Welcome to the Arctic! (Well, Reykjavik is close, anyway)

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Reykjavik is a beautiful town and perfect for wandering on foot. Everyone is friendly and locals will gladly help you find your way around. It’s a bit cold and rainy, but that hasn’t taken away from the experience. The weather right now (in August) is sort of like October weather in New York.

LiAnn at the Golden Circle

The travel was easy with a 5 ½ hour direct flight from JFK and a reservation for the Flybus to take us into town. We arrived at our adorable little studio (reserved through airbnb for a fraction of the hotel rates) at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Reykjavik has a reputation for being a party town and it didn’t disappoint. After asking a few questions out on the safe and clean streets, we found our way to the heart of town. Laugavegur, the main street, was full of tall and sturdy-looking youth in various stages of intoxication running from club to club or standing in very long lines outside awaiting their chance to get into the next venue.

We were glad to find a pizza shop and some food trucks operating at the late hour – the famed hot dog place, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, had already closed. Then we opted for a quite spot and sipped on vodka drinks while we watched the scene from the window.

When our quiet pub closed at 3 a.m., we were provided plastic cups for our drinks and we wandered home, passing by the still raging nightclubs along the main street.

Keep in mind, Reykjavik is small and beautifully quaint. Many of those raging clubs operate as cafes and restaurants (or perhaps even a laundromat) during the day. There are no skyscrapers or superhighways. But there is plenty to do.

The food is absolutely amazing! Try the tasting menu at Apotek or Fishmarket for a once in a lifetime culinary experience! It’s very pricey, but tax and gratuity are included in the price, so it’s really not that much more than what you would pay in New York or Washington D.C. after you add that in – if you’re from less expensive areas though, you should prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Tomorrow we are renting a car and we plan to drive through south Iceland. We hope we get some sun!

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Why I’ll Never Say I’m Canadian

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Well the obvious answer is that I’m not Canadian. I’m American.

I don’t always feel like I agree with the majority of Americans. Nor do I think the world view of Americans represents who I am. But who does?

I love my country. Not with blind national pride, nor with the false idea that living elsewhere wouldn’t be as satisfying. I love my country because it’s what I know, how I was molded, and what I recognize in my core as home.

I love to roam as far away from home as possible, but I equally love to return.

Many Americans at any point on the political spectrum feel our system is broken. But I believe in it – not that it’s without corruption or imbalanced persuasion, but I don’t believe that any other system has perfected governance either.

I like that I can challenge my neighbor, my congress, my judicial system. But I also recognize we have serious inequities and humanitarian dilemmas.

Still, what bothers me the most in my travels is when my fellow Americans tell me they say they are Canadian when they travel. “You’d be amazed at how much better you’re treated if you wear a Canadian flag on your backpack,” a traveller told me on my first trek through Europe in 1998. I have heard a similar sentiment throughout the nearly twenty years of world travel I’ve done since.

I LOVE Canada and Canadians!

I’m not refuting the notion that Canadians are better received as guests in other countries, but why not be the best American I can be and make a good impression as I leave my footprints on the world’s surface?

Why deny who I am? Where we are from sets the foundation for our lives. It is paramount that we all rise above the labels we’ve been given without any reason other than it’s where we are from or it’s how others have behaved that came before us.

Maybe instead we should reflect upon why we may be received negatively and try to develop a better cultural understanding to move beyond the stereotype.

I am an American. I am my own unique person. I am a citizen of the world. I am proud of all these things.

~ LiAnn

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Reflection:
The last three and a half years have been the most challenging of my life – and I’m not talking about law school – I’m talking about learning how to live again. I try, but not a single day goes by that I don’t think about it. The month I spent in surgical ICU was my own personal hell. I read war stories, and I feel comparatively that this was my own war against death. I won. The great spirit wanted me to win.

In the aftermath, the greatest comfort I’ve found is in the stories people have shared with me of their own personal battles with death or their struggles with daily pain that also have no visual manifestation. This is why I always openly share my story.

After the major battles were over, I wanted nothing more than to return to the path I had planned – of course that had to be altered, but I worked like mad, through the physical pain and limitations, through the cognitive frustration, through the feeling of detachment from humans that haven’t met death. I’ve pushed through so relentlessly with two goals: 1. Become an attorney, just as I had planned 2. See the entire world. I’m working diligently on both.

The first goal is completely out of my hands for the moment. I have done everything I possibly can to achieve it, and there is nothing to do but wait for results. Every once in a while a fear of failing the bar surfaces, but I visualize those fears like Sophia’s (my niece’s) bubbles – popping and dissolving in thin air. It just doesn’t matter as much as I used to think. Life adjusts.

The second goal is well on its way to being accomplished, but it will gladly be a life long journey 🙂

In this moment, I just want to breathe. I remember, in ICU, when it had been a month since I had eaten food, and all I wanted was a meal – now I am tasting my food with new senses.
I remember when I was trying to take a few steps for the first time, and all I wanted was to do yoga – now I do yoga with an enlightened perspective. 

Now, I desire to take in the world like it’s my first trip here. Taste, see, and smell (yeah even the peeps next to me on the plane) everything! The trek from Miami to Vancouver was hard on my injuries, and I know there is more of that to come. But for this moment – this one moment – I have no stress, no deadlines, no responsibilities. It’s just me and the world. I am savoring every minute of the present. This moment right now is what I’ve worked so hard to obtain.

It’s a cold and rainy day in Vancouver and all my plans had to be adjusted – but I’m as happy as can be.

Life is beautiful! Life is a very precious gift; open it carefully and enjoy it slowly.