Okay, so we may or may not have actually been kidnapped on the Faroe Islands (although the thought did cross my mind when Johannes wanted to show us their basement..
It all started when I made the mistake of going out with our Airbnb hosts the night before. And believe me, these Faroese ladies mean business when it comes to partying. Around 4am, we stumbled back into the house and a few hours after my head hit the pillow, I heard Marla’s alarm go off. There may have been a few inner-dialogues chiding my poor planning as we tried futilely to dress in the dark. It took us awhile to find the right bus stop to Klaksvík, and boy was I incredibly hungover. We ended up making a “friend” on the bus ride over, though as you could imagine, this was the furthest from friendly as I could feel – all I wanted to do was stare mindlessly out the window and listen to the sounds of the bus driver’s odd playlist.
Lo and behold, that was not to be the case that morning.
This new “friend” of ours had all the enthusiasm and energy of someone 5 cups of coffee deep, and she had other plans for us. Asking us about the current state of American government (ahem, or the lack there-of) she had plenty to say on the matter, awash with fierce, Faroese pride. I’ll have to hand it to her; if I lived on a set of islands with the same population as my hometown (50,000), without a ton of people to talk to, AND the chance to boast about the ridiculously beautiful scenery to fresh faces, I’d probably be doing the same.
But when you’re running on a cool 2 hours of sleep, this was not ideal.
Here’s where things went even further downhill.
After what seemed like 3 hours on a bus, we finally arrived in the sleepy town of Klaksvík a half hour later. We planned this trip to be done on a Sunday, so some stores and shops might be closed, no big deal. Well, when there aren’t a ton of stores to begin with and possibly only one actual restaurant, this was a terrible mistake as absolutely everything appeared to be closed for the day.
The entire reason we headed over to Borðoy, which held the second largest town on the Faroe Islands, was to check out these government-subsidized helicopter rides. For around $30, you could be dropped off via helicopter at one of the islands, a form of travel some of the Faroese swear by to visit friends or even use to get to work. We considered this one of our “splurge activities” and took the bus there, booking our tickets to ride on a helicopter back. We had about 4-5 hours to kill in town which would be perfect to check out all the cute shops and take some scenic photos of the harbor.
Wrong. So very wrong.
After trying the darkened tourism office, it appeared any which way we turned, everything was closed. We had packed sandwiches for lunch that afternoon, but by that time we started digging into the hardened bread a little early, survival mode (okay, I get a little hungry when I get frantic) set in. At one point we wandered around aimlessly for about a half hour in the wrong direction. Looking for any signs of life, we were sorely disappointed.
Nothing seemed to be open and there was no indication of where the center of town was, let alone the helicopter pad we needed to get to eventually. Finally, we stumbled upon a little grocery mart that sort of looked open, but not really, and practically ran for the door to confirm. It had started to rain and our clothes were getting soaked. Alas, someone decided they’d had enough of a go at us and gave us this golden nugget, the doors were open and there were people inside!
Wandering around the aisles like a deranged, soggy traveler, I loaded up on hangover cures and contemplated the greasy-looking sausage-thing behind the counter. Marla went to ask where we could find this elusive helicopter pad. The girl behind the register tried to explain, but couldn’t say where it was exactly. The only other people in the store at the time ended up being the girl’s parents coming to pick her up, and they also began trying to draw us a map. This was equally as unsuccessful as no one seemed to be able to have an exact address or street it was off of. Plus, they warned it was a long walk, mainly uphill from where we were currently.
By some stroke of good luck, the couple asked if we’d like to hitch a ride so they could show us exactly how to get there. I couldn’t grab my too-hot coffee and sausage-thing fast enough as we piled up into the back of their car, grateful for the kindness of strangers. I tried not to wipe my greasy fingers on the interior as we easily chattered back and forth with the couple. Johannes, the husband, apparently grew up in Klaksvík and was more than happy to point out all his childhood haunts. I watched as the colorful homes blurred past, each one holding a special memory or significance to this couple.
It seemed as if his entire family grew up around one another and still remained to this day.
Winding up a steep dirt road, I could easily see how neither of us would ever find this place on our own. At the top, we went to part ways, but I truly think they took pity on us as it started raining even harder and we still had about four hours to go.
Thus we were kidnapped on the Faroe Islands.
Just kidding, they just didn’t take no for an answer when we said we’d be alright in the cold rain. We hopped back into the car and weaved our way back down the hill, grateful for stumbling across that small store. We proceeded to get a personal tour of all the important buildings in Klaksvík that we walked by without a glance that morning. After a few hours of this, we were brought to their boathouse on the water, a small building in a cluster right off the main road to another island. This place was lovingly handcrafted to perfection by Johannes and family, a proper little getaway complete with chocolate and sweet coffee we were offered in abundance.
Johannes took pride in explaining the significance in each of the items on the walls of the boathouse, something that could easily drive one up a wall. But when you’re watching the deluge of rain from inside a warm room, it’s refreshing. For once, I wasn’t worried about where to explore next. He was the best tour guide a girl could ask for, eager to show the best parts of his country and not needing much to prompt a lengthy explanation.
This tour also included a quick drive through a long, dark tunnel to one of the other islands, something we were completely unaware of. The main town on this island was about a fraction of Klaksvík, mainly thinned out dirt roads and small homes. While Johannes climbed out of the car to show us the land his brother purchased, I watched the way his hands moved as he explained to Marla the history of the place. This was his home, his people, and he was completely content with just that. As someone who yearns to see all the world and what it has to offer, it continuously amazes me when I meet with people who have never left the confines of their country. It’s neither good nor bad, how can it be? It’s simply a different way of living.
Eventually, we had to gently urge him to get us back to the helicopter pad, but not without a stop at his house first to check out their son’s music and newly renovated kitchen. We weren’t allowed to leave without each getting a copy of the popular Faroese music to listen to at home. Again, we had to remind him of the time, all while his wife urged him to stop talking so we could leave.
Back up at the helicopter pad with five minutes to spare, we headed for the one
building shed that housed the other travelers from the rain to check in. Johannes talked about calling the guy he knew working to make sure they wouldn’t leave without us – apparently that wasn’t necessary. They waved us on toward the helicopter starting up, the last of the bunch to hop in.
It was strangely bittersweet.
We didn’t get a long goodbye as we had to run to the helicopter starting up, any parting words were lost on the wind. Turning around one last time, I watched him put his arm around his wife and wave at us. In a way, that was one of the most important parts of this trip for me. The fact that a family took their entire afternoon to show two strangers around their island, invite them into the privacy of their own home(s), and eat all their chocolate was incredible. Nothing was expected in return; they just wanted someone new to show their world to, spinning old stories into new ones.
Do you have any stories of strangers exceeding the normal expectations of human kindness? What’s your favorite travel story? Let me know in the comments below!
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