10 Aug COLLECTING EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS: LIVING ON A PRIVATE ISLAND IN ICELAND
Our motto and motivation is to “collect experiences, not things”. Whilst on our journey, we’re aiming to spend our time and money on spectacular experiences, to be left with incredible learnings and memories, not tangible objects. This way, we’re sure to keep our lives light without additional luggage, but also be the change we want to see in the world.
Our next featured experience is a week spent living on a remote island in Iceland, Traustholtshólmi.
It’s not often we get to experience world firsts, and, well, we got to live on a private island with Hákon – the world’s only man living alone on an island surrounded by a glacial river (I guess he technically isn’t alone, as he has his dog Skuggi with him at all times, but that’s pretty much it). Friends, let us introduce you to Traustholtshólmi (and a very interesting week of our lives).
Let us start by telling you a little more about Hákon and Skuggi, as I am sure you’re slightly intrigued…
The two inhabitants have 57 hectares of beautiful Icelandic land to themselves, separated from the mainland by the glacial river Þjórsá (which is one of the most powerful bodies of water in the country, supplying Iceland with 80% of all electricity). Ironically, there’s no electricity on Traustholtshólmi (only a single wind-fan and one solar panel for mobile device charging) and no running water, so bathing, cooking and washing up is done entirely using river water. The island is located on Iceland’s south coast, and currently has a beautiful double-storey wooden cabin (where Hákon lives), a work barn, a boat, a separate out-house, and a traditional Mongolian yurt that gets put up every Summer, scattered around the island.
Hákon is a carpenter by trade and a fisherman by passion. It is no wonder that he is restoring the cute little cabin himself, and that his main source of protein (and income) comes from the wild salmon that find their way into his nets daily. He has just launched a tour that visitors can book, to explore the island, see his way of life, and indulge in some freshly caught wild salmon, sashimi style, prepared for you on the river bank by Hákon, while you watch.
So how did we find ourselves here?
Well, after a couple email exchanges, we landed the volunteer work and were lucky enough to have the Mongolian yurt* for a week, all to ourselves. We relaxed, experienced true island life, and ended each day with a wood-burning fire in the centre of our yurt.
Don’t be fooled though – living off the grid like this, in an attempt to be completely self-sufficient, is hard work. Making a cup of tea means fetching water from the river, boiling it in a pot, and then washing up with left over boiled water. Keeping your dark areas clean means using many wet wipes, or putting on a brave face and taking a dip in the chilly glacial river. No sun or wind today? No charge for your mobile device. In a rush to eat dinner? Sorry, there’s no microwave to place your convenience meal into. Want to pop into the store quickly to buy a new (insert everyday item)? You’ll need to catch the boat to the mainland, then drive out to the closest town.
Living with Hákon however, albeit challenging at times, reminded us of a few things:
1. To appreciate running water, no matter what hotel/Airbnb/Workaway host we stay with. Nothing – and I sincerely mean nothing – beats a hot shower and a basin to brush your teeth over.
2. That there’s no need to have a watch – just as we discovered early on in our journey, stay present, eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and create when you feel inspired.
3. Living completely self-sufficiently is very, very possible. With the right amount of planning, diligence, open-mindedness and enthusiasm, a life off the grid might be the next “American Dream”.
*In the end, we set the yurt up to look like a cosy Airbnb and put it on the site for Hákon, together with some photos we took, so if you’re keen to book yourself a night, you can find it here.