31 March 2010

Unemployment Part Four: Settling

This Girl Owns The Club

I think this is a really important issue when you’re job hunting. How much should I like the job to take it, or when am I just getting too picky? Am I fortunate enough to even be offered a job, so should therefore be grateful and just do it, or should I wait it out for something that fits? That is, something I want to do?

Fortunately there aren’t any offers on the table at the minute, so I don’t have to worry about this pesky problem, but in looking at endless job postings and deciding where to send my resume I can’t help but wonder, would I want to bludgeon my eyes out with a spoon instead of doing this all day five days a week? Would I hate my life every night before bed knowing I have to spend the entire next day doing this job? In the mornings, would I contemplate just disappearing instead of showing up to work?

I’m certain there has to be a line somewhere, but I have no doubt that every person on the job hunt has - at one point - said to themselves, “I mean, I guess I COULD do this. I mean, at least it would be income. I mean, I don’t HATE the job description.” It just seems like a really messed up way to organize society, though it seems equally impossible to create a world where everyone “loves” what they do. Why? Because we can’t all be movie stars and professional athletes and royalty and insurance adjusters. Oops. Scratch the last one.

If we were all blissfully happy, then we’d have no insecurities driving us to obsess over the beautiful few grazing the cover of magazines telling us why they’re so happy or how their life is “just so hard, what with all the fame and money and everything,” driving us to shop so we can be more like them. It just starts to feel like this enormous, “pending doom” scenario where no one is really all that content with life. Needless to say, I’m going to be slightly picky and go ahead and say no to jobs that described as “hard slog work.” I’m thinking that’s okay.


Kyle Taylor

30 March 2010

Unemployment Part Three: Rejection

Nothin' Wrong With A Little Love

Today, in a matter of about two hours, I had an interview that really wasn’t a very good fit followed by two rejection emails that read as follows:

1. Thanks for sending your details through. I’ve just reviewed applications from other candidates and it looks like there are currently three candidates with strong social media experience that the team will be interviewing over the next few weeks.  We will not be considering you further.

2. With reference to your application for the position I wish to advise that on this occasion you have not progressed to the short list stage. The field of applicants for this position was particularly strong and other candidates more closely matched our requirements.

Not too mean, though not too nice either. With more than a dozen applications out at the moment, some are bound to come back a “no,” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still no fun to be rejected. In a relationship, at least you have a few dates to give context to the whole thing. Maybe there were some lulls in the conversation, maybe you didn’t have “chemistry,” maybe you liked someone else more.

With jobs, however, there’s no context at all. You send off your hopes and dreams for a countless number of positions and all the control is in their hands. They cut you off before even a first date (in the form of an interview) and you’re left - like after most relationships - wondering where it went wrong. “Was it the font? I can change the font. Was there something you were looking for specifically? I may have done it! Please, just let me speak to one in person. Why don’t you love me?”

The biggest strike is when you’re just certain your profile is perfect. Take number one above. My social media skills weren’t strong enough? How is that possible, and who are these people who were short-listed? But you can’t ask those questions because you don’t have the power. You’ve just got to take it, accept it, and move on, which gets a bit difficult after the third or fourth missed connection (though do you really want to take just anything? More on that next time).

I think the energy level towards this topic ebbs and flows. One minute you’re positive, the next you’re down. A friend today said I need to just cool my jets and wait for my second wind. Then my third wind. And the fourth. And fifth. And sixth. I’m feeling a second wind coming on, so watch out Sydney job market. There are going to be a lot of very romantic dates coming your way.




Kyle Taylor

29 March 2010

Unemployment Part Two: Purposeless

Da Seal

The hunt continues and the longer it goes on, the more lost I feel. While I was in California it was okay, because I wasn’t actively looking for work. Three months of hanging out was fine when hanging out was the objective.

Now finding a job is the objective. Without a specific place to put my focus or a foundation on which to build a day, week, life, etc., all sense of routine and order slips away. There is nothing less “normal” than the state of being unemployed and actively seeking work.

