extremes in the faroe islands

Surrounded by strong currents and tempestuous waves the 18 Faroe Islands rise in the middle of the Atlantic sea. Barren and bold the islands are a scenically extreme and captivating array, so full of life at the same time as it may be the most solitary place I’ve ever sat foot. And I live in the Arabian desert. A place I’ve always felt inclined to visit.

Anyone’s who’s a frequent reader of this blog knows about my inability to plan ahead. This trip hasn’t been an exception either, which me and my reliable travel partner Linn realized when the car rental office in the airport told us their availability was as sparse as the Faroese landscape. Sigh. An expensive and ridiculously overpriced taxi ride later we found ourselves in front of one of the Capital City Torshavn’s two car rentals. Like a bliss in our misfortune, there was a velocity left for us even if it admittedly was one of the more expensive ones. But nevertheless, sitting down behind the wheel after reluctantly swiping my credit card felt just like regaining sound to a movie with a flapping TV cable.

We quickly learned that the Faroese roads are few and far in between, so it takes a very negligent map driver like myself to get lost since most of the time your only option is left or right. Most roads are extremely narrow, and at times so tight we need to stop to give priority to oncoming traffic before proceeding. Seemingly endless tunnels without lighting occur often, and rather than rarely there’s only a modest rail of wooden barriers to protect the car as the roads stretch across steep and pointy slopes around the islands. But other than that, it’s a beautiful place to drive with tiny traffic. An ideal location to drive down an empty road with blasting music, something that never gets old.

Even if the islands is a place where you want to keep your eyes on the road, it’s very often hard not to let them gaze at the mesmerizing environs. The landscape is enthralling despite being stripped of vegetation in its barren state. There’s something so extreme about the nothingness, the devoid of life that makes you feel so small. A whole area, where man hasn’t made an impact except for the meandering roads quietly and endlessly running through the silent land. It’s a fantastically quiet place, with only the subtle sound of the wind breaking the silence. In the countryside or the small fisherman villages consisting of exclusively identical houses with tin roofs and wooden facades. There’s barely a soul in sight anywhere we go, and people keep to themselves out here. A solitary place and a solitary way of living it seems. Fascinating to me who’s living in one of world’s fastest developing cities. But I could never live here which I realize every time I have an experience too far off my reality. As appealing as the quietude is and can be, I can’t help but feel how it sometimes consumes me eventually. And maybe it’s because I grew up in the remote countryside that noise doesn’t bother me. I love falling asleep to the sound of cars passing by, of people roaming the streets, of music from a distant club. A different kind of wealth to me, to be surrounded by life.

In the Faroe Islands sheep outnumber people, and perhaps that’s actually one of the nicer aspects. The sheep are fearless and oblivious, crossing the roads as if they were some of their beaten paths while death-staring you. But their presence is appreciated and brings movement to the picturesque and windswept landscape. The real Islanders are another story. Scandinavian polite, but with a something recluse aura around them hard to actually interpret. They speak a concoction of Danish and Norwegian sprinkled with Icelandic, entirely comprehensible to anyone Scandinavian but impossible to mitigate. And we’ve quickly learned that clarification is crucial when making any inquiry. Upon being given directions to a “newly opened and intriguing restaurant,” we later found ourselves in a modest café with a menu consisting of two different sandwiches and self-serving of coffee made hours earlier. And to anything but modest prices. Sigh again. Perceptions are rarely similar, and life only ever reminds of this once the lesson is already learned.

Three days have felt like a week, for good and for bad. In a place that moves at such a slow pace time somehow loses its relevancy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Waking up each morning to subtle drizzle hitting the window along with the whistling sound of an oyster catcher passing by outside is probably the purest form of serenity in this world, but I don’t believe either one of us felt the need of an extra day here as the experience junkies that we are. The gloomy weather probably plays a part as well. Not so much the rain, but the fact that even on a sunny day it’s never really clear. In the summer it’s never really hot, in the winter, it’s never either too chilly. A bit too ambiguous to me, a fan of sharp contrasts. So it’s time to leave; new adventures await.

Choosing to live is scary, but the alternative is terrifying

A few days ago I was on the phone with a friend of mine. As we were discussing something trivial, she suddenly said: “I want to live forever.” A short silence followed, and then I asked: “Why?”. “Because I love life” she replied like it was the most natural thing in the world, and with a tone that modestly implied that I should have figured this out on my own. I thought, and then I replied: “I don’t want to live forever.”

After our conversation had ended I gave this exchange of feelings some consideration. Maybe we didn’t disagree; maybe we just had different ways of somehow trying to communicate the same feeling. Because the way I see it, being alive forever would devalue as good as everything actually worth being alive for. Think about it. What actual value would any of your dreams have, if you had an endless amount of time to pursue them? What incite to read a book, watch a movie, travel a country, undergo an education, tell someone that you like them or give up literally any mean of security and safety for the littlest hope that maybe, somewhere well-hidden in the unknown, your dreams awaits, if you could just as well do it tomorrow? Because there would always be another tomorrow?

