Educated is among The New York Times’ top 10 books of the year and it is a memoir that will do nothing less than impress you at every turn. Tara Westover, just 32 years old, 15 years ago had never stepped into a school. Educated, her memoir, follows her life of becoming educated.
Her parents, who took Mormonism beyond its framework, believed that public institutions, such as hospitals and schools were maliciously aligned with the government, who was ready to come after the family on a plot of land in Idaho. Tara, like her other siblings, was not issued a birth certificate at birth, and her family consistently prepared for the government’s attack. They canned peaches and readied themselves for the end of days.
Tara spent her days scrapping metal for her father and being her mother’s right hand when it came to concocting natural medicines. Family discussions focused on the importance of God’s work and how the public sphere demoralized anything divine. The family’s home was simple—it had storage, lacked in modernity, and always smelled intensely of herbs that her mother would use for midwifery or treatments. There were several books the kids had access to and if they could sneak away, they used them to learn how to read.
The lack of a formal education is merely the beginning of their problems. Tara’s older brother Shawn violently beat his sisters, their father was temperamental, and the mother had no backbone in presence of the father. Not knowing the world outside, Tara runs through the motions until her older brother who has gone away to receive an education encourages her to do the same.
What follows draws a line between past and present, family and Tara. Tara’s education makes the doubtful hopeful. She succeeds and fails and then climbs to mountains higher than her peak in Idaho would ever be. Educated brings the correlation of education and social mobility to life.
When an egg is fertilized there is a microscopic spark of light — a light that can lead to beginning of life and consequently, become the most pivotal choice in a woman’s life. Jodi Picoult’s, “A Spark of Light,” follows a man through the hours of his life as he bursts into a women’s health clinic and takes those inside, hostage. Contrary to Picoult’s former novels in which each chapter is told from one character’s perspective, “ A Spark of Light,” reads chronologically, opening with the present and reverting back in time. The book begins with George Goddard, the gunman, having already taken over the health center for a few hours. It traces his story, along with the stories of those inside the clinic as well as those outside. Picoult reveals the reason that brought him here today —his own daughter’s visit to the clinic.
Picoult dives deep into each character’s story, revealing his or her own truth. As always, Picoult does not leave you with a black and white answer, but rather, a thousand shades of gray. She gives voice to the clinic’s abortion provider —someone who lost his mother to an abortion. She offers the voice of a child who is seeking birth control and taking the appropriate measures before she engages in sexual intercourse. There is also the perspective of an older woman who came in merely for a check-up. Then of course, there is a young lady, who after her visit, may have to live with much more than just the emotional cost of having an abortion because of stringent Mississippi laws.
From the outside looking in is Hugh McElroy, a detective, who quickly learns that his daughter is also inside the clinic. McElroy and Goddard are bonded by their wishes to keep their daughters safe and fight for them, but are blind-sighted by the inevitable fact that their daughters have become women. Together, yet from opposing sides, McElroy and Goddard negotiate a transaction that fights to save lives, both those they know and love, and the ones they expect to know and love.
“A Spark of Light” is a timely American novel as it couples the hot topic of abortion with gun violence. Picoult presents the hard questions and illustrates to what length a human will go to fight for those they love as well as how far a person will go in the name of something that he or she believes in. Across the United States, she points out that the waiting period to buy a gun is often shorter than the waiting period to get an abortion—a “waiting” time that can’t legally be justified if your state considers abortion murder at sixteen weeks.
Read Jodi Picoult's latest book here!
“My vote doesn’t actually matter,” is a phrase we hear far too often in the United States, a place where voting and truly having a voice is not merely a right, but a privilege. When questioned about this statement generic responses can be everything, ranging from, “one vote won’t make a difference,” to “I really don’t care,” or worse yet, “what happens in politics won’t impact me.”
That is all wrong.
