I mean… it’s fine, I guess.

Today’s featured image: heatwave in Oostende. The water is pretty cold (about 65F/19C), but when it’s 95F/34C outside, that feels pretty good. This part of the world isn’t built for those temperatures though. As these extremes become more common, places like Belgium will need to start converting their buildings to be more like those once fit for Spain.


It has only been in the last few weeks that I’ve actually made the effort to clean the grimy surface of the small marble-topped table before I sit down. The rough layer of spilled sugar and cake crumbs can be distracting, but it’s the only cafe in town that serves a half-decent espresso. From the outside, the cafe looks like a sleek yet retro boutique. Large LED bulbs fashioned to look like antiques hang exposed from the ceiling, giving the off-white walls a warm glow. Classic photos of famous musicians and a healthy population of green plants give the space a bit of life, but the life from outside intrudes. Spiders hand in their webs in all of the corners. A small cloud of flies hangs about the brightest lights, occasionally pestering coffee-drinkers and taking tastes of the sugary residue on the marble-topped tables.

The owner is a friendly young man named Johan. He’s also the only employee, sitting at the counter six days a week. On Tuesdays, I occasionally run into him at the gym, working on his body-builder physique. We speak very little, but he’s happy to open up. Ashley’s natural inquisitiveness has cost her hours of lost studying when she doesn’t have the heart to interrupt one of Johan’s soliloquies on current affairs, local politics or his favorite roasteries. I’ve been more reserved, popping in my headphones and allowing him to return to his almost perpetual position, seated behind the counter, head lowered to his smartphone. He breaks that position only to make a coffee, hold vigorous debates with his two regulars, or light up a cigarette outside but not far enough from the door to prevent the smoke from wafting in.

He’s not the only one to make the oversight that is only perceived by us non-smokers. He seems to be a pretty typical Fleming. (I’ll speak here of Flemings instead of Belgians more generally because I’ve only had any experience with the Belgians living in the northern region called Flanders, who speak a dialect of Dutch called Flemish.) There is often a customer contributing to the never-empty ash tray on the table in the make-shift patio that takes up half the sidewalk in front of the cafe.

The floor-to-ceiling cafe window makes my seat just inside a perfect viewing location to observe the locals and tourists traversing the grey-brick street leading to the beach just a couple blocks away. Most are overweight but not in the way Americans are. Life in a city first laid out in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 19th century requires a good deal of walking. Despite the fact that most Flemish cities are like this, Flemings love their cars. Even with the daily ubiquitous traffic jams on the highways, it’s still often faster to drive than to take a train. It’s unpredictable though. Being an hour late to a meeting because of traffic is not uncommon, and being a few minutes late to everything is normal.

Oostende is a tourist city. In winter, it’s quiet. Only the geriatric locals remain. When I arrived in December, I was quickly convinced that my 28 years was at least a decade below the median age. It was far from exciting, but the sea kept the weather mild, the stone and cement buildings stayed warm, the limited traffic was reminiscent of a small town, and the handful of medieval buildings, grey under the winter clouds, gave the place an enchanted feel. As spring arrived, the weather warmed enough to sit on the jetty and listen to the waves. The walking path drew a few locals but not yet the tourists. The days grew refreshingly longer, and the anxiety of freezing my fingers to my handlebars subsided. But the joy of change was short-lived.

Where I grew up, spring meant budding trees on the sidewalks and the return of the songbirds. In Oostende, there is very little vegetation. The coast is an endless wall of vacation condominiums that slowly fill as the temperatures go from warm to hot. As the weeks pass, the beaches fill with tourists in the day. After they leave the waves, choking the paths I use on my evening commute, the seagulls have their turn at the ice cream, waffles, baguettes, prepackaged meats and cheeses, and bags of junk food strewn across the manufactured beach. The daily meals are supplemented by the weekly feast as the locals put their bags of waste on the sidewalks on Sunday night to be picked up Monday morning. The gulls take what the humans wouldn’t, tearing open the plastic bags, eating what they can, casting the rest across the sidewalks and streets, and fighting viciously over the tastiest prizes. With the mating season in the spring and the pressure to bring back food for the chicks throughout the summer, the birds grow more and more aggressive. More than once have I seen a gull with a three-foot wingspan collide with a tourist as it tries to swoop in to knock a wax-paper boat of french fries from their hand. Day and night, the birds shriek their calls of intimidation, screaming for attention for what purpose I have no idea. From my apartment, they are always audible, often loud enough that I need to shut my balcony door to hear the person on the other end of the phone conversation.