I have a post-it note stuck to my laptop reminding me to brush my teeth because otherwise I forget. With no reason to walk out the door in the morning, there is also no reason to get right up and shower, eat, brush my teeth, and engage with the outside world. Why do that when I can sit in my “house pants” and cruise job posting sites? I’m even bored of watching reruns of old shows. WHAT IS THAT?

There is this profound feeling that you have no purpose when you’re unemployed but want to be employed. After all, it’s what “all the kids are doing” and you’re not in the club. It doesn’t feel “freeing” or “relaxing” after the second week. It just feels annoying and defeating, but more on rejection in the next installment.

Having to deal with what feels like a monolithic system of people and companies that effectively determine your fate really inspires this backlash sensation of “screw the system, I’m going to do my own thing.” It makes me genuinely believe the “line” George Clooney delivers to the people he fires in Up In The Air. “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it's *because* they sat there that they were able to do it.”

The funny thing is, this time I WANT to be part of the giant machine that churns and churns. My objective for the year was to experience the big, fixed private sector for all that I seem to think it is.

Until then, I’ll just keep checking that post-it note so my breath doesn’t stink.


Kyle Taylor

24 March 2010

Unemployment Part One

I must confess that I am no expert at what it feels like to be unemployed long-term. It has been two weeks of “real” unemployment but thanks to a good friend I’m currently living rent-free and by no means destitute. That said, if I’m feeling “like this” then I can’t begin to imagine what people facing long-term unemployment must feel like.

I’ve applied for nine jobs this week and only heard back from one - a rejection. The other eight are still “considering,” I guess. Still, you can’t spend all day scouring the net for jobs. There simply aren’t that many to look for. So then, what do you do with your time?

I think the clearest sign of being unemployed is a far more regular presence on Facebook. I’m linking articles, I’m commenting, I’m just browsing around...basically, I’m using the veil of “keeping in touch” to spend an exorbitant amount of time on Facebook. You are welcome for all the amazing articles and photos. Also, I just had an enormously long political debate over health care with a Republican I don’t know on a mutual friend’s wall. Yes, that happened.

Then there’s maintaining the house. Yes, this can in fact take hours on end. Dishes, laundry, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and so on. Often times I wonder how people actually have time for regular work.

Finally, there’s Absolutely Fabulous. A British sitcom, I’ve now watched all five six-episode seasons and I’ve been in Australia for less than three weeks. I don’t know how it happens, but there’s an episode during breakfast and another whilst I’m cooking dinner. Maybe one just before bed. Before you know it, you’ve watched the whole season. “Cheers, thanks a lot.”

While it was “fun” the first two weeks, now I’m just getting a bit bored and wondering how people sustain this feeling for months on end. More on this topic until I get a job, because it’s pretty darn interesting.


Kyle Taylor

Floral Foam Mattresses & Other Life Lessons

Do The Alf!

Last week Josh and I borrowed a foam mattress from his brother who lives across the street. Post-guests, we headed out to return it just after work hours on a Wednesday (something I’m not actually bound by at the minute). I put on a low-key combo of track pants and a “World Aids Day” shirt, which I coupled with aviator glasses and a messenger bag.

Half-way there Josh realized he had forgotten the keys. Rather than drag the mattress all the way back up the elevator and so on, I decided to stay with it while he ran back. Feeling slightly awkward standing in the middle of the sidewalk on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Sydney, I backed myself up to the nearest building and perched the mattress behind me.

Stood just to the left of the entrance to a bar, I began to get the expected odd look from passersby. After all, who’s standing on the sidewalk at 6pm carrying around a giant foam mattress covered in a floral print? I popped in my earphones and started fiddling with my phone to look “busy,” looking down to avoid eye contact.

Not liking the current tune blasting through my headphones, I eased my right hand into my bag and pulled my iPod out of my bag and started looking through my playlist. Meanwhile, my phone was resting calmly in my left hand. A few seconds later I see someone’s hand approaching mine with something shiny in it. I looked up just in time to watch a woman of about sixty placing a dime next to my cellphone in my left hand.

