Front Page: The Province & Vancouver Sun

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being a page 3 story is awesome. being the full front page was flooring. The Province, Feb 2, 2018.

I had a half-an-hour interview over the phone with Glenda from the Vancouver Sun late Thursday night, and she surprised me by turning it into a front page story within a matter of hours – for The Province and the Vancouver Sun. Read the full story here.

 

 

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DV Interview in English

What started as a 40 minute phone call turned into a few more phone calls, email exchanges and a 3,000 word article by Bjorn Þorfinsson in DV´s New Years eve paper. There were pieces of the article published online at DV.is, and the print paper advertised the article front page, top and center. The middle spread, 3 page print edition was of course written in Icelandic, so here are a few highlights of the article in English for those who don´t read Icelandic, entitled “I appreciate freedom and solitude“.

the center spread from DV

the center spread from DV

It is safe to the that the life of Katrin Sif Einarsdottir has been filled with adventure.  Despite her young age, she is one of Iceland’s most seasoned travelers and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.  Her 30th birthday is this upcoming February and she is currently planning to celebrate in the celebrations for her 30th birthday in Mauritius, the 200th country on her list.  She is born in Europe, traces her lineage to South-America and is raised in NorthAmerica.  She has visited all of the continents and was particularly fond of the Antarctic.  Typically, she will travel the world in the winter and spend the summers in Iceland working to save money.  Unexpectedly, she is spending the holidays in Iceland, due to her father’s illness, and gave herself time to chat with DV about her adventurous lifestyle.

Roots in three continents

Katrin is born in Iceland.  Her father is from the Vestmannaeyjar islands and her mother from Guyana, a small country in South-America.  Her parents separated when she was a toddler at which point she moved to Vancouver, Canada, with her mother, where she spent the remainder of her childhood.  However, she always missed Iceland which she views as her home country.  “I yearned to move back to Iceland and had a hard time not being able to.  My parents were going through a rocky period in their relationship and so I didn’t visit as often as I would’ve liked” she says.  Hardest for her was not being able to speak Icelandic with her sister during grade school in Vancouver, causing her Icelandic to deteriorate. In her adult life, she has brushed the rust off and now conducts interviews in native-level Icelandic.

Japan: the seed of wanderlust

One could argue that Katrin’s propensity for adventure started after a trip to Japan, where she spent time, at her mother’s behest, as an exchange student.  “We had a Japanese girl live with us in Vancouver for a few months, and then I visited her in Japan.  It was an awesome and eye-opening experience because everything was so foreign.  I didn’t understand the language or the script, and both the people and the cuisine was totally different from anything I’d seen up to that point.  I was completely enthralled and since then travelling has been at the forefront of my mind / [I have lived to travel],” says Katrin Sif.

DV.is page showing the most read articles

DV.is page showing the most read articles

College on a cruise ship

Katrin exploited the opportunities of her schooling to travel and experience new adventures.  After the positive experience in Japan, she registered for an exchange semester in Brisbane, Australia.  Even then, it did little to satiate her hunger for travel. “I did a Semester at Sea and that was an experience I definitely recommend.  It was like I was on a reality TV show for several months straight.  I couldn’t believe, as a 19 year old, I could live on a cruise ship, travel the world and get university credits for it,” Katrin says laughing.  Around 500 students participate in the program, which sails around the world, at any given time.  Katrin embarked in Mexico and three months later arrived in port in Florida.  In the meantime, the ship stopped in 13 different ports of call on the way an around 12 teachers taught classes aboard the ship. “This was an amazing experience that I highly recommend for others who want to do something fun and learn along the way” says Katrin Sif. This program is still happening and changes every semester. The last sailing in fall 2016 went from Hamburg to Greece, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and ended in San Diego, USA.

