Scandinavia MAY 1977 to LATE JULY 1977

I flew initially to Reykjavik, Iceland and stayed at the youth hostel, meeting other young backpackers, each pursuing their own dreams of travel and adventure. Almost all of my travel in the overland part of Scandinavia was by hitch-hiking. From Reykjavik, I hitched north to Akureyri and Husavik, then continued to Lake Myvatn. I had my longest wait of my entire trip trying to hitch-hike from Myvatn to Egilstaddir and Seydisfjordur – three days in total. I rolled my sleeping bag in lava craters for a few hours each night to get some sleep. On the third day, hungry and in the middle of nowhere, I had decided to hitch in either direction, even back to Myvatn, to get some food.

In the early afternoon on the third day, a kind elderly Icelandic couple pulled to a stop, and offered me a lift. The transition from isolation, minor hunger and a bleak and sombre mood shifted to a grateful contentment and exhilaration as they gave me hot coffee and a sandwich. The kindness offered to me by hundreds of strangers along the way, of which this was only one early example, was one of the most inspiring lessons of my journey around the world.

And on to the Faeroe Islands

From Seydisfjordur, I took a ferry boat, the MF Smyril, to Thorshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands. I learned that by legally buying one or two bottles of scotch duty free on the boat, you could sell for a considerable profit in the next place you landed. The price in the Faroes was the most dramatic of all. A bottle which I bought on the Smyril for $7, I sold in Thorshavn for more than $65. I hitched up to Klaksvik and Videreidi in the north of the Faeroes. I also hiked to the summit of two peaks, Myrskjanorjarfjall and Villingadalsfjall. I had befriended a couple of young Icelanders on the boat who ended up working in a fish factory in Klaksvik. I had hoped to pick up some work along the way to help fund my travels. However, as I had just finished work in Canada and was in the first month of my trip, I passed on that opportunity. I was later to work for two months, in late 1978 and early 1979, in a fish factory in Tasmania at the opposite end of the world.

Then to Scandinavia proper

From Thorshavn, about ten days later I took the same ferry, the MF Smyril, to Bergen in Norway. The Bergen youth hostel in 1977 cost just over $5 per night. It set the accommodation standard that was to be my template for the rest of the trip. While I often stayed in dorms or shared rooms with other travelers to keep costs down, I only had to breach that $5 price twice, once in Rarotonga for $6, and once in Papeete, Tahiti at $6.50.

From Bergen I hitched south to Evje in southern Norway, then by ferry across to Denmark to the towns of Aalborg, Aarhus, Svendborg and Copenhagen, then across to Sweden to Uddevala, Brudalen and back up to Oslo.

My sister, Barbara, flew from our home in Kingston, Ontario to Oslo and joined me for the next three weeks as we hitch-hiked together up to Dombas, then Bodo, above the Arctic Circle, across by ferry to the Lofoten Islands at Stamsund and Svolvaer, then continued up to Narvik. We slept on rocks beside the fjord one evening as the $7 hostel cost was above our budget. Scandinavia had a reputation of being particularly expensive, so cutting corners to save money made sense, particularly when money would go so much further in Asia.

In retrospect, and with the benefit of more than thirty years additional experience, I wonder about the self-imposed austerity that guided my travels at the time. To be fair, there were numerous other travelers I met through the entire trip who shared a similar philosophy. We had a limited budget, but unlimited time. And in its own way, simplicity and frugality seemed to have a virtue. I also tried to ensure that my austerity and willingness to accept the hospitality of strangers, never slid across the line into soliciting or coming outright and asking for favours. If I was traveling with another person that wanted slightly more comfort, or to occasionally take public transport, I was willing to do that as well.

The following day, Barbara and I we were kindly picked up by a young German couple, traveling north from their home in Hamburg in a camper van. Over the next three days we traveled with them up to Alta, Nordkapp and down to Karasjok at the border with Finland.

Later we hitched south through Finland to Saariselka, the Tankavaara gold fields, Rovaneimi, Tampere and Helsinki. After Helsinki, we took a ferry boat across the Gulf of Bothnia to Stockholm. I remember thinking that central Finland was very much like Ontario, except three times more expensive. After a few days there, I waved my sister goodbye. I was not to see her again for two and a half years when she joined me in Cuzco, Peru for Christmas 1979.

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