I quickly pulled the earbud out of my right ear and began to say to her, “oh, thank you ma’am but I am not....” but before I could finish she closed my fingers around the ten cent piece, pulled her hand to her mouth, formed the international symbol for ‘shhhh, be quiet,’ and said to me, “it’s alright honey, you just take this and get the help you need.”

Now, first of all, did I really look homeless and in need? Second of all, wouldn’t the cell phone in one hand and iPod in the other hand suggest that I am in fact not in need? Third of all, what homeless person is going to “get the help they need” with ten cents? Not wanting to go on and on, I mouthed the words “thank you” and she continued on, offering me one final smile.

Josh returned and I showed him my bounty to which he replied, “yeah, you do kind-of look homeless, what with the movable bed and all.” We finished our errands and returned home, where I placed the dime on my nightstand as a constant reminder of some life lesson, though I’m still trying to figure it out...


Kyle Taylor

23 March 2010

It’s A Small World After All

We all know the annoying Disney ride and none of us can escape the constant onslaught of “gosh darn it, the world is so darn small” (with some even claiming it is flat - Well done Friedman. Well done). I figured that since I was moving to Sydney, Oz, which feels like it’s on the other side of the Universe, the only visitors I’d see would be from highly pre-planned trips, deadly spiders and deadly sharks. Turns out I was wrong. It has been just two weeks and already the connections are soaring in (literally, in some case).

First there’s the roomie extraordinaire Josh, who looks ridiculous in this picture. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about him seeing it because he never reads my blog (a now ongoing joke).

Then there’s Bernadette, who I worked with in European Parliament and now lives and works in Canberra, just a few hours drive from Sydney. We rocked out to “I Am The One & Only” at the conservative party’s Christmas Do way back in 2004. Those animals!

Next comes Paul, a friend of one of my dearest University friends, Laura (pictured, also looking ridiculous). We’re grabbing a drink tomorrow night. Not only does he work in Sydney, he literally lives NEXT DOOR (no planning).

Fourth on the list is Benedikt. German, he recently moved here to finish up his medical degree. The connection? WE SAILED DOWN THE YANGTZE RIVER IN CHINA TOGETHER NEARLY THREE YEARS AGO. Thank you email updates and Facebook for making this one happen. If I remember correctly, we were 2 of only 8 foreigners on a Chinese cruise ship of 500 people. Oh memories!

Finally, there’s Andy. He soared in last Friday for 9 days on a work assignment and we hit the town all weekend. The connection? WE ROAD THE TRANSIBERIAN RAILWAY THROUGH CHINA, MONGOLIA, AND RUSSIA TOGETHER LAST YEAR. Thank you email updates and Facebook for making this one happen as well. If I remember correctly, we were 2 of only 8 foreigners on a Sino-Russo train of 500 people. Oh memories!

What’s the moral of the story? It seems that no matter how far away you get, you’re still just around the corner from several people you’ve known and met all over the world. And when they’re not right there, just just a wall post, link-share, message, or poke away!


Kyle Taylor

22 March 2010

Sandstorm On My Face

My allergies have been off the charts this past week. First I tried Sudafed, but not the ephedrine one. Just the sad, pathetic attempt at decongesting. Needless to say, it was unsuccessful.

Then I moved on to Zyrtec non-drowsy, which made me insanely drowsy. Imagine that! So my initial congested sadness further evolved into a windy, windy, confused, slow motion, “beer-goggle” haze where everything was a little bit blurry and I couldn’t really see or hear anything. Oh, and I wanted to fall asleep all the time.

Then this morning I was reading an article about the giant sand storm in Beijing and realized that’s exactly what my head feels like. So basically, there’s a sand storm attacking my cranium. Currently searching for a better medication but in the meantime, this sums it up:


Kyle Taylor


Photos From:



18 March 2010

Do You Have A Fax Machine?

Health Insurance is a constant worry. Yes, I’m young and fit but what if something horrific happens and - because I don’t have coverage - I end up a million dollars in debt? To anyone from a place that has Universal Health Care, this probably sounds ridiculous. To an American, this is daily worry number 297.

