Letters to My Manager: Return

The same navigations skills I'd developed going to and from Dutch coffee shops brought me, in little better shape, to Schiphol Airport in the morning and an Iceland Air flight to Minneapolis where there would be a home.

You might say that this was kind of a novel concept for me at the time. There'd be a place that would be mine starting on June 5, 2016. Well really June 1, but moving is time consuming. As it turns out flights through Iceland can be time consuming. However, this was a mercifully short journey. But I'll explain.

A lot of the national European airlines schedule long layovers. I had one such opportunity when I connected through Ireland on my way to Milan. Iceland, I understand it, is a bit notorious for this. "See scenic Reykjavík on a 30 hour layover--you'll literally have to spend money here!" But this layover was brief, just a few hours in the airport.

But the flight did reveal a peculiar and rather general European trait of humble-bragging about their respective country. (Honestly the Dutch do the least of this, which is refreshing, or maybe they are just the humblest of humble braggarts.) In Iceland, this stuff is out in the open though, the in-flight movie options were practically propagandistic.

The best inflight entertainment on an Iceland Air trip is "The Fruitful Farmer" and this is a real recommendation from a cinephile who watched most of the first season on the plane. If you're flying through Iceland, I'm guessing this show is available, and it's really quite extraordinary.

I mean who knew that nothing poisonous could grow above 60 degrees North? Who knew that you could just forage for edible foliage around your isolated farm away from the bustle of the 104,000 Icelanders who live in it's largest city? As I learned you can just ask your neighbor for a sheep to borrow for the season. Literally everyone knows everyone in Iceland. Apparently.

So get to know Iceland, and indeed much of the way of life of many of the Nordic countries. These are places where the people are cooperative and proud of their fairly narrow, highly local cultures. These are the first Europeans to really spin the globe and see where they wound up. Icelanders and Norwegians, the Dutch and the Danes have varying mixes of permissiveness and obliviousness married together that comes with the history of their cultural exchange.

You can really see this collision of approaches to cultures in media. Ingmar Bergman films work so well as Swedish cinema because Bergman is more of an outsider than not, and had a different religious background from those around him but was very Swedish nonetheless. Danish films are similar. But the "Fruitful Farmer" is perhaps the most distilled instance of this kind of Northern European culture.

Traveling through the stops of these world traveled Europeans, my own world turned over a bit. I was heading to a place I'd call home that was very disparate from where I grew up. I'd also discover with the last minutes of Wi-Fi that a high school record in the 4x800m relay I'd set some years earlier had just been broken by kids from my hometown I didn't know. But such is the way of the world turning over.


Returning to America leaves you more energized than you might expect after a long flight. Moving across the globe in this direction leaves a person awake. The prospect of going home leaves a person eager. I got to go by the apartment and pickup my keys, but that was it. There was nothing in the space, and there were family obligations upon me right away.

My partner through all this journeying needed to see her family. We spent time with them and this was something I actually really enjoyed. Getting back in with Americans, maybe Minnesotans in particular, is naturally warming. I think there is a sense like "I'm sure your trip was nice, but let's get back to doing things right and leading the world," at least you could feel this way in the summer of 2016. By fall all that would be changing.

For now I had wonderful help unpacking the storage space I'd set my life aside into. I had help moving in. There were people I got to build a home with. And quickly I returned to Starbucks to find my job and new friends waiting for me excitedly.