Most people in Oostende don’t seem to mind the avian pests. They drown out the noise with their own. In the shopping streets, 80’s American pop blasts from speakers, and pop up bars on the beaches compete with their own retro mix if they haven’t been outblasted by a weekend music festival, thumping until midnight or later. The wealthy (or heavily indebted) middle-aged tourists from France, Luxembourg or the Netherlands rumble along the narrow streets in their classic sports cars, the nouveau riche rev the engines of their brand new sports cars, thrashing them for the two seconds it takes to catch the ambling line of cars, held up by a horse-drawn carriage carrying tourists pretending not to mind the smell of horse piss. Packs of twenty-somethings from North Africa or the Middle East shout over each other in the Arabic dialects that to me always sound like they’re angry. Throngs of people, speaking a dozen tongues (and on their own behaving perfectly reasonably) coalesce into a mass of half-naked bodies, some with personal boomboxes, raising their voices just to be heard over the rumbling human mass.

The supermarket nearest the beach can’t handle the volume; lines at the registers back up through the aisles of packaged sweets and cheap alcoholic beverages. I never seem to learn when to go to the store, hitting the flood every evening as tourists recede from the beach and other locals return from their day jobs.

I’ve welcomed the recent drop in temperatures and return of the grey drizzle that feels much more characteristic for the North Sea coast. The streets are noticeably quieter, and the flood of drivers seems just a touch thinner and more patient. I like to think that the summer is actually coming to an end. The tourist season was made enjoyable only by the fact that I had imported a friend. Had Ashley been unable to spend nine weeks in Europe this summer, I may have tried to flee even earlier than I did. I commented to a colleague one particularly muggy afternoon that I may have survived another winter in Belgium, but I would not have lasted another summer.

Being in Europe used to help me keep sight of the reasons I’ve embarked on this career in renewable energy. Especially in Scandinavia, it’s easy to see people trying to contribute to the cause of sustainability. Stockholm hosts dozens of Tesla taxis, many Scandinavian universities have degrees in sustainable energy or development, government officials clamor over each other to be the most “green”, it can be cheaper to own an electric car than one with an internal combustion engine, and we buy all of our wind turbines from Denmark. Most importantly, though, being in Scandinavia allows one to forget that the greatest challenge to sustainability is population.

The low countries are a stark reminder of what happens when you have fertile agricultural land. Most of the people here are, on balance, good people, just trying to live their lives free from suffering and if they’re lucky, to find a bit of meaning in the endeavor. But they crowd together, piled high in apartment buildings, spread densely across the countryside. Over the last few millennia, the forest gave way to farmland, and now the farmland has given way to housing developments to be reached by cars, mobile boxes of isolation carrying the commuters to work for their brief and cordial interactions before returning home to entertain their evenings away.

I have no lens into these lives. It was mostly my own fault, but I never made friends here. Too much time at home and too little effort to learn the language kept social interactions shallow and limited. As I sit and enjoy my final espresso at Fitzgerald Coffee, I can’t help but wonder how it might have been different.

A young woman sits in the low chair on the other side of the narrow boutique. Behind her thick-framed glasses, she wears an expression of impatient discontent, but she has been here longer than I have, slowly sipping her sparkling lemonade. She is constantly distracted by some silent conversation behind the smartphone screen that looks large in her small hands. Ashamedly, I take the opportunity to steal lengthy glances. Her open petticoat and tight-fitting jeans belie a fit physique on a petit yet womanly frame. Were I not already in a wonderful relationship, I hope I would have the courage to say hello. I feel a sort of connection, a sort of sympathy, sharing with this stranger the sense of being surrounded by people yet feeling alone. She’s clearly connected to someone on the other end of those messages, but my long looks catch no hint of joy from it. She waves away a fly from her sweet drink, puts down her phone and stares at the clock above my head. Is she waiting or just killing time? What would she rather be doing right now?

I’ll never know. She puts her phone away, grabs her wallet, and stands to pay and leave. As with almost everyone in this country, I’ll never see her again. It’s a common excuse to reserve the effort and anxiety required to make new friends, but I’m not sure it’s a valid one.