One of the joys of living abroad is being a part of a functioning, quality, universal system. In the UK I hopped right on NHS and, in my four interactions with them, thought it was an excellent system, especially compared to my experiences in the USA (flashback to being told my hospitalization with Dengue fever wouldn’t be covered because I did not get pre-authorization, that I could only have surgery on one shoulder because having two working arms wasn’t “essential to life,” and paying nearly $44,000 for said surgery which took 45 minutes). But no, everything is totally fine. No need for reform!

Now I’m here in Australia and sadly, with my VISA status, I don’t qualify for public health care. But have no fear! There are at least a dozen private plans for foreigners and my goodness, the coverage is phenomenal!

Lets start with pre-existing conditions. They don’t exist. Check. How about deductibles? None. Copays? Not on your life. And the final monthly bill? Well, for $83 a month I can have full in-hospital care with no deductible and Medicare matching for all out-patient care. For $166 a month I get all of the above plus guaranteed full reimbursement on all outpatient care including physiotherapy, psychology, prescription drugs AND elective surgery (because I’ve always wanted to get something nipped and tucked). As a reference point, that’s what I paid in the good old US of A with a $5000 deductible, $40 doctor co-pay and limited prescription drug benefits. Somehow they’re able to do that here in Oz with just 20 million people and we’re unable to do it with 330 million, which should absolutely boost economies of scale.


The only catch? You need a fax machine to register. Because the online application is not mac compatible, I had to print it our and fill it out. Looking for a postal address, I rang up and inquired as to how I was supposed to turn my form in. “Oh, just fax it to us.” WHAT? Is this 1997? Who (besides my Dad, pictured above) still has a fax machine and how on earth can you be this progressive with coverage and yet still accept applications by fax only?

Looks like I’ll be headed to the local post office to pay $1 a page so that I can have my health care benefits package “faxed over” to the provider on roll-like carbon paper that resembles a super market receipt.

Oh Oz!


Kyle Taylor

17 March 2010

GaGa - Oh La La!

GaGa Concert Sydney Oz - 15

I knew it was coming and the anticipation was killing me. A good friend from LSE had give Josh and I tickets to the Lady Gaga concert in Sydney as a housewarming/Australia-warming/Amazing friend present nearly a month ago and immediately, the countdown began.

GaGa Concert Sydney Oz - 02

Then her newest music video - for Telephone - was released and anticipation turned into near anxiety over the event not coming soon enough. After some bad reviews following the Auckland show (in truth, it was pretty bad - she ended up laying on the ground the last five minutes of the concert) everything was up in the air. Could she conceivably manage to make it through an entire Australia tour? Was the energy there? The voice? The attitude? Mind you, these are all things that do not matter in real life but seem of the utmost importance once you’re sucked in to “Gaga.”

GaGa Concert Sydney Oz - 04

The show was mesmerizing. Her voice was fantastic live, the dancing was phenomenal, the “story” that the show told was entertaining, the costumes were otherworldy, and the jam session on the piano mid-way through was inspired. It was, simply put, a brilliant spectacle worth every penny. I was thoroughly entertained the entire two hours, and you could sense that she really wanted to entertain the audience. Gaga kept asking, “are you having fun? All I want is for you to have fun!”

GaGa Concert Sydney Oz - 22

She preformed nearly every song on both albums that have been released! Quite frankly, the “shock” of the evening was how many people didn’t know any of the non-radio singles. For example, “teeth” came on and I erupted with joy. It’s my favorite Gaga jam and I just assumed that most people who would pay $100 to go to a concert would have a fairly deep knowledge of Gaga music. After all, there are only TWENTY songs to know...

GaGa Concert Sydney Oz - 12

I’d say maybe only 10% of the people there actually KNEW Gaga’s music - a rather low percentage considering how HUGE she is at the minute. The girl to my left kept saying, “come on, why won’t she just play the songs I want to hear?” Um, because there are 15,000 people here crazy.

In the end, it just meant everyone else had the opportunity to watch me rock out solo most of the night. Problem? I think not.


