We could learn from Iceland

Do you know someone who works hard, always puts others first and never takes a break? We probably all know people like that but how often do we get an opportunity to actually reward them for their special qualities? TV program Operation Vacation makes this a reality as it receives nominations from families and friends on possible and deserving candidates for the show. The lucky chosen ones are offered a dream vacation that they otherwise would not be able to indulge in.

Jack Fox from Canada is one of the lucky participants of Operation Vacation which recently brought him to Iceland. Jack turns 30 on August 30th of this year and currently works in the entertainment industry. He is also a trans-man. Jack studied community support work and has through the years worked and volunteered with people with disabilities and at risk individuals. Jack kindly agreed to give us an interview on his tourist experience of Iceland.

Icelanders have a reason to be proud

When asked about the reasons why he was selected to be on the TV Show, Jack modestly confesses that the idea of the program is to give back to good people and alas, he was chosen. At an early age he started working to support his mother and sister and at the age of 18 he moved to England to volunteer in a college for people with disabilities. He currently voluntarily produces an LGBTQ magazine show that airs on two networks in Canada.

Jack and Shayne with adsf and adsf, hosts of Operation Vacation.
Jack and Shayne with Claire Newell and Karl Scmid, the hosts of Operation Vacation.

Prior to that Shayne Forster, a long time friend, travel companion on the trip to Iceland and main nominator for Operation Vacation, created alongside with Jack, the first trans-man calendar project showcasing FTM individuals at various stages of life and transition. The project travelled around the world and they did trips to various places educating and bringing awareness to trans-issues.

Although he had never told anyone about his desire to go to Iceland and experience its beauty firsthand, miraculously, his friends and family chose the location or as he puts it himself: “Well, technically the Universe selected Iceland and everyone agreed.”

So off he went with Shayne and a TV crew consisting of a camera operator and director/producer. “Shayne and I were also provided with a handy-cam to document our experience,” he adds.

It was Jack’s first time in Iceland. “But…,” he says “… hopefully not the last, it really spoke to me. In my experience the people are very proud of their country and so they should be, from the well thought out architecture, to the climate, to the water, to the land, it truly is a stunning place.”

Standing on tectonic plates

Jack did have some predefined ideas of the country’s low crime rate, small population and active volcanoes. But what did he actually do when he got here?

Shayne, Jack and Jonny adsf
Shayne, Jack and cameraman Johnny trying out a quad bike.

“On the first day Shayne and I used a good old fashion paper map and checked out the landmarks around Reykjavík, then viewed the capital city from the tower in Hallgrímskirkja and ended off the day with burgers and beer in a pub.” During the following days tour guide Guðni Kristinsson from Pink Iceland took them snowmobiling with Arcanum Glacier Tour, ATVing with Adventures Iceland, to view Seljalandsfoss, as well as two other waterfalls. “We dipped our feet in a hot spring at the geothermal park. From there we experienced the Golden Circle bus tour where we saw the Geyser and a huge waterfall, Gullfoss, with our final stop to stand on tectonic plates.”

Asked whether there were any surprises Jack swiftly replies that after a walking tour around Reykjavík with Hannes Pálsson from Pink Iceland, he discovered a card in his apartment, inviting him to spend a relaxing afternoon in the Blue Lagoon. “We did a lot of adventuring around so to spend a day relaxing at the Lagoon was a great surprise. I got to enjoy a mud mask as well as a steam facial. My skin has never been so smooth. Then we soaked for hours in the warm water, while having a beverage from the outdoor bar.”

A diverse queer scene

At night out at Kiki Queer Bar.
At night out at Kiki Queer Bar.

During his visit to Iceland Jack also took in note some interesting differences between the Icelandic versus Canadian gay/transgender scene. “I found the queer (or in Icelandic “hinsegin”) scene to be incredibly diverse and supportive of each other. In Canada, more specifically in the lower mainland of BC there is quite a divide between the LGBTQ communities, with many individuals keeping to their particular letter.”

