In September, 1982, I set out on a journey. I left home and when asked when I would return, I could honestly answer, “possibly never.” My whole life had been planned up until that point with school, work, etcétera always being predictable. I wanted for one time in my life to have a blank page in my life and see what would happen and where I would go.
I worked a few Jobs for six months, rarely taking a day off and saved as much money as possible. I was a night attendant at my fathers veterninary hospital, so I was paid a little to sleep there every night. No rent!
I had studied Spanish, German and Italian in the university, so that hopefully would help. I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in microbiology and had applied to medical school with some high MCAT scores, but the road beckoned and away I went.
I will tell many more stories from this journey, but today I will address how I ended up working on a pig farm in a small town in Norway called, Rakkestad. On Christmas Eve day, I had taken a boat from Brindissi, Italy to Patra, Greece and then a train into Athens. When I arrived in Athens, I remarkably ran into my old girlfriend’s cousin and a crazy guy from Denmark. We drank some Ouzo that night, a licorice tasting liquor, and I woke up frozen from a cold night with a headache. I did not know that Athens could be so cold. The guy from Denmark told me about a farmer in Norway that hired foreigners every Spring in Norway to work on the farm and gave me his address. He suggested I write him. Of course there were no cell phones at that time and international calls were rare. There also was no internet. Different era. I communicated with my parents via postcards. Anyway, I wrote a five page or so letter to the Norwegian farmer and told him to contact my parents in the USA via a letter if he was interested in hiring me. There was no other way to communicate.
From there I worked on an Olive farm on the island of Crete in a small town called, Drapanias (will detail that in another post) and then spent 45 days travelling around Turkey which was amazing (another post)! Eventually, took a bus from Istanbul, Turkey via Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to arrive at Graz, Austria. I had asked for a drug to help me sleep on the bus. A Young boy in a pharmacy in Istanbul gave me some pills. I woke up in the aisle of the bus with people stepping on me. I was drugged out of my mind. In Austria, I went to an international phone booth and called my parents, who told me to report to Norway on April 1st for a job on the farm. I hitch-hiked and did some share rides via Nurenberg, Germany and Berlin. At the time, Berlin was divided into East and West and East Germans could not leave the country and had a wall to keep them in (I will write about this also later). I found a train that passed through East Germany and then on to Denmark and went to Copenhagen. Eventually I took a boat to Oslo, Norway. It was cold and snowy and I spent a week in a Youth hostel and tried to figure out where Rakkestad, Norway was. Oddly, on the staircase in Norway I ran into a young lady I had worked with in Seattle, Washington. I hurt my back in the hostel lifting my heavy pack. Ultimately I took a train to Rakkestad and got off briefly to see what was there and then headed to a cabin in the woods. The farmer had gotten word that somebody had passed through town asking about him and he set out to find me. A knock came at the door of my cabin and when I opened the door, a man asked,”Are you Jim Boyce?” with a Norwegian accent. Soon we were on the way to his farm. More on my next post from the Farm.