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Arctic Circle 2022 Assembly - Reykjavik My Love

Harpa Hall

As most of you may know, and as most of you may also have been to, the Arctic Circle 2022 Assembly just happened. "Happened" is as of yet the only way I can describe the whirlwind of an event that was. Mind you: I am a pandemic graduate, like a pandemic puppy or baby but academia-style. This was the very first time that I went to an in-person conference - especially so of that size!

I am still wrapping my head around everything that happened. I learnt so much and met so many new people. More importantly, I met people in person who I have only know virtually. There is something very special in being able to hug a person you consider a mentor, a friend. Hearing a person through the intermediate of a computer will ever only pale in comparison to being able to hear a person's laugh in person. There, I met people I look up to, people who I cite as great sources of inspiration as both a scholar and a person. For that, I am forever grateful.

The Assembly wasn't all there was to it though. First of all, it was my wife's and mine first international trip together. First time on a plane! More on that later. I also confronted my fear of horses and went on a soft and calm riding trip.

Loki was (and still is I hope) indeed a very soft and gentle soul.

I missed the European vibe of city living, where streets and buildings are made for people and not cars, where I can walk from one place to another without the sidewalk suddenly disappearing, where I can easily and reliable use public transports. In short, I missed Northern Europe. While it is undoubtedly less "northern" than Iceland, aspects of Reykjavik reminded me of the Netherlands. It is perhaps the people and their rather matter-of-fact way of interacting or perhaps the bricks here and there or perhaps the rain. After some thought, the rain might have been it.

So. The flight. My wife and I flew with Icelandic Air. Don't get me wrong, this has very little to do with them individually as a company but more so about how I have become sorely unaccustomed to changing my routine and compromising my comfort. After reading Kate Mane's thought provoking - literally - blog post On Comfort, travelling truly is uncomfortable. I, too, "became much more intolerant of discomfort during the pandemic." I am a fatter woman learning to undo decades of fatphobia and trauma from seeing my mother eat child-like portions and being shamed for my measurements by nearly all children clothing stores. I remember being 13 or 14 looking for new shoes. Shoes. How could shoes not fit if they are of right size, you may ask? Boy do I have news for you. They didn't fit over my calves. I was living in the Netherlands, the country of biking and basketball-size calves. And yet there we were, the boots did not fit over my calves. My mom did not understand what was happening and why I just wanted to go home after realising that my child-calves did not fit the adult boots.

Back to the flight and the discomfort of it. Numerous studies have been made on airplane seat sizes shrinking and shrinking and shrinking only to leave perhaps children the sole ones to fit comfortably on these chairs. The rest of us will either have to endure high risks of head-bumpings on the luggage compartiments, knees pressing against the seat in front, our sides digging into the armrests, or never put a foot on an airplane ever again. While flying is a non-negligible source of greenhouse gases and more sustainable alternatives to flying should absolutely be developed and accessible to all, making airplane seats uncomfortable to everyone but the business class doesn't seem to me as a particularly fair answer to the climate crisis. But what do I know. This all seems, yet again, a levelling down of comfort now exclusively reserved for the elite - and I will be damned before I spend my entire yearly income on a plane ticket so to avoid my stomach sides permanently imprinting the shape of the armrests.

All of this to say, flying has been an adventure that I had forgotten. But for you Reykjavik (and your kleina), I would it all over again.

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