The Faroe Islands Part 1 of 3: The Number 1 Reason to Visit

Even if the Faroe Islands was a hideous, stinking shithole, you should visit if for no other reason than to feel human generosity and kindness in its purest, rarest form. I am 100% certain that these are the greatest people on the planet. They are the Faroe Islands’ national treasure – not the 8 million waterfalls, or the stunning emerald “layered cake” mountains all around, not even the adorable puffins – the people.

My first encounter was on the plane. I sat next to 2 brothers who were in their early twenties, half-Icelandic, half-Faroese. I immediately struck up conversation with them, and we talked the entire 2 hour flight from Copenhagen. They were intelligent, kind, and open. They left me with tips and lists, and I was sad they wouldn’t be at the festival.

My second encounter was upon arriving at the campsite. I was told that I had to go to the gas station to get my bracelet before I could get in the campsite, and it was about a 3/4 mile walk there. I turned to go, but the girl telling me this said, “Oh, wait!” Then she started yelling at some other girl a ways away and said, “OK, go with her.” “Um, what?” “Yes, that is my friend, and she did the same thing and has to get her bracelet too and she has a car, so she will drive you. Go ahead now.” So I obeyed, and rode with this random girl to the gas station, who was so sweet and adorable and asked me lots of questions about the states and how I knew about the Islands.

One of the days I had planned a boat ride on a different island. Upon finishing the boat ride I realized I was going to have to wait 2 hours for the next bus, to go a 45 minute ride. There were literally no cafes or anything in this tiny town, and it was cold and raining off and on, so I decided to be brave and try the thing that everyone had been talking about, and that the boys on the plane said I should do – I stuck out my thumb. I don’t think I’d been waiting even 5 minutes when a woman backed out of her driveway a few feet from me, rolled down her window and said, “Where are you going?” “To the capital.” “Ok, get in.” During the ride I found out the woman was my age, and her 2 small children were in the back seat with us. I learned so much from her on that ride! She talked about the good and the bad of living in the Faroes, and how she hated that “If you so much as fart, everyone knows it,” but that she also appreciated that when tragedy struck – like a sheep herder falling off a cliff the day before – the entire country came together to support the family. “In a country of less than 50,000 that’s just how it is.” She also asked me where I was staying, and when I mentioned the campsite she was horrified and said, “But can you even sleep?” “Well, it’s very noisy, so not much.” She then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted a good night’s sleep before my flight back to Copenhagen on Sunday, I was welcome to go spend the night at her house, she would be happy to have me. Guys, I had to hold back laughter at first because I thought it was a joke, but immediately switched to holding back tears because I realized how dead serious she was, and I didn’t even know how to handle that amount of generosity – from a woman who was already giving me, a stranger, a free ride across an island.

I hitchhiked several other times, but the second most memorable time was on my way to the airport my last day. Once again, I don’t think I even waited 5 minutes, and a car pulled up beside me. I got in to find 3 women: a mom, her daughter, the daughter’s friend. They told me they couldn’t take me straight to the airport because they had to drop the friend off in Torshavn, where they lived, “Would that be alright?” I told them yes, because I knew that if I could at least make it to Torshavn there were several buses I could catch. As we neared Torshavn the woman said, “Ok, so we will drop her off now. You have 3 options, I can now take you to the airport, I can take you to our house so that you can have a nice rest before your flight because I’m sure you didn’t sleep at all in the campsite, or I can take you to a coffee shop and show you the bus terminal.” At this point I was becoming more accustomed to this unending generosity, so I almost took her up on going to her house since I knew this offer was genuine, but decided to go get some food at a cafe and to catch a bus later. I think she told me at least 3 other times on the way to a cafe, “Really, you can come with us, it’s ok, we don’t mind. But of course it is up to you.”

Another day I was in the hot pots with my new friend Kristin. We had yet to take a shower on the islands because the campsite didn’t technically have any, and you had to go to some other random building, but only during certain hours, and it just seemed so complicated. My hair was really becoming a giant mess though, so we were discussing what to do. A couple Faroese guys who just happened to be in our same hot pot overheard all this and said, “Well we live just down the street, and you’re more than welcome to come shower at our house if you want. We’re leaving now.” I quickly tried to decide how I felt about this, and if I had the guts to go do it, or if it was just too weird and random, but Kristin said, “Well I’m gonna go do it.” So I followed. Guys, I literally walked to this house, took a shower, and left. One of the guys I didn’t even ever see again, and the other hung out with us for a bit that night at the festival, but then I didn’t see him again either.

Then there was also the guy in the sauna next to me and my new friend Ryan who, upon hearing we wanted to go hike, told us he would gladly drive us to the trail head. When we laughed awkwardly trying to decide if he was being serious, he said, “Well, it doesn’t have to be right now. Here in the islands our phone numbers are only 6 numbers and mine is just xxxxxx, so whenever you are ready, call me and we will go.” (I definitely still remember that number.)

There was another guy I met in the hot pots on the last day, with his wife, and kept running into him throughout the day. At the final concert he said, “I’m sad you leave tomorrow, I would have taken you on a tour of the islands in my car, and you could have stayed with my family. Add me on Facebook so when you come back we can meet up.”

There was also the couple who set up a shipping container “safe space” right outside the campsite to provide a drug and alcohol free zone for anyone at the festival not looking to get wasted. They offered free coffee, cake, soup, water, phone charging stations, seating, music, and conversation. They were so sweet, and I thought what they were doing was so cool! I ate a lot of cake in that shipping container!

There was also the eco-friendly farming group that provided free breakfast for all the people camping. There were horrific storms all through the night, and on Saturday morning we awoke to find out that this organization had come bearing giant platters of fresh fruit, hot oatmeal, rolls and marmalade, and coffee and tea. It was incredible.

We found out about the free breakfast because of the amazing campsite volunteers. These people are so proud of this festival, that everyone just volunteers for different roles to make it go smoothly. I felt bad for the people stuck at the campsite, whose main job was to stand at the gates and make sure everyone who went in had a bracelet. The morning after the storms I woke up to find a volunteer cleaning up the destroyed campsite next to me. Most of the tents were set up by teenagers who were already drunk, so they didn’t do such a good job, and the storms made that clear. I asked the volunteer where they went during the storms and he just looked at me oddly like, “What do you mean?” I said surely they didn’t just stand out there in the open as the rain and winds beat down for hours. His response was that, well yes, some of them did, but most of them went around staking down tents better, trying to save the ones that could be saved. I thought back to me, literally crouched in a ball praying to God for safety and protection as the terrifying storms raged, and all the while these incredible, selfless volunteers walked around staking down the tents of drunken teenagers. Wow.

Story, after story, after story of pure and genuine hospitality and kindness. Of all the things I was looking forward to on this trip, this wouldn’t have even made my list, but now I can’t stop thinking about going back because of it.

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