Who knew the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) or Elk can be seen in D.C.? That is…at the Kennedy Center…for a approximately a month at the Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool series—a spectacular display of projected lights on the façade and stoic elk who are made to endure the cold temps of February.
Note: We don’t usually– or ever– editorialize on these things. But the summary for this is “Sexy male succubus Rael has an insatiable appetite for men that gets him into all kinds of trouble. And he’s just found his favorite flavor: hunky blond detective Lars Thornsson. When those cool Nordic looks combine with Rael’s smoldering dark charms, all Hell could break loose.Lars’s job at the Paranormal Enforcement Agency means he’s supposed to be policing demons, not falling in lust—or love—with them. But there’s something about this feisty little sex demon that hits all his buttons.” Which a) sounds like five fanfics I’ve seen and b) sounds hysterical, especially considering that I found this on a list of “LGBT Romance” that I picked up at the library. So if anyone wants to give this a read and tell me (runawaymarbles) what they thought, that would be awesome.
Gas, Gravel and Gear: Two Girls Road Trip Around Iceland
We caught up with ZEAL employee Gabby Aguirre on her and her best friend’s adventures in the land of fire and ice.
Words by Gabby Aguirre. Photos by Gabby Aguirre and Magda Fountoukidis
“This car is totaled. Always spend the money on a good rental car, that should’ve been your biggest expense.” Great advice we could’ve used weeks ago from the mechanic who’s hand-cranking our dead Suzuki onto his trailer bed. Two hours earlier we’d been posted up outside our lemon on a curve along the Ring Road with no shoulder and no cell service, waiting for this Nordic knight to save us. It was only day two in Iceland…don’t tell dad.
We’d both been drawn to Iceland by a magnetism neither of us could explain. Maybe we were looking for something, like for our minds to be cleared by the cool nordic air or for our inhibitions to crumble like the glaciers we’d soon meet. The island has had this inexplicable pull on us that we felt a responsibility to explore. So my best friend and I, a photographer and a writer, packed our cameras and pens and went to find out.
For ten days we were two tourists trying our hardest to disguise it. We went to almost every most-photographed spot on the island, which was easy because most of them are right off the main road and relatively close to the airport. It also means that there are a lot of people there all the time. Iceland’s tourism industry is booming, which has all sorts of consequences. Like, for example, that at most of those spots it’s almost impossible to take a photo without a handful of others blocking your shot. And that some small towns’ local pubs have closed down and been replaced with hotels and visitor centers. But there is plenty of open space to be explored. It just takes some curiosity and a pair of unrelenting hiking boots to get you there.
With cameras slung around our shoulders, we crunched volcanic gravel under our boots and hiked until there were no footsteps before us or chatter behind. It’s a totally different island when nobody else is around. The moments of extreme solitude we experienced at the edges of high cliffs, bases of hidden waterfalls and ends of unmarked trails are when we realized the treasure we stood on.
Our days began when our makeshift eye masks slipped off of our faces and ended when we realized it was past midnight because the sun doesn’t even take naps in July. For ten days, we snuck showers at campsites and public pools and brushed our teeth in rivers. We buried our boots in black beaches and played our map like an accordion. We maxed out memory cards, prayed for gas stations and dodged sheep on winding highland roads. We payed our respects to the Vatnajökull glacier, cringed at the distant cracks and crashes, and felt guilt as the lagoon splashed at our feet. And for ten nights we slept in a moody rental car with pillows made of extra clothes and window treatments of the same nature. Glamping.
We thought we were really roughing it until we picked up a friendly hitchhiker who had been rudely awakened the night before by 120 km/h winds that ripped open her tent and tested her sanity. She’d been living in that tent, bruised battered and bubbly, for fifteen days with fifty more to go. So, as it turns out, the car wasn’t so bad.
Our thumb-slinging soul sister had set out on this journey to derail the roaring life train from normalcy and security onto a winding path of discovery and personal growth. For a few days we joined her along trails and up mountains to the realization that our journeys weren’t all that different. A few days -or months- in the wild can bring you a heavy dose of clarity and peace you might not have known you were seeking.
From her we learned that Iceland is a place for creatives, for the daring and adventurous. Any great photographer has been or has plans to feast their lenses on the tips of the iceberg. And the first thing they’ll learn is that waterfalls don’t give a shit about your camera. The second thing they’ll learn is that Iceland is boss and she will tell you whether or not she wants to be summited, crossed or photographed on any given day, and she’ll scoff at you through hydrothermal vents, drench you in arctic rain, and freeze-dry you in angry winds when she’s not in the mood.
Not a place for the weak, or the week for that matter. Ten days at a steady pace got us around the entire island but we still missed a few key stops. Like Askja, a cloudy cyan-colored caldera in the central highlands, or Thórsmörk, a river-rich valley surrounded by steep, rocky mountains in the South. Two weeks would get you to every photo you’ve screenshot on Instagram with some time to find some secret spots of your own. Sixty-five is something else. Although you’d definitely need to eat more nutritiously than muesli and rice cakes for breakfast lunch and dinner (don’t tell mom). Tips we wish we’d heard beforehand but hey, any excuse to go back.
My best advice about Iceland is to just go and treat her well. See her through your eyes before your camera because she belongs in your heart, not your memory card. Go and take your time, see it all before the glaciers are gone and the ocean water loses its brilliant blue. Go and get the windshield insurance. Go, and most importantly, order the cod.
Follow more of Gabby and Magda’s adventures on their Instagram accounts @gibblegabbleand @fountoukidis, and keep an eye out for their upcoming film on their trip to Iceland!