Sunvacation to Spain

I´ve been to Spain a handful of times, and returned to Alicante this time with a slightly different mission. Me and my roommate were flying with a paralyzed man, as his personal assistants and caretakers. He is paralyzed from the chest down, and has limited use of his hands, so we have to help him with nearly everything. He has 3 different wheelchairs, one for bathing, one for traveling, and one electric one he can drive himself in his home, and we were on our way to his vacation home in Valencia province.

Just the drive from the airport to Villa Martin was a small culture shock. Seeing flamingos with their heads deep in salt flat ponds and endless fields of orang groves was so exotic to me. Coming from the woman who usually travels for 8 months a year but has only traveled 6 weeks in the last 13 months. I´ve actually spent more time in quarantine than abroad, a total of 6 weeks and 5 days after I´m done quarantining from this trip.

Spanish lockdown was slightly stricter than Iceland. There are mandatory masks everywhere, even outside on the street, and curfew at 10pm. You would be fined for walking without a mask or driving after 10, and the police were all around. Restaurants and bars had to close at 6, but the sun didnt even go down until 8, so it was fun daydrinking and then going home and sunbathing. There were 3 pools at his residence, but not very much sun.

We were surprised at the cool weather, temperatures daily below 20 degrees celsius, and a lot of rain. It doesnt normally rain in the area, but it rained every other day for two weeks for us. We still got a tan, and some beach time, and even though the ocean wasn´t quite warm enough, we went in anyway and enjoyed people´s stares. The palm trees and deep purple flowers in gardens brought smiles to our faces everytime, and the price of wine and tapas made our wallets especially happy.

We shopped til we dropped, not only because it was cheap, but because there were things we found that you couldn´t buy in Iceland. A foldable bike, a Nespresso machine for 64 euros, a blow up stand up paddle board… our suitcases will be heavy on the way home. It will take me 3 covid tests to get back, and 20 hours of travel through Stockholm where covid´s on fire. I just have to make it home, uninfected, and finish my quarantine since its finally my turn to get the Pfizer vaccine. Only a few more weeks and travel will start to get easier and more worthwhile for me… yay!

A second volcano in Geldingardalur

Another eruption started around noon Monday, only 500m from the original volcano in Geldingardalur. I was so lucky to be there at that exact moment, after booking a helicopter trip for 11:20 that day and being offered an extra long stop (45 mins instead of 30) by Noona.is. We sat and watched the original volcano site, listening to melting earth splatter and flow, and felt 3 earthquakes in a matter of minutes.

The search and rescue team then interrupted us to say the area had to be evacuated around 12:08, after the new eruption starting spewing lava and gases just behind us. I´m super grateful to have been there in good weather, and not standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. The perfect wind conditions kept gases at a minimum, and the patient search and rescue team didn´t chase us away when the helicopter couldn´t pick us up at its original landing spot.

We went from sharing the view with hundreds of people to only a handful of staff until an hour and a half later. We hiked up a hilltop, where we could watch both eruptions at the same time, and the helicopter eventually found us, landed and evacuated us. Apparently a third fissure has showed up since, so there´s plenty of lava to flow around!

Dear Iceland

Its a love hate relationship, this thing we´ve got, a thing I can´t ever fully commit to and never completely break up with. The summers are always summer loving, and when there´s fall, if fall ever comes, the colours of birch trees reddening and hay fields yellowing is glorious. Then our sun has begun its slow decent, and your light is always dramatic after the sheep have come down from the mountains. Things glow gold during the day and northern lights show up at night, and then the nights persistently grow until the autumn equinox when they´re triumphantly longer than the days.

Its your darkness that first pushes me away. The mornings when I wake up in pitch blackness and I´m not sure if its 9 am or 9pm because I swear I just fell asleep, but realize I´ve been unconscious for 12 full hours and still feel tired. 13 hours of sleep a night become normal by the end of November, as all my energy evaporates with the lack of light and vitamin D.

Christmas is a jolly old time each time, and I love the cosiness Reykjavik offers during the holiday season. Ice skating, shopping for pine trees and gifts to put under them, and drinking Swiss miss and Stroh with friends at café´s. New Years eve is a spectacular show, with all the explosives and parties, even during covid, and I thank you for giving me 26 days of Christmas to survive the first week of January.

Then its the cold that drives me away. The orange weather warnings and hurricane winds, the wind chills and white-out snow storms, the frozen roads and my car buried in cold snow. I can´t bear it – even my skin cries out as white, flaky, patches break out on my face and random places on my body. The allergies, the eczema, and the shut-in and shut-out feeling of society begins to grow as everyone else slowly winds down into hibernation mode.