Generally, only enthused voters go to the polls for midterm elections. Midterm elections historically have a low turnout because it is commonly thought of as a vote for your party, however, in reality, there is a lot at stake. Here’s are some of the reasons:
Your vote is how you get to begin to be the change you want to see in the world (or your country, your state, your city, your community, or in YOUR home). Start that wave, vote for what you believe in, as it is the initial step to creating the future you want. The right to vote is not set in stone, it is a privilege and by voting, you are actively choosing to take part in your country’s history and developing the world that you yourself want to live in. It is our duty to vote —and to elect people whose voices stand for ours!
Some books find you at a perfect time—they become like a friend or even a mentor. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, spoke to us, as both.
We were initially inclined to read Hillbilly Elegy, because we desired and needed to develop an understanding of the discussed area of our country, a region often belonging to a very different political ideology and way of life. We wanted to comprehend the reason behind people's’ decisions. To do that, you need to uncover how they arrived at that conclusion by looking at what has influenced them. This means hearing their stories. Hillbilly Elegy offers a look into a world different from ours, yet one that shares the same leader.
Jospehine’s Note: While I have familial ties in some of these states, my roots are primarily based in touristic mountain towns whose populations are staunchly liberal, avid environment advocates. Growing up amongst the western mountain ranges of the United States, the destinations for many vacations, is my greatest privilege. I grew up amongst my some of country’s most breathtaking backdrops that allowed me to develop a healthy lifestyle and environmental consciousness and appreciation. I include this because there exists a stark contrast between my childhood and the author, J.D. Vance, who also grew up amongst mountains.
J.D. Vance grew up in the Appalachian region between Kentucky and Ohio, also known as the Rust Belt. In many ways the Appalachian hills were his life-long safe haven, so much so that he recently went and purchased his grandparents’ land. This is where he grew up and where he escaped as well as faced his struggles, common to the average hill person. This part of the world is built on a lost generation of families who once moved here for economic prosperity—they moved to work in the coal and steel industries, with the hope to build a life for their families. For a while, this worked, but as factories and the industry moved out of the country, these people were left in the dust.
The epidemic that is now present across the Midwest, starts at the core—the family. As Vance notes and experiences, being raised by a nuclear family is not the norm, rather grandparents step in as parents for their grandchildren. This is the common byproduct due to high rates of alcoholism and opioid use, and an educational system with little to no community support. It is a system that unfortunately perpetuates itself. Vance describes Jacksonville as a place where you make it, but only if you have someone looking out for and encouraging you, like his grandparents did for him. Otherwise there is little hope for another way out. Vance didn’t even realize this until much later in his life - that he could escape the cycle of drugs, abuse, and poverty that plagues the Rust Belt. Vance explains that a person’s lack or perception of a lack of possibilities lies within each individual and where they point their blame. For some, the government is solely to blame. This is a contradictory statement by those who misuse their food stamps to buy cheap products at a grocery store, then resell the items on the street at a higher price, so as to spend the majority of the money on alcohol. Others point their blame on an America at large that no longer depends on them, and no longer sees them as a crucial aspect of modern America. The white underclass may have thought they were forgotten, but in 2016’s presidential election, they were heard.
Today, Vance’s resume screams privilege —he is a white male, who graduated from Yale Law, and married the woman of his dreams. He resides in Cincinnati where he practices as a malpractice lawyer, but his current life deeply contrasts his roots. He is the American Dream. Hard work got Vance to high places; however, without his grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw, his older sister, and aunts and uncles who stepped up throughout his life, he could have easily been another kid with barely a G.E.D. and an hourly job. Vance acknowledges that he was up against the odds, and he managed through his unique support system, to come out on top. His Mamaw believed deeply as education being the ticket out and she was correct. She sacrificed so much, to ensure he had the best shot at an education. From raising Vance and giving him as stable of a home as possible to redirecting money for her own prescription meds to buy Vance a calculator, Mamaw was Vance’s backbone. These moments defined and served as a catalyst to a better life.
Throughout his memoir, Vance explores the root causes of the hillbilly states. He candidly relives his childhood on paper, but moreover, he questions it. He dives into the cultural nuances that impact the white lower class more than economic opportunities present. He believes that way-of-life choices have been passed down and while they offer comfort and familiarity, they aren’t necessarily beneficial. The hillbillies are making their own fate—and it is not a hopeful one. This poses the question: who should fix it? Is the epidemic across the hillbilly states one that is structural, and can be mended through governmental reform? Or, is it one that can only change through intrinsic nature where people hold themselves accountable?
