What I Love About Reykjavík

I hate the cold and I hate the rain — why in the world would I go to this cold and rainy place at the end of the world?

I am well aware of the energy boost that nomads like me get from arriving to a new place. We harness the power of the new atmosphere, the strangeness of the views, the unfamiliarity of the place. We plunge ourselves into new routines, like a magician creating and re-creating life as we want it. Wanderlust is a powerful drive, and it rewards its captives with front-loaded happiness. The downside is, naturally, the exact opposite: inability to commit to one place, stay put, and of course those itchy traveling fingers after a few months without moving.

But we’re most definitely not there yet, so why bother.

For years, the cold and the wind have been two of my greatest nemeses: I hate winter. I hate all the extra clothes I must wear, that it takes ages to just enter and exit your house. I hate the pain — pure pain — of the wind howling in my face and the cold numbing my feet and fingers. Sweating under a burning sun of 30, 35, or even 40 degrees Celsius was always much preferable to the visceral pain of cold.

It seems very strange, then, to relocate to the coldest, wettest, windiest, darkest, and most winter-like place currently within my grasp. And mostly because of a head-over-heels infatuation with its magic summer.

With little more than a few weeks of above-average temperature in still-sunny September, what do I know? Still, so far Iceland has been very kind to me. I have found that the wind and the cold — so far — has been a small price to pay for living in this pristine place of magical wonder. Where deep full-coloured rainbows pop out of nowhere, where stunning mountain ranges are revealed by surprise overnight snowfall, where everything is within walking distance, where nature is literally around the corner. Where the fleeting promise of those elusive northern lights had me sitting on some wind-whipped rocks for hours (to no avail, mind you, as those pesky clouds wouldn’t move…).

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I like the stillness in the morning, and the smattering sound of heavy rainfall — of which Iceland naturally has a lot. I like that the Alþing, the oldest surviving parliament in the world, is smack in the centre of town with not as much as a security guard in sight. I like that the central bank, Seðlabanki Íslands, is a nondescript building next to a busy road, right across from a brilliantly futurist concert hall of glass. The ‘rona notwithstanding, it places things in perspective: splurge lavishly on art and what matters for the human soul — not on technical and boring things like monetary policy.

The Icelandic language intrigues me, even though it’s so easy and effortless to get around with English. I like the colourful houses and how they glimmer in sunlight. I like the coffee scene and the countless great places that fill in for my ambulating office.

Much like my time in Glasgow, I adore the fact that nature is so close. That a brief drive would take me to some of the world’s most breathtaking places. Even if I don’t go as often as I’d like — you know: work, life, laziness — I cherish the option. Unlike Glasgow, houses here are warm and well-sheltered from the elements; if I want to avoid howling wind and bone-breaking cold it shouldn’t be too hard to criss-crossing between houses. We’ll see.

The adventure that this latest installment of my wanderlust has pushed me into is an ambitious one: challenge my fears, counter my deep-rooted animosity towards cold, stay put for a decent amount of time.

I’m committed to stay here for a full winter season, and so far that prospect doesn’t scare me. Perhaps this time is different, and perhaps I’ll learn to love the cold. There’s a lot here that makes it all worth it.

This piece is part of my October Writing Challenge — check out some of the other articles and see if there’s anything that resonates with you. All my published material can be found at Authory.

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Writer, editor, and student of money past and present. Here: mostly off-topic stories, personal finance-musings, worldly observations and Reykjavík reflections.

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