Loved Antarctica

After the sea-adventure, Katrin Sif went back to her university in Vancouver to complete her bachelors degree. She then moved back to Iceland where she studied for an MSc. in Environment and Natural Resources. “I have always tried to use school as a means of traveling as much as I can. For example, I took one semester exchange to UC Berkeley in California. There I became very interested in ecotourism and I got the opportunity to travel to Antarctica for a case study. I enjoyed it there very much and could easily see myself going there again” says Katrin Sif.

Saves Money over the Summer

After graduating from HI, Katrin Sif has taken her traveling to another level. “Since 2010 I´ve worked in Iceland over the summers as a tour guide with multi-day horse tours and I love horses and riding. I take between 7 and 12 week long tours each summer and then buy a one way ticket somewhere and don´t come back again until May the following summer. Sometimes it happens that the money doesn’t quite last for 8 months of travel, so I sometimes have to come back in spring if the money runs out” says Katrin Sif humorously. According to her word, she feels best up in the Icelandic highlands on a horse over the summer. “I cant say I’m  big fan of the Icelandic winters so that’s why I always go abroad during the cold months” says Katrin Sif.

Travels with a Wedding Ring

Its expensive to travel so Katrin adopted the necessary habit of couchsurfing. Its an online social network for travelers and hosts, where locals can invite visitorys to stay for free at their home, or rather, ´surf their couch´. “Wherever you can find internet then its possible to find couchsurfers. I was traveling in West Arica a few years ago and even though people lived in tents, they still had smart phones and could register to host people thru couchsurfing” says Katrin Sif. She has just arrived home from a three month trip thru Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan where she couchsurfed everyday with new people along the way. “It was an interesting experience to travel to these Muslim countries but by the end of my trip I had had enough. I was covered in black from head to toe, with my hear always covered. I had to walk in the street with someone else to avoid being harassed and follow a thousand other rules. I couldn’t smoke, sing, dance, drink coffee in the wrong café, nd not enter some mosques or holy places. I wanted to be less restricted and started dreaming about traveling to a remote sunny island, wearing nothing but a bikini, and be free from all the society´s rules and regulations.”

“It was a great way to travel and one learns much more about the country´s culture if you interact with locals. On the other hand, there are also dangers and annoyances that follow a solo traveler. “Being hit on or flirted with (uninvitedly) is the most annoying and I think I´ve had to deal with in nearly every country” says Katrin Sif, and admits its not just men who can bother her but women have also tried. For that reason, Katrin has started to travel with a fake wedding ring so she can keep unwelcomed come-ons by describing an appropriate fake husband.

some more pictures and my top 10 country list

some more pictures and my top 10 country list

2ooth Country is in reach

“I´ve never landed in any real trouble when I stayed with couchsurfers. I investigate all the details about a possible host and read all the references or information about them that I can. If everything seems safe there then we exchange a few messages and then confirm my stay. I have probably stayed with over 400 hosts and families!” says Katrin Sif.

As mentioned before, Katrin Sif has traveled to 197  countries but the UN lists only 193 countries. “I count countries like Greenland, Faroe Islands and for example Gibraltar. With territories like that included, there are around 230 countries in the world so I still have quite a few left to check out. I planned to travel to 200 countries before I turn 30 years old and that’s still the plan” says Katrin Sif. She likes staying a while in each country, to get familiar with the country´s culture and locals. “I usually travel alone though a friend sometimes meets me somewhere on the way for a week or two. I would rather have the freedom to spend each day as I like and not have to plan around other travelers” says Katrin Sif. She plans her visits based on what kind of country she is in. “If I´m in France, then I try to take in as much culture, arts and music as possible. When I’m island hopping in the Pacific Ocean then there´s very little to do touristically so then I just sit on the beach for 4 months and relax” says Katrin Sif and laughs.

“Stan” countries on next years travel plands

There are few areas in the world where Katrin Sif isn´t familiar with. “I still have to visit Syria and Lybi but think I wont go there anytime soon because of the current situation there. I have yet to go to central Africa, like Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan. Since its also not the safest there, I may wait a little before going there. I also have to go to all the ´stan´central asia countries, ie. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. There is a lot of horse culture there and I hve the idea to break up my tradition and travel there in summer so I can also do some riding” says Katrin Sif.

