Covid returns, tourism departs – keep calm and carry on!

July was a fast and a furious month of summer living in Iceland, and with the borders open, covid was just as quick to return. Its been amazing to watch how adaptive, and respectful, society is, picking up where things left off last time, but this time with less hysteria. Covid living has normalized somehow, and hopefully others also feel the anxiety melting away as real life keeps keeps on keeping on.

It seemed like a blurry dream, when things were just getting better and better and everyone had almost forgotten the 2 m rule, but instead of taking the next step to open up more (people were so excited for concerts, street festivals and late night bars), the 2m rule rule and a gathering ban returned.

a mini brekkusöng – a bit of music festival feeling on Heimaey with my relatives (and Víðir!) during goslokahátið on the 4th of July

Þjóðhátið on Heimaey in the Westmann Islands was cancelled, which was probably simpler than trying to hold it for only 5,000 people when the regular attendance is closer to 20,000. Weddings and baptisms have been delayed for a second time, realistically not earlier than September or October. Airwaves in November has little or no chance of being organized, and worst of all, Gay Pride and Menningarnótt will cease to be in 2020.

this was the hardest hotspring to find in the westfjords

Hiking and natural hotspring hunting continue, and my one and only horse trip as a tour guide just barely slipped thru the cracks – two weeks later and it wouldn´t have happened. A mandatory 5 day and double covid test requirement will kick in August 19, deterring the majority of tourists to come visit Iceland at all.

kayaking is solitary and socially well distanced

I had gotten used to kayaking, biking and horse back riding alone, or in small groups, and the covid friendliness of those activities made them feel extra familiar to return to. I didn´t miss the lines to the swimming pools, but at least the swimming pools stayed open this time.

Nauthólsvík, before the gathering ban rule returned

Nauthólsvík beach is a charmed destination, in any weather, and fishing on the sea or on a river bank also does something for your sanity. Water is a type of landscape therapy to me, and it makes me feel less stranded on this island.

What lockdown & social distancing has taught me

It´s been fascinating to watch time really slow down, the world pass by in slow motion, and winter turn into summer virtually overnight. In Iceland, the first day of summer was officially last week, and the Arctic Turns are back to prove it. They migrate all the way from Antarctica every year, the longest migratory pattern of any bird, and are here to breed. The grass turned green so quickly I think the naked eye could actually see the new blades growing the first time the sun shone with heat.

I´ve been home more nights these last 6 weeks than I have ever been (in total) in my own apartment. It has taught me how to nest, and that I like nesting, and I´m not such a bad homebody. I´ve been cleaning, decorating and burrowing deeper into my own home than I´ve ever done, anywhere. Last time I remember doing anything like this was for my first year of collage in a 9sq.m dorm room to try and look cool to the others in my dormatory. I sometimes get bored at home alone, so I end up doing things I can´t imagine I actually thought of doing. One day I turned my shower on hot enough to turn the whole bathroom into a steam room (the public pools have all been closed in Iceland for way too long). Another day I scratched mold of my window sills. I set up fairy lights by my desk and added dirt to my cactus flower pots. Its

I finished a book I´ve been carrying in my backpack for more than 2 years, only to learn that the Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck is not an uplifting author to read in times of depression. I paint my toes a different colour each week, and consider painting my fingernails to match but never did. I´ve been practicing the piano, and finally learned how to freestyle on a blues scale. I tuned two friends pianos, and realised its actually not that hard or laboursome to tune your own piano. I watched a movie, from a dvd, turning my tv and dvd player on for the first time ever. I watched 4 more dvd´s since, and one of those movie nights turned into a sleep-over pyjama party with 4 other friends from the neighbourhood.

One of the stupider things I learned was not to buy a scratch world map after traveling to more than 200 countries. I actually sustained an injury on my thumb trying to scratch most of the map away and had to spread it out over 5 days, and never finished Russia or Antarctica. I guess its a good thing… to have somethings left to do in unemployment. Let me know if anyone needs a virtual tour guide or travel writer this summer, I´m available! I´m also accepting donations to fund a 300 hr yoga teacher training online course if people just want to pay me to not work 😉

Stay healthy and happy out there, lots of peace and love to you all.

The start of a real summer

Most people can agree that summer in Iceland isn’t much of a summer event. I’ve always said that my annual winter season is June-September in Iceland, and summer happens the other 8 months of the year in warmer, tropical countries south of here. But lo and behold, June came as a surprise.

the last of the snow hanging on after an early onset of a warm summer

Compared to last year, when it rained basically every single day of the month of June and the recorded sunshine hours for the whole month had already been surpassed in May this year, this June was hot, warm and dry, day after day. It was so dry the bugs didn´t make it out – there were no midge flies to be seen – and the dust clouds in the highlands would blow all the way to Reykjavik. We’re also talking about 24 hours a day of this – the sun never set so it went on and on and on and still, I woke up every day with a rain jacket and woollen lopa peysa ready to put on when the weather would finally crack.