Kyle Taylor

16 March 2010

Home Within A Home

Sydney - 014

For whatever reason (though I think there are actually lots and lots of good reasons) China has always felt a whole lot like “home.” Whether it’s the point in my life that I lived there, the people I met there, or possibly the culture and language, I just love Chinese people. Imagine my explosion of joy when I discovered that there is a massive Chinese population in Sydney!

Sydney - 017

It all started by mistake. Josh had asked me to drop off some dry cleaning and mentioned there was a place “just below the building.” But I didn’t want to go to that dry cleaners. In one of my many mid-day wanders I had passed another dry cleaners that - for whatever reason - spoke to me: “Come drop off your suits and dress shirts. Just do it!” As I entered with the shirt, jacket and pants my eyes were met with the glance of an adorable Chinese woman chatting with her husband in Chinese about how they needed to “get the spin cycle faster because the washers in Australia just don’t spin enough” (read: your close don’t get destroyed and that’s apparently a problem).

Sydney - 013

I started in English for fear of seeming like a major d-bag who “goes native” then comes across seriously lame. After she was finished writing the receipt she told me the price - “20 dollars” - and I repeated it back to her in Chinese - “Ar shi.” Her eyes lit up and she said, in Chinese, “you speak Chinese?” Well this led into a whirlwind conversation about where I had learned Chinese, where she was from, why I was here, why she was here, etc. and included all those ingrained social norms and I had some to appreciate in China. She told me where she was from and I told her it was beautiful there. She told me my Chinese was “very good” and I told her “oh stop, no it’s not.” It was divine and now every time I walk by, I holler a quick “Ni hao” and she waves and replies.

Combine her with the AMAZING Chinatown compromised of a real-life Chinese-style market (home of the cheapest produce in Australia), charming gates, and a delicious selection of Chinese restaurants to nosh on and you’ve got happiness inside happiness. So then, if I’m ever craving a little China it’s a quick 10-minute walk down the road. Divine.


Kyle Taylor

$29 Gets You $700 In Credit & Other Things That Make No Sense

Middle East By Matt - 023

When I moved to London settling in could not have been more complicated. It took me over a month to open a bank account because of files, stamps, paperwork, and bureaucracy. Attempting to get a cell phone plan was a nightmare because it was impossible without a bank account. But then I needed a bank account to join the gym and a cell phone number at which they could reach me. Basically, I needed everything to get everything else but couldn’t get anything because I had nothing. It was more difficult than moving to China.

Then came Oz, where things couldn’t be more simple. You want a bank account? Sure! Give me your passport and $5 and we’re in business! No fees, no issues, just 10 minutes with the delightful Elaine who has become one of my “favorite things” about Oz.

Gym membership? No problem! Metro card? Here you go! Frequent shopper card for the grocery store? Done! As Jerry Seinfeld says, “it seems like all you need is a face.” Then came the cell phone. To be fair, it wasn’t hard to get, just next to impossible to understand.

I walked in certain I’d just buy the thing, pop in the phone and start chatting. Absolutely not. My first decision was between the “flexi caps” plan, the “txt & talk recharge” plan, and the “365 day recharge plan.” The salesman said to me, “you see, the flexi’s credits expire in 30 days, the txt and talk credits expire in 60 days, and the 365 day credits expire in 365 days.” I replied with a gutteral “ahhh,” as if I totally understood the dilemma. I settled on the flexi caps plan with a “boost up option extra” of free texts not because I understood what I was buying but because it sounded really cool.

“Now, within the flexi cap plan there are different options,” he went on. I attempted to not look a little bit frightened by all this choice. “There’s the $29, $49, $79 and $149 flexi cap. Each of those comes with different values. For example, with the $29 flexi cap you get $150 of flexi credit, $150 of voda to voda credit, Standard video calls, Standard and international text, Standard and international PXT, Standard and international Video PXT, voicemail, international calls, international video calls, international roaming with Vodafone Traveller, 1223-Directory Assistance, 123-Ask Us Anything, ‘13’, ‘15’ and ‘18’ numbers, Internet On Your Mobile...” I was totally lost. The only question I could come up with was “so wait, for $29 I get $300 of credit?”

