By Jade Boivin
You know what they say: New Year, new travel plans! If you are the type that thrives on the wild outdoors complete with volcanos, glacier, constant winds and winter like conditions in July, I strongly recommend you take the short direct flight to Iceland, the most magical and magnificent country that I’ve ever visited.
Although overall, I wouldn’t consider Iceland a foodies destination (even though there are great options in Reykjavik, the capital) nor is it a five star pamper trip (out of the capital, you can either camp or sleep in a rustic airbnb, I survived both). Iceland is definitely a trekking voyage for it’s ever changing scenery, landscapes galore. Google it and you’ll find yourself daydreaming about meeting a warm welcoming northern people of Viking decent, humming one of Björk’s tunes while the sheep cross the road you are walking on. Their culture is doubtlessly a major motivation to visit the island, as the local musical scene is one of world’s most diverse and dynamic. There is never a dull evening in Reykjavik with its endless number of great bands always playing somewhere.
The artistic scene there is unique. But the most intense cultural activity I experienced, was going to the public outdoor swimming pool right around the street corner from my apartment. One would think that there is nothing exotic about going to the pool anywhere in the world. Well, surprise! Icelandic swimming pools aren’t just the average water basin. The pool itself is actually a huge public natural spa with a steam sauna, three different kinds of hot tubs and an icy cold basin where you can cool off before relaxing on a long chair. Plus, there are virtually no tourists, so you instantly become a cool-low-key-traveller-who-knows-the-authentic-places.
Because there is a ritual surrounding the visit, it starts out being something else. First off, hygiene rules are taken very seriously there : you have to take your shoes off before stepping into the locker room. And… you must shower stark naked, like everybody else, who couldn’t care less by the way, before entering the pool. Embarrassed to wash naked as I am, it is tempting to keep your bikini on. Rest assured that a vigilant local Icelander will surely tell you firmly that you have to shower completely naked in order to not contaminate the pool’s water. And you can’t shower quickly (for 20 seconds). You really have to wash yourself thoroughly, the other thirty women in the communal showers making sure it happens, it seems. This experience made me realise two things: I hadn’t seen any adult or middle aged women’s bodies at all in my life and my views on nudity was pretty North-American puritan kind of. So honestly, going there on a daily basis changed my perspective on nudity and my own body. The shape of my athletic thighs and my once questionable cup size are no longer issues. I now can confirm that I am a pretty average woman and fine with it.
My daily visits were well worth it because of this liberating nudity enlightenment, but mostly, the wonderful relaxation in the steam sauna with my neighbours is to my surprise the one thing I miss most about Iceland.
Pictures by Jade Boivin
January 23, 2017