thankful for this beautiful life i’ve been given.
First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you beautiful readers.
I have received so many messages about how I am inspiring to you. That makes me feel so special. Honestly, I needed this for myself… but its beautiful that it is inspiring others around the world as well.
Iceland has been so good to me! I arrived in Vik Iceland on the 2nd. The people here are beautiful and welcoming.
I live in a staff house a short distance from the hostel. Its the basement of the mother of the hostel owner. (confused yet?). Its a two bedroom basement apartment with a kitchen and small living room. I started out sharing a room with Sergie, the other volunteer from Ukraine. But the radiators in the rooms kept our bedroom really warm so I started sleeping on the couch. There is nothing more awesome then waking up in the middle of the night cold because the icelandic breeze it sneaking in through the living room window….
Im working at Vik Hostel.(i found this job through http://www.helpx.net) Its located in the town of Vik on the southern coast of the country. The hostel is run by this selfless, beautiful and humble woman. Her name is Aesa. (pronounced eye-sah). The town only has about 300 residents, and Aesa’s family is a small portion. She is married to a great man who works hard and loves her a lot. They have two beautiful children that seem to always get along. Her mother lives above me in my staff house, her father comes to lunches and dinners but works a lot. Her brother and cousin both work to renovate a restaurant the family is opening, and her grandfather pops in every once in a while for breakfast or lunch and actually flies his airplane over the glacier here for tourists wanting an aerial view.
Every morning I wake up and receive a list of duties I need to complete for the day. Each day the list is different, and each day I learn something I NEVER knew before.
The first morning here, I woke up at 7:00AM. Auralie, the woman from france, and I walked down the grassy hill, down a road made of volcanic gravel, and walked up the hill to the Hostel. She showed me how to prepare the breakfast buffet for those guests who had signed up for breakfast. Breakfast includes ham, cheese, hard boiled eggs, cucumber slices, juices, waffles – with some AWESOME homemade jelly, homemade bread for toast and a couple of different cereals to cater to those who just really want cheerios over everything thats offered. After breakfast was done, I had to feed the chickens.
The hostel is very environmentally friendly and they never waste anything! All food scraps are put in a specific bin in the kitchen to feed to the chickens. Auralie and I collected all of the chicken food and headed out to the chicken house. I was nervous but she assured me there was nothing to be scared of. A link to a video of me feeding the chickens will be posted at a later time
Each day, after the guests leave I have to clean the hostel. Sweep, Hoove(vacuum), mop, clean the kitchen, dining room and all three bathrooms, as well as folding all of the linens after they have been stripped, washed and dried.
I usually get done cleaning the hostel around noon. Just in time for the family to come for lunch. We help to prepare their lunches and then clean up afterword.
I then head over to the families restaurant they are building. Its a 3 story elementary school that they are converting into a restaurant and event venue. Its 110 years old. That building was built before the titanic set sail. let that sink in. In the days that I have worked in the restaurant, I have sanded, broken down a wall, adjusted beam placement, poured cement and used more power tools then I ever knew existed. If anyone ever called me weak or emasculated me as a man… look at me now. One of the Icelandic men was like “Oh your from America? American men work like this yeah?” I just smiled. Some do.. THIS american man writes songs and wears Kiehls hand lotion. not anymore. My hands have never been rougher, and my eyebrows haven’t looked this haggard since 9th grade: the year before I discovered a wax pot.
example of ninth grade eyebrows? as you wish:
Glad we got that intense moment out of the way.
After I finished work on my first day I walked down to the ocean. The ocean has always been my sanity but that day something was uncomfortable and strange to me. I felt like the ocean herself stared me in the face and said WHAT DO YOU WANT? That instantly started a flood of emotion. I think that in America it was so easy to distract myself from me. Now I was here 3000 miles away from America, in a tiny rural town where no one knew me. I was alone. With myself. Thats really intense y’all. like… really intense. Things that I had needed to process for the past few months all started surfacing at once and as I sat on the black sand and huge boulders the tears started to fall: from my eyes and from the sky. At the exact same time. It was like all creation was one with me and I with it. I felt understood but distant at the same time.
I walked back up to the house crying and opened my laptop.
Ive never written the way I wrote that day. I was angry, happy, sad, misunderstood, understood, joyful, at peace, alone, alive, dead, numb. It was crazy.