Vance describes the epidemic in the following way: imagine a kid coming to school every day and telling his teacher “I can’t,” when in fact the kid truly can, and has done so many times before. However, at home the parents do the work for the student instead of investing time into watching the child succeed. Much is the same in the dried up steel towns spotted across the center of the United States—the people have “learned helplessness,” and decide that the situation they are in far outweighs their capacities to improve their own lives.
The fact is if you are raised in this region of the world, born to parents that are ill-equipped to parent, your likelihood of making it out of this corner of the country is slim to none. Children raised here score very high on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a series of ten questions outlining traumas most upper-class families never endure. Children who experience abuse, have a single parent, and are exposed to drugs and alcohol during early childhood are more likely to have depression and anxiety, to develop chronic heart disease, to live shorter lives, and also to continue the cycle. Kids who have experiences ACEs “are more likely to underperform in schools and suffer from relationship instability as adults.” Harvard has found that constant stress during development actually changes the chemistry makeup of the brain. Although the conditions are hard, and Vance contributes much of his success to having his grandparents and other family members support him, he states, “no person’s childhood gives him or her a perpetual moral get-out-of-jail-free card…”Ideally, individuals change, they raise better families, and in turn future generations are made successful.
Hillbilly Elegy tells the story of a lost generation that is need of a better future. That future will come from strong families, and individuals committing to better their own lives. Change starts from the inside, but it can extend out, culturally reshaping communities at large.
Josephine's Takeaway: After reading Vance’s take on adversity and experience of ACEs, I have never felt more sure of that our actions pave our own future. In the end, situations or rather our reactions to such, are opportunities for change. Despite the trials that children suffer, it has been my experience that people are extended olive branches throughout their lives by way of coaches, teachers, a wonderful grandparent, etc. If such branches are received with grace, people truly do have the ability to make it out on the other side in order to forge forward and create a life that they desire, not that they were born into.
Jessica's Reflections: This memoir opened my eyes and my heart. As a New Yorker, I am surrounded primarily by those who think and act the same way as I do. To be able to learn about another American’s drastically different way of life, is truly a gift and a lesson I strongly recommend that others divulge in, especially given this highly polarized political context. Familiarizing oneself with the values and challenges that others are up against is key to fostering understanding and empathy. I thank J.D. Vance for sharing his story and I encourage others, across the political and geopolitical map, to do the same.
During the latest U.S. Open women's singles final match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams was first given a code violation warning followed by a point penalty and game penalty. She was later fined $17,000 for these three violations prompting Ms. Williams to call out the empire and the entire regime of tennis as sexist. We at Sub-Stances were interested in this event and wanted to share our individual thoughts with you, as women.
In almost every realm, women face some sort of double standard. People blame them for their partner’s use of drugs, most recently the case of Mac Miller and Ariana Grande. People declare that women cannot pursue their dream job while also being a rockstar of a mother. On the court, that also plays a role. Men are allowed to take off their shirts while Mia Hamm got bad press for years for her celebratory shirt take-off. This past weekend, Serena Williams was confronted with a variety of double standards, but does it justify her actions? While it is true that she may have been penalized more than her male counterparts, should she stoop lower or to their level to prove her point? I think not. While in many ways this world is shaped in a ‘men on top’ (man)ner, equality in or out of sports will only be won if women rise above those seeking to push them down. That means instead of criticizing an umpire for a questionable call, choose to take a deep breath over splitting a racket. It means winning with profound class. That is only way to make it to the top of society —to be so good they can’t deny you.
It is unfortunately not surprising that events like this still occur in many kinds of environments, particularly when it comes to sports. Despite advances being made to help give women equality in the workplace, sexism is still an ever-present challenge. It is in instances like the one faced by Serena Williams that such displays of sexism come out of the closet and into the light. However, in choosing to respond in the way she did, Serena Williams made a mistake. Losing control of her emotions has led to many pigeonholing her into the ‘hysterical women’ bracket rather than taking her complaints at the sexism seriously. The fact of the matter is that often men treat women differently. In sports, this can mean a different call or even a losing one. By remaining in control and not giving into urge to scream, women are better served by taking the high road. It may be a challenging route, but ultimately, it is the right one.