The cafe fills with groups. Two couples and two families of three. One couple settles at a small table against the wall when they receive their drinks. They chat amicably. They look into each other’s eyes as they explain their thoughts, often smiling, laughing to show their approval. They stop briefly to think and sip their coffee. I know that their marble-topped table is dirty, but they don’t set their hands on it. The flies go after their cookies, but they swat them away thoughtlessly. The floor is dirty, and Johan pays more attention to his phone than any customer, but neither of them seems to notice. Nor do they now seem bothered by the crowd of tourists or cigarette smoke wafting inside or the fact that the centerpiece of their town is a sleazy old casino or that their country is best known for beer, chocolate, and over-sugared waffles. They’re too distracted by each other to notice such trifles.

I’m often asked what I think of living in Belgium. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about it. It’s got all the basics: passable roads, decent public transit, modern medical services, and most everything you’d expect from Western grocery stores. But it’s not nearly as refined as other places I’ve lived. There’s an amateurishness about businesses that I couldn’t see past, and there really wasn’t anything attractive to see or do.

Maybe I didn’t see enough of the good things about Belgium, but maybe I just saw too much. I did see the nice craft coffee shops and the thick forest of the Ardennes and the warm sand of the beach and fairy tale alleyways of Bruges.

But for much of the time, I didn’t have anyone to distract me from seeing everything else that balances it out, so instead of really enjoying my time in Belgium, I didn’t think much of it.

It’s not that it’s a bad place. It’s alright. It’s just not great.

I mean… it’s fine, I guess.

A (rationalist) history of Belgium

Today’s featured image: The Royal Palace of Brussels where the royal family conducts their official business and their staffs do whatever royal staffs do. I took this photo back in December of 2016 when I had a layover in Brussels that was just long enough to go wander for a couple hours.


A couple weeks ago, I shared what I had learned about the history of the Netherlands. I left off at a conveniently natural inflexion point at which the Netherlands took on more or less its current boundaries with the loss of its southern provinces in the Belgian revolution. 

Especially for us Americans, this piece of history isn’t peculiar. “Of course, Belgium would have a revolution to throw off the shackles of an oppressive imperial invader! Of course, a unified people would want sovereignty over their land!” we might say.

However, for a foreigner living in Belgium, both of those statements seem ridiculous.

“The Dutch are possibly the most tolerant and pacific people in Europe, and Belgium is probably the least unified country in Western Europe,” I would retort.

I’ve lived here for seven months now, and I still see Flanders and Wallonia (the two main regions of Belgium) as separate countries. They have different cultures, they speak different languages, they have different economic foundations, and public transit between them is noticeably divided.

Even though they’ve had nearly two centuries to sort out their differences, Belgium is only a little closer to a unified country. Belgium is governed by seven governments: one for each of the national languages (Dutch, French and German), one for each of the regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) and one federal government that is so dysfunctionally divided that it holds the record among “developed” nations for the longest period without a government. The people are fiercely patriotic, but the only thing I see that they actually unite over is football. Flanders and Wallonia even have their own holidays. Golden Spurs Day is celebrated in Flanders to commemorate a Flemish defeat of French invaders, and September 27th in the French-speaking community commemorates their defeat of Dutch invaders.

In this long overdue post, I try to answer the questions (at least to my satisfaction, but probably not yours) of “Why is Belgium still so divided? How did Belgium come to be this way? Why does Belgium even exist?”

There’s actually a surprisingly good place to start: The Eighty Years War.

One of the questions that I never had satisfactorily answered when I was in high school was “If the Nazi’s were supposed to be the Third Reich, what were the first two?” The first part of the answer is the Holy Roman Empire, which having often been maligned as neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, was, in fact, a successful governing body that could fairly be called a “thousand-year Reich”.

For a solid 300 years (1440-1740), the crown was worn by members of the Habsburg family. During this time, the empire picked up the region we might term “The Low Countries” of the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1555, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of the Austrian Habsburgs announced his abdication and his plan for dividing the empire. In a time when the fastest way to bring news overland was by a man on a horse, holding onto huge empires was tricky business, and it seemed more reasonable to give half to his son, Philip II of Spain, and the other half to his brother Ferdinand I.

The part we care about is the part that went to Philip. Technically, the “Spanish Netherlands” was still part of the Holy Roman Empire, but Philip and Spanish royalty were effectively responsible for it. In the style of basically every conflict of the late-middle-ages, what should have been a bit of administrative minutiae turned bloody when religion got involved.

