Almost seven years ago, I returned to Iceland after more than half a decade of voluntary exile from the land of my birth. I was a nomad in a sense; not as diligent as some of my friends from around the world, but still managed to move about a dozen times before finding myself back in Iceland.
I had less than fond memories of my school years in the small town where I grew up and left behind not even a handful of good friends.
But as with all Icelanders, I found myself nostalgic for Iceland once more in my late twenties. I had a dream of moving to the land down under, Australia, but realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as it had seemed.
I also desperately wanted to be closer to my family.
I had fallen in love with a South African, and all of us who know South Africans know about the difficulties they face while traveling and emigrating from one country to another.
The combination of my nostalgia for Iceland’s nature, the political instability and high crime rate in South Africa, and finally our mutual excitement to start a life together near one of our families, led us to choose Iceland as a place to start our married life.
I had left Iceland before I grew into an adult. I had never lived on my own.
I had lived with my parents and my older sister in the couple of years I spent in Iceland after my exchange year in Brazil. I moved away from my parents to a new life away from Iceland.
So, to find myself back in Iceland after years of living and traveling around Europe and all the way to South Africa, I found myself having to rediscover who I was and wanted to be. And it was hard; harder than leaving Iceland by myself and harder than starting fresh in all the different places I have called home.
After almost seven years, I am no longer counting the days until we move to South Africa or Australia, France or Canada. I am actually very content and excited to be a part of something real.
We own our flat and we have wonderful neighbors with whom we share the garden area. We live in an idyllic part of town where we have a beautiful story to write in the book of our life. We have succumbed to the irresistible charm of Reykjavík’s Vesturbær (Westside) residential area.
By simply crossing the street from the row of beautiful townhouses at the far end of Hofsvallagata, mere meters from the dog park, we are in the land of sea and shore.
Ægisíða is the place I am talking about. How often have I praised it!
But when words do not suffice to ignite the imagination, only a photo can truly capture the beauty that is the great Atlantic Ocean and the shores that feel its wrath as much as its comforting arms.
Be it spring or autumn, summer or winter, the great Atlantic never loses its awesome power over us who live on the edge of sea and shore.
It has often occurred to me how easy it would be for the great Atlantic to sweep away life with one gigantic wave. A devastating tsunami.
But it is also a source of life. For generations, our ancestors rowed to sea, enduring equally its fierce temper or its gentle dance for survival.
Without it we are impoverished in spirit and body. With it we are rich beyond means in spirit, and graciously accept the gifts it allows us to bring to harbor.
Ægisíða, which in literal translation means ‘seaside’, is a place to watch from a close distance the raging waves as they beat up the rocks blackened by moisture and when it’s all over, smell the sea of seaweed drifting across the rocks and onto the shore.
Sometimes even to her grassy fields above.
It took me three or four years to find peace with my decision. As travelers know, to stay in one place is harder than starting over in a new place. But Reykjavík is part of my journey, and oh, what a beautiful city it is. Be it my stopover or destination, I found her true self in Ægisíða – the seaside in my West Side Story.
Words & Photos: Júlíana Björnsdóttir – email@example.com