Obviously Katrin has had a lot of adventures. She has kept a blog online, first with the Icelandic travel agency Dohop.com, and now has her own website. In the works is one travel book that she hopes to publish next year.

Accidentally married a Kenyan Masai warrior

“One of the strangest things that ever happened to me on the road was accidentally marrying a Masai man in Kenya” says Katrin Sif and snickers. Katrin had been speaking at a tourism counference in Uganda where she met a Masai who was also speaking on tourism issues. “I told him I was traveling after the conference and wanted to go to Kenya after the conference and he said he would show me around.” Katrin took up his offer and when she met him at the land border, he gave her some traditional Masai clothing to wear before coming to his village.

“His cousin was with us and told me how to wear the red dress and beaded jewelry.” She dressed herself as was told, and met all the women of the village, was danced for by the men, and after the show and welcome ceremony then the Masai´s explained “I was wearing traditional wedding clothes and I was the bride who had just been married,” says Katrin and laughs at the memory. She put her feet on the ground and tried to explain that that’s not how it works in her culture. “It took a while to explain to him I wasn´t his wife, though he was happy to have me stay in his tent for the night. But after a while he understood it wasn’t going to work and we left the events just turn into a little joke.”

Motor problems on the sea

Of all the most dangerous adventures Katrin had, getting stuck on a boat with a broken engine off the coast of Guinea Bissau in west Africa. “I went on a little boat trip to a nearby island where we could spend the day. The boat was nearly out of fuel when we arrived so we had to buy some more gas to make sure we would get back. Later in the day we headed out and a few miles out we had to refill the gas tank. But the driver of the boat filled it with diesel, when it was a gas engine, and the engine stopped working.”

“We were too far from land and didn´t have any way to communicate for help. All the cell phones were either out of service or out of credit and the light was nearly gone. Before the sun set, we at there cooking, and once the sun went down, we sat in dark silence, with only the occasional sound from the ocean surface and wondered if they were sharks. On the boat were 9 people, 6 locals and 3 foreigners. The hours were passing and we only has d little bit of drinking water left and nothing to eat except one live chicken.”

“We had been floating there for hours before another boat drove by and we managed to get his help. But he only wanted to take the 3 foreigners and offered to drag the boat with the locals to land. I didn’t understand if he was being racist or what, but our boat driver also didn’t want us to leave since he taught they had a better chance of all getting rescued if they kept the tourists on the stranded boat. Eventually the rescue boat did take us, but only back to the island we had been trying to leave, where he fed us and gave us accommodation. The next morning he let his boat driver taxi us back to the mainland, and then charged us $400 for his services! So that´s probably why he only wanted to help us, to basically get our money.”

She finally made it safe and sound to the main land but had been avoiding boat trips for a while since then. “I tried to stick to planes and buses after that” she says and laughs.

Icelandic Passport is wonderful

Dual citizenship has always helped with Katrin´s travels. “I have an Icelandic and Canadian passport which I use equally as much, according to whichever one is more useful or less problems to apply for a visa. The Icelandic passport is great because Iceland has such few embassies in Reykjavik that its usually impossible to apply for visas at home, so I can just apply in whatever country I am in or nearby. The only country I haven’t managed to get in (after 3 attempts) was Algeria. I tried to get a visa in Morocco, Tunisia and Spain, but finally after visiting the embassy in London, they explained to me I had to go to Stockholm´s embassy as an Icelander and Ill do that soon” says Katrin Sif. Icelandic isn’t as useful on he road, but she is well-weaponed with other language skills. “I speak English, French and Spanish and with these languages I can communicate in so many places. For example, French is very useful in Africa” says Katrin Sif.