“Yes, exactly,” he replied. “Then why is it only $29 if I get $300 in credit?” He sighed, took a deep breath and started again. “Because it’s 82 cents a minute to talk and 28 cents per text and 35 cents per data kilobyte transfer unit...(this is where I stopped listening)...so $29 wouldn’t get you that far.” Now, me being crazy old me using logic and other tools like common sense asked, “well why don’t you just make the minutes and text and data and stuff cheaper so that when you buy $29 you actually get $29 to spend?”

This clearly made absolutely no sense to this slightly indoctrinated staff member. “Because,” he started, “because it seems way cooler to have $300 of credit than just $29 of credit and it’s like voda money,” he sort-of finished. So apparently having a cell phone is like playing monopoly or farmville, where you get the “special insider money” that’s valued higher but worth much less. My closing argument seemed like the best possible finisher: “But it’s also way cooler to pay 8 cents a minute to talk rather than 82 cents a minute.” At this point he was exhausted and I was just dumbfounded. Why on earth would you structure something that way? Why can’t you just pay $29 and get $29 of credit then when that runs out go and buy more credit? Why do I need booster packs and “voda money” and flexi credit and voda to voda credit and expiration deadlines? Why can’t I just get a cell phone?

I paid him in cash, popped in the sim card and texted Josh to tell him all about it, only to see “sending failed to this recipient. Please check service provider.” What option did I forget to buy or enable? I may never know...


Kyle Taylor

15 March 2010

I Come TO The Land Down Under...

 It Begins - 10

After 14 hours of near bliss (my flight was fairly empty, I slept 8 hours over three seats, and the movie selections were phenomenal) our decent began into Sydney Airport. The sun was just cusping over the horizon, welcoming a new day for Sydneysiders and a new continent for this American.

Having traveled so much the past several years, I was worried that I may not feel the same level of excitement and anticipation that usually goes along with a big flight to a “far away land.” I’d just spent a few months at home with family and friends and nearly felt settled there, Packing didn’t bring the “pump-up the jam” it usually does, the goodbye’s almost felt like “see you in a week’s,” and so on. I feared that traveling may have lost it’s “luster.” Was it time for me to settle down?

Sydney Fun - 24

Absolutely not. As we banked left over the city and along the coast, I caught my first glimpse of the Opera House and all those butterflies came back to life, only this time they were flying in formation. Having been notoriously bad with big transitions (shocking, I know), it was relief to feel both excitement and ease with the start of this new adventure.

A good friend (and now roommate) welcomed me at the fierce border (they have a weekly TV show based entirely on people trying to bring goods and - often themselves - into Australia illegally), we lugged my bags through the sliding glass doors only to be met by the hot humidity of a tropical summer. It was heavenly.

Sydney Fun - 05

The ride to the apartment found me in top “inquisitive” shape. “What’s that? Why is it there? When did they build this? Where is downtown from where we are now? Are you there yet? Do you have any candy?” I felt like a kid in a candy store. Fortunately, my friend had the patience necessary to feed my need for information.

 It Begins - 12

After a quick shower we hit the city, making a stop at every landmark you’ve seen on every postcard ever sent from this giant island way far away. What stood out most (other than, you know, the Opera House) was the undeniably unique character of the city that had me thinking of Hong Kong, Cape Town, London and Los Angeles all at once. That and the fact that they spell “curb” as “kerb,” which is just silly.

What this year will bring I do not yet know, but one thing is certain: those butterflies continue to fly, and nothing else really matters.


Kyle Taylor

11 March 2010


Hong Kong - 001

It all began August 28th. After almost exactly four months I landed in Los Angeles, California to spend a few months “chilling out” with family and friends. Coming back to Southern California - my birthplace - never ceases to raise an army of questions like “where, exactly, is home?” Is it Anaheim, California where I was born and lived until I was 18? Is it Washington, DC, where I finished my undergraduate degree and lived for nearly 6 years? Is it Shanghai, China where I really became a grown-up? Is it London, where I completed my Master’s degree and grew oddly attached to the city itself? Do I have lots and lots of “homes” or do I really have none?