As a tennis player and tennis lover, I admire Serena Williams for the exceptional player that she is. She is a force to be reckoned with and is perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time. She breaks records and stereotypes. She fights racism, sexism, and the enormous pressure to remain on top. Not to mention, she nearly died giving birth to her daughter Olympia and then rose to play in this year's Grand Slam final, so soon after such a traumatic experience. So yes, I admire Serena for all that she is and achieves, as a woman and as a player.
Thus, my take on the incidents that unraveled at the U.S. Open women’s final is in support of Serena — to a degree. I do not think that the player should be penalized for her coach’s actions. She had no control over his actions, yet she was penalized for such. Not to mention, how much can a coach actually influence the game? After all, it only comes down to the player actually being capable to defeat his or her opponent. Plus, this is one of if not the only sport to prohibit such coaching. So, I think that the first code violation was on top of being subjective and difficult to enforce, unfair. However, I do believe that breaking or slamming a racquet is cause for penalty. When it came to Serena’s verbal response of calling umpire Ramos a thief, I do think that it was an overreaction by the umpire. A warning would have sufficed, not a game dock. This response by the umpire was not just unfair to Serena, but also to her opponent Naomi Osaka. No player wishes to win on an unfair technicality. This was a disservice to both women.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Serena’s actions and reactions, one thing is clear —how she addressed the crowd and her opponent, Naomi is laudable. She alone had the capacity to quell her supportive, angry crowd. She redirected their as well as her own frustration towards celebrating Naomi and her major achievement as the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam event. With the whole world watching, Serena used her platform to build her fellow female tennis player up, and not put down the umpire. For that, Serena is a champion to me.
The journey in The Alchemist hits home with every reader because it is the journey of life’s meaning. Santiago, a young shepherd, repeatedly has the same dream of a child telling him to go in search of the Egyptian pyramids and leave his routine life of wandering with his sheep behind. Santiago loves the sense of adventure his life has on a daily basis, however, wishes not to grow old without fulfilling his Personal Legend—his life’s spiritual purpose.
After seeking the advice of both a gypsy and an old man who claims to be a king, he sets off to find the pyramids he has only seen in his dreams. Convinced to sell his sheep, with only two stones to guide him, he sets off on his quest.
The adventure that comes is one of personal growth, situational happenings, and reminds you to listen to your heart. Paulo Coelho, proclaimed Brazilian author, writes beautifully in his most personal novel about the power of following your dreams. In many ways The Alchemist is a metaphor of Coelho’s own life. He always dreamed of being an author but received many rejections before one publisher brought The Alchemist to life in Brazil, and then to the United States, where it received endless support and affirmation.
True to everyone, the book’s lesson is about following your dreams, listening to your heart, and making the decisions to not stay complacent. The shepherd is given two stones, one black and one white, intended to operate as omens and lead him to his Personal Legend. It is the value of making a choice that has the ability to drive us to what we really want, as it is the act of the decision that sets us into motion. Each decision Santiago makes leads to a new adventure. As the reader you see Santiago unfold from a vulnerable young man to a pioneer. With each experience he is confronted with doubt but as he listens to his heart, asks questions, and seeks goodness he ultimately finds what he is looking for.
Ultimately, The Alchemist is a novel about the importance of the journey and how without the journey our meaning, our Personal Legend, will be unknown.
The United States distinctively remembers the 1970s as the era of hippies—when the Beatles were blasted on stereos, anti-Vietnam protests unified many of those in their twenties, and hallucinogens were on the rise. In deep contrast, the late 1970s in Cambodia will forever be remembered by Cambodians as a time of genocide. A time defined by families being uprooted from their homes and being separated while the Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Pol Pot, attempted to turn Cambodia into a socialist agrarian society. It’s mind boggling to consider that these events occurred during the same time. Their group remembers this past based on a series of events that occurred in close proximity to them, and impacted “their people.” This phenomenon is called collective memory, referring to how a group of people remember the past based on similar, large scale experiences or happenings that make history and forever change the landscape of the world. For instance, Germany’s collective memory of World War II has made Germans very culturally sensitive, but also now a progressive nation that has used its dark past to recreate a brighter future.
