Photo Highlight: Fljótsdalur Horse Herd

the herd we ride with in the wild wild east, 103 and counting

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Hestasport Ævintýraferdir

I was somewhere between French Guyana and Brazil when my roomate in Reykjavik forwarded me a job advertisement for my dream job – get paid to ride horses. I exchanged some emails and then had an interview over the phone from a smeltering phone booth in Asuncion. The connection was staticky, with a half second lag, and my Icelandic kept creeping into spanish, but somehow I convinced Magnus to hire me.

the hestasport horses at Vindheimar

I arrived back in Reykjavik for maybe 8 hours before packing my bags and moving to Varmahlid. I stopped in Borgarnes overnight and then hitchiked the next 250kms. My first pick up, a young Icelandic couple, asked where I was going and when I answered “Varmahlid,” invited me to join. We drove about 30kms before the driver asked me where abouts this ‘farm’ Varmahlid was… he had no idea it was actually a town 2 hours away. So, I got kicked out at Bifrost 5 mins later where their journey ended, and finally made it all the way with my next pickup.

I moved into a house of women, (well, German girls) and acquainted myself with all the pretty ponies Hesasport has. There were, like in any herd, the safe old horses, the crazy young ones, the lazy trained ones, and the question mark horses you had to figure out for yourself. We spent the end of May taking short riding tours around the Vindheimar farm, and two long tours in the begining of June riding past Maelifell and into Kjolur. Its a desolate highland, covered in desert, and sandwiched between 2 glaciers. The first tour we took had more staff than guests, since the 3 German riders wanted to take the whole herd into the mountains to shoot pictures for an Icelandic landscape calendar. We often stopped in the middle of nowhere to do a mini photo shoot, that required us to act as stuntmen and chase 20 loose horses down steep soggy slopes or gallop the whole herd through a river.

beside Langjokull glacier

Later we took a 5 day trip with a whole bunch of borrowed horses, many of them question mark horses we had to try out for the first time and hope it worked out as the herd was released. Then the third long trip went pretty smoothly, except for this poor Canadian girl who fell off her horse 3 times on the first day. Thankfully she made it through the rest of the trip, since she was part of the staff. Our cook also joined us on one trip riding, and fell off his own horse twice, which thankfully turned out okay too since we certainly wanted to keep on eating.

My last long trip was a 3 day tenting trip with 2 Danish girls. We took 6 horses and enough food, bathed in the frigid rivers, and survived a wind storm in a mountain hut that at one point we thought would blow away in the middle of the night. The first night we crashed a party at the Arctic Adventures river rafting base, and ended our trip at Fosslaug natural hot pot, very deservedly.

Then my season at Hesasport ended early, with my Ishestar friends from the east irresistably inviting me on a few long tours – a 6-day pack tour and a 9 day special tour from Hofn to Egilstadir. Just when I had finally figured out all the horses at Hesasport, I hitchhiked east to a herd of 103 horses I now had to learn and love just as much.

Coldnoon: Quarterly of Travel Poetics

Article published in Volume I, Issue III

Lotourism: Low Impact, Low Cost, Localized, & Lonely – The Ecotourist on a Budget and Redefined.

I studied ecotourism and wrote my masters dissertation on the discrepancies between defined and actualized ecotourism since I have always battled with the ‘ecotourist’ identity. I liked to think I was an ecotourist, also called an alternative tourist, sustainable tourist, or an environmentally friendly tourist. But then these terms lead us to more definition inconsistencies, since “eco” and “environmental” and “sustainable” are all buzzwords overused and often misunderstood.

After completing my thesis, I realized the term ecotourism is a vague, green-washed term, whose definition is undecided among academics, and sometimes unidentifiable in practice. I like to travel, and I love the natural world we live in, but often times by carbon emissions and ecological impact contradict my obsessive compulsive desire to go all over the place, taking boats, planes, cars and buses at an unsustainable rate. It’s easy to feel guilt about my carbon footprint but also unclear where I can accept accountability for planes and buses that will take their routes with or without me.

However, it is possible to have an ethical travel consciousness without identifying as an ecotourist. Ecotourists pay more for greener experiences and off-set their flights by planting trees, but for sustainable tourism to become a thing of elitists is not fair. Ecotourism has also been set aside from culture tourism, offering strictly nature and adventure getaways in wild areas, but humans are an intrinsic part of nature and the true ecotourist should still be touring the cities and villages people call home. Mass tourists take their flights and book their all-inclusive hotels or cruises but travel intensively for only one or two weeks. My travel style has fused and forgiven aspects of both styles of tourism, into something I have coined “lotourism.” It is a philosophy of travel for the weary backpacker who wants to see the world and everything in it. They do not pay more, but pay less, and see more, over longer periods of time, with fewer modes of transport taken by traveling locally and avoiding long-haul flights.