Plans to keep traveling

The future is unsure for Katrin, but she sees herself continuing to travel. Her family is also supportive of her lifestyle and no one is pressuring her to change her ways. “At first my mother wanted me to study more and be some important person, marry or have children, but shes over it now. She was very strict and controlling growing up and perhaps that’s why I am so addicted to the freedom of traveling. Dad always told me I was very determined nd independent. Nowadays I feel as though most of my family and friends are proud of what I do and who I´ve become because of it, despite my lifestyle being so different” says Katrin Sif. She dreams about maybe one day working remotely as a travel writer. She also wants to be like Georg Bjarnfreðarson and finish 2 more university degrees to have a total of 5, 1 in journalism and perhaps one Phd. “I wonder though if I would get bored of traveling if it was also my work. I like doing things according to my own spontaneous plans and could never see myself working 9-5 in a normal job. I appreciate my freedom and independence” says adventure woman Katrin Sif Einarsdottir.

Check out her adventures on Instagram (@nomadic_cosmopolitan) or Facebook and the online articles at DV.is

What do I do?

I dislike the question “What do you do?” very much since I don’t really have an answer. Well, I have the long-winded response, since I like to do a lot and only for short periods of time. But I don’t really do any one thing, in the way people expect you to answer with a professional title or a job description. I get slightly hung up on customs forms every time I have to fill one out when entering a country, since the question “Occupation:” only has one line for you to answer. I kept writing “student” many months after I graduated, but realized I had to stop doing that now that I have no university to call home. Writing “unemployed” always got me into trouble, since the customs agents would drill me for an answer on how I funded all this travel, with pages of passport stamps working against me to prove I’m actually quite broke. It took me a while to embrace the “writer” identity, since being a writer by profession usually means you can make a living out of it, and my blog certainly doesn’t pay all my travel bills. But, it’s been working a bit better for me lately as I’ve realized most travel writers are also just starving writers writing for the sake of writing, traveling with money made from other side jobs.

My “side” job is at a Radisson Hotel in Reykjavik, working in the food and beverage department for a reasonable hourly wage. I enjoy doing this, since I meet a lot of tourists, and also get to work with food and drinks – two of my most favourite indulgences. The horse-rider identity hasn’t really been a profession until recently, since I’m now getting paid to do some types of riding and that just seems completely ridiculous to me – getting paid to ride has to be every horse person’s dream job! Horse back riding is like therapy for me, I would pay to do it, but instead the system is working in my favour. There is actually a lot of work to be done, both in tourism and farming, where riders get rewarded for this incredibly fun hobby which happens to also be a valuable skill.

The question “What do you do?” is too presumptuous, since it assumes you do something for work. Why can’t life be all play and no work? I try and avoid doing anything displeasurable, especially for work, since selling time for money never seemed to make sense, no matter how much money it is. I’d rather sell skills or knowledge, something valuable that I’ve paid to get. I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy going to school, but not because I want to work in the field I studied, but simply for the sake of education itself. I finished my master’s a year ago and haven’t applied for a job yet, and the thought crossed my mind that I’m eligible for unemployment benefits, but only because the socialistic system in Iceland is too skewed for catering to lazy people. Getting a master’s in environmental science/tourism was just a silly mistake in the first place if I was looking for a job in tourism that required a graduate degree. Maybe one day all this over-education and travel can surmount to me being some sort of life-style advisor, teaching people how to work less, play more and learn unconventionally. I think this is a bit far-fetched, but there are actually people whose ‘professions’ are ‘life-coach’ – sounds almost as weird as ‘horse-rider.’