Each generation has several collective memories that has shaped their lives and also serve as as relatable conversation points. While recently speaking with my step-sister, I learned that one of her professor’s earliest collective memories was when the United States landed on the moon. He was four years old and vividly remembers playing with blocks in his living room as his family gathered around the television to watch as the U.S won the race to space. Generations later the collective memory of my time, as a United States’ citizen, is unequivocally 9/11.
Because collective memories are often marked by milestones, they have the ability to drastically change the course of history or at least record it in a certain light - for better or for worse. Over the past few weeks I have asked many people between the ages of 18-27 what their first collective memory is and nearly everyone, except our editor Jessica Hoefer, has said 9/11. Hoefer’s first collective memory is the case of Cuban Elian Gonzalez. If you don’t remember, try google image searching “Elian Gonzalez.” For those who don’t know, this was the case of the young Cuban fleeing Cuba with his mom and after having made it to Florida with his mother having died en route, Gonzalez was forced to return to his father in Cuba. This was Hoefer’s first memory of guns and they involved the U.S. federal agents pointing them at a boy her age. So, as you can imagine, it made a lasting impression. Nevertheless, as a New Yorker with many family and friends who worked in the FDNY and NYPD, as an American who heard the sirens, saw the smoke and watched the world change right in her backyard, 9/11 without a doubt will always remain Hoefer’s most powerful collective memory.
The craziest element about collective memories, such as 9/11, is that they evoke such extreme emotions and precise memories. Most people can recount exactly what they were doing when they found out or watched what was happening. I remember dropping my spoon into my large bowl of Cinnamon Life before heading to second grade where our whole school was eerily silent. Meanwhile, my sister distinctively remembers my mom screeching and then bursting into tears and later, her pre-school was canceled because of the attack on America.
Furthermore, a memory that has this power and influence over a mass of people drastically changes the trajectory of history. In the case of 9/11, to date the world’s deadliest terrorist attack killing nearly 3,000 people, deepened the divide of the West versus the rest. This landmark event was the beginning of the “War on Terror.” Rightly so, the world, and the United States was scared. Something of this magnitude had never happened before. As the military power, the U.S. immediately took action in defense of the free world being attacked.
This one collective memory changed our world. Division between the spheres (east and west) had long been in place, but this attack significantly deepened the divide. It not only hurt Americans, but it further victimized innocent people - from civilians in the Middle East to civilians in the United States, Australia, England, etc. Those who looked like they were from the east, and were living in the west became the next wave of victims. The rise of Islamophobia did not focus on the distinction between Muslim extremists and the overwhelmingly peaceful majority of Muslims. The terrorists wanted to dismantle the western world, but in turn they also ended up waging war on their own people. Since 9/11, the Middle East, collectively, has been cast as a land of terrorism —a notion that had led to the War on Terror, which includes the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since 2001, the Middle East has been perceived as the land of terrorism and Islamic extremism, but what would be the case if 9/11 never happened? Would extremism have continued to rise, ultimately leading to the creation and height of ISIS in 2014? Would Islamophobia exist? Would people be so scared of people who look different than they do? Moreover, what needs to change for this global trajectory to veer from the “us versus them” stigma?
Can the next generation’s first collective memory be one that brings people, of different walks of life, who practice different religions, together? And if so, what would that look like?
The day was June 26th. It was the afternoon on the last day of school for all New York schools and I was making my way back uptown for an end-of-the-year staff celebration.
As always, at slightly after five p.m., the metro buzzed with out-of-work excitement. I also sensed the collective urgency of the crowded trains of everyone wishing and rushing to get where they needed to be —home and out of the New York summer heat that makes a person melt as soon as he or she steps outside. The train was so crowded that people were unable to board, leaving little to no room for any sort of maneuvering. Slight shifts occur at each station as people make space, or have the opportunity to sit down after a long day’s work.
