When travelling to a place that is such a wild contrast to my home base in New York, the big differences are plainly obvious (but definitely not plain). The Faroe Islands are no exception. Giant skyscrapers are mountains, shiny rooftops are blanketed with grassy turf, and the pace is a bit…slower.
As a New Yorker, and frequent traveller, I crave places; the way we all crave that humdrum escape, love, and chocolate. I covet nooks and crannies of the world that will blow my mind, make me feel like a pioneer, and test my limits. My soul calls for far-flung destinations with wild backdrops that linger in my thoughts, fuelling my daydreams when I need to summon them the most.
Enter the Faroe Islands. A collection of wild isles with Nordic flair, where you should only visit if you plan on venturing around with your mouth in a perpetual jaw-drop position. (You’ve been warned.) Travelling is a natural eye-opener ranging the spectrum from everyday differences to goose bumps inducing characteristics. We observe distinct contrasts like landscape, culture, and weather, and not so distinct ones…like cardboard vs. plastic milk cartons.
If you’re going to toss someone from a completely different world in the remotely remote territory that is the Faroe Islands, who better than a New Yorker? I volunteered as tribute.
THE BIG STUFF
Imagine the cliffiest cliffs you have ever laid your eyes on. Forget cramped spaces. Think: Wide. Open. spaces. Backyards are a helluva lot bigger, with narrow roads to otherworldly places that not even the furthest ends of your mind could have imagined.
Driving through clouds vs. smog is a welcome change, and baulking at ridiculous postcard-worthy scenery is a constant state of being. (Both of which I’m more than okay with.) Despite being somewhat secluded, the islands somehow manage to get better cell service than I could ever obtain in midtown Manhattan. You can be trekking the tippy-tops of one of their 340 peaks and still get four bars. Like I said, mind-blowing stuff here, people.
Manhattan is New York’s main island while the Faroes boast 18 of those bad boys. Lighthouses are torn from fairy tale pages, surrounded by a moody ocean that can change on a dime. The ‘Land of Maybes’ isn’t just a vibe, it’s a way of life. As a New Yorker, we are used to having everything planned and set, often down to the minute, because time is everything. In the Faroes, it’s accepted that everything is, and always will be, weather dependent.
We associate summer with hot weather, scorching beach days, and flip-flops. In the Faroe Islands, summer is considered sweater weather. The wind can still slap you, the waves are still temperamental, but how about those frolicking lambs though. The summer sun’s appearance is honoured like the celebrity it is, and travel to each island gets… easier, usually.
Sunset and sunrise are real tight in the summer months. The midnight sun parties ‘til the wee hours, leaving a slight everlasting glow until sun-up, mere hours later. Summer nights in Manhattan still don a dark cloak, the only glow from artificial city lights.
Although New Yorkers feel that winter dominates our seasons, the Faroes are known for a dominate season as well… wind. Waterfalls blowing upwards are a prime example. They have to secure their backyard trampolines for fear of them taking off to Denmark. Seriously, though.
A local hiking guide, Johannes with Reika Adventures, put it perfectly, “We only have one season: wind. There’s strong wind, and not so strong wind, but always, wind.”
The weather is more than fickle; changing so quickly that you can’t even be mad, just impressed. It’s best to be prepared for anything and everything. Luckily for me, that New York blood brought me prepped for all the things.
As city dwellers, we have almost any type of food available at our disposal. In these northern islands, veggies are hard to come by, on account they are impossible to grow in Faroese soil. That leaves meat and potatoes to dominate the local dinner table, and my inner five-year-old to do a celebration dance.
Faroese salmon deserves a trophy. This isn’t ordinary salmon, this sea-to-plate fresh (think farm-to-table but with the ocean). I may or may not have eaten it as part of every meal. Butter needs an honourable mention too, being the regional staple that it is. They butter anything that can be buttered. Why? Because it tastes better, obviously. They channel their inner Paula Deen as part of their culinary fibre, and well, that’s cool with me.
Let’s talk pizza. If there’s one thing about New Yorkers, it’s that we’ve earned our right to be the pizza snobs that we are. In one fell swoop, the Faroe Islands can tip our pizza world on its axis with a single topping: corn. Yes, I was confused too. The irony that vegetables aren’t a big part of the diet, yet they appear on quite possibly the best greasy food on earth is quite lost to me. But, if pizza is the vehicle for your veggies, then so be it. (To be fair, this is apparently a thing in other realms of the world, too.)
Traffic jams are mostly wildlife related, instead of rush hour and car related. Sheep don’t have a care in the world as they nap in the middle of the road. When you outnumber the actual humans, you can do that sort of thing, you know. Each woolly creature sports their own defined personality, and the hilarious encounters are all a part of the experience. No rude New Yorkers ‘in the zone’ rushing from place to place here; just sheep with their sassy pants on.
Helicopters are a regular form of transportation, and the cost is on par with taking a ferry, whereas in New York a heli ride will cost you a pretty penny. Instead of being stuffed into a hot subway car, I accompanied a box of bananas to another island via helicopter. Level: INCREDIBLE.
THE NOT SO LITTLE THINGS
The differences aren’t all just painted in the ridiculous scenery. Tiny tidbits like the milk packaging I mentioned; a relevant eco-friendly choice. Delightful flower planters are employed as village speed bumps in lieu of the obnoxiously yellow road lumps we’re accustomed to. Everything is just a bit more…pleasant. The Faroe Islands make up for their moody weather by softening the edges everywhere else.
The level of friendliness is a solid 12/10. Being welcomed into a local’s home, it’s very quickly like a New York Grandmother is trying to fatten you up. While stuffing your face, you’re probably being invited to come back and stay for the upcoming music festival. Oh, and the holidays, that too.
New Yorkers are big on aesthetics which the Faroe Islands delivers with fanfare. They are lessons in learning that bright and shiny doesn’t always mean appealing, though. Fog and cool-toned backdrops have a way of seeping happiness into your soul just as easily.
So perhaps we learn from the differences, take a little of it back home with us. Perhaps every home should have a sheep horn shot glass for house party welcomes. (Why isn’t this a universal thing?) Travel is supposed to teach, even when you are in the middle of nowhere, even in small ways, even if only to relax a smidge and appreciate Mother Nature for all her glorious splendour. Because, it’s not all about looks, but if it was…Faroes, you nailed it.
Words: Lauren Breedlove
This article was originally posted on Visitfaroeislands.fo