Hello, friends! Happy New Year! Here in Reykjavik we blew up 2014 in style, with a ridiculous number of fireworks exploding everywhere in sight! This year, my husband and I contributed to the madness by purchasing and setting off fireworks ourselves.
I think New Year's Eve is a strange and wonderful day because, although it is an arbitrary holiday, it also provides an opportunity for reflection. It forces us to acknowledge the passing of time, and it fills many with motivation to make improvements and set new goals for themselves. This year, I haven't really taken the time to sit down and write out some goals, but I'd like to take a little time now to reflect on this past year...
Highlights & Surprises of 2014
Last New Year's Eve, when my husband and I had been living in Iceland for only two and a half months, we celebrated with an amazing group of people. We felt for the first time like we were among friends, and this feeling made me so happy that I was moved to tears. The friends we have been fortunate enough to meet are the lifelong friends one would dream of. Over the past year, they have shown us again and again that they are willing to go to great lengths to help us, they will drop anything to come to our rescue, and do everything within their power to make us feel like we belong. They switch to English for us, for though we have tried to learn Icelandic, it is really difficult. They host potluck dinners and ask people to bring vegan dishes, only because of our veg diets. I couldn't have foreseen these incredible friendships, and so I find them and their presence in my life and in my heart to be one of the best surprises of 2014. And this New Year's Eve as we celebrated with the same amazing friends, I was moved to tears once again as my heart swelled with gratitude for all the kindness I have been shown by these wonderful people.
2014 has been a year of many firsts for me. This year I went ice climbing on a glacier, illustrated an Icelandic book cover, reached the summit of Esja, rented an office/studio space, did custom lettering work for a company in Turkey, snorkeled, fed and pet kangaroos, drove on the other side of the road, rented a car for myself alone, took a ferry with said car by myself, spotted a platypus in the wild thanks to Chris, shared a moment in the darkness with a fairy penguin in the wild, saw Tasmanian devils, and saw puffins. Also, a not-so-fun first, I lost my job as a balloon designer. Yes, it has been an eventful year, but mostly filled with great adventures.
One week into 2014, we adopted a cat from a shelter in Reykjavik. We did not choose her because she was the cutest cat with the largest eyes and a uniquely purple nose, all of which are arguably true. We decided to give her a home because we felt she was the most miserable cat at the shelter, hissing and growling while huddled at the back of her cage. We named her Eyja, which means island in Icelandic. It should come as no surprise that we had to be patient with our little island. At first she spent a lot of her time hiding beneath furniture and huddled in corners. She has also had several health issues this year, requiring many trips to the vet, various medications, and switching her food five times. We do not know her history, but lately things seem to really be looking up for our Eyja. She seems to be a happier and more affectionate cat these days who sometimes sits beside us in the evenings and sleeps by my feet at night, and she accepts and sometimes even asks for affection.
Memorable Travel Experiences
As far as memorable experiences, 2014 is rich with them. I traveled to Norway with my parents and got to spend some quality time with my relatives. We stayed with my mother's brother and his wife, my Uncle Sven and Aunt Helga, which was priceless to me! I really enjoyed perusing old photo albums and scrapbooks. It gave me a fascinating glimpse into my Mormor's life.
Iceland with Mike & Else
After going to Norway with my parents, they stayed with us in Iceland for a week. It was so much fun showing them around, and we went on a trip to the Westfjords together. I love my parents, and it was a joy to have so much time with them!
Minnesota & Maine (plus bonus time in Boston)
We visited friends and family in Minnesota and Maine, and thanks to Chris attending a conference in Boston, we got to visit and stay with Kristine and Mark, who had visited us in Iceland. I got to meet some newborn babies and celebrate a soon-to-be-born one. And I spent some quality time with great people, catching up and savoring moments.
Australia: Tasmania, Sydney & Cairns
Thanks to Chris's work, in August we spent nearly two weeks in Tasmania, and we spent a few days in mainland Australia, too. While Chris was busy working, I drove on the other side of the road while looking out for wallabies and kangaroos, exploring and photographing anything and everything. On the weekends Chris joined me for adventures around Tasmania. We visited a wildlife sanctuary there where we could see Tasmanian devils, pet a Koala, and feed and pet adorable kangaroos! It was so lovely! Then we went to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef!
One thing I will always remember was our trip to Australia was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef this summer. I had dreamed I would do it someday, and fulfilling that wish was more incredible and vivid than I could have imagined. It took me a good fifteen minutes to accept that what I was looking at was in fact real, and I was not going to hear David Attenborough's voice narrate what I was seeing. I felt like I was flying as I floated effortlessly with my foam noodle. I had to take pictures with my eyes instead of my camera, and so I don't have pictures to show, I can still close my eyes and see the saturated colors and textures of coral and amazing variety of fish and the magnificent beauty of enormous blue clams at the bottom of the ocean.
Chris had work in Aberdeen, Scotland in mid-December, so I tagged along, of course! After Chris was done with work, we took a train to Edinburgh, which was really a lovely place to get into the spirit of the holidays!
2014 was also amazing because of the number of hikes I went on in Iceland. If you know me well, you know that I am not a hiking type of person, but I am married to one, and over the past year I have gone on significantly more hikes than the rest of my years combined. I have hiked in all types of weather, sometimes all in one hike, and the beauty of this amazing country continues to take my breath away. I have always been an extrovert who recharges by spending time with people, but this year I learned that nature has an incredible way of energizing and restoring my balance. Here are 100 favorite photos from my adventures so far in Iceland. Click on any of the 100 thumbnail images below to browse through these pictures at your own speed. Enjoy!
I have experienced and seen so much beauty that I am overwhelmed! I don't know what 2015 has in store for me, but I look forward to sharing it with you. I ran out of space to add any more images to my Wordpress blog, so from now on, this is where I will be posting about my hikes and travels and my artistic adventures, too. If you like what you see and read here, please give me positive feedback to keep me going. I would love that very much indeed! :)