Charles V and his son Philip II were Catholic, just like most rulers in Western Europe for the preceding millennium. Indeed, there wasn’t much controversy here until some short-tempered yet influential German theologian nailed a list of grievances to the Wittenburg castle church door in 1517. Within the next couple of decades, the ability to print “protestant” ideas quickly and distribute them widely spurred a religious reformation in much of Northern Europe. One of the regions where the Protestant tradition started to grow roots was the Habsburg Netherlands.

Partially due to the craziness that happened in Munster in the 1530s (I’ll be telling that story next month), the Netherlands remained mostly Catholic but tolerated the Protestant minority. However, the abdication of Charles V meant that the Protestants were about to gain their best friend and worst enemy.

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands, but Philip II had no sympathy for the Protestant heretics taking refuge in his territory, so he started to crack down. Ironically, it was the end of Dutch Inquisition that meant greater persecution of non-Catholics in the 1560s. The stereotypically tolerant Dutch pushed back.

One of the most prominent Dutch leaders (and devout Catholic), William of Orange led the resistance.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff that happens during wars, but I feel like histories always get too bogged down in the details. The tactics of killing each other don’t really capture the reasons why the fighting started or how the chips fell when it stopped.

The important bits here are how and when the fighting stopped, if only briefly. In the south, French-speaking, Catholic regions of Wallonia entered into the Union of Arras, a defensive agreement aligning themselves with the Spanish against the Protestants of the Republic of the Netherlands. From the Catholic strongholds in the south, the loyalist forces struggled against the Republican forces of the north, until the Peace of Münster in 1646. The Spanish kept what they were able to reclaim (basically from the French border to the strategically important port of Antwerp and down to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg). The Dutch unified into the Seven United Netherlands shortly thereafter and finished out their Golden Age of global exploration, trade and conquest.

Another important factor during the war is the people who weren’t fighting. As with many wars, the causes of the war don’t really concern the people who live in the region where political leaders have decided to send their pawns. The agrarian communities of Flanders were exactly these people. Those who were either Protestant (and at risk of persecution by the Spanish) or who were Catholic but didn’t want to live under the tyranny of the Spanish, fled north to the lands of the Republic.

This left behind people who were either fervent Catholics who supported the “cleansing” of their community or people who didn’t have the means or the will to relocate or fight (primarily the latter). This will be important.

After the Spanish finally gave up trying to reconquer the lands of “over there” in the Netherlands, they had declared bankruptcy twice and were embroiled in all sorts of other shenanigans elsewhere. The South Netherlands were left to their own devices for much of the rest of the seventeenth and basically all of the eighteenth centuries. The agrarian communities returned to their insular lives. In the case of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking populations became isolated between the encroaching French and the border with the Netherlands. To this day, even I can hear the different dialects of the Flemish regions that developed in their relative isolation, and my Dutch is infantile.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the French Revolution deposed the crown, conquered the Netherlands, gave Napoleon a new crown, overextended itself, and then fizzled out when the original crown took power again. These convulsions of libertarian fervour were not bound to France, but the European powers of the time were still afraid of another incarnation of Napoleon or some successor. In hopes of putting a bit of a buffer between them and France, the signatories of the Congress of Vienna gave the Netherlands the perfectly flat region of Flanders that had been (and would continue to be) the battlefield of choice for warring European states.

The reunion wasn’t exactly a popular decision. The South – which had been part of the Catholic Spanish Netherlands, had been partially occupied by France and still mostly French-speaking, and had been much more focused on manufacturing and agriculture than the North – was disadvantaged from the start. The Dutch royalty remained almost exclusively in the North, paying attention only to the issues of the North. The Catholic church was hamstrung, being barred from working with the government. In response, the Catholic clergy encouraged its parishioners to boycott the government, leading to a huge disparity in the elected governing body.

We can’t overlook the economic aspects though. The free-trading Dutch brought their economic reforms southward, and this initially had a positive impact. The Dutch economy continued to grow steadily until the revolution. However, these gains were not shared evenly. The South, which relied on nascent industries and agriculture suffered from cheap goods due to free-trade policies. People are often quite tolerant of their annoying neighbours when they’re all in the same boat financially. Seeing their over-represented, politically favoured neighbours getting rich was a perfect storm of resentment for Trump’s supporters… I mean Brexiteers… I mean Le Pen voters… I mean… umm… what are we talking about again?