June saw the highland roads open early, but an emptiness remained on the well-beaten tracks of tourist trails, since tourism was still reeling from Wow air going bankrupt in April. Hotels and restaurants were still not at 100% operation, but finally there was breathing and playing space for Icelander’s to enjoy the best summer on record in over 40 years. The number of hotel rooms and tour operators may actually have been enough, for the first time since 2008, this June.

a beach day, under the glacier

However, there are always 2 sides to a story, and June was the worst month in 40 years for the salmon rivers. The most popular, productive fishing rivers had no water, and thus, no fish, and men who had paid over $1000 per day in fishing permits had resorted to just sitting in the fishing lodges drinking fine wine and smoking cigars on the patio. Some didn’t even bother to go, and fishing lodges all around Iceland sat empty for days at a time. But think about the salmon – where did they all go? Or didn’t they come at all? I hope they managed to spawn… or at least I hope they didn’t all die.

oh the places you’ll go… in a nice Icelandic summer!

I have to admit that the best part of the summer wasn’t the weather, but my life in it. I finally have a home I can call my own. It’s a wonderful place to keep all my stuff,  although I still feel very little need to be there with it all. That’s why I bought a second home on wheels – a Ford transit connect that used to be rented out as a campervan, fitted out with a sink, water pump, solar-powered fridge and a  couch that folds down to a double bed.

my home on wheels, the plumber car!

It kind of looks like a plumber’s car from the outside, a non-descript grey with no windows except at the front and back. I’ve added a table and chairs, a permanent stash of drinks and food, a yoga mat, hiking shoes and poles and a bathing suit and towel to make the car travel ready at the drop of a hat. I have probably spent as many nights in the car as in my own bed, and I’m still not sure which I prefer. Perhaps the winter will bring me back indoors a bit, we shall see.

Winter is not coming

Today was the first day the nights are longer than the days. We had no summer in June or July, and finally it arrived in autumn. The first snow dusting the tops of Esja mountain Reykjavik fell last night, a month later than last year. But its still in the teens, and the sun has been shining more hours today than all 30 days in June.

looking for sheep in the highlands is easy to do when theres almost no snow

The sheep gathering has begun in most corners of the country. The north began rounding up the first week of September, but riding in a tshirt and getting sheep to waddle home one hundred kilometers in a wooly bunch is unusual. Wearing sunblock on a ride in the highlands when you know there’ll be frost at night seemed unconventional, but totally necessary.

some stubborn sheep have decided they wont be chased home and found an impossible place – a common problem when the weather is this nice

The northern lights, however, arrived much earlier than normal. This was the soonest I’ve seen them, August 15th, and again the 17th and 21st. The entire sky turned flickering shades of green on September 3rd, much to the delight of 29 Swiss tourists I woke up to see them.

biking by the Blue Lagoon on an extra sunny day

Biking around Reykjavik has been glorious, now that there’s finally good weather. Though its strange to remember that nightfall has crept up on us, and biking home at 9pm without headlights makes me feel uneasy, especially knowing that next week it will be dark by 8pm. It’s a shame that Nautholsvik, the local man-made beach with a hot tub and steam room, is open every day and free only during the summer season, which they’ve decided ends August 15th. That was probably the first day of summer, but now its only open 4 times a week and costs 650kr to use.

riding to the beach is a must on a sunny autumn day

Winter is not coming, since its finally summer in September. Autmn has yet to arrive, with the grass still green and the trees still full of luscious leaves. I hope autumn comes in winter, and winter gets skipped right to spring. But that’s pretty wishful thinking in a country that typically has 2 seasons – winter, and not winter.

Bike Training in Provence

Provence is a place where the name alone triggers the smell of lavender and dreams of endless vineyards. I’d never been there before, but thats exactly what it was, plus some. There were meadows of red poppies as far as the eye could see, olive trees and strawberry fields, and picturesque villages on hill tops seemingly unchanged for hundreds of years.

Vines, poppies and an olive tree

I stayed between Carpentras and Pernes-les-Fontaines, visiting nearby Avignon, Monteux and Blauvac to name a few. Dinners included red wines from nearby Chateuneuf-du-Pape and freshly picked, local asparagus and artichokes. I stayed with 23 amazing individuals in our own Chateau, with a courtyard fit for a regal wedding, and we were all given performance street bikes that weighed less than my right arm to use as transport.

Practicing my French Duck face

During the days, we had a combination of hard and “soft” skills training, everything from bike mechanics to public speaking. We were on our way to become tour Leaders, not guides, since “leaders” implies we also have co-leaders and teamwork skills. We had to learn to be interested, not only interesting, and speak about our regions and activities with passion that couldn’t be staged. We learned how to use an intraweb interface that takes me back to the days of the internet in 1999 – its extremely mind boggling to filter through html links, url sites that cant be reached, tens of thousands of pages of information, and other trip resources without google.

