchair, people have always wondered how I can manage traveling as much as I have. People who know me wonder less; they know I seldom let my disability be a problem for whatever I wish to do.
Besides working as a painter doing exhibitions whenever I get the time, I give lectures and consult mostly disabled about traveling. There are a lot of people, disabled or not, who think it is very hard (almost impossible) to travel if you have a handicap. I’m not going to lie because of course it is more difficult to travel as the user of a wheelchair. But in my world it is not a question whether you are less able. The important thing is that you follow your dreams and if your dream is to travel, you’ll make it possible regardless of the circumstances. You can read more about that on my website or on my blog.
When did you first fall in love with travel?
My first travel experience was in Germany 1970 – I was not even 1 year old before I left Denmark. We traveled a lot in Europe when I was a child because of my fathers’ job as a salesman. I remember my curiosity was awakened by the different architecture. The houses looked so different from back home. And the language was another each time we crossed another border. The food was strange – had a different smell and a funny sometimes a marvelous taste. How can this not spark you interest and have you wanting to see even more fantastic buildings, learn or try to understand other languages, enjoy the sweet and sour the spicy and bitter tastes of the Asian, the African or the American cuisine?
What has been your favorite destination so far?
Having traveled to nearly 70 countries makes it very hard for me to choose a favorite country. Every country has some good and some bad. Every religion has some good and some bad. A country can be formed by history or religion and they are all full of stories and tales there have shaped the country into what it is today. The history can be bitter sweet and full of hate or like a fairytale in a dream. One thing I’m sure of – no matter what your history or your religion says, we all want the same things. We want love and understanding, to be respected as the people we are, to be able to nurse and feed our children and our loved ones.
But if I had to narrow it down, I would have to mention Africa and Australia as my favorite continents. I’m also very fond of Laos and Namibia. I’m very fascinated with the diversity and differences from region to region in Africa and the calmness and tranquility in Laos.
You love to inspire others to travel, but who has been the most inspirational person that you’ve come across?
I find it hard to mention one person who inspired me to begin with, but a constant inspiration to keep on traveling is my husband Dieter who is beside me on most of my travels. And after some rough experiences on some trips, he has been the one who’s made me realize my inner strength to keep on going.
What part of your town do you most like to show visitors?
I like to show my visitors the details, the small things. Often people tend to look at the big picture and forget to focus their eyes on the little things – whether it is a window, a sculpture, or a beautiful streetlamp. If I have to choose one particular thing it would be Moesgaard Museum. Moesgaard Museum is a fascinating anthropological museum telling Denmark’s history. The museum is in wonderful buildings such as a manor, a special Viking house a friend of mine helped build, and it’s placed in beautiful surroundings close to the woods and the beach.
What aspects of travel do you find most rewarding?
To achieve knowledge and to get to know the people in the country you are visiting. Or it can be to recognize a smell and realize these people may have a different skin color but they are not so different from me.
Where are you traveling next?
When this article is posted, I’ll be on my way to Mexico visiting some old friends and having an art exhibition. Some weeks later we’re heading off to Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. And I’m looking so much forward to every adventure there awaits me.
Happy travels, Kirsten!