So, so far I’ve kind of established I’m an unemployed, writing, riding Master of Tourism, but I’m mostly just a traveling, nomadic, cosmopolitan. Sometimes I feel that I’m a fulltime friend, since my social life seems to take up all my time, and most of my travel revolves around visiting people scattered about from all sorts of different places. I’m also a dancer, a musician, an artist, a retired (or fired, rather) actress/model, and a philosopher by way of education (my BA). These identities transition in and out of my life as the years pass, and sometimes I try to reinvent them with slight morphosis. I’ve been a pianist for many years, studying and competing as one, but the life of a concert pianist didn’t appeal to me as much as learning the guitar for a while, and most recently, the violin (which I’ve yet to learn anything more than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). Currently, Im transitioning from my ‘hestakona’ (horsewoman) identity back to backpacker, and to ease through the stage I’m experiencing what’s called the ‘post-ironic Fleetwood Mac appreciation stage.’ This is something my hunter friends have identified as the uncontrollable tendency to listen to the Fleetwood Mac Rumors cd over and over and over without getting sick of it.

So, if I do nothing, similar to those customs agents, you may still be wondering how I afford to finance my travels. The trick is just to travel for long periods of time in places where the cost of living is cheaper. Then you’ll sympathize with me how expensive it is to to stay in Iceland or Canada, since life just costs too much. Then, the question should be, how can I afford not to travel!?

Status Update

In my earlier travels, I always wanted to start a blog so that I could avoid spamming mass e-mails to a bunch of friends and family, but that was pretty much the only way I shared stories and pictures before facebook and dohop came along. Now that I have this blog, there´s a bit more pressure about how to write and when to write since I basically have little or no idea who reads it or how often people check it, except for a few googlestats. Ideally, I´d want to write every day, and keep a detailed travel diary for myself that others can read, but its so difficult to get regular internet access in some of the places I travel, and its not actually that appealing to sit in front of my computer when I´m in some new beautiful, beachy, or exotic place. However, I´ve been a lazy writer the last few weeks and wanted to give a slight summary of my year so far and a break down of my future plans.

In January, I was in Lyon for a week for the Bocuse d´or World Culinary competition, and Berlin for a week making Germany my first new country of the year. It was cold, grey wintery weather in both places, so I took the opportunity to soak in some heat and sun at an Indian wedding in Bangalore. I traveled around India for two weeks before flying to New York via London, and met up with one of my most adored friends for a week vacation to the Dominican Republic. We were meant to be in Haiti for 3 days first, but American Airlines crushed our Haitian dreams and we found a different dream to live at Salinas. Then back to New York for my 24th birthday celebration, and a last-minute flight change to extend my North American travels by another month. First I showed up in Berkeley unexpectedly for a week, did some wine tasting in Livermore Valley and met up with old professors and colleagues from UC Berkeley. Then, I was part of the most epic, amazing surprise birthday party you could ever imagine in Vancouver, reuniting a bunch of old UBC friends and making my friend Zoe the happiest girl ever. I stayed in Canada for a couple weeks, saw family and friends there, a lot of concerts and shows (VSO, Cavalia), and then back to Berkeley to eat at potlucks and smoke cigars with some of my most favourite people in the whole wide world. I then went back to Vancouver for body healing and wisdom teeth pulling – oh how I love Canadian healthcare. I flew back to Iceland via New York, and spent a week at home for my cousin Sara´s birthday and to see my dad who hasn´t been in perfect health lately.

May 1st in Iceland

Within a few days of being home, I was convinced to go back to California for Coachella music festival, so a week later was back in New York for a few days, then in Berkeley, then roadtripping to Los Angeles, partying my face off in the desert, dancing to really great music, and flying back to New York where I got an interview with Dr. John Mutter at Columbia for a potential Phd program. I came back to Iceland at the end of April expecting summer to be just around the corner, but instead we had a white out weekend cozier than Christmas day.

So, 8, err, 7 countries (stupid AA), 19 flights, $4000 and 3 months later its maybe forgiveable I haven´t had the focus or chance to write much. But, thats all in the past, with lots more travel coming up and a revamped dedication to my writing. Next up is a couple of weeks of travel in Iceland as summer slowly creeps up, then a couple weekends in London on my way in and out of Africa for 5 weeks. Im attending a conference on Sustainable Tourism in Kampala, Uganda, where I’ll have the chance to speak on Ecotourism. July and August I’ll be in east Iceland doing a little bit of ecotourism myself, riding horse tours with Ishestar, and also spending some time around Reykjavik to host a bunch of awesome visitors (ie. my older sister!!!) Im thinking of writing a book too, not sure on what, but something travel related. If anyone has any ideas, publisher friends, or wants to collaborate, holler.

