Ode to Iceland – Part II
We wanted this month Ode to Iceland to be a little different. A transparent kind of different.
Life in Iceland brings a constant dose of excitement, awe, goosebumps, but that’s still not all the picture. People tend to fantasize and idealize this life and so we thought we would feature the ones in the best position to talk about it: expats. What you see online often depicts only one side of the reality, but what we all have in common as expats, no matter when we arrived, are the challenges we’ve been facing, the struggles, the doubts. Lessons for better successes. And top of things, a sincere love for this island.
We all have once heard « you are so lucky ». We surely are the luckiest to live here and Iceland is our happy place but it is good to remind that like in all expatriations, it is about being determined to make this life possible.
Today we invited these 8 expats for their honnest look on life in Iceland, who experience the island without positioning themselves as Iceland experts (the latter, we kindly stay away from).
We are amazed by the richness of this group, a bunch of friendly people, that would make for an awesome day of roaming our country of adoption together. Enjoy the ride!
From: Netherlands | Based in: Akureyri
Elisa is the much-appreciated ray of sun in the winter dark and she seems to have several lives in the span of one day. Humans and horses alike love her. She just makes you want to sit with her around a cup of coffee and a knitting project while the snowstorm is raging outside.
I came to Iceland in 2015 for a short holiday and knew immediately I needed to come back for a longer time. Six months later I had quit my job in The Netherlands, packed my bags and moved to Iceland.
I started working as a guide on horse riding tours because I loved being out in nature with my favorite animals. Never had I expected that these animals would also become my favorite models. Because before I came to Iceland, I had never touched a camera. But the horses and the landscapes just asked to be photographed. So, after a year of photographing with my phone I bought a camera, and it has never left my side ever since.
The picture here is in my backyard. There are about fifty horses walking around, but of course I have a few favorites and this guy is definitely one of them.
What I love about photographing horses and Iceland is that it is always unexpected. You can’t really plan anything. Living in Iceland you have to love this attitude I think, because it is in Icelandic nature and culture not to plan too much. And I think that’s why there is so much space for creativity.
ELISA HANSSEN | Instagram: elisa_in_iceland
From: Germany | Based in: Vík
Lara and Marianne, or her inner German, are fun characters. We relate a lot to her life in the countryside and some situations she mentions just echoe off some of our experience. She gives a honnest look of Iceland, without beautifying it, just as it is, days with and days without.
Let me tell you that it wasn’t love at first sight with Iceland and me. Nor at second sight. Now, at third sight, we are slowly getting there…
I think what we have, Iceland and I, might be a very deep love-hate relationship. By definition this is an “intense relationship with someone that alternates between affection and aversion.”
Sometimes, Iceland and I set expectations for one another that we cannot meet. You, Iceland, want me to relax more. I would really like for you to make it above 15 degrees Celsius this summer. Expectations we cannot meet.
What I love about you is your endless nature. That I can just go somewhere quiet, where it is just you and me, and shout at the universe how shitty it can be. And I love that you will keep this a secret between you and me.
But I cannot stand that every single time I must board a plane to get away from you! On the other hand, I love to live close by the sea. But I hate that I cannot swim in it. And that you cannot come up with a single forest! And by that, I mean a real forest, just like my friend Germany comes up with!
I love that you are so grounded and down-to-earth. Even though the whole world keeps hyping you up. I love that you do your thing and that you stick to your guns. I could really use a leaf out of this book…
I love how uncomplicated you are. And that you give people a good feeling. But do you really have to charge 25€ for a kilogram of cherries???
A love-hate-relationship “is an intense relationship.”, and heck yes, it is definitely intense between us! But you know, not even in the best relationship all things always run smoothly. At some point, you just stop seeing things through rose-colored glasses and you acknowledge each other’s weaknesses. And that is the moment when first infatuationsturn into the love of your life.
LARA | Instagram: fromiceland_withlove
Sara & George
From: Canary Islands and Scotland | Based in: Arnarstapi
Sara and George share a passion for Nature, great outdoors, wildlife, and not only they combine all of these in their work, but they do share their experiences and knowledge with their community. Their connection with birds is tangible and the level of detail of their photography takes you straight to that cliff. One duo of a kind!