Oh yeah. Back to 1830.

Things were precarious in France as well. Wanting to try again, but this time without all the guillotining and complete dissolution of the monarchy, the French people revolted again in what would become known as the July Revolution. This time, they kept the crown, but they wanted the person wearing it to rule with the consent of the people.

The success did not go unnoticed, especially by the French-speaking Brusseloises. Following an exceptionally patriotic opera that was meant to celebrate King William I’s birthday on August 25th, 1830, riots filled the streets of Brussels. They demanded independence. Only a month later, the Belgians formed a provisional government, and they issued a Declaration of Independence on October 4th, 1830.

Over the course of the next year, a constitution had been approved, a monarch chosen and plans proposed by the surrounding powers rejected. Unfortunately for the Belgians, King William I wasn’t satisfied, and he refused to accept the coronation of King Leopold I. After the French joined the fight and retook Antwerp, an armistice was reached in 1832. They remained in a bloodless stalemate until the Dutch formally recognised Belgium in 1839.

This is a good place to pause.

We started this whole exploration in search of an answer to the question of why Belgium exists at all. It seems to be a product of religious division, political inequity and economic inequality, which is understandable enough. But it still doesn’t quite add up to me.

If cultural differences were such a big part (in the early years, the French-speaking majority turned around the tyranny on their Dutch-speaking countrymen), why is Flanders a part of Belgium? Why didn’t it stay in the Netherlands? Why didn’t it end up being its own entity? Why didn’t France and the Netherlands just divide the region along linguistic boundaries like the French wanted to do?

Honestly, this looks like a way more rational situation than what we have today (assuming that all the lands marked “Prussia” here became Germany):

The rest of this is my opinion based on all the information I gathered to write the above and my experiences with Belgians over the past half-year.

It appears to me that the existence of Belgium is really a consequence of the political posturing of the larger powers of Europe. Flanders has had its share of powerful regional kings and dukes, but none of them had the materiel or will to expand far beyond their townships. By the time of Belgian independence, the region had been battered by centuries of political exploitation, religious wars and the dick-swinging contests of hot-headed generals. Centuries of Spanish occupation left this area isolated from the other Netherlandish cultures to the north and from the French culture to the south. When there was a chance for reunification, paranoid European powers did what they could to keep the French sphere of influence from encroaching any further on Central Europe.

By the time of the Belgian Revolution, the Dutch prefered a unified Netherlands, but the ties weren’t there. The Flemish of the early nineteenth century were the descendants of those who had been left behind in the eighty years war. They were provincially minded, Catholic and unfit or unwilling to fight for some king, regardless of whether he spoke Dutch or French.

Flanders came along in the Belgian Revolution somewhat unwillingly. The Belgians wanted the crucial port of Antwerp, and they didn’t want to be surrounded as they would have been if they gave up Flanders in the west or Limburg in the east.

Certainly, some would have liked simply to rejoin France, but that wasn’t an option. They would need to go it alone, and they would need the resources of Flanders.

It doesn’t seem obvious now that the French-speaking Belgians were the powerful ones. Dutch is now an official language, on equal footing with French, and French is no longer the official international language; it’s English, a language Flemmings speak better than Walloons. Flanders is the economic leader, and Flemmings sometimes joke about the “lazy Walloons” being the reason France won’t take them back. From a modern perspective, it almost seems like Wallonia is the one being dragged along, but that is a development only of the last few decades.

Even though Belgium doesn’t really seem to work as a country, it doesn’t seem like it would work divided either. Neither Flanders nor Wallonia is economically strong enough to stand on its own, and the fighting over Brussels would never end. Wallonia is a liability that would not be annexed by a French government that already has enough problems with declining industrial and agricultural areas of its own. Flemmings like to think they’re more Dutch because of their shared language, but the cultural differences are obvious even to outsiders (and even the language is hardly a tie when Dutch people prefer to speak English in West Flanders because they can’t understand the dialect).

Belgium doesn’t make any sense. Its name comes from Germanic tribes who once lived in this region, the Belgae. They were massacred by Julius Caesar, and it appears that hope of a truly unified Belgium died with them 2,000 years ago.

So, why does Belgium even exist?

Politics.

It’s all about flow.

