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.

“Katrin has been to around 222 countries and plans to finish them all”

In this article by Stefán Árni Pálsson at vísir, he recaps a radio interview I had a couple of days before on Bylgjan radio station.

“Katrín Sif Einarsdóttir is probably the most widely traveled Icelander and she has traveled to over 220 countries. She plans to complete the remaining 25. Katrín talked to Heimi Karlsson and Gulla Helga in Bítin á Bylgjan this morning.

“Right now I’m in Iceland and I’m in quarantine,” says Katrín and laughs.

“I was coming from Estonia and was with a cooking team that was competing in a cooking competition. I got to come along as a cheerleader. “

According to formal records, there are only 195 countries in the world, but that is a defining factor and there are actually more.

“I aim to go to about 25 more countries. I’m good at traveling with a backpack and even camping in some places. I do not spend a lot of money on accommodation and I often travel between countries by bus or by hitchhiking. ” She says that it is always cheaper to be abroad than in Iceland. “The cost of food and small items, it goes up so fast at home, but outside I can live on a thousand ISK a day for three meals.”

She says that she has been in some danger during her great journey around the world. “It can be dangerous to be anywhere and it has never stopped me. What stops me is just simply getting to the place. I have for example come to North Korea where it is not difficult to get in. It was still a bit scary to start with, but then when you realize its no problem and I was probably the safest woman in the country, because everyone is watching you and following what happens with you, therefore nothing can happen to you, “says Katrín, who has traveled to the most dangerous countries in the world.

“It is always possible to find places in these countries that are not dangerous and I have been to the countryside a lot, e.g. in Afghanistan, “said Katrín, who has traveled to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and other countries. Her favorite country is simply Iceland, but she is also very fond of Argentina.

Here is a link to the interview recording.

“Almost visited every country in the world”

Birna Dröfn Jónasdóttir called me for an interview, and together over the phone we experienced a 5.6 richter scale earthquake. ´Did you feel that?´she asked, and later laughed and said ´we´ll never forget this phone call!´

Here is a translation of the article “Almost visited every country in the world” that you can find in its original Icelandic version on Frettablaðið:

Katrín Sif Einarsdóttir has traveled to 222 countries and has few countries left to have traveled to all countries in the world. The pandemic has put a temporary stop to it, but Katrín Sif enjoys traveling in Iceland while it passes.

It’s okay to be in Iceland for a while, but just take a break, not to stop forever,” says Katrín Sif Einarsdóttir, who can probably be called the most widely traveled Icelander. Katrín, 33, has traveled to 222 countries in her lifetime. She set a goal to travel to 200 countries before she turned thirty, and she made it a few days before her big birthday, which she celebrated in Mauritius.

“There are few countries left that are new to me. I have, however, traveled a lot lately and was very diligent in visiting countries I had visited before until COVID hit, “says Katrín. She is used to traveling many months a year and finances it by stopping in Iceland for a few months where she works as a tour guide. Before the epidemic, for example, she recently traveled to the United States, Italy, France, and Argentina, which is one of her favorite places.

The epidemic has put an end to travel for now and Katrín says that March and April have been the most difficult for her. “I had a hard time with this this spring because there was so much uncertainty, it was very difficult for me not to even be able to worry or plan about where I was going next,” says Katrín, but adds that she did enjoy the summer in Iceland.

“I love the summer in Iceland but now there was no work for me in the tourism industry so I could travel here myself and see all the places I wanted to see,” she explains, but Katrín owns a small campervan that she traveled around the country this summer .

During her travels around the world, Katrín has taken a myriad of photographs and she aimed to set up an exhibition with her photographs and the history of her travels in Flæði on Vesturgata next weekend. However, the show has been postponed until November due to the epidemic.

“I have chosen about 200 pictures that I was going to show along with cards and money from the places I have visited,” she says, but Katrín has in her possession currency from all the 222 countries she has visited.

Asked where she intends to go next, she says she is happy to stop for a while back home in Iceland, but she has started planning her next trip. “I’m not going to stop traveling and have a baby tomorrow, but I’m quite willing to stay here for a while,” she says. “Since then I have been planning a trip to Sao Tome and Principe in West Africa which I was going to go to in April but I will go there as soon as I can.”

