In November I braved the winter cold to spend a full week and then some in Iceland. It was completely worth it. One of the comforts of going with G Adventures is the warm and friendly people I met throughout my tour. A highlight of my trip was going to Solheimar Ecovillage, a Planeterra Foundation partner project. Talk about warming your heart.
When we arrived, we were asked to remove our shoes before stepping into the main hall. Personally, I really love that they had us do that. We met two of the Solheimar staff who gave us an introduction to the ecovillage and then showed us a video about the history and mission of Solheimar. This inspiring, self-sustaining community is a place for disabled and non-disabled people to support each other and live together in harmony and mutual benefit. It sounds like a very simple concept, but in 1930 when a woman named Sesselja founded this village, people did not believe that the mentally disabled should live among the non-disabled. Society has come a long way from thinking that mental disorders are contagious.
Sesselja had a vision to provide a home for children orphaned by the Spanish flu that had raged through Iceland. Later she brought mentally disabled children to live in her home. She had radical thoughts like growing her own organic vegetables and eating things other than lamb. This was a wild idea at that time. In the present day about 100 people, disabled and not, live together at Solheimar. There are workshops for the residents to engage in, and perhaps learn a trade. The ecovillage does not receive financial support from the state. They rely on their own sustainable living, grant-based funding, and partnerships such as with Planeterra Foundation. The ecovillage takes advantage of the geothermal resources available to them, which keeps energy costs low here.
Some of the opportunities available to residents include candle making, forestry, ceramics, greenhouse gardening, running a guesthouse, bakery and a café. Their original hilltop café was quickly becoming inaccessible to residents as they grew older, so they recently built a new café. It was around this time that Planeterra reached out to inquire about a partnership with Solheimar. The ecovillage’s beautiful new café is furnished with tables and chairs provided by Planeterra Foundation. The people here are so grateful for the helping hand from Planeterra. And they are so appreciative of the ongoing support from G Adventures, in the form of tourists who come to Solheimar to listen, to learn, to eat and to shop.
While we were at Solheimar, we got to eat a delicious homemade lunch while sitting in the beautiful new café furniture that brightens up the room. They made us a delicious bowl of soup, two kinds of fresh baked bread, several yummy spreads for the bread. The vegetables for the soup are organically grown by residents in their onsite greenhouses. Every coffee drinker on our tour said that the coffee here was the best they’d had in Iceland. They roast their own coffee on site. No wonder it tastes so good.
The main impression I took away from here is that this is a simple place where needs are met. Happiness, comfort, feeling needed, having purpose and living off natural resources, are some of the benefits of being here. It’s so nice to be reminded of the simple things in life.
Amy was selected as a 2019-2020 G Adventures Ambassador of Change- "It’s been my privilege to spread the word about the amazing good they are doing in the world. My family and I try to live a little more sustainably every day. Small steps turn into big steps and collectively we can all make a huge difference." Amy is a Travel Advisor visit Epic Away Travel to learn more.