As I boarded the train, I positioned myself right next to a pole, to lean on for stability as I was carrying two bags. I took out my book and started reading, occasionally glancing up to check that my bags weren’t in anyone’s way and to check the station. At one stop, I stepped closer to the doors that were not opening. The contact of strangers passing was normal.
Mid-chapter, I felt heat pushing against me from behind, so I shifted to balance my weight on my other foot, thinking it was nothing other than another person in close proximity, suffering from the heat. As I shifted, the thread of heat followed me and rubbed against me, up and down along my work pants. It was then that I turned around to stare down the outline of an erect penis in a jumpsuit that was being stroked by a man, I stood eye-level with. Startled by my realization that this man had been getting off quite literally on me, I flipped around and shoved myself away from him, appearing rude to unaware bystanders as I had disrupted the position of several other commuters. He was unruffled by my reaction and through his dark sunglasses gaped in my direction as if to indicate that his game would carry on,uninterrupted.
I stared, unable to speak, as he slyly positioned himself behind another woman, with his hips thrusted forward and his right hand firmly grasping his penis pointing it at his next target. I shooed him away from her, but still was not able to say anything. As the train approached the next station, he positioned himself at the mouth of the door —ready for his next perverted enterprise. I watched as he attempted to follow a high-school girl that had just boarded the train. I finally had it in me to tell the guy to get off at the next station. He did.
Nearing my stop, tears swelled in my eyes. No, it wasn’t rape and no, he did not physically hurt me or them, but he did violate us. He violated us more than every cat-call ever could. He violated our right to merely ride the train and again, stripped women of their voice —their consent. Frotteurism, the act of rubbing genitalia against a stranger, without consent happens at high rates, almost always in crowded places, such as subways, or escalators, so the person has no idea it has occurred, or they believe it was an accident. It’s not - it is illegal.
Disappointed in my ability to call this man out in the moment, I phoned the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). They immediately put me in contact with a detective that is solely in charge of cases of this manner. The seriousness of the the NYPD and the MTA comforted me, yet I am still frustrated.
In the past several years, women have come out in unprecedented numbers to talk about their experiences, and how they too, have a story. I have read stories about the mountain towns that I call home about which girls are scared to go home because of the reminder of high school involving peer-pressured nights that led to hook-ups that they never agreed to. They followed through because of the pressure that they felt as if they owed it to a boy who drove them around or bought them a meal. I have also talked to friends and family whose lives have been altered because of abusive relationships, suicide threats from significant others, and worse - the many women who have been raped.
I’m grateful that these stories are coming out. These stories are part of the solution vis-à-vis the formation of a culture that doesn’t value woman on 10 point scale, but rather as a valuable member of society. However, the greater solution lies in raising better men and not letting our daughters go down on a male because it is easier or he feels that as a male, that he is entitled. It’s time to erase the stereotype that a female is expected to please a man, yet should the female choose pleasure, she is labeled as an outcast, whereas her male counterpart - for the same actions, would be praised. The narrative must change. This requires people to say no, to speak out, and to report any nonconsensual acts. As a fellow woman, we can lift each other up and support one another as opposed to viewing ourselves as competition. Men have the ability to change how they speak to and about women. In turn, they will see much more than a body—but also a person with opinions, capabilities and dreams.
In the end, I think that lasting change most strongly rests with our generation raising the next in a manner that teaches them to acknowledge and to value women as human beings - not as objects or prizes to be won or possessed.
Who can make a difference? Does it take a special breed to take the reins to generate change in a neighborhood, in a country, or even globally? Or can the common man can? Who Cares? is a Portuguese documentary written and directed by Mara Mourão that dives into who can make a social impact.
The film focuses on the concept of social entrepreneurship. Who is a social entrepreneur? What does it take to become one? Coined by the social entrepreneur himself, Bill Drayton defines social entrepreneurship as the action of a pragmatic individual who seeks to change the future with his or her vision by developing programs, businesses, etc., in order to make change, now.