A couple of days after I arrived, a girl named Anne arrived from Holland. She was dropped off by the bus so she didn’t have transportation either. She is a psychology major. I told her she came at a perfect time. Her and I talked about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, faith, religion and everything in between. She has helped me see the world in such a fresh and different way. This is one thing that is AWESOME about living in Hostels: you meet so many people from all walks of life. Most of them are very transparent and are equally eager to learn about other people as well.
The morning after she arrived, we found a couple of wine bottles that a french couple had finished off the night before. We wrote letters then walked out together onto the pier made out of boulders. We walked all the way til the end where the huge waves literally crashed over us as we held onto each other so as not to slip.
That was one moment where I was completely sure of what freedom felt like.
The next day, After I was done with work, Anne had scheduled a Glacier climb and Glacier walk tour. Because she had no transportation, the hostel provided her with it. I was the lucky driver. I borrowed Aesa’s car and drove through the breathtaking landscapes of iceland until I came to a small road on the right. After driving slowly through pot hole after pot hole, we arrived to our tour guide at the base of the glacier. We geared up with Crampons(spikes for your shoes), rain jackets, and helmets and started our walk to the glacier.
Put it on your bucket list now: Walk on a glacier before you die. Its so beautiful to see the ripples in the ice from where the arctic wind had blown over the glacier for years. It was also beautiful to walk and be able to see down through the ice several feet. I think that walking on that glacier was probably my favorite part of the trip thus far. Thomas was our tour guide, which can I just say theres something beautiful about an adventurous ginger. He was so kind throughout the tour making sure that everyone felt safe. He brought us to a wall that was probably 35 or 40 feet tall. He taught me how to find ripples to jab the ice picks into. He also taught me which ripples were best to stab my crampons into. he strapped me Anne into a harness and she started to climb the wall. Now it was my turn. This was a huge challenge because i HATE heights. But I trusted Thomas, and I also knew “when will I ever be in Iceland climbing a glacier again?”. It was interesting though… that moment in my life where I had to choose: will fear control me or will i control fear. I want to have more experiences in my life like that. They cause me to grow. I climbed up the wall. Hard y’all. Every single muscle in your entire body is used. If you want to get a work out, cancel your gym membership and move to Iceland. Worth it.
Towards the end of our Glacier hike, thomas knelt down and used a manual drill to drill a small hole deep into the ice. He pulled the drill back out and inside it had a small pencil sized ice cylinder. We each were able to sample some of the ice. It was 500 year old ice. Sad to say, it actually tasted fresher than the Ice i get out of the freezer at home thats only hours old.
Almost every night, after the work is done and the sun has gone down, the family heads down to the town sports complex and play Badminton. I had never played before but I LOVE IT! I actually think I’m addicted. Sadly, I’m still the musician/artist that doesn’t play sports well and I got beat by an icelandic 6 year old. Thats ok. It was fun anyway.
Another beautiful thing that I have loved at night is technology. Skyping with close friends and family has been the best thing for me. Their smiles warm my soul, and it truly makes the distance not seem as intense.
One of my favorite things to do here in Vik is talk to the other guests staying in the hostel. In 8 days, I have met people from Australia, Holland, Seattle, Japan, Norway, Spain, Italy, England, Canada and Hungary. Its beautiful how such a small house can bring such a huge world together.
Like I had said before, I could keep myself distracted easily in America so I didn’t have to think through or process things that were going on in my life. The ONE thing that could keep me distant and distracted here in Iceland was my Facebook account.
I found a blog written by a girl named Erika Delemarre ( check out her blog here: erikadelemarre.wordpress.com ). She had visited Iceland just a small time before I arrived here. She sent me a message on Facebook and challenged me to cut off Facebook, cut off my phone and completely disconnect from EVERYTHING. She told me about a trail up the side of a mountain where I could hike and would be completely isolated and alone. She asked me if I was up for the challenge. I accepted and up the mountain I walked. no cell phone, no camera.. only a pad of paper, a pen and my beating heart.
As I walked up the side of the mountain, I noticed all of the beautiful plants. how they still chose to grow even though it was cold and windy. They didn’t die, they didn’t give up just because it was hard. Im sure they would have rather had better weather and definitely would have rather had the direct sunlight that i too wanted… but they didn’t give up. Not even the grass. It lives through the winter. That blew my mind. I walked higher up the mountain and arrived at a nest of seagulls. two seagulls were sharing one nest kissing each others necks and talking to each other. another seagull sat all alone and quiet. It stared directly at the two in love. In that moment i realized that animals have minds and emotions too. All of creation longs for love. Not all have it. But all desire it. Just above that seagull was another one. singing its head off. I mean it was not quiet and it didn’t care what anyone thought. i started laughing because of how real all of their lives seemed to me. How i loved music, how I stared at couples and how one day I hope to be in love again.