Finally, its your people, our people rather, that destroy you. I can’t fit in anymore – just a little too brown, a bit too cheap, and too much of an accent standing between me and being Icelandic. I should be bitching about taxes and minimum wage, holding out my hands for free benefits like the rest. The jobless say no to job offers, preferring unemployment insurance to working for a living, and some only accept money under the table, just to make sure our ‘kreppa’ recession lasts a little longer. Privileged white men find ways to keep shitting on single, independent, young women, asking us passively-aggressively to shut up and accept their definition of gender equality. The married men keep cheating on their wifes and the ex-wife’s keep gold digging and fighting with baby daddies. The countryside people are tired of living in the country and Reykjavik people are tired of living in the city – the grass is always cleaner on the other side.

This year I made it to April, I´m not sure how, but February and March were abnormally kind. The volcano beginning March 19th was timely – may Mother Earth continue to rage and burn you beautifully. This April´s been a bitch, so I´m out. I´m sorry I couldn´t stay longer, the third covid wave was the last incentive I needed to bounce. Ill come back when the grass starts to green and the sun starts to warm, when more than 10 people can gather again, both in bars and public pools. Perhaps vaccinations will actually start helping people younger than 70 by then.

Im sorry but now I’ve got to go. I´ve always said that I learn to love you more each time I leave you, but I´ve still got to leave you long enough to get homesick. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months, for me to miss you, but somehow I always come back. I can´t promise this time, but I´ll try my best.

love,

the one who always gets away

Volcano erupting in Iceland

The website https://www.erkomideldgos.is/ has been waiting to post “yes” to the question we’ve all been asking: is the volcano erupting? And finally, tonight, it tells us what we’ve all been waiting to hear.

At 9:45 pm tonight, the national news announced officially that the volcano on Reykjanes peninsula has begun erupting. After thousands of earthquakes since February 24th, dozens felt daily in Reykjavík, the show has finally begun on Fagradalsfjallið – slightly easier to read out loud than Eyjafjallajökull.

the volcano 75 hours later

Looks like we’ve got yet another reason to predict Iceland’s tourism to start booming again!

Earthquake city: 7 days of shakes in Reykjavík

Its been a week since I woke up to the first earthquake. I´ve felt an earthquake once before in Reykjavik, months ago, and that one was slightly bigger and lasted longer, so I didn´t panic. I stood up minutes later to do some yoga and eat breakfast, and felt another 2. They all lasted only a few seconds, around 4 or 5 on the richter scale, and somehow felt less scary each time.

the ducks on the pond usually fly away if the pond rattles

Now, a week later, they´ve become so regular that its normal to hear the glasses in the cupboard clink. You know its an earthquake, not a door slam or an airplane, because of the noise you hear in the earth – it growls when it trembles. But, a door slam or rattle from a big truck will still make you stop and think, ´was that another one?´

Yesterday, I felt four earthquakes in maybe 15 minutes. Then I sat under a roof of glass at Askja, in the University of Iceland, and started to feel a little stress. Sometimes I start to imagine there´s an earthquake, and I get confused if I shook the table or the table shook on its own. I can feel the ground vibrate through my yoga mat, but don´t always hear the tremble, and think I´m going crazy.

is this what frozen lakes look like during earthquake activity?

The earthquakes continue to happen this morning, dozens of them, small ones only minutes apart. Or I am just getting so used to them I´m not able to imagine them. Who knows anymore, but stay safe and stay aware neighbours 🙂

Bye, Dubai!

During COVID, flights and border closures have unpredictable and unexpected, but basically we´ve learned to stay put. I had already surrendered to no more traveling for the rest of 2020, but the chance to go to Dubai on a work trip for New Years eve was impossible to say no to. What did I have to lose? For even the 1% chance that covid tests were negative, airplanes flew and borders stayed open between Reykjavík and Dubai, I would have taken the chance.

face mask tan – a real first world problem

And I did, and I made it, and I came back a new person. It was physically, emotionally and mentally rejuvenating, to feel the sun on your skin, meet strangers and be in a foreign place with new and exotic things. We played proper tourist, and I saw more of Dubai this time around than the last 2 visits I made.

Global Village

I was with my roommate Guðný, and we were assisting a paralysed man from Iceland meet his girlfriend for vacation. We spent most of our time third-wheeling their dates, and keeping her a happy tourist. We went to the ´Miracle´botanical gardens, the Global Village, the Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis, also visiting the Lost Chambers Aquarium.