We don’t have unlimited time, and that’s the thing. And that’s why at least I become impressed by other people’s experiences, achievements, and wisdom, because people have taken our of their limited allocated time, to obtain these souvenirs of life. They’ve invested. Meaning, to me, that they’ve been brave and bravery is always admired. To some people being alive means tempting fate on a daily basis. Being a war correspondent for instance, or simply being in a war, fighting for king and country. Or, just being a flight attendant, as my scared-of-flying best friend would add. But being alive can also mean to wake up in the morning and simply breathe, and that’s okay. Not all of us are in charge of our own time even if that should be a constitutional right, but that means that us who actually are, have to guard it well. We can’t always know what purpose other’s have with theirs, but we can be assured that it’s as different to ours as our DNA. And remind ourselves that what one person does to find rest, might have left another person restless. And how that’s alright.

So saying that you would like to live forever, is for me a sign that you’re probably not living at all. At least not the way you’d prefer to. I don’t believe that anyone who’s ever experienced the real pleasure of obtaining something that did not come easy; without an investment in time, money or other sacrifices, would ever say those words. The life-celebrating people I chose to have in my life would not. They’ve all lived to find out that it’s perfectly fine to love life even if it comes to an end at some point. Despite how good a movie is or how relaxing a massage might be, you’ll be bored or soar eventually, so it’s sometimes wise to quit while it’s still fun. It’s sound to make an end to something that doesn’t serve you anymore. But it’s brave to make an end to something that still serves you because you want more; because you want to invest more. In whatever it may be, that matters to you.

I walked alongside the narrow canals of the hip and trendy 9 straatjes quarters in Amsterdam a few days ago and it felt like it was the first day of spring in the air. You know a day when it isn’t exactly warm outside but not either chilly, and you notice how suddenly people slow down as they walk and how much mo they talk to one another. They open doors slowly and stop to look in display windows. I realized then and there how much of all that means to me, the change of seasons that is. Because in Dubai it’s never too cold. And that may sound fabulous to anyone from the northern hemisphere, but it’s actually taught me that I disdain what’s constant. Not necessarily routines, but things that are stagnant. A few days later I was in Rome, and I sat down in a wobbly chair on cobblestone outside a small eatery with square patterned linens and menus translated to very simple English. People lined up for tables in the street and next to the side walks stood 4 cars in areas designated for 3. I thought again that this is a good investment according to me, even though my pizza had unnecessarily much cheese and unnecessarily little ham, and even though the wine was so thin, it was an insult to all other Italian wines. In Rome it wasn’t the first day of spring, it was the first day of summer. And the day I don’t travel as much as today, I will think of that day and this time as very well invested one. That was a great feeling.

I don’t believe in destiny, but I do believe that the only thing anyone of us can do to ensure that our time here is spent well, is to do what you want with yours. Because even if you reach 110 years there will still be more things you’ll wish you’d done, and that doesn’t mean you’re discontent. If you sit down in a restaurant while you’re starving you might find it hard to choose between 10 appealing options, but once you’ve finished the one meal you ended up taking you’ll still feel full afterwards. You went for something out of everything you wanted, and it left you happy. No one needs to have it all, and no one can have it all. And that makes what you end up choosing so damn special and worth waking up in the early morning for and worth going to sleep in the late night for. A couple of years ago I met a girl who had “live forever” tattooed on her neck. I asked her if she meant it? She said, “no Adam, to me it’s about creating something that actually does live forever”. I never forget that, because I agree. We don’t know how many tomorrows we have, and life is everything but fair, so we must choose. And dare to realize that were we fit in, might not be were we belong, and where we belong, might only be a single decision away from right now. Or several, because we’re all so different. We’re all armored differently.

By choosing we can accumulate as many perspectives as possible in the time that we have, in order to change ours. Because we only understand the magnitude and the littleness of our ideas and thoughts, by comparing them to others. And other’s we get, by listening, interacting, and making choices. Even if it sometimes are the wrong choices.

Right now I’m sitting down in picturesque Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, looking up at the magnificent building on the picture below. I read that In French you say “J’ai peur,” meaning “I have fear” when you want to say that you are afraid. Which is exactly how you’d say it in both Swedish and English. “I am afraid,” rather than “I have fear.” It’s easier to get rid of something that you have than something that you are, I reckon. And that is just the perfect example how seeing how other’s do things differently can change how we do things today. If we dare. So yes, live life every day like it would be your last in case it is, but bear in mind that there might very possibly be a tomorrow. And a tomorrow after that. Even at the point of life where there are more yesterdays than tomorrows left. And they should be worth waking up to.

The only things that are wasted in life are what was never utilized. So choose to live. Live according to you.