Week 3: The kindness of strangers

I often feel incredibly lucky, something that other people seem to struggle to understand. And yes medically I haven’t done too well in many ways and I would never wish my lovely mix on anyone else but all the same, I feel lucky. This feeling normally surfaces after interactions where people show the better side of humanity, the one the newspapers and media seem to forget about or just don’t want you to see, the times we are good to each other for no reward, the times people have gone out their way to help me out. It happens more often than I would expect.

Maybe some of the feeling is because in London everyone is always in a rush and more often than not plugged into headphone or scrolling through their phone and yes when I’m commuting I have often been guilty of the same thing. Sitting on a crowded tube is hardly anyone’s idea of fun, plug in and get it over with. But it’s more than that, in London I often feeling like nobody has got time for each other, The constant grind of city life takes over and we are all cogs in this much bigger machine.

But for three weeks now I have been away from it all. A small farm 4km from the main road in Lofoten is about as far removed from life in London as you can get, and I’m LOVING it. It’s no surprise, I love mountains and lakes and being outside, I’m not a city person, and, for the first time in years, I have been able to do something totally for myself without having to worry too much about pesky illnesses.

My time in Lofoten is the first stage of 5 months of traveling, most of which, I will be on my own. Before I left for this trip and was telling people about it one of the questions I was most often asked was who I was going with, many people seemed shocked that I was going alone. But I love traveling solo. To me it’s easier and much more freeing than going with someone else, I am the only one my plan has to suit, no one else needs to be consulted, no compromises need to be made, this trip is entirely for me.

And it’s not like I don’t enjoy the company of other people I do, I just perfer to travel on my own. The other thing I find is I’m more confident when I travel. Part of this is having no one else to rely upon but a bigger part is knowing I can be utterly myself at all times because the interactions that I’m having with other people are all short term. I don’t worry about making the right impressions as often in a few days it won’t matter anyway.

I have always been an open person, often it seems in daily life too open. I don’t always censor what I say the way that is expected, I talk about subjects that are still, in some places, seen as taboo without even considering that it might not be appropriate. This has got me in trouble at times but I find when your traveling openness makes like easier and gives you opportunities that would otherwise be left undiscovered.

On my flight from Oslo to Bodo, I chatted a little with the man sitting next to me. He seemed a little surprised to find an English girl on her own going to Lofoten in May but quickly became my in-flight guide, pointing out mountains of note and glaciers out the window. Due to the stress of having my original flight canceled I hadn’t really looked into how to get into Bodo city center from the airport or where the ferry terminal was.

As we chatted I asked about the best way to get to town, he told me where to get the bus from, a little later he turned to me and asked if I wanted a free ride into town in the taxi that his group was hiring. Yes, yes I did. The taxi driver was a little surprised when he took my bag to put it in the trailer, 10 men in their mid-sixties (I think) on a fishing trip and a 20 something English girl with a giant backpack, it looked a little odd. They made a few jokes about me called me ‘free seat’ but I was happy enough, it certainly beat the bus with two backpacks.

I quickly settle into life at the farm, on the second week I get an opportunity to go to the shop a buy a little luxury food for myself and hypo supplies. By midway through the third week, these are starting to dwindle, I had planned to cycle to the shop by the bikes are too big for me to use. It’s 8km away a bit too far to comfortably walk there and back again but just going one way seems ok. On Tuesday, after a sunny morning working in the garden I sit down to my dinner outside by some visitors to the farm, they are American and seem friendly.

One of the ways of getting about advertised here is simply to ask visitors if they are driving your direction and if they can give you a lift. It seems a little cheeky but I thought it was worth a try. I chatted with them for a while and then asked if they were going in the direction of the shop and if there were could I get a lift. They didn’t know where the shop was but offered to take me anyway. I was delighted and when they said they could even drop me home again I was in so much shock my mouth dropped wide open a just hung there a moment while I reveled at my good fortune.

It was a fun outing, Chatting with my new friends and pointing out local landmarks. The scenery around here is pretty much always spectacular and the biggest problem is knowing which way to look.

On Monday we get a helper at the farm for the day, she is a Swedish lady who is traveling in her van and camped out at the farm overnight. We work together on the peppermint bed and chat about travel, climbing and a load of other things. She tells me about Henningvaer. A small fishing town where a lot of good climbing can be found. Having done no research into climbing in Lofoten before I came I’m eager to get down there, at first it looks like she might be able to give me a lift later in the week but this ends up not being possible.

But I still want to go. The best alternative, hitchhike. There is a part of me that is not overly convinced with the idea, how easy will it be to get picked up? Will I just end up standing at the roadside for ages, what if I get to Henningsvaer but can’t get home again? But this trip is about getting outside my comfort zone so I decided to try.

Tove is heading out so gives me a lift to the main road. I stand watching for a car to come for a few minutes (this is the main road through Lofoten but it’s hardly busy). I hear one coming around the corner and thinking ‘here goes nothing’ stick out my thumb. To my utter astonishment, it stops and I get a lift all the way to the turning to Henningvaer.

It turns out hitchhiking around here is pretty easy. People seem willing to help and I have an easy journey. Reaching Henningsvaer I look around the town and then go for a long walk along the seafront by the mountainside. The sun is shining and it’s an amazing day. I take a long walk with a breathtaking view around every corner before returning to town to go to the climbing cafe and get some food.

It’s a nice place and I treat myself to a big dinner and actually spend some money. On the table next to me is an Aussie family. As they start to get ready to leave I ask if I can get a lift to the main road with them, they are happy to give it. They go for a walk first then come back to pick me up from the cafe. We chat easily and it turns out they are heading the same way I am and will go past the end of the road to the farm. It’s a great way to finish the day. They are lovely people and the conversation is interesting the whole way back, they even give me a massive pastry to take home.

Things like this are one of the reasons I like to travel solo. You have to take a few more risks in terms of human interaction and most often you come off richer from the experience. I have always believed the best in people and it’s nice when those beliefs are proved true.

Now please enjoy some of my pictures from Henningsvear!

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Hope you enjoyed!

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

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