My sister felt that I needed a rest, she took me to Iceland! The weather, I found, is just like home (Manchester) but more extreme. It rains, it is windy, it is grey, in February anyway! They do have snow, which we do not normally… The main difference being that whatever the elements throw at the island, the island and it’s inhabitants just adapt.
The Icelandic weather is just what it is, they don’t fight it or rail against it. They shrug, it is Iceland. At home we constantly complain about our weather, never accepting it, always striving for different. Hot is too hot, cold too cold, snow too deep. We are always surprised, ill equipped, not dressed for our reality.
In Iceland it is normal for things to be cancelled, to have to be rearranged because of the weather. Northern Lights tours are a case in point. They can be cancelled day after day and then rearranged,, meaning that 3 or 4 times the amount of people arrive to view this amazing spectacle. The tours adapt to meet capacity, without drama, everyone gets on the tour they paid for, eventually! The tour guides just shrug, for it is Iceland.
Planes are delayed, airports bunged with unhappy tourists. Bags are left in the baggage reclaim area, passengers told to walk around and find their bags that are just left on the floor.The Islanders take it in their stride, they assume the tourists will eventually work it out for themselves.
On night number 1, after getting thoroughly soaked due to forgetting to put on our waterproof trousers ( which we had in our bags at the hotel!), I lay awake at night in a lovely hotel, expecting to be kept awake by my sister who snores like a lumberjack, only to be kept awake by club music until 4:30am.
We did enquire the next morning, if this disturbance was likely to be a one off but were met with the comment, ‘in Iceland, Friday & Saturday is Party night’. The shrug followed. We asked to move rooms and ended up on the quieter side of the hotel. No fuss.
I have found the visit to be illuminating. I love the Icelandic acceptance of their inevitable. Their connection to their elements is refreshing, grounding. They don’t fuss, enthuse or try too hard. They are polite, answer the question asked but do not see the need to embellish. Take us or leave us- we don’t mind.
The lack of need to seek identity and belonging runs through their core. Perhaps because they know who they are. Icelandic culture is their DNA and can be traced back through the centuries. They have ancestry, a clear sense of where they began and where they will end. The island around the city of Reykjavik is not pretty. The buildings are often brutalism personified, being made of concrete and metal. They serve a purpose, no frills. The feeling is one of being on the last outpost of civilisation, the last stop before the frozen north. It feels alien and life affirming at the same time.
The food is of the region, Minky whale, Puffin and a lot of fish. It is clean, fresh and does not try to be what it is not.
I leave here, when eventually we are cleared to leave on the plane (7 hours later), with a refreshed palate, realising that happiness for me lies in:
1. Starting to accept things sometimes are just what they are.
2. Stop trying so hard to change things by sheer force of will.
3. Open up to new adventures
4 Avoid tourists if possible (& snoring lumberjacks or at least pack ear defenders) and shrug…