My training group, aka Missy Elliot

Our group was mainly European, plus a few dual citizen North Americans, and about two-thirds female. Everyone spoke two or more languages, and the collective travel experience and skills in that group made all of us feel individually inadequate. I made some lasting friendships, and others I’ll never see again, and two of us didn’t even make it thru training and returned home with an abrupt end to their Backroads career.

Just another picture perfect Provence town

It’s funny how France keeps calling me back; first, a spontaneous backpacking trip in Bretagne over New Years, and now, the opportunity to get paid to learn about bikes and cycling in Provence. I thank Backroads for the opportunity, and can’t believe I’ve started making money while traveling to new places in my favourite countries.

Another Icelandic summer comes to an end

The definition of summer in Iceland isn’t very defined. Summer is when its not winter. Its when the grass is greenish, the moss turns neon, and the leaves are alive. It’s a time when the temperature can go higher than 10 degrees (but not necessarily). The sun shines and its rays actually give off heat (and a tan!). The average temperature in June is only 11 degrees. Anything over 18 degrees is kind of a heat wave, and Icelanders lose their clothes as easily as we lose the nights. This year, summer came in May, when the countryside dethawed and it stopped getting dark.

Hiking Fimmvörðuháls with my best friend Moli

This is a time when Icelanders seem to come out of hibernation. After 8 months of winter, holed up in that thing called ‘real life,’ then people come out to play. Then the days revolve around hiking, horsebackriding, summerhouses, camping, fishing, barbeques and no need for much sleep. And much more than that, summer means festivals.

on horse tour in Mývatnssveit

Now that summer is gone, we start looking forward to those holidays and festivals next summer. Iceland is probably the only country I know of that actually has a national public holiday for the first day of summer, and this year it was April 20th. For some reason other than religious ones, Ascension day (May 25) is the first long weekend where traffic jams to get north out of town can build up from the Hvalfjordur tunnel all the way to Mosfellsbaer.

Menningarnótt with my sister and oldest friend from Canada

Downtown Reykjavik is a family friendly party ground, with tens of thousands of people flooding the streets and Arnarholl, on only a few days a year. June 17th, Independence day, is the first major summer event. Ironically, the Gay Pride parade has higher attendance, and rainbow coloured balloons and confused gender identities make people of all ages happy. Menningarnott in mid August is the most drunken and dancy festival, and at this time of summer, short nights have started to reappear and it’s the first time that lighting fire works makes sense. Its also around then that the first northern lights show up, making tourists very happy that they don’t have to return to Iceland in midwinter to check that off their bucket list.

Herjólfsdalur filling up for Þjóðhátíð

The most defining part of summer for me, and many other Icelanders, is unquestionably Þjóðhátíð. Literally translated, this just means ´the nations holiday,´ and is held all around Iceland around the end of July/beginning of August, but the biggest one is always in Vestammanaeyjar. My father is from Vestmannaeyjar, which makes about 24% of the population my aunts, uncles and second or third cousins. This sleepy island on the south coast has a year-round population of around 4,000, but during Þjóðhátíð, it can swell to 16,000, perhaps even as many as 20,000 this year.

seaswimming beach days in Reykjavik… not as warm as they look but still an important part of every good summer

You know summer is coming to an end when the next festival people are gearing up for is Airwaves, which happens annually at the end of October. Airwaves is even bigger than Þjóðhátíð, but doesnt quite have the same ´Icelandicness´ to it with all those tourists and international bands… and lack of lopapeysas (hand knit sweaters with Grandma´s typical patterns and barn colours). The countdown to summer 2018 has officially begun.

Summer in Iceland

September creeps up on you like the chill of sunset sneaks under your skin after a sunny day in Iceland. All of a sudden its getting dark at 8:30 when you’ve grown accustomed to never fearing nightfall, and you start to realise how much you appreciate the warmth of the sunrays in this sub-arctic island.


a glorious summer day in the countryside

Reykjavik awakens for the summer months, with a noticeable population boom from all the tourists walking downtown decked out in outdoor gear and big-lens cameras. People are out and about, drinking coffee and beers on patios, mothers walking their babies in killer heels, and the city folk flock to the countryside for hiking, bathing and summerhouse time.  There’s also a surge of concerts and festivals, the biggest two days this year being Gay Pride day and Menningarnótt (Culture Night).

the view of Reykjavik from the top of Esjan

Gay Pride in Iceland is probably the only place in the world where its more of a family event than a sexy, nudist, liberal movement. Last year’s gay pride saw Reykjavik’s current city Mayor dress up as a drag queen in the parade, and this year the parade, open-air concerts and sunny weather forced all road-traffic to be replaced by hundreds of thousands of rainbow-decorated people wandering around town.