Who Cares? follows people from around the world - from Germany to Peru, from Switzerland to Brazil and even Bangladesh. The documentary’s goal is to illuminate how people, regardless of their nationality, desired to generate change and acted upon it. Each country case began at the grass-roots level, with a response that was community-centered and community-driven and ultimately, effectuated waves of change. The film's two major takeaways being: 1)No matter how large your act is, change has the ability to make the world better 2) The act of becoming a social entrepreneur impacts the world one act at a time.
Who Cares? is an inspirational work that encourages its viewers to consider their passions and to examine how they can even bring about a difference, in their small circles. There is no such thing as too small of an impact. After all, once a person makes waves, the possibilities render a world of change.
Watch the documentary here.
If you are in the New York area, every Thursday, Idealist features documentaries that prompt discussions regarding living with an impact. On July 12th, they will be showing the documentary Tomorrow. Catch the trailer here.
If you are seeking a job that focuses around making a social impact, view the Idealist job board here.
Reykjavik is the start and end point for nearly all of Iceland's tourists due to it being the biggest city in the country, by far. There are roughly 350,000 people who live in Iceland with 200,000 living in Reykjavik. This capital city really does it have it all - it’s the perfect place to gear up for the big outdoors or kick back after you have climbed Iceland’s infamous mountain tops. Here’s our recommendation for a perfect day:
Start your day early walking or running along the waterfront. Here, you will come across the sun voyager sculpture. It is an ode to the sun and dedicated to dreamers. The boat looks out to the ocean as well as the snow covered peaks across the bay.
Once you are ready for breakfast, Reykjavik has countless options to start your morning off right. They are globally known for their rich and creamy yogurt, a local speciality, and nearly every breakfast hotspot will have it on the menu. For a big breakfast, that truly has it all, specializes in “honest food,” and is just oh so yummy head to BERGSSON MATHÚS. If you are looking for a traditional Icelandic meal head to Café Loki. Another great breakfast place to check out is Cafe Baba that serves food all day. From crepes to eggs, soups to sandwiches, this cafe offers a super funky environment with thrift store decorations that have been thoughtfully placed to make the interior something you will never forget. Bonus: the baristas are hilarious.
Your next stop has to be the Hallgrímskirkja - a cathedral and an architectural marvel that can be seen from everywhere in town. The church is free to enter but in order to reach the top of the tower you have to pay a small fee - albeit nearly everything in Iceland is expensive.
For the rest of the morning, spend your time exploring Reykjavik’s colorful streets. There is a plethora of intriguing street art, interesting cafes, tourist shops, and boutiques. The vibe of this capital city is far from most large cities as it truly gives off one of leisure coupled with warm smiles from Icelandic locals.
Once you’re ready to warm or fill up again, Iceland has plenty of options. We recommend one of the famous hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. If this was 2004, you might’ve seen Bill Clinton there! Yes, these dogs are famous amongst the famous. Not in the mood for a hot dog? Other great lunch joints include Icelandic Street Food and Messinn for some delicious seafood.
After lunch, it is time for a soak in Iceland’s famous geothermal pools. You can head to the world renown (though not locally recommended) Blue Lagoon. You will receive a full treatment and leave feeling like a queen or king, but for a more local (and much cheaper) option head to one of Reykjavik’s local spas such as Laugardalslaug thermal pool or
Vesturbaejarlaug thermal pool-- more can be found here. Also, if you are staying outside of the city in an AirBnb simply ask your host and we can guarantee that they will tell you about their local hot spot that is probably an even cheaper option!
The geothermal pools have a crazy way of making way for the best night’s sleep, but before that - head to dinner at one of these restaurants: The Fish Market, Apotek Restaurant, or Frederick’s Ale House.
End your night under the stars and if you’re lucky, the aurora borealis. The best place to catch these celestial wonders are out in the countryside - away from the city lights. Such rare opportunities are humbling and profound and ones we cannot recommend enough.
We promise a day of ease and a day of joy in Reykjavik, the heart of all of Iceland’s adventures. For a full, personal itinerary (based on your travel desires and style) for all of Iceland please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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