My little flow experience yesterday has led to quite a revelation: flow is what has been missing in my life. It seriously took me almost three months since I left my last job to figure out what was wrong. Sure, the hours were long, but I used to study 10+ hours a day when I was in school, including some weekends. Sure, the land acquisition phase of development sucks, but I knew it would end sooner or later. Sure, there were some challenges with the teamwork, but that’s what makes a job interesting. There never really was a good reason why I shouldn’t enjoy a job that had meaning (I was on the front line of renewable energy), had visible impacts (we were developing projects to replace fossil fuel power plants within the next year), and pushed me to keep learning (I had never done anything like it). It should have been the perfect job.

But I was distracted for 8-10 hours a day. Only during the most menial of tasks could I actually get focused and create something resembling flow. Being able to work in a flow state each day makes the rest of life infinitely more enjoyable. Coming home after a day of task-switching makes even an evening of Netflix seem like too much cognitive effort. But after a day of focus in flow, I find myself ready to crank out a blog post or dive into a book. Living a healthy life is just easier when work doesn’t suck.

 

On Meaning and God

On my way back from Oslo, I listened to this debate between Dr Jordan B. Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and Dr Susan Blackmore, who is currently a visiting professor at the University if Plymouth. They discussed the role of God in giving meaning to life, and they did a much better job of diving into the subjects than I did, so check out their whole 45-ish-minute discussion here.

 

On Chickens

The title should say it all.

Not really.

Here are some valuable links:

Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation

A great podcast from the BBC’s The Inquiry about meat consumption and climate change entitled “Can we eat our way out of climate change?

And for those of you who still aren’t sure how I managed to convince a random Norwegian family to pay me in food and housing for three months, here’s a link to the WWOOF website.

Onto the vlogging!

 

 

Vlog (n): a video blog

Hey everyone. If you’re subscribed to this blog, get ready. The spam flood is nigh. One of the things that I really liked about being an English teacher is that I had ample opportunity to practice my speech. When I gave my first presentation in several months after having left Korea, I felt like I was constantly stumbling over my words, not finding the ones I wanted, and leaving concepts poorly explained. I hope I can go back to teaching in the future, partly because I like the challenge of lecturing.

Well, one does not need a classroom to practice public speaking in our digital age, so here it goes!

30-day vlog challenge!

Almost four years ago, I started a blog by doing a 30-day writing challenge, and it was one of the best things I ever did. By the end of that month, I could actually see the improvement in my writing, and I definitely felt how much easier cranking out 500 words at the end of the day had become. I would like to have the feeling with speaking to a camera.

So, here it is: for the next 28 days (I’m already two days in), I’ll post a video of at least one minute. There are no other requirements such as topic, fluency, location, etc., but knowing me, I’ll try my best to limit verbal pauses, make the sentences flow together, and have something interesting to talk about. I’m on this philosophy kick pertaining to progress and ideals, so I’ll probably pontificate on that for a while.

If you want to get links directly to the videos, hit the “Subscribe” button below the video. I’ll try my best not to make these a waste of your time, but in the end, you can always just ignore me. Youtube has literally billions of other things for you to watch, and probably some number of millions of them are actually worth watching.

European Adventure Day 20: Faroe Islands – part 1

I shamelessly admit that I’m done. I’ve seen what I came to see. I’ve gone where I wanted to go. Experienced more than I could have expected. This adventure is rapidly coming to a close, and I would be perfectly happy spending the rest of it lounging around in cafes. Indeed, that’s where I am now. I scaled a ridge this morning, but it was a battle just to get myself moving. I’m glad I did it though. This place continues to blow my mind. Even after seeing it with my own eyes, I find it hard to believe that this is a real place. When I reached the top of the ridge along the trail that connects Klaksvik and Árnafjørdur, it literally felt like walking into another world.

But now I’m back at sea level and perfectly content with my cup of tea, comfy chair, and internet connection. I’ve budgeted a nice cushion for emergency hostel stays that was to be used if I couldn’t find a host or if the weather drove me inside. Now that I only have 5 more nights when I need to figure out my lodging situation, I’ll take my reward for disciplined budgeting. We’ll see where I end up.

European Adventure Day 18: Hirtshals

I’m a bit sleep deprived but very excited for the next leg of the journey, which is expected to be the climax: six days camping around the Faroe Islands. I’ll try to upload posts as I go, but I don’t plan on having access to any modern amenities until I board the next ferry to Iceland.