A covid-free trip to Tallinn & Copenhagen

I´m lucky to call some impressive chefs my closest friends, and the only way out of Iceland this October was with their help. I jumped on the Bocuse d´or team bandwagon to the European pre-competition, held in Tallinn October 15-16 after being postponed twice since the original March date. Instead of 22 countries competing, border closures and rising covid numbers meant 7 couldn´t make it so 16 countries gathered in Estonia to compete. Team Iceland just made it thru the cracks, not knowing if they would compete or not until all ten team members were actually landed in Tallinn and their second covid test came back with a negative result.

Bocuse d’or European preliminary

Good thing we did got to participate, since it was one of Iceland´s best results ever. We won the best fish dish, beating all the heavy hitters normally on the podium: Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Overall we landed in 4th place, which has happened a couple of times before, but now we´re motivated to beat the normal podium takers and go for top 3 in the worldwide Bocuse d´or next summer in Lyon.

the quiet streets of Tallinn

Tallinn itself was pretty relaxed, covid cases next to none. Things were definitely noticeably quieter, as every city center is that relied heavily on tourism, but at least people felt safe in the streets and restaurants. Even bars stayed open with no social distancing rules, and wearing a mask was the only requirement at the Bocuse competition.

nighttime stroll

We wined and dined our way through some great restaurants – Nok Nok, Noa and F-Hoone to name a few. We stayed at the Tallink Spa hotel, complete with an indoor pool and half a dozen different dry saunas and steam rooms. We shopped at malls and walked thru markets, enjoying the simple pleasures of being tourists in a foreign city. Falling leaves met green grass and crisp autumn nights made our surroundings feel exotic. It´s a beautiful thing to see a different angle of the sun, smell slightly warmer air, and feel like a stranger in the most familiar way again.

leaving the Baltic

On our way home, after a couple of hours flight delay in Tallinn, Icelandair cancelled our flight to Reykjavik and we overnighted in Copenhagen. We were politely asked to stay in our hotel, which we got to without any facial intrusions, but we had to leave to get food (and wine). We dined at Barr and I ran into an old friend for a glass of wine, and rode the M2 train back to Kastrup the next morning at a civilized hour. It was almost too easy to stay… I am surprised I actually made it home.

Hydraflot, the deprivation tank spa in Reykjavik

One of the things I missed most when covid first hit, was being able to go to the spa. Not even pools or physiotherapists could open for some time, so it was hard to find a way to truly relax. Once things started to return to normal, I was hungry for a new kind of experience – I wanted to pamper my mind and body and experience something sensational. What I found was kind of the opposite, it was truly sensation-less.

Deprivation tanks have been around for a while, and I knew some people who had tried them. I had heard good and bad things, but still couldn´t wrap my head around the idea. What is it like to be totally deprived of all the senses? To see, hear, smell and hear nothing, and feel nothing except your weightless self floating in a salty, dark bath?

the deprivation tanks remind me of a hippo´s mouth

I found Hydraflot, a spa in Reykjavik that has 3 float tanks. I reached out to the manager Kevin and wanted to learn more about it, and he suggested I try at least 2 floats before coming to any conclusions. Of course I took his advice, and the second time around was certainly better.

There are a wide range of benefits believed to come from each float, and each person will experience it differently. Some go to deal with anxiety or inability to sleep, others go for increased focus, clarity of mind and to reduce headaches. Floats can be so relaxing that 1 hr inside can be more productive rest than deep sleep, and you leave feel rejuvenated and reenergised. Some claim it helps general fatigue and even depression, and its been proven to improve allergy symptoms in some cases. It´s a great thing to do after a red-eye flight or general travel jet-lag, and I cant forget to mention the wonderful things soaking in 400kg of epsom salts does to your skin!

completely weightless in 400kg of epsom salts

I came out both times with baby skin, and even my hair was happy despite all the salt. I opted for floating once with lights and relaxing music, and once in complete silence and darkness. I will have to try going a third and fourth time to see what works best, and once I´m hooked, I´m sure each session will become more and more productive. Learning to really let go and trust without any sensory information is uncomfortable at first, but getting used to it and truly relaxing is much easier in such a calm, safe and controlled environment.

Check out Hydraflot on instagram @hydraflot or their website www.hydraflot.is, where they´re currently offering 15% discounts on visits and gift cards. They´re doing everything right when it comes to covid measures, so enjoy it guilt and risk-free. Say hi to Ryan if you see him!