A bicycle ride around Iceland


It's well past midnight here on the southern coast of Iceland, but the sun hasn't checked the time. It sits high up on the horizon as we cycle through its amber glow, painting the sky and the clouds and the grassy plains below in golden hues and lavender tints, tracing two thin shadows of two steel bikes and two weary riders onto this narrow, two-lane road.

It's the first day of twenty-six straight days traveling Iceland at the speed of tranquility, twenty-six straight days of camping under crisp, twilit skies. Between our arrival in Keflavik and our final few days of relaxation in Reykjavik, we'll have cycled well over a thousand kilometers across black deserts of volcanic ash, through glacier-chiseled fjords and desolate lava fields, past ice caps and milky blue lagoons, over little hills and great big mountains, under ominous rain clouds and fierce arctic terns and blazing sunlight, down dazzling descents and rock-ridden gravel roads. We'll have taken a few shortcuts—two buses to Borganes, two hitches in the unpaved northeast—and a few detours too, but we'll come full circle all the same.

We'll see hundreds of sheep, a few humpback whales, and a lone field mice all-too-comfortable to climb up onto our tent in the early hours of the morning. We'll hike along volcanoes and swim in waters warmed by their heat. We'll camp everywhere: empty open fields, crowded tent pitches, the backside of a wool shop, the heights of a black sand beach. We'll eat a strict diet of peanut butter sandwiches, packaged cookies, cheeseless pizza, and the occasional non-brown perishable, and we'll warm our chilled bodies with sugary hot tea steeped in a little pot on our little stove on a little picnic bench overlooking some great big view.

We'll meet puffins from afar and friendly, fellow cyclists up close. We'll meet a few Icelanders and they'll be friendly, too, offering rides, encouragement, beer, tips. We'll get zero flat tires, break zero chains, lose one bicycle bolt and several bits of bicycle paint. We'll fall a few times and get a few scrapes, but also climb enough cumulative altitude to reach the top of Mount Everest. Twenty-six days after setting out, we'll return to Keflavik, and later DC, with fond memories and a few photos and, just maybe, enough tread on our tires and our souls for another big ride.

Recap, reboot


Some years ago, I started to build a small house. At the time few Americans were building small houses, and I thought it'd be helpful to chronicle the construction for others, or maybe for me, or maybe for everyone. And for a little while, I did just that.

Later, I moved out of my expensive apartment and into my small house—itself a part of America's first tiny house community—and found myself with a little money and a burning desire to travel. I hadn't seen the world and I heard there was a lot of world to see out there, so I packed a few things and climbed aboard my scooter and set off across North America in search of the adventures our world used to be made of.

Somewhere along the way—somewhere along that journey, in fact—this ceased to be a blog about a little house. I discovered that the little house wasn't an ends, but a means: a means to live a clutter-free life and a debt-free life—and later, a carbon-free life—a house that wouldn't tie me down with financial and physical and mental burdens, but would propel me out into the world and be there whenever I got back to it.

And so I started writing about travel. Not how to travel or where to travel or when to travel, but why to travel, and I wrote long, impassioned, very rambly anedote-riddled pieces about the joy and freedom and adventure I'd found on the road, the simplicity of doing with less and appreciating more. I got home and I pledged to never work more than nine months per year again, and since the age of 23 I've done just that: summers riding the rails of Europe, winters bumping along the ridges of NamibiaIndia, or Nepal.

As life became simpler, travel became simpler, too. I carried less and moved more slowly. I fell in love with a bicycle and traveled with it to Morocco; later I fell in love with a girl and traveled with the both of them to Iceland. I discovered happiness on quiet coasts and realized tranquility actually came pretty easy in this frantic, complicated world. The few things I'd accumulated (or held onto) since building that little house—a tent, some savings, a few panniers, that bicycle, that girl—were all I really wanted or needed, and the rest—sixty-four inch televisions, career ambitions, the false trappings of modern life—didn't really hold any appeal.

I'm planning a great escape. More on that soon, but for now, this little blog will be going through another shift. It's not that I won't be writing about the tiny house or the droning details of my various adventures (insofar as I've been writing much of anything, lately); it's just that I'll be writing (or trying to) about other things: about getting from trapped to untrapped, inhibited to uninhibited, about the big changes I've made-but-haven't-actually-yet-written-about that have helped me live a more intentional life. It'll be a medley of musings you may love or hate, however you've ended up here, friend or follower, but the good news is that all the old posts will still be right down in the archives.

Oh, by the way, we're back from Iceland and it was just lovely!


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