The Creative and Adventurous Soul that is Reykjavík

Í gær var ég að fara á hestbak! (Or for the non-Icelandic speakers, yesterday I went horseback riding! After all, Icelandic is one of the top four most difficult languages in the world! Explains why I am always struggling and feel like I have marbles in my mouth.)

When I heard that Iceland is home to a special breed of horse, the genetic heirs of the original horses brought over by the Vikings, I just knew I had to try riding a horse. I figured, hey, why not? How difficult can it be? Everything I read only furthered my desire – the hardiness, beauty, and gentleness of these smaller horses, possessed of a special gait no other horse breed has, called the tölt, following the gallop in speed in which the rider experiences a smooth ride.

I was sold. So I found myself heading to Laxnes Horse Farm just outside Reykjavik, settled amidst the mountains and lava fields, to give á hestbak a go.

A fibro warning bell should have sounded. Because now I am sore and still recovering. After all, they are still horses, no matter how good-natured and small. And did I mention that they are fast? My horse, probably bored of the same old beginner tourist routine, wanted to run! And so there I was, bouncing along as my poor bum and lower back screamed in protest, as our horses burned off energy. Frankly, it was exhilirating – like flying, only more painful. Fording streams, gazing at mountains, and galloping in amazement that I was not flying off my horse. It may just be my imagination, but at one point – the most glorious ten seconds of my life – my horse and I became one in a flow of motion. I can’t be sure, but we may have reached the mythical tölt. For ten seconds.

My fibro body has now declared a strike, on account of my reckless rebellion from common sense. My knees throb, my lower back aches, my muscles are heavy with exhaustion. So there is only one thing to do – head to a cafe, sip coffee and journal, then off for an evening at the local geothermal pool to soak in a hot pot. Iceland may have adventures hazardous for the fibromite’s health, but on the flipside they also provide every possible way of rejuvenating!

Reykjavik is really a small town, a city of about 200,000 if you include the surrounding communities. Two-thirds of the entire country’s population lives there. I marvel at the brimming creativity and life of a city a fifth the size of my hometown. It seems as if everyone in Reykjavik is an artist, writer, or musician! The local films are quirky and thought-provoking. I have popped into the local art movie house twice now to catch a classic Icelandic film with English subtitles. Astrópía is my current favorite – a funny twist on the sci-fi/fantasy film that even my husband would not mind reading the subtitles for.

Last night I just wandered the streets, letting myself peek into cafes and pubs and soak up the ambience. Cappuchino at the Laundromat Cafe, a fun cafe of retro 70’s decor, bookshelves, diner food, and an actual laundromat, packed with locals – always a good sign. Browsing books at Eymundsson’s, Reykjavik’s version of Barnes and Noble. A local folk rock band was performing at Cafe Rosenberg, a group so new they have not yet recorded a CD. The Sweet Baklava, as they have just dubbed themselves, are fantastic, a soulful mix of blues, jazz, folk, and rock. Think Norah Jones, Evanescence, and Jewel. Yes, it works. I am hypnotized.

This artsy town is bursting with creative energy. Art installments and statues seem to pop up over night all over the city. One day I am watching graffiti artists in the park (yes, they had permission. It’s a special park of abandoned buildings that they use as their canvas.). The next, a yarn-covered bike and tree appears. I duck into a cafe and when I leave, wood pallets have appeared in Ingólfsburg and are painted blue and pink. City officials even get involved, using jackhammers to tear up sections of sidewalk just to install temporary art installations! How can you not love a city this in love with its soul?

I have just arrived in Stykkishólmur, a small fishing community on the Snæsfellsnes Penninsula, home to the glacier Jules Verne chose as his setting for Journey to the Center of the Earth. It looms large over the landscape. This is the land of the Sagas, of Egil the greatest of Saga heroes, of sorcery and mysticism, battles and revenge and murder. The land seems to harbor the very spirit of the Sagas, the undulating ground spewing up rock from deep within the earth, with an unsettling layer of moss. Spooky and knocks one’s soul off-kilter.

So now to dive into a new place. Soak at the pool, watch the sunset from the harbor, and revel in the crash of waves and cry of seabirds.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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