As biologists and outdoor enthusiasts, Iceland makes sense. We were drawn in by a coastline patrolled by whales and battered by cold water surf, mountains that are forever dramatic and the sense that unknown landscapes were still left to explore. Our passion was fed by working as guides, in whale watching and on glaciers, whilst our adventures both solo and together, have forged our love for each other and for this country. Our jobs have been our hobbies, something quite common in Iceland. We work hard tireless hours but because we love what we do, surrounded by nature, the work is often a breeze. Living in a small community in the West, with only a few permanent residents can present many challenges and just going to the shop needs to be planned days in advance. These challenges are intensified by relentless summer days and long winters. Though however great the challenges are, the rewards are greater.
In the summer, our hearts are full. We sit on the cliffs, surrounded by thousands of migratory seabirds tending to their young and watch whales feed. During the long winter nights we stay energized knowing that the sky can be torn apart by dancing northern lights. We embrace our isolation and enjoy the little things.
SARA & GEORGE | www.ourwild.space/ | Instagram: saraswild & georgeswild
From: Switzerland | Based in: Reykjavík
Lesley is a minimalist person, in life, and in her photography style. She sees things that we, as Muggles sometimes miss out. Her work is instantly recognizable, and as you come across one of her pictures, the imagination runs free and you can hear the sand swirling in the wind…
After living in Iceland for almost three years, I am happy to say that I never regretted moving here. Of course, there are some challenges you face when moving abroad, but the good will always outweigh the bad. Once you leave your steady income and safety net of your old life, you realize that so much more is possible and you gain a whole new perspective on life.
Since moving here I’ve been taking challenges I’ve never dared to do before; slowly pushing myself outside my comfort zone.
Apart from helping me grow, I have never before felt so connected with nature and at peace as in the vast beauty of the landscapes of Iceland. It is truly special to find a place in this world that is not overbuilt with villages and houses. You can just go out for a drive and in 15min you will find your peace of mind and you are able to be alone in nature. I never would have thought I’d find a home away from home, but Iceland taught me otherwise.
LESLEY BRÜGGER | www.lesleybruegger.com | Instagram: lesleybruegger
From: Czech Republic | Based in: Tröllaskagi
Jan flirts with the summits, and his images play the sound of snow squeaking when stepping on it, and this is oh so satisfying. His thirst for adventure is very contagious and very often, he will deliver the fresh air and breathe you needed for a nice escape.
I’ve written about my journey plenty of times in past few months and honestly, more I do it, more difficult I find it to be, every time getting deeper and deeper into the roots of it. I first came to Iceland only for a summer job about 6 years ago and I think, that in back of my mind I immediately knew that I’d be back at some point. It didn’t actually take too long. Few months after moving back to Czech Republic and attempting to live ,,student life’’ in big city and soon realizing this wasn’t for me, I quit the university, literally left everything behind and came back to Iceland. I worked multiple jobs after that, traveling back and forth between CZ and IS, saving up and trying to find my purpose and figure out what I was doing with my life. But then I guess things became more certain for me when I found a steadier job here in Tröllaskagi I liked and decided to buy a small summerhouse close to Dalvík where I live in during the winter and renting out in summer months. That was a dream coming true.
Things got bit difficult after pandemic outbreak as all of my incomes from day job, photography and side hustles were directly tight to tourism. As for most of the people, this was very stressful and I was really worried how everything is going to play out. On the upside there was also some good that this pandemic brought to my life. I love skiing and with having suddenly so much free time on my hands, I had the best season ever, skiing every day when weather allowed, learning and exploring more about world of skiing photography and simply enjoying every minute of being out there. Luckily, Iceland is an island and not very much populated one, so social distancing and so on were no problem at all. It also completely opened my eyes on how valuable our time is and that life is not all about working our asses off.
