My Snorri Adventure of a Lifetime

By Julia Swanson

Julia Swanson next to the powerful waterfall Dettifoss.

I just typed into Google: “a word to describe something that is greater than amazing.” It gave me: unbelievable, fascinating, incredible, awesome, and marvelous. Yes, those words could be used to describe my Snorri experience; however, I have realized one needs to experience the trip to truly understand the feeling. My time in Iceland was truly life changing. I learned so much about the Icelandic culture, language, history, the beautiful land, my heritage, and most surprisingly a great deal about myself.

Before going any further, I would like to share where I was geographically during my Snorri adventures. The first two weeks were spent with the Snorri group in Reykjavík. I spent my third week up north in Hofsós for my first homestay placement, and the fourth week in Akureyri for my second homestay. During the fifth and final week, our group reunited and traveled around the country for our adventure tour. For you to get a glimpse into my life changing experience, I would like to share some excerpts from my journal.

June 15, 2023

“… Everything here is just better. Everything from the bowl of oatmeal I had at breakfast to the beautiful architectural landmarks in Reykjavík. There is something magical about this place. To be here right now, makes me the luckiest girl in the world…”

June 20, 2023

“… One of my favorite things about Iceland is the abundance of sunlight in the summer. It was 10:30pm. At home, that’s my bedtime. In Iceland, that means adventure time. Jared, Caitlin, and I scootered down to the ocean, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the Sun Voyager, built rock towers with some, must I say, perfect skipping rocks, and watched some ships arrive at the harbor. We scootered a little further and ran across some framed maps, showing pictures and information of shipwrecks around Iceland per decade over the last 150 years or so. Seeing these maps actually made me tear up as I thought about the immense courage, bravery, survival, and loss that has occurred around Iceland over the years. It was humbling to reflect on all the events that have lined up to get me here in Iceland today, dating all the way back to t he days of my Icelandic ancestors. Looking at these maps and the fatality rates from either shipwrecks or illnesses, I can’t help but think “how did my family survive?!” and “how in the world did I get so lucky to be here right now?” I didn’t do a single thing. During such desperation, my ancestor’s extreme courage, bravery, and luck, safely brought them over to America to start a new chapter, which has provided me and my family such a beautiful life with endless opportunities. I thank God for giving them safety throughout their travels, settlement, and life; without it, I wouldn’t be here today…”

July 23, 2023

“… Today, I called my family and told them that if I didn’t like them so much, I’d move to Iceland…”

June 25, 2023

Julia and Sierra making friends with the horses at Hofsós.

Julia and Sierra making friends with the horses at Hofsós.

… Day three in Hofsós was amazing. This is just the cutest little town. I have really enjoyed working at the immigration center, meeting people from all around the world, selling items in the gift shop, and exploring the exhibits. One of these nights I will get to ride an Icelandic horse! Talk about a bucket list item. My new family here in Hofsós, Valgeir, Gunna, and Mallory, are some of the most delightful, selfless, and generous people on this planet. They all have such giving spirits, all for things bigger than themselves with no expectations in return. I want to be just like them…”

June 29, 2023

“… I blinked and all of a sudden it’s my last night in Hofsós. Sierra, my friend and Snorri Intern, and I were lucky enough to stay at the Brimnes house all week, the cutest yellow house right by the ocean. Bill Holm, an author and Minnesotan with Icelandic ancestry, wrote the book, “Through the Window of Brimnes” while living here. While reading his book, it was pretty amazing to look over at the Yamaha piano he was writing about. Tonight, Sierra and I opened the windows and sang some songs at this famous piano. When we started singing, a crowd of people started showing up outside our window… or perhaps the five people were just coincidentally walking along the shore… Either way, we had a wonderful time…”

July 7, 2023

“… I love Akureyri. I love my new host family. I love my host family’s family. I love everything about this place. This area will always have a special place in my heart as it’s where my family’s farm was located. I look around and feel a sense of comfort, as if I was at home. Today we adventured around the Diamond Circle, and oh my goodness was it beautiful. My watch recorded 18,000 steps. They don’t mess around here with their adventures, and I love it. Approximately every 15 minutes, there would be a new, totally different, magnificent sight to see. We went to Goðafoss, Lake Mývatn, Dimmuborgir, Námafjall Hverir, Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi canyon, Húsavík. I cannot wait to bring my family here!…”

July 13, 2023


2023 Snorri participants Jared, Julia, and Sierra on their whale-watching adventure.

“… I would like to either freeze time or cancel my flight home. Being reunited with the Snorri group for our adventure week has been amazing. I am convinced our group is the best to have ever gone through the program. I have met the most fun, kind, and adventurous friends on this trip. I feel like I’ve known these people forever. This week, we have already fit approximately 1,000 adventures in from traveling around to Golden Circle, to seal watching, to visiting numerous waterfalls, to zip lining (and so much more). If you know me, you know I love a good adventure. This trip has been the greatest adventure of my life…”

As I reflect on my Snorri experience, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for my Icelandic ancestors, new Snorri cousins, and all the people who made this trip possible. I would like to thank the INLUS for their generous support and the Snorri Program for helping me explore the beautiful country of Iceland while connecting with my Icelandic heritage. Bless bless!