Coding in Copenhagen; Debugging in Dublin

My experience as an American software developer working remotely in Copenhagen and Dublin for a week

Thanks to the generous work-from-anywhere policy of the tech startup that I work for, instead of spending the summer working from my company’s New York City-based office like I normally do, I’m spending the summer working from various cities in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. instead. Earlier this summer, I worked from London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin for one week each and 4 weeks total. More recently, I spent 3 days working working in Copenhagen, and 4 working Dublin. Here’s a summary of how that week went:

COPENHAGEN

By the time I got to Copenhagen, 5 weeks into my larger Euro-Afro-America adventure, I found myself pretty run down and ill-feeling. So, I spent the majority of my 3 days in Copenhagen sequestered in my AirBnB so that I could make a speedy recovery. That said, I did spend some time exploring the city, and the highlight was a stop at Tivoli Gardens.

I’ll admit that before I visited Tivoli Gardens, I did very minimal research on it. I simply Googled ‘Copenhagen sights’, saw Tivoli in the list, was drawn in by the beautiful photos of it, and decided to visit it. So, when I went to Tivoli, I expected a proper garden like I saw in the photos. However, as soon I got there, it became clear that Tivoli was not really a garden, but an amusement park that just happened to have some beautiful gardens within it.

I was a little frustrated by my oversight, but I decided to buy a ticket for the park and walk around it a bit anyway. I’m glad I did; it was truly the most beautiful amusement park I’d ever seen. I grew up in the Midwestern part of the United States, where Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio was the Mecca of all amusement parks. I haven’t been to Cedar Point in nearly two decades, but from what I remember, it was charmingly no frills; complete with bad fried food, cheap souvenirs, and rickety yet record-breaking rollercoasters. Trivoli could not have been more different. It was, by far, the most upscale amusement park that I’d ever been to, boasting several high-end restaurants and an large outdoor theatre where a children’s ballet was being performed. It was pretty outstanding, and, I still got a chance to walk around some really beautiful gardens.

The video of the ballet at Trivoli that I stumbled into during my visit. Check it out on Instagram to watch the video.

Tivoli’s beauty — though formidable for an amusement park — isn’t why it topped my list of favorite sights in Copenhagen. It was where the park took me, figuratively, that made it so memorable. Before my trip to Trivoli, I was always adamant that my current husbandless, childless life is the best life that I could possibly live. I was certain that if I’d gotten married and started a family young, like many of my friends did back home in the Midwest, I would be significantly less happy than I am now. Admittedly, I even looked down those who chose family life over the alternative, because I was convinced that I had the secret to true happiness and fulfillment, and that everyone else was simply settling.

Fortunately, something opened up for me while at Trivoli as I meandered through the park amongst the many happy families. I became more cognizant of the fact that there are a million different paths to happiness, and it’s entirely possible that two different paths may lead to the exact same (happy) place. It’s possible that instead of spending that day enjoying Trivoli by myself, I could have been just as happy at good old Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio with a family of my own, had I chosen that path. If I could choose any life in the world, I would still choose the one that I’m living everyday right now, but after my trip to Trivoli, I’m significantly more openminded about the many different types of lifestyles that bring happiness, and it’s this realization that made that trip to the park so memorable for me.

While in Copenhagen, I did some additional sightseeing (e.g. Strøget street, Trinity church, Torvehallernekbh), and I of course worked remotely per usual when I wasn’t exploring, but overall it was a pretty low-key three days as I saved my energy for the next city on my list that week: Dublin


DUBLIN

By the time I arrived in Dublin, I was feeling like my old self again, so I did a bit more sightseeing than I’d done in Copenhagen. I toured Dublin Castle (which is really more palace than castle), walked down Grafton street (with Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ on repeat), and ate my fair share of fish and chips.

My theme song while in Dublin; of course

I enjoyed exploring, but the highlight of my four days in Dublin wasn’t the sights. Surprisingly, the highlight was actually the work that I did remotely while there. For context: I’m a software developer, and my current job is my first full-time software development job. Over the course of about a year and a half, I transitioned from a completely non-technical job, to a partially technical one where I coded for 50–75% every day, to my current role where I code (and do code reviews ) for approximately 90% of every day. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have successfully made that transition. However, this first year as a full-time developer has been one of the most intellectually challenging, and emotionally draining, years of my life, and it has been almost cripplingly difficult spending an entire year of my life feeling sad, lonely, and foolish every single day.

Fortunately, while I was in Dublin, for the first time all year, I finally enjoyed a few moments where I felt confident, knowledgeable, and value-adding. In short, while I was in Dublin, for two days in a row, an AWS Lambda script that served as a critical part of our production pipeline failed to execute, causing negative downstream impact. I was on-call when both issues occurred, so I lead the investigation of both issues, executed temporary fixes, and set up a planning session to talk through longer-term solutions to ensure more stability of the system. Production issues are never good, but it did feel good to be able to identify, diagnose, and resolve both of those issues on my own for the first time. It was only a small win in what has otherwise been a pretty demoralizing year professionally, but it was a win that I am extremely thankful for, and that was the real highlight of my few days in Dublin.


Ireland was the last European country on my 8-week Euro-Afro-America trip. The next city in my itinerary is Marrakech, Morocco. I’ve had a great time exploring Europe, and I’m nervous and excited to leave the continent for Africa. Perhaps ironically, as an African-American, I’ve often felt more comfortable in European cities than in African cities due to the reception that I’ve received in the respective cities, so I’m somewhat anxious to see what Marrakech brings. To Marrakech!