He mentions for example Davie St, which is predominately gay men and then Commercial Drive with a large population of lesbians, with the occasional cross over. The trans community is also quite divided between female to male and male to female.

“Meanwhile, Iceland has one bar and one building where everyone comes together, respecting each other’s sexual preference, gender, etc. On top of this, Iceland has had an LGBTQ individual represent their Country (former PM Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir) and has officially adopted a bill protecting transgender individuals. Canada has yet to pass such a bill, in fact one was attempted but however thrown out and currently a second one is still waiting to be passed. To sum it up, I would like to ask Canada to learn a thing or two from Iceland.”

Canada has a long way to go

When asked about transitioning Jack tells us he started actively thinking about it in 2003. However it wasn’t until 2006 that he officially went on testosterone. He had to live for two years as a man before being considered for surgery and continues: “…when I hit the two-year mark the government changed the timeline to one year, so everyone hitting one year at the same time as my two years were put on the same waiting list for surgery, approximately 10 to 15 years, alas I paid for my chest reconstruction with credit cards.”

Adsf
Jack works in the entertainment industry and recently met actress Laverne Cox, famous for her role on Orange is the New Black.

The unjust treatment does not stop at that as Jack explains: “As well in order to change the gender marker on my birth certificate I had to under go a total hysterectomy as well as chest surgery. There is a movement to change this requirement as it’s quite inhumane to suggest that sterilization must occur in order to identify as the appropriate gender.”

To further support his claims of the prejudice still existing in Canada, Jack gives us a chilling example: “After having chest surgery, I had an unfortunate incident where Shayne had to call 911. When the paramedics arrived and discovered I was transgender they began to treat me very poorly, making inappropriate decisions. I knew this was not OK so I collected their badge numbers from the hospital and filed a human rights complaint. As a result BC ambulance had to create a policy protecting trans individuals from discrimination; a best practice procedures section in their curriculum to be used when training new paramedics. As well as changing their intake forms to reflect the experience of all individuals.”

Each moment was a highpoint

Each moment was a high point. One was getting to stand on tectonic plates.
Each moment was a high point. One was getting to stand on tectonic plates.

Going back to the subject of his vacation Jack generously compliments Iceland and feels that his experience with Icelanders was nothing short of fantastic. “Everyone was incredibly friendly and easy to get along with. When I found out I was coming to Iceland I was nervous because I do not speak Icelandic. As well, I could not stop thinking about how the people of the country feel about tourists – we can be such pains. But nope, everyone was welcoming and excited to teach me about their beloved country.”

But what does Jack feel was the highpoint of his seven-day vacation in Iceland?
“There were many high points and by the end my neck hurt from my looking up at all the beauty. But truly the highpoint was being given the opportunity to travel to a country with such integrity and love. From the gorgeous landscape to the friendly Icelandic faces, each moment spent in Iceland was a highpoint.”

The TV crew was equally pleased and the consensus across the board was – Iceland is an absolutely spectacular place that all parties would return to.

When asked if he would one day consider to return, he immediately answers: “I would come back to Iceland in a heart beat.”

Operation Vacation is currently airing in the US on LogoTV, with episodes available online to US residents. The air date for OUTtv and Travel and Escape has yet to be determined.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

        Your Name (required)

        Your Email (required)

        Subject

        Your Message

        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


        PGlmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZS5jb20vbWFwcy9lbWJlZD9wYj0hMW0xNCExbTEyITFtMyExZDI3ODQyLjM0NzA2NDA3OTU4ITJkLTIxLjkwMDg1MDg1NzkxODQyITNkNjQuMTQxNzA3ODE2NzAyMDEhMm0zITFmMCEyZjAhM2YwITNtMiExaTEwMjQhMmk3NjghNGYxMy4xITVlMCEzbTIhMXNlbiEycyE0djE0MzMzMzc5MTUyMjYiIHdpZHRoPSIxMDAlIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjEwMCUiIGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyPSIwIiBzdHlsZT0iYm9yZGVyOjAiPjwvaWZyYW1lPg==
        Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.