Middle East By Matt - 125

What I do know is that traveling - constantly moving from place to place exploring, experiencing and being exposed to new sites and sounds - is what feels natural and right. It’s what invigorates me, excites me and leaves me begging for more. Is it unnatural? Most would probably say yes. But in terms of history and how people lived for the thousands and thousands of year prior to 1800, nomadic lifestyles used to reign supreme. You follow the food, the work and the weather: three things I, too, love to follow. Are there some things that I miss out on because I’m constantly on the go? Of course, but the same holds true for those who don’t keep moving. Different foods, different cultures and different ways of seeing the world. At first, everywhere seems different, unique and original. The further you go, however, the more everywhere begins to feel oddly similar. At the end of the day it’s just people doing what they can to put food on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head with a little left over to have some fun. The only difference for me is, the food skips the table, the clothes all fit into one backpack, the roof moves and the fun is multi-continental.

I miss moving!


Kyle Taylor

09 March 2010

Clamp THIS On

Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull Glacier - 68

This will come as no surprise. I don’t really care for (read: despise) organized tours. They’re cumbersome, expensive and controlling - three traits I do not value unless they’re being attributed to me. Needless to say, I was not thrilled to learn that the only way we could go glacier trekking was with a guide equipped with professional grade clamp-ons, ice picks and a Land Rover Defender that can driver vertically up the side of a cliff. “What’s wrong with my sneakers and rented Nissan Versa, huh?”

We booked in and hit the road in the wee hours of the morning (it was 10am but it felt like the wee hours because it was still pitch black) to meet our Defender-driving Icelandic outback version of John Wayne. After fording a few raging streams (the Nissan could have handled that) we arrived at our destination: an enormous block of ice that has been permanently frozen between two ridges for more than 500 years. No big deal.

Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull Glacier - 41

Sadly, our Icelandic moutain men had forgotten our rental hiking boots, which left me strapping military-grade clamp-ons to my multi-colored Aasics Tiger sneakers. Bad idea. An hour into the half-day escapade I was walking flat-footed doing all I could to not bend my ankle as the clamp-ons ground deep into my achilles tendon at the back of both feet.

Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull Glacier - 25

The trek wound up the side of the glacier where the oldest ice now rested. Because it’s ice, as the new layers form in the winter, the older stuff slowly moves downhill, meaning the most ancient layers are furthest from the center. The darker the ice looks, the more compact it is. In fact, that dark blue color comes not from a different or superbly clean source of water, but from being so tightly compacted that no light can be captured, reflected or filtered through it.

Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull Glacier - 18

If you’re looking to get a visual on climate change, this is the place to do it. The glacier we were hiking across is roughly one mile wide, five miles long and half a mile deep (TWSS). Twelve years ago, however, it was nearly double the size. While research has been done on whether such changes in mass are cyclical, it was determined - without question - that this latest thaw does not match - in any way, shape or form - the traditional freezing and melting patterns of this glacier. In fact, the glacier has lost the same amount of mass in the mast twelve years that it lost in the previous 500 years before that. But yeah, this whole climate change thing is totally made up.

After leaping back down onto earth with tired legs and gashed feet, we re-boarded the earth-galloping Defender and headed back to the “big city” of Reykjavik, a whole lot of earth to think about and a whole lot of nighttime during which to do that thinking.


Kyle Taylor

04 March 2010

The Blue Lagoon

Iceland - Blue Lagoon - 7

I had been reading about this place for years. An enormous collection of geo-thermal pools filled with natural mineral water that’s loaded with salts and minerals that retain all sort sorts of natural healing powers. One of National Geographic’s TOP FIVE places to go before you die. A health spa, medical treatment center and hot tub all rolled into one that includes the largest bath robe you’ve ever seen as part of your admission. Can you think of anything better?