At the moment I’m focused on my next dream, which is basically trying to figure out how to actually make a living from my photography and be able to get out of the role of employee in tourism business. Ironically however, being in Iceland doesn’t make it easier for me as all I want to do in my free time is simply to get outside and my computer screen time is limited only on bad weather days. I’m moving part-time to beautiful Siglufjörður and I’m really stoked to be in this place!
JAN DANCAK | www.jandancak.com | Instagram: jan_dancak
From: France | Based in: Westfjords
Louison is this kind of humble person who has a hundred stories to share and whose deep gaze speaks for itself. Someone you want to listen for hours and let extinguish the lantern. His sincere attachment to Iceland, his deep respect towards the elements make us emotional, and he phrases it like no one else.
The way Iceland has been drawn to me echoes in the deep attraction I’ve always had for the wild North, for it’s mysterious attraction through the imaginary residing in virgin, rough, cold and elements tampered environments !
I’m what we can call a cold water surfer, snowboarder and alpinist who need that untouched wilderness to express myself ! My life take place between ocean and mountains, so it’s not a secret that Iceland is what we can call one of the last frontier for someone like me ! A place where I can roam and search for adventures, where the power of nature has it’s own plans ! Iceland is a mystical island , filled with raw beauty , where the mountains dive deep into the rough ice cold ocean ! The contrast between the seasons is strong, from the frigid dark winters lightened by the northern lights to the endless summer days under the midnight sun the possibilities are endless ! This place has room for emptiness and loneliness if you seek it as well !
That island for me is a promise land where I can loose myself into the immensities of nature ! There is no place for half measures there , the wind, the cold , the storms are powerful and take over any plans you can make ! It’s like a constant presence that never leave your mind , you always have to think about what the weather can turn into ! It’s a very humbling feeling, where the instincts takes over and leaves no room for the ego it puts you back to your place ! Specially when you surf in the heart of the arctic winter or climb and ride virgin snowy peaks in the middle of nowhere but the rewards are endless and will always be with me, very vivid ! There the connection between nature and you is loud and well visible, you feel it and you live it !
That place gifted me with visions of pure sceneries that left me breathless, colors that made you live your wildest dreams , instant with wild marine animals that left me in tears and also moments of abnegation when nature has beats me down, merciless, rough, powerful but yet beautiful and how teaching!
It’s a balance that you find here that remind you to enjoy the small moments or things , like seeing the sun after months of darkness living deep in the fjords or driving hours exploring the coastline and the mountains to find a virgin perfect wave to surf with no one around but the seals and orcas surrounded by snowy mountains ! It’s where I find easy to dive into the mysteries and the mesmerizing beauty of our planet !
All in all Iceland for me is what it is today because of it’s nature, it’s a place where you can feel at ease and at peace, there is still remote lands, untouched nature, people that connect to it and still live by it and that gives me hope and happiness!
Takk fyrir allt Island
LOUISON SENTENERO | Instagram: a_waterman_story
From: Netherlands | Based in: Reykjavík
Ingeborg fascinates by the mood and atmosphere she captures. She likes to experiment, in real life as in photography and she makes us want to follow her on one day to figure out the personality behind these intriguing and captivating pictures.
What brought me to Iceland was a combination of wanting to pursue a PhD in biology and wanting to be closer to nature. Coming from the Netherlands, I felt disconnected to the landscape and maybe identity, and I have always been drawn to the north.
The biggest challenge in Iceland was to make time to engage with the community next to my PhD, to learn the language and add something to society apart from doing science. I still haven’t managed really and I am wondering if I am part of society here, or rather part of subgroup of immigrants in Iceland. That’s okay I guess.
Now that my PhD is finished, I have arrived at a next decision point: staying or leaving. I can come up with many reasons to stay. I love the winters (especially when snow comes), and the summers with the endless light. The accessibility of nature which allowed me to do many (multiday) hikes and trailruns. Maybe Iceland gives me a sense of freedom, of independence in a way.
INGEBORG KLARENBERG | www.ingeborgklarenberg.nl | Instagram: ingeborgklara