I had the idea to invent a new word to describe the way I travel since it doesn’t suffice to say I’m a backpacker, just a traveler, a tourist, or an ecotourist. I want a word that describes my travel mentality and approach to seeing the world in a more sustainable way. I have a dialect of English my friends call Katrin-speak, but this is isn’t a word I’m pulling from my bad English vocabulary – its more like a philosophy of travel that I’ve adopted and want more people to share. “Lotourism” is a theory of tourism that isn’t captured by any other, one word.

I like to think I travel sustainably, but not just natural resource sustainably – I am financially resourceful, traveling with minimal luggage, staying with locals, and traveling slowly but steadily over short-haul distances. I can live off $10 a day or less in some places. I never stay in hostels or hotels, but couchsurf and make new friends everywhere I go. I have one small backpack and all my possessions and necessities for 3 months in it, a 35L 20kg bag.

Im not really a backpacker, since I avoid backpacker hostels and hate being defined by the stuff in a bag on my back. Im not always a tourist, since I try my best to camouflage into my surroundings and see things from a local perspective. I adopt the local way of living, eat where locals eat, dance the way they dance, dress as indiscriminately as possible, and don’t say much unless I’ve learned the local language since I never want to be that white girl screaming English in slow motion to someone who has no idea what I’m saying. I’m definitely a traveler, but so is the American guy sitting in business class flying to Dubai for a 2 hour business meeting before returning to London via Dakar for dinner in England’s most authentic Turkish restaurant. So I’ve realized there are different types of travelers, doing different types of travel, and when asked how I travel, my new answer is “I’m a lotourist.”

Lotourism is, in a nutshell, is kind of like ecotourism, but redefined and on a budget. It is travel that is low-impact, low-cost, localized, and lonely. So, for any other lotourists out there, get the word out on the new word. And, if you understand the idea, agree with the philosophy, and like the way it works in travel, spread the word so more lotourism can exist in this globalizing, traveling world of ours.

see the rest of this article at http://www.coldnoon.com/March-2012/Katrin-Einarsdottir.php

My Little Sister's Wedding

I grew up with 2 sisters, one older and one younger, raised by my mother and grandmother, sandwiched in a testosterone-dry family. We were raised slightly strict and conservative, with men out-lawed from getting too close to any of us. My mother remarried and divorced in a quick 2 years, and other than that the only men coming around were uncles and ‘friends’ I could never admit were boyfriends. Yet somehow we all knew Ruth, the baby of the family, would be the first to get married. We knew that when she was only 4 years old, still attached to my mothers umbilical cord, and grew up the most ‘domestic’ of us all, baking with my grandma and learning all my mother’ secret recipes.

the beautiful bride

Ruth went to Trinity Western University, a private school nearby my moms home town. She started dating a boy in her second year, and then we all started predicting when the wedding would be. It was still a light-hearted joke after they had been dating a couple years, but before we expected it, they were engaged.

After an 8 month engagement, finishing all their final exams, and graduating from University, they were married a week later. We weren’t surprised, but still scratching our heads with the unusual feeling of marrying off the baby in the family. Me and my older sister, unmarried and childless, were the maids of honour, watching in awe as our youngest sibling out-aged us somehow, as a youthful beautiful bride already starting her life with a man after all these years of being an integral part of our women-only family.

the original hen house

They were married  in a beautiful spring ceremony on an apple orchard in Kelowna, at the grooms home in the interior of British Columbia. My sister wore a $50 dress she found at a bride-swap fair, and layered it with lace from another second-hand gown the grooms sister found for her. She wore a belt around the smallest part of her waist, he hair down and curled, with lacy flats she bought somewhere for a few dollars, and looked like a million bucks. She glowed from the tips of her manicured fingers to the ends of her pursed lips, and her colourful bouqet made from an arrangement of flowers picked from the garden couldn’t distract you from her smiling face.

the getaway car

The wedding ceremony was simple; my mom catered it with home-cooked food, only a few people made speeches, and with no alcohol or dancing, it was over by 9pm. We watched the newlyweds drive away in a blue convertible 70’s Volkswagen bug, dragging behind them cans and balloons, and couldn’t help but feel a pang of loss at the sight of our little sister being the first chick to fully flee our home nest.