I got to the top of the mountain where the mountains edge is a cliff that falls straight into the ocean. At that specific point in Iceland, nothing separated me from Antarctica except the ocean. So I had no other choice. I had to scream to the penguins. I screamed as loud as I could ” I WANT TO MEET YOU ONE DAY!!! ALL OF YOU! WATCH YOU MARCH! YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!” I then sat on a rock and laughed. What is going on? who am i? who is God? how am i so jaded? what is love? why do people give a shit if you’re gay or straight? why does the heart lie? why is love blind? why does everyone need to be buff and skinny for the world to see them as beautiful? why do we care what the world thinks anyway? why is commitment so hard? how do you get your soul, brain and heart to all agree? what do I want to do with my life? will I be a good dad? why do i bite my nails even when I’m not nervous? why do some people trust easily and some people don’t trust at all? Then all of a sudden, i decided… I want to get naked and dance around up here. and so i did just that. I took off all of my clothes in the dead of winter in Iceland and danced around like a crazy person laughing and crying all at the same time. It felt like surrender, it felt alive, it felt free. As i stopped to catch my breath, the rain began to pour down and I just laughed. I didn’t care. Im going bald, i don’t care, Im not buff, i don’t care, I’m soaking wet and freezing, i don’t care. i love who i want and as hard as I can and i don’t care. NO MORE WALLS NO MORE QUESTIONING NO MORE JUDGEMENT. CANT WE ALL JUST BE FREE AND LOVE EACHOTHER AND ENCOURAGE EACHOTHER AND APPRECIATE DIVERSITY. And although all of this may sound crazy… it all made perfect sense in the moment. I guess you will just have to come to Iceland, walk up a mountain alone and experience it for yourself.
Anne left a few days ago to explore the rest of the country but she got back last night and I was so happy i got to reconnect with her. Today after I cleaned a little bit, the sun came out and I was able to have the rest of the day off. Anne and I rode with Aesa’s father out of town. He was driving past a waterfall nearby and said that we could get out at the waterfall and that he would pick us up a couple of hours later. The waterfall was beautiful. I don’t even have words to describe it. I know that I say beautiful a lot but please understand that every time I use that word I honestly do mean it. I just don’t know another word to use. This country is BEAUTIFUL! We had a blast climbing the hills beside the waterfall and taking pictures from every angle. I was actually even able to get a little sun on my pasty skin(ok… I’m tan but not as tan as I love. if you know me at all, you know I’m trying to look like leather by age 30). We climbed to the top of the waterfall and took a few more pictures and then walked down to the museum. Icelandic history is so beautiful, intricate and ornate all at the same time. It was such a beautiful day learning about nature, history and growing a friendship deeper.
Ive worked for the past couple of days, played badminton at night and really gotten to know Auralie really well. She’s a beautiful soul. She has a good heart, and this morning when i first woke up i leaned in for a hug and she simply held me. Thats what I wanted. thats really all i wanted.
Its interesting. People say they would do anything to get away. Its beautiful to be away. But once your away for a while, especially in a place like this where there is no traffic, no hustle and bustle and hardly anyone in sight, it gets a bit overwhelming to be alone with yourself… You see the good the bad and the really really ugly. Its mentally overwhelming. There is a lot going on up there. And you may think you have a lot on your mind but when you actually get to a place where all of it can slowly seep out, you realize that you don’t know what to do with any of it… so you just embrace the process, you live forgive let go love be patient and learn. And through all of that, all I wanted was to be held. I got it. That made me so thankful.
Today was actually the second day that the sun decided to come out. Most days here are dark for about 18 hours. the sun does come up but is never direct.. just a little bit of light outside. Clouds and rain every day. Its just been pretty grey. Its beautiful here but also just dreary especially when you are processing through so much. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything though. So so thankful for Iceland, the people I have met, the lessons I have learned, the things I have let go of, and the things I’m realizing I should hold on to. Thankful for life. and thankful for all of the nonstop support Ive been getting from home. Love and light to you America and to all of the rest of the world… goodnight.