Tourism of my body

(disclaimer: this whole blog seems a tad inappropriate for some reason, but I can´t quite put my finger on it to tell the stories differently so excuse any unintended raciness)

I´ve spent a lot of time in the last 2 months exploring my body, learning about all the ways it works and breaks. In January I had the New Year´s resolution to be more flexible and to learn how to do a handstand, so through yoga and other excercises I´ve been trying to accomplish both.

Going to India in February was inspiring for my yoga hobby, and I discovered ayurvedic massage.  Its supposed to do wonders for your body and well-being, and I´m sure it does when done correctly, but its also created the perfect tourist trap for any entrepreneur who has a massage table, some oil, and two hands. I woke up one morning after a 10-hour overnight train ride and discovered the hard way how uncomfortable third class beds are; my upper back was all out of wack so I paid the $9 it cost for a 30 minute “authentic massage,” but it ended up being a wooden table, laminated with that plasticy kitchen counter stuff, a moldy pillow, and cooking oil lathered all over me by a hefty little Indian woman in the back of her shop shack. Needless to say it didnt help much, but when I got to Canada a few weeks later I saw a massage therapist, a chriporactor, and a Chinese/Japanese homeopath all for the first time.

The homeopath walked me through a series of excercises I should do to correct my over-arched lower back (too many years of horse backriding makes me stick my ass out and chest up in a very latina way), said I may have mild scoliosis, and taught me my right leg is slightly crooked from my hip joint being “unsettled.” Then he stuck a bunch of needles in my back for my first acupuncture treatment, which wasn´t that painful except for the fact I had gotten both my left side wisdom teeth pulled that morning and I couldn´t think about anything else.

Then I saw a chiropractor who got me butt naked to look at my spine and said I didn´t have any abnormal curvature, but that I did have flat feet and would need orthodics for a cool $700. Then he cracked me all over, including my pelvis to make my right hip straight, before taking my feet prints for my new orthodics.

The massage therapist was a big English guy who taught me I had tight hamstrings since I couldn´t touch the back of my legs to the bed when laying on my back. He taught me excercies to fix that, and then suggested I sleep with my feet tied together to keep my pelvis straight. The massage he gave me was actually the most wonderful release of tension in my lower back and around my neck, and I felt noticeably better when leaving his office instead of bruised and battered.

I´ve got my new orthodics in my favourite shoes now and hopefully something good is going on in the inner workings of my ageing body… although I don´t notice any $700 differences. Getting an ergonomic desk set up was one thing they all told me to do, as well as have lumbar support when I´m sitting or driving for long periods. Sadly most of my sitting for long periods occurs infront of a piano or my laptop and I´m not sure how to make them more comfortable. I learned I shouldn´t sit cross legged since itll make my right leg crooked again, carry heavy bags on my back, or sit on horses or stand in dance posture because its bad for my lower back, but unfortunately, I dont think giving up my favourite yoga pose, backpacking, riding, or dancing is going to happen anytime soon… but I have learned a lot about my body and perhaps when I´m old and broken one day I´ll atleast know why and how to fix it 🙂

Welcome to My Blog

I’m going to share my travel diary with all you wonderful good folk so you can know what I’ve been up to, where I am, learn about new places, or just pretend you’re interested to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Please comment when you have anything to share, as I want feedback from readers so I also have a reason to snoop into your travel-thoughts 🙂 If you have any travel or place-specific questions, also don’t hesitate to ask, and for all your travel planning, check out dohop.com for the cheapest flights.

Oh, and 200 before 30… well, thats the goal, so long as 50 countries don’t disappear, or 50 new countries don’t show up, because that could maybe take a little more than 7 years.