Menningarnótt was even more vivacious, blessed by the best weather day imaginable, and organized into a 4 page spread schedule in one of the local newspapers. There was always 20 things going on at once, and there was no way to pick what to go to, since there were always two things happening simultaneously that peaked your interest, compounded by 5 other things that you had no idea what they were and your curiosity sometimes got the best of you. I had ten friends in town, 2 from London and 8 from New York, so I spent most of the day battling through a crowd with 8 obnoxious American men in tow, so my more mellow British friends had no difficulty in finding us in the crowd. I visited the Faroese embassy for some rotten food and nordic cider, saw a choir sing Psalms at Hallgrimskirkja, shopped an outdoor market that resembled more a garage sale, and listened to the informal Kaffibarinn mens choir sing acapella, pissed drunk at Austurvollir. There was always live music, and a couple main stages where the night came to a close with a bang. A sparkling Harpa and firework show sealed the deal, unimpressive by international standards, but a big enough deal to Icelanders that a parking spot within a 5 km radius of downtown could not be found as everyone came to town to see it, all 5 minutes of it.


the concert crowd at sunset on Culture Night

I went to Bræðslan, a 2 day music festival in Borgafjörður, a small sea-side village in Iceland’s easternmost fjords. Glen Hansard was the headliner, but

Glen Hansard performing at Braedslan

like a true icelandic concert, Jón Sigurðsson and some other of Icelands other most famous artists ended the concert. The final encore included everyone coming on stage and jamming together, improvising and freestyling with a

my cousin Sara, cooling off

crazy light show in the abandoned fish processing plant where the amped crowd flocked. It was July 23rd, the weekend when summer finally arrived, and people spent the days lounging in the sea and icy rivers to keep cool. We tented at the base of  a place called Elf hill, and the magic in the place was real, atleast to me.

One of the riding days on the Egilstaðir riding tour takes us to Sanddalur, a remote sandy valley accessible only by foot, horse or 4×4, believed by the superstitious to be rich in elf life. Their troll-like faces are cut out in the jagged rock, blaring out from the steep, sandy slope, and while we take our lunch break there, the restlessness of the horses can only be explained by one thing – elf presence.

maxell Digital Camera


Growing up in Iceland and Canada has given me a lot of privileges, but they say allergies are a bigger problem for the advantaged, since 30% of people develop allergies from having too much hygiene. I’m allergic to summer, all the pollens and freshly cut grass, even horses themselves and the sun-dried dust clouds a herd of them kicks up.  This was the coldest summer on record in 75 years for Iceland, and even the warmer east only saw summer fully bloom in late July so I survived more comfortably than expected. Still, I frequently suffered from a runny nose, snored from congested sinuses, and breathed a little raspy from asthmatic suffocation. Ironically, the hottest days were just this last week, with temperatures reaching 20 degrees even though the confused trees have started to golden. Now the rains will start to come, but with the darker skies come northern lights, a sight that makes the arrival of fall more welcoming.

Why travel to the Southern Hemisphere?

worldI’ve been realizing just how much a difference exists between the ‘north’ and ‘south.’ These are often terms to distinguish between the ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ nations, synonymous with terms that divide the first-world/third-world and western/non-western countries, since a poverty divide is strangely apparent geographically.

Even crazier to understand is that most of the earth’s landmass is in the northern hemishpere, and 90% of the human population inhabits this land north of the equator. Two-thirds of Africa, almost all of asia, the entire continent of Europe and North America, and even a part of South America sit north of the equator, hosting 5.7 billion people, while the other HALF of the world only houses about  650 million people. This also leads the Southern hemishpere to be significantly less polluted than the north, with less industry, development or infrastructure.

Less people means less crowding, less tourists, and less traffic, and also means more natural habitat, more ocean, and milder seasons. And, when we are in the middle of blistering winter, somewhere north of the 49th parallel, we could fly to the same latitude south of the equator and be in the middle of summer again with long, bright days! So interesting and complex, the way of the earth – rotations and axis and all that jazz. I would have considered myself a genius if I had been the first to figure this out – one could literally have summer all year long if they traveled in sync with season changes and the angle of the earth on its axis. Or, I guess you could just live in the tropics all year round.

It is just after the winter equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, so thankfully the days are slowly getting longer. However, it is still pitch black at around 5 pm, and I couldn’t imagine a better time to travel South. Tomorrow I fly through Houston (which, crazily enough, is not having normal sub-tropic weather and they could benefit from heading further south) enroute to Buenos Aires, where the temperature will be around 30 degree highs and 14 hours of daylight. After I’ll go further south, to Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula, where days will be nearly 24 hrs long, but, unfortunately the temperatures will drop a little in exchange.