We went on a desert safari, let the girlfriend do some quadbiking, and had a bbq buffet watching a belly dancer, fire dancer and a yowla spinning dancer.

yachting in Dubai

On our free time, we were able to rent a yacht for a cruise around the Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeirah, we met friends, old and new, and networked with some couchsurfers. We dined and wined and watched the fireworks at midnight on New Years eve from the rooftop of our hotel, taking in the Atlantis and the Burj Khalifa from a distance far away the noise and smoke was tolerable.

giddy-up

The highlight was definitely riding a crazy Arabian stallion from sunset and into the night through an open, sandy desert nightscape. The owner didn´t think I could handle him, and I enver quite let him go 100%, but we teared that desert up. Just another perfect piece of the therapeutic experience of finally traveling again.

Me Time Iceland

What is Me Time? Other than time for me, myself and I? Well, a simple description is that it’s a weekend of cleansing, detoxification and relaxation, for the mind, body and soul. You are hosted in the Mula Lodge on the banks of the salmon river Þverá in Borgarfjörður, a cosy winter lodge boasting a fireplace, modern rooms and an outdoor spa.

The lodge is fully catered, with all meals included in the retreat price for the weekend (dinner day 1, breakfast lunch and dinner day 2, breakfast and lunch day 3). Food served is 100% vegan, with a focus on nurturing our bodies together thru caffeine and alcohol free drinks. The use of cellphones and tobacco is also restricted.

We’re offering a weekend getaway to the countryside, filled with yoga, nature walks and mindfulness. All yoga classes are taught by certified yoga teachers, who accommodate beginner to advanced practitioners. Me Time was founded by three friends and certified yoga teachers, Þorgerður, Guðny and Katrín. They met over 7 years ago working at the Fishing lodge Þverá during the summer season. With all three women having roots in Iceland and a passion for yoga, they realised this beautiful lodge was the perfect space to connect to Icelandic nature and the winter season while practicing yoga and meditation. By disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavik and getting out into the countryside for some “Me Time,” the otherwise empty lodge has now found a new winter life: hosting weekend retreats for yogis. The time spent at the lodge is complemented by a complete detox: all the vegan-friendly meals are cooked by chef-in-training Þorgerður, and the whole getaway remains alcohol and caffeine free, and for those who don´t mind… cellphone and wifi free!

Because its an event totally for you to do as you like, attendance to any event or meal is optional! You can always retreat to your private room with ensuite bathroom to have more privacy. All rules can also be broken in that safe bubble, so don’t let the vegan and digital detox scare you away! At least stay open minded to join us for an electricity-less night on arrival, and a silent day on day 2 where noons speaks until we break the silence together in a cacao ceremony. Live music is also always a highlight – various musicians and sound practitioners come each retreat to share their sound.

Retreats run throughout the winter, approximately once a month, and have a limited capacity of 7 people per event. January 15-17 and February 12-14 are sold out, but March 5 – 7 is open for booking. Check out our instagram account for photos @metimeiceland.

More things I like

I made a list of things I like in an old blog from 2011. Then I wrote another list of my favourite things in 2012, but since then I’ve grown to like many more things. I’ve also realised that some things I don’t like make me irrationally uncomfortable, like pitch black dark, or when people swim too close to me in water where I cant reach the ground, and letting anyone take my passport out of sight. I also dislike being stuck in traffic, over-consumption, extravagance, and wastefulness. But anyway, here’s a list of things I do like, staying focused on the positive:

When I´m in Asia, like tropical rain, sticky humidity, and chaotic markets. I like super spicy hot sauces that they sprinkle on everything, and warm teas to drink with it.

When I´m in South America, I like hearing salsa, bachata and reggaeton music coming from every house, car, and bus that I pass. I like that you can always find beans and rice for next-to-free, and corn in all forms and gigantic avocados that are always ripe.

When I´m in Iceland, I love that everyone call spell my full name (and pronounce it), the brevity of my postal address, and how cheap and easy it is to buy the best hot dog in the world. I love the temperature and taste (or non-taste) of the cold water from the tap, and how it tastes exactly the same from a river in the highlands. I also love that hitchhiking is safe, and that the residence of the president is a farm near Reykjavik without any armed guards or barbed wire.

When I´m in Africa, I like the warmth, in the air, the people and the food. West African and French African music always soothes, even the polyrhythmic percussions. I’m always impressed how many people they can fit in a vehicle, and how some of these old, beat-up western reject cars still manage to stay alive. The second-hand markets of Red Cross rejects and food markets where everything is available for individual sale, from eggs to shampoo, never ceases to amaze me.

