Choosing to Change My Life…in Iceland.
If you had the opportunity to live and work from anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I thought that I’d have an immediate answer to this, but it turns out I didn’t, until I wound up on holiday in Iceland. And now, as an answer to the life questions every 24 year old wrestles with, I’m moving there.
Obviously it’s not actually that simple; I work at Slash as a designer and content creator which, God willing, I will be doing for the rest of my life. Having dropped out of college in 2017 to do this full-time, I have a lot of professional growing and learning to do.
The job in Dubai (and all the other life factors) gives me two options moving forward: stay here in amongst the team and focus 100% on work or, slow down professional growth and move somewhere I can also focus on my personal life.
It’s the classic question of professional growth vs personal growth, comfort vs adventure, safety vs risk. Questions that everyone bumps into at some point and that I’ve been wrestling with. Here’s my process of answering those questions
The truth is it would be very easy to stay at my parents house, save money, and become really good at my job, but what does that mean for the person I aim to be?
Would I rather be an amazing 30 year old designer with a solid savings account, or have experienced a unique culture in harsh conditions, all while having to provide and problem-solve for myself?
And why not just stay in Dubai, what’s so wrong with this country? The U.A.E. is actually amazing in its own way and has many great things and opportunities that other places don’t, but unfortunately at this point in time, there aren’t as many young adults in this country as you’d think, making a fulfilling social life almost non-existent.
This is starting to get pretty real. It seems like it would actually be possible to give up Dubai for the great unknown.
Assuming you either find a job at the destination location or have one that allows you to work from there (which is possible to find) and you have a budget set up to match your financial capabilities, there’s only one question left to ask:
Would you actually do it?
To answer that question there are three sub-questions that I needed to answer first:
1. What do you have to lose?
The answer is usually related with comfort; being close to family, having a solid savings account and job security or professional growth. For some people any one of those can be too much to give up.
2. What do you expect to get out of it?
Which is very specific to each person, but for me it’s things like personal growth, the constant search for adventure, seeking discomfort, which is also related a lot with seeking new relationships and establishing roots somewhere away from family. Things like the level of maturity you’d have to develop, to be able to internally fight the need to give up and crawl back to comfort.
I believe that this is the most important question, with an answer I base around the very principle I was raised on: to live according to one’s priorities.
And that’s a very important word to focus on – priorities. Can you actually outline your priorities? And are you living according to them?
For me my #1 priority is my faith and my relationship with Jesus which doesn’t necessarily have to do with a specific location;
#2 is my family, not only those that are in my family right now but my future family;
#3 is my professional career, more specifically my family’s businesses;
#4 are my friends, those that at some point entered my life and are a permanent part of it;
#5 and final is my sporting career, more specifically, cycling.
Everything else comes after these 5 items when prioritizing anything in my life.
So my big question - is where I’m living now answering to my priorities?
To be honest no, it is not.
Even though I live with and close to most of my family, there is a big deficit in living in the U.A.E. that affects the second half of my second priority which is directly related with one of the ideal living scenario items I mentioned before: the age-group. The UAE really is amazing in its own way and has many things and opportunities that other places don’t but unfortunately at this point in time, there aren’t as many young adults in this country as you’d think, making a social life, for someone my age, almost non-existent. The reason for this is because most people come here for work and when you’re my age, you’re either studying (which you usually don’t do in the UAE) or in your home country figuring out your life.
That said, sure I’m living according to my own life’s priorities but there’s a big gap in there and it’s a pretty high up one. My #2 is in big deficit as I’m making little to no effort in finding my future family by being where I am. It almost turns all the previous questions around – am I actually losing as opposed to just risking losing something?
But what if it goes terribly wrong?
What if a year later I’m just poorer and full of regret?
I won’t be.
Even in the worst of situations, the biggest challenge will be to find the good in it. And all of that and the good parts will add to an unforgettable experience worth every dime, every sacrifice and every tear.
And if being poorer, and having regrets is the worst that can happen, then it’s not that bad is it?
What is wealth when you’re in your twenties? Money? A future… What is the risk/ benefit ratio?
Well, none of those questions will be answered by sitting in a chair, with a savings account at 24 years old, that’s for sure. Even if it all goes south in the end, there is a story to tell that I’m sure no one would give back, no matter the consequences.
So I’ve decided to go for it. The goal is to turn 25 in my new home country: Iceland. It’s already less than 10 months away and by then everything has to be perfectly, meticulously planned and worked out. There is a lot to do but I can’t wait for the journey that will be figuring out this next step in life. It is very important to me that it is not in vain. Who knows, maybe through the documenting of this experience someone will completely change their life for the better making them the person they were always meant to be and wouldn’t have otherwise.
As you can probably tell this is not 100% figured out but it’s getting there and that’s the fun of the process; figuring out the little details and overcoming all of the challenges. Documenting the whole thing is a big part of the project, which I will of course, be sharing it with the world so more can learn from it.
Busting the misconceptions.
Instagram and Youtube have painted a very specific picture of Iceland and formulated some specific opinions - some of the most beautiful views in the world, everything’s expensive, it’s always cold and don’t spend much time in the capital (Reykjavik).
After 10 days and a decision to live there here’s my take on all that nonsense:
Yes, some locations in Iceland are over 70 degrees north, there are glaciers, icebergs, snow, etc. Although from my summer experience, it was not always cold. Due to the previously painted picture I expected to be wearing a winter jacket everyday, but it turns out that some days you can go out wearing a t-shirt and shorts. After all, Iceland has reached 30 degrees (Celsius) and often is in the 20’s during summer (it’s true, I looked it up). Obviously, in the winter it’s freezing but for some reason the country is called Iceland…
What’s expensive to some people is not for others. Also, some people can spend a lot less money than others. Iceland imports… well, almost everything (it is an icy island…). For someone that earns a minimum wage (of let’s say less than $1,000.00 monthly), you should probably not go to Iceland right now, but by saving you can eventually if you really wanted to. For the average American (just over $4,000.00 monthly) or European salaries (just under $2,000.00 monthly), a trip to Iceland is very much feasible.
The solutions to not spending too much money are quite straightforward: don’t eat out, rent a caravan instead of staying at hotels, drink river water as opposed to buying it, etc..
To my understanding, the reasons why people advise to not spend much time in the capital is because someone that is traveling to Iceland is most likely doing it to explore the nature and outdoors. That’s fine, but it shouldn’t be a reason to skip Reykjavik. This beautiful small town capital with just over 100,000 habitants is an amazing place–consistently great food and good coffee throughout, beautiful buildings, easy mobility, safe (safest in the world actually), among many other things.
If you have some time to spend in Iceland, Reykjavik is a great base to have, taking some time to explore the West Fjords and the East Coast.
I don’t think I need to say much regarding this subject, the pictures speak for themselves.
But that’s also an inaccurate statement in my opinion. Pictures do paint a beautiful picture but even the best ones are not good enough.
I have tried to express this before but haven’t quite managed to do so clearly yet; Iceland’s outdoors is breathtaking. Always. And I think that’s important because it really is true.
While in some other countries you have to look for certain things, travel, search, that’s not the case here. Yes, there are some famous spots everyone tends to go to but those are far from being the best. The truth is that everywhere you look there is a waterfall or a beautiful mountain, glacier, iceberg, frozen lake, etc.. There is beauty, everywhere. I’m emphasizing on this because just like in similar day-to-day situations of getting used to something, in Iceland you get used to the beautiful outdoors and stop paying attention to it, not being “impressed” any more. I simply can’t do that and help myself to be mind-blown by every single sight of this land.
By Andre Abreu.