What I Love About Iceland – And It's Not What You Think
Recently, as part of my working holiday adventure, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Iceland.
It is currently the talk of Europe as an up and coming place to visit. For me, the pull of was simply to see the Northern Lights - they are high up on the bucket list and I was so sure this was my chance to tick them off.
Well, the elusive northern lights decided not to come out to play and they still sit, unchecked, on that bucket list of mine.
But that doesn’t matter, because they led me to a place that I felt truly connected to, which brings me to what I love about Iceland….
The people of Iceland seem to have it all figured out, they do what makes them happy.
Did you know during winter in Iceland, they only get around three hours of sunlight a day?!
One local told us how she hates the winter, so every year she goes away for a month, somewhere far and warm, to places like Australia, Bali and Thailand. She leaves her family, including her children behind during this time (even over Christmas, but she believes that Christmas can be celebrated at any time of year).
She explained that escaping the winter is something she does for her own happiness, it makes her a better mother and partner. It’s good for her soul.
On the other hand another local explained how she loves the winter months, to her they are blissfully quiet and deeply romantic. It’s her time to relax, read good books, stay under a blanket and rest up for the year ahead.
There was something so beautiful and wise about these comparisons. These are people who know what makes them happy, and they live their lives accordingly without guilt or judgement.
What an absolute gift, that so many people in other cultures don't know how to find.
2. LESS SOCIAL PRESSURES
One of our guides talked about the lack of social pressures felt by the Icelandic people. They are very free in their approach to life, and living it how they please.
They don’t live up to the construct of having a proper 'order' of life events; go to school, get a job, find a partner, get married, buy a house, have children.. and so it goes!
Many people attend university after having children, or whilst also working in a career they love. Lots of the locals have more than one job, which contributes variety to their lives.
Most importantly they don’t feel the need to be living in a socially accepted straight line, life flows with no boundaries or check points. The pressure is off.
3. EQUALITY (AND THE MAYOR)
Now the few stories I heard along the way about the Mayor made me have so much appreciation for him as a leader of people. Here are my favourites…
The Icelandic Mardi Gras is a major celebration each year, they parade in town and celebrate all things equality. One year, someone climbed up on one of the most important statues in town, the first Viking settler in Reykjavik, and proceeded to put lipstick on him…
When the forward-thinking Mayor found out about this 'vandalism', rather than rush to have the lipstick removed, he said ‘who am I to say a Viking can’t wear lipstick?’. So, in the true spirit of equality, the lipstick stayed on the Viking.
Another story I loved is of the vagina in city hall. Iceland has a very proud history of women in politics, they had a female prime minister for 16 years, and have always been forward thinking in terms of equality towards women.
The Mayor decided he wanted to show this appreciation for women with an artwork in city hall. He pondered why the word vagina was so taboo, why do people feel uncomfortable with it, even though half the population has one! He decided the best way to stop this unnecessary tension was to create an artwork of a vagina and place it in the middle of city hall, on display so everyone can become more comfortable with the term, and everyone can appreciate the many influences of the women of Iceland’s history.
Here it is, in all it's wonderful glory and incredibly inspiring sentiment.
Did you know that Iceland’s government buildings have zero security measures in place? Not one armed guard. Whilst on a tour of the city, our guide even pointed out the Prime Minister’s car, parked out the back of the office where he works every day, proof that life in Iceland is peacefully simplified.
The police don’t even carry weapons and they also have the coolest Instagram account, check out some of their happy snaps;
Iceland is considered one of the safest places in Europe. The locals show great pride in their peaceful culture and history, their independence was achieved over 100 years of negotiations and heated arguments, yet not a single drop of blood was spilled.
They have a lovely contrast of being proud Vikings, but they are equally proud of their peaceful history and way of life, which is something so worthy of aspiring to.
The people of Iceland enjoy an abundance of natural resources, they breathe some of the worlds freshest air, drink some of the purest water (straight from the glazier to the tap), and have the most amazingly fresh seafood and meats at their fingertips, all of which are ethically farmed.
The best part is, they truly know how lucky they are to have all of this. They speak frequently of gratitude and mindfulness. They don’t take any of it for granted.
The way they approach life seems to always be from the best perspective possible, reflected in one of their most popular sayings:
‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad attitude.’
As a tourist in Iceland, I loved all of the standard sites and experiences and every meal we ate was incredible. Purely for those reasons, I would strongly recommend you visit.
But it was the Icelandic principles of gratitude, peace, happiness and equality that were truly so inspiring, and my most valuable souvenir. I’m going to do my very best to incorporate such wonderful purpose into my own way of life.
As for those lights, I know the universe will lead me to them eventually. Xx