The hype was not too great. In fact, nothing could have over-shot the brilliance of this seemingly fabled place. The approach road runs alongside the apparent run-off stream, meaning the first sign that you’ve arrived is a visual of neon blue water swirling up, down and around bright green moss-covered craggy volcanic rock. The parking lot is separated from the facility by a long access path that runs between two mini volcanic “mountain ranges.” At the end is the “wild” portion of the hot springs. Un-contained, their natural color makes you question everything you believed to be “naturally occurring” in this world of ours.

Iceland - Blue Lagoon - 1

Through the doors you “pay and display” an electronic wristband that handles everything from lockers to snacks. It couldn’t be more high-tech. After finding your locker and swapping winter layers for trendy swim trunks, you descend the stairs into the Indoor access tank. Set at a perfect 101 degrees, the water is both invigorating and relaxing all at the same time. Swinging the in-pool door open puts you feet first into exfoliating lava rocks that line the bottom of the expansive outdoor pools that literally stretch as far as the eye can see.

After visits to the steam room and sauna we glare at the folks getting in-water body massages and make our way to the included face mask distribution center to cover ourselves in the actual mineral salts that aim to heal everything from psoriasis to depression. This carries on for a good three hours with the gentle droplets of cold rain water balancing the intense heat of the soothing geothermally heated pool.

We exit the soothing pool of happiness and wonderment revitalized and rejuvenated, take a forever-long hot shower, return our robes, stop in the shop for some much-needed kitsch and hit the road back to Reykjavik. Oh. What. A. Day.


Kyle Taylor

02 March 2010

Eternal Darkness In Icelandic Perfection

Iceland - Reykjavik - 02

We touchdown at 5pm and it’s pitch black outside. The uber-modern airport terminal feels more like a chic hotel or art gallery than somewhere you’d board a plane, though I’m probably just overly used to the 1970’s “flair” of most US airports. We grab our bags, sign the car rental paperwork and leave Mom with our luggage while Dad and I make our way to the vehicle itself. While seems calm from the inside, the large glass door slides open to reveal monsoon-like wind and rain that makes me feel like I’m on a sea troller in the North Atlantic. The only thing missing is a giant wave to sink my ship. Welcome to Iceland.

After checking in to the charming Hotel Leiffur Erickson located a stone’s throw from the country’s main Lutheran Cathedral (which was designed to resemble an erupting volcano) we hit the streets in search of food. It’s only 7pm but it “feels” like it’s about three in the morning. The streets are empty, stores are closed and there is an odd absence of people. Restaurants, however, are busting at the seams. After eating at several it’s easy to understand why. The food is out of this world.

Iceland - Reykjavik Two - 2

We go to bed early, though it feels terribly late once again because it’s pitch black outside. We wake up at 9am and it is still pitch black outside. It isn’t until 11:45am that a bit of light begins to creep up over the horizon. By 4pm it is completely dark yet again. It’s difficult to describe this sensation of near constant darkness. It is as if nature is playing a trick on your mind. You “know” it’s mid-afternoon but because it’s pitch black you begin question reality. “Know, this watch has to be wrong,” you tell yourself. “It’s too dark to be 1pm.” The entire experience - which only lasted four days - was an amazing lesson in how weather - and more specifically light - effects our lives. My Dad was near breakdown by day three, still wildly overwhelmed by it all. “Man, I can’t believe it’s 11 in the morning. It just doesn’t feel right! Goodness, this is strange.”

Of course on the flip side is 24-hour daylight in June and July - a period of nearly six weeks when the sun never sets and instead whizzes along the horizon in a complete 360 every 24 hours. While that is no doubt the “time” to see Iceland, the lack of daylight was still unable to spoil the shear beauty of this somewhat mystical land. From gushing waterfalls to erupting geysers, mysterious geothermal hot springs to massive indoor greenhouses, otherworldly glaciers to picturesque countryside, Iceland is perfect. Perfect sites, perfect food, perfect hotel, perfect people. If you look up “perfect” in the Kyle Dictionary you’d see a map of Iceland and a caption that reads “visit in person.” Having been to 68 countries in this wonderful world of ours, I can safely safe that Iceland has reserved itself a place in the top three. Yes, it’s that good.


Kyle Taylor