Betabrand Sent Us To Iceland To Do A Pub Crawl With The Locals On The Coldest Day Of The Year

Betabrand Sent Us To Iceland To Do A Pub Crawl With The Locals On The Coldest Day Of The Year
By Seamus James
 

“I can’t believe we’re in Iceland.”

“I know, me neither,” I said.

Betabrand Iceland Pub Crawl Trip with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer

Just 24 hours earlier, we didn’t have plane tickets, a hotel, even a notion of flying halfway to the north pole, but there we were.

It started with a contest Betabrand ran in December, during our Advent Calendar promotion. With our typical snark, we gave away a trip to Reykjavik on what is historically the coldest day of the year in Iceland. Contest winner Mark Bloom of New York City and his girlfriend Julie were booked, boarded and in the air, when suddenly it became clear that the company should send someone to meet them.

“Who has a valid passport and can leave for Iceland tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM? Send me a few sentences and your best GIF” the email from Head of Finance James Tagliani read. An epic thread ensued. Gif after gif, lamentations about overdue passport renewals, and finally, a perfect group photo to pull it all together. When the dust settled, it was decided: two of us would make the 4,000 mile trek to the arctic circle. Senior production manager Victoria Brewer and I alerted our loved ones, packed our bags, hopped a flight, and arrived what seemed like only hours later on the tiny volcanic rock in the frozen waters of the North Atlantic.

Betabrand Iceland Trip with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer Betabrand Iceland Trip with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer
Betabrand Iceland Trip with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer

The emptiness, even on a Saturday morning, stands out as perhaps the most foreign part of Iceland. The buildings felt familiar, the cars not so foreign. This is not the old country, as I have known it, but rather the first settlement of those who went west. With Europe’s greatest recovery story of the recession, cranes and new luxury condominium developments shoot across the cityscape like banners proclaiming their success. I asked a taxi driver what she thought of the new construction along the water. She thought for a moment and said, “I don’t like it.” Feels like home.

Betabrand Iceland Trip with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer

We checked in and napped at the beautiful Grand Hotel and exchanged our money at the front desk (“50,000 krona, that’s like 50 pints of beer!” the front desk attendant told us). Covered in head-to-toe disco (with one women’s space jacket), we set out to meet our cohorts at he Hlemmur square to begin the adventure.
 
 Our Icelandic hosts have a history with Betabrand. Last summer, they set out to break the record for crossing the island by foot, and did it clad in disco. Not only did the record for fastest foot traverse fall, but a new one one arose: Fastest Icelandic Foot Traverse While Wearing Disconium.

Betabrand Iceland Trip and Pub Crawl with Seamus James and Victoria Brewer

Hogni exemplifies the modern icelander: a tech savvy UX designer with a finger on the pulse of pop culture, as much a part of the international community as he is a part of his own. He has me sold on the virtues of Iceland’s premier music festival, Iceland Airwaves. He’s won awards for his work on the web.

Thor is a viking. He talks about the Old Months and seems immune to the effects of alcohol. “Ah it’s good,” he says while taking a long whiff of the fermented shark — an icelandic delicacy they love to pawn off on foreigners — as the New Yorker’s literally gag to the verge of vomiting merely from the smell of the package. We eat our bit with a shot of the “Black Death”, or Brennivin, an Icelandic aquavit. He seems to know everyone in every bar we visit.


We move from chic pub to hip restaurant to honestly-I-don’t-know-where. Any of these places would look as much at home on the trendy Valencia street landscape of San Francisco as they do on Laugevegar in Reykjavik. With every icelandic shot, every rich icelandic beer, every excited conversation with the locals about our shiny silver clothing, the night slipped into a dreamy haze, a memory as elusive as the northern lights, but every bit as beautiful.

It’s rare that your company affords the the chance to take spontaneous trips to far off lands, and for that, we’re both exceptionally grateful. We’re especially excited that this represents the start of many more trips for our co-workers, as a part of the Betabrand Scholarship Travel Program. It’s inspiring to work for a company that sees value in it’s employees beyond what they can earn from our talents, but rather, who we are as people. That they’re willing to foster that and bestow such a tremendous opportunity on us is something for which we’ll be forever thankful.
 
And really, try the shark.

Fun Facts about Iceland

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1 Comment

  1. Brandon · March 26, 2015 Reply

    Sounds like an amazing adventure! Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading it 🙂

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