In Australia and New Zealand, I love the way people speak with accents make English sound friendlier. I’m in love with they way theres an endless supply of meat pies, ginger beer, and sweet chilli sauce for everything. I like their new-world wine and vineyards, and talk about baby blue ocean water.

Antarctica was love at first sight, all of it. The wildlife, the snow-capped mountains and floating icebergs felt so exotic yet so close to home. If I could spend the rest of my life surrounded by thousands of penguins (by far my favourite animal!), I’m sure I could even learn to like the smell of penguin poop.

hammocking in Antarctica

When I’m anywhere, I love cosy time, cuddling and cat naps. Sitting in a hanging chair, hammock or window sill with a view – I must have been a cat in my previous life – there’s something so natural about purring in your own corner watching the world go by.

What countries are left?

I recently had some interviews in Reykjavik about potentially being the most traveled living Icelander. It´s never fair to measure or compete in ´travel´, but they say 222 countries may be the record. Some are still unclear how many countries there are in the world (including me) but I tried to explain the numbers once here: “How many countries are there in the world?” When asked what countries are left, these are the 25ish countries, territories and islands I´m still on my way to, whether or not they count.

  1. Tokelau
  2. Tajikistan
  3. Turkmenistan
  4. Uzbekistan
  5. Ngorno-Karabakh
  6. Iraq
  7. Syria
  8. Yemen
  9. Eritrea
  10. South Sudan
  11. Libya
  12. Chad
  13. Niger
  14. Central African Republic
  15. Cameroon
  16. Congo Brazzaville
  17. Gabon
  18. Angola
  19. Equatorial Guinea
  20. Sao Tome Principe
  21. Pitcairn island
  22. Falkland Islands
  23. South Georgia and South Sandwich islands
  24. St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha
  25. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

I´ve never traveled to check countries off a list, I simply travel to go to new places. However, its fun to count, continents, islands or borders or passport stamps, whatever system you like keeping track with, and the definition of a country has many interpretations. I think it´s weird to say I´ve been to Denmark when I went to Greenland, and even weirder to say I went to France when I went to Guadaloupe. Check out my blog on other examples, and please don´t be fooled the UN member states that total only 196 countries – many countries and sovereign territories are still fighting to be recognised and we should honor that. 

Traveling in the pandemic

We can all agree that people are getting a bit stir crazy, dreaming of their next trip and excited for traveling to return to ´normal´, but I´ve got to say its worth waiting for. Traveling during covid times is awkward, stressful and boring. Let me explain why.

Firstly and most importantly, the stupid covid test. Have you ever had someone tickle your gag reflex so long? Or a q-tip so far up your nose that it touched your brain? Ew, even writing about it brings back tears to my eyes and makes me want to cover my nose.

a typical day at KEF airport

It’s a bit stressful waiting to find out if your flight is cancelled or delayed, or if border rules change and you can no longer enter Finland or mandatory quarantine begins again in London (both true examples for Icelanders).  Worse than that is the policy of the airlines, to wait until 48 hours before departure to tell you about any changes, which screws up connecting flights and hotel bookings but no one is insured or responsible for lost cost because it’s a ´pandemic.´

at least I got a window seat

The airports are eerily empty, most shops are closed, and they ask you to wear a mask the entire time while keeping a 2m distance. Then you board your plane, which Icelandair has filled by cancelling every flight the days before and after your departure to get everyone on board at once, and you have to keep your mask on while sitting mere centimeters away from strangers. The flight attendants do little or nothing, not even sanitize your seat, but may sell drinks and pick up garbage. So then the guy beside you has his mask off as he drinks his beer and you end up breathing the same recycled air unprotected.

Tallinn, finally

Then you finally get to where you are, and think its all been worth it (which it is), but as your vacation comes to an end, remember that you have to do it all over again to get back home. And go thru two more covid tests and another week or two in quarantine.

the M2 to Kastrup

Its been so long since Ive traveled that I actually felt jet-lagged, maybe for the first time in my life. With only a 3 hour time difference, I still couldn’t adjust to Estonian time until basically my last day, and now Im home in quarantine still on Estonian time. Which is actually pretty great – Im more productive waking up with sunrise! The worst thing about returning home was definitely the border control for covid tests. I couldn’t get that q-tip far enough up my  nose again that I opted for a longer quarantine, which everyone should have the choice to do, but was drilled by two different police men as if I was surely sick, contagious and on a witness stand guilty until proven innocent. They barely let me thru the border, and reminded me 5 times about the 250.000kr fine for breaking quarantine. Luckily for me, theres not much open or happening anyway, so ill do just fine at home writing and preparing for my photo exhibit at Flæði next month.