WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Journeys on the Sea

By on February 16, 2016

Reveling in third class travel on the Atlantic.

The Norröna ferry departing from Seyðisfjörður Iceland into the wild Atlantic. (Photo: smyrilline.com)

The Norröna ferry departing from Seyðisfjörður Iceland into the wild Atlantic. (Photo: smyrilline.com)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Unless you have the money to spend on a first class ticket, air travel can be a frustrating affair, sucking the life clean out of you. Sure, you get to your destination quicker, but there’s no joy in flying anymore. Gone are the advertisements with smiling people in their 1960s attire eating steaks and smoking cigarettes. Here to stay are the screaming babies, cramped seats and lackluster  meals. So when I made the decision to take a vacation from my vacation and head to Copenhagen, Bremen, and Amsterdam, I decided to take as few planes as possible. And now I’m currently writing this on the open-air deck of a ferry in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

The journey to Denmark from Iceland takes roughly three days on rough seas. The wind is crazy at the moment, stirring whitecaps on the waves all around me. My fingers are slightly frozen, as is my computer, but the sun is struggling to break through the heavy cloud cover. In about four hours we’ll be in the Faroe Islands, harboring in the capital of Tórshavn (literally, Thor’s Harbor). The boat is swaying so much that I need to keep catching my laptop from sliding off the table, but there is something incredibly peaceful that lingers in every moment I spend aboard the ship.

Yesterday I almost missed the ferry due to a winter storm that closed all the roads that mattered. First, I wasn’t able to leave my Icelandic fjord town because the mountain pass was closed, and then I had to wait patiently until the road to Seyðisfjörður—the town where the ferry harbors—reopened. My boss drove me half the way, but didn’t want to chance driving into Seyðisfjörður in fear of not making it back over the pass. So we stopped at the base of the pass, where I was picked up by a very kind German couple who spoke only a little English. Luckily, growing up Austrian, I spoke enough German to make the nerve-wracking drive pleasant.

Upon boarding the ferry—a boat much larger than I pictured—I managed to garner favor with a group of young Faroese men who were heading back home after spending a week in Iceland on a study trip. They were all training to be welders and blacksmiths, and fed my hands with plenty of cigarettes and 7.2 percent Faroese beers. One of the guys, Jógvan Elias, was also a big metal fan (the music this time), wearing a black leather jacket and a chain bracelet. He eagerly listed off his favorite bands to see if I knew them.

“Do you know ACDC? Metallica?”

“Yes.”

“Really!”

I recounted my quiet Icelandic life to them and explained that while Wyoming and Miami do sound somewhat similar, they are, in fact, very different places. They taught me some Faroese, not unlike the Icelandic I am currently learning, but with flares of Danish and English. After assuring them that no, I was not voting for Donald Trump, and yes, I do have faith in American police officers, we parted ways and I spent my first night on the sea.

I swayed back and forth in the top bunk of the bed. Three other guys are sharing the room with me, a Spaniard, an Icelander and a Canadian. With no window to look out of and barely any room to walk around in, it is the ultimate definition of third class travel.

So now, as we make our way closer to the Faroe Islands, I realize that traveling is more than just getting on a plane and landing in your destination. It should be about the journey, the people you meet along the way, and the moments like this one right now. Everywhere I look I see ocean, and while I’ve had to rub my fingers together for warmth about 10 times during this column, I have to admit that sea travel is paramount. In two days I’ll be in Denmark with no plans and plenty of optimism.

The adventure continues. PJH

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