Words by Björg Árnadóttir, Midgard’s CEO, nurse, yoga teacher, mountain lover, runner, biker….the list is endless!
Since 2013 I have been working as the CEO of Midgard. I resigned from my previous work in 2013 and joined Siggi, Stefnir and Addi, my son, for the business. First the intention was only to extend my summer vacation during the summer 2013 and help the guys out with the finances but after only a few days in the countryside I found that this would be the work I would like to get stuck with, so I called my boss in Reykjavík and resigned.
I was born and raised with loving Iceland. My grandmother got her driver’s licence by the age of 50 and she took me almost everywhere on her white Volkswagen. My grandfather knew all the stories of our ancestors, my father every single mountain name and my mother used to be quite a hiker. I am a nurse from scratch, did my MBA 15 years ago, then continued into the guiding school and straight from there did the 2 years rescue team training. When doing all of this I was still climbing the career ladder and did not anticipate I would end up at a small family and friend run company in the countryside doing trips, working in a lobby and serving drinks at a bar.
Those seven years with Midgard have been a wonderful struggle. First emphasising on Midgard Adventure the travel part of our business and in 2017 opening up the accommodation and the restaurant at Midgard Base Camp. The last few years we have been learning how to run those new add ons to our businesses and were hoping to get them above zero this year. We definitely did not foresee what was to come.
Due to Covid-19 we closed down Midgard Base Camp Wednesday March 18th for an unforeseen future. Being a nurse I found myself bound to register into a group for the support to the Icelandic health care system, in Icelandic called “Bakhjarlar”. The day after I registered I was called in to join the Contact Tracing Team – a team formed to try to hinder the distribution of the virus in the society. In Iceland testing of the virus is widespread. It is performed on sick people by healthcare centers and hospitals but also among healthy or non symptomatic people by a company called deCODE genetics. The widespread testing and diagnosis of the virus gave the Contact Tracing Team the possibility of contacting every single person being positively diagnosed (with or without symptoms), put the same person into isolation and trace her travel from 24 hours before first symptoms. The people that the person had been in close contact with, defined as 15 minutes and / or within 2 meters, were put into quarantine for 2 weeks as well. None of us working at the tracing team had ever had power like that before. By one phone call to a positive Covid-19 person we were sometimes, within a few minutes, closing down several workplaces. This fortunately calmed down surprisingly quickly with the majority of the people being diagnosed later on already being in quarantine and thus affecting fewer people’s lives. In total Iceland has had 10 deaths because of Covid, which is thought to be less than in a normal yearly influenza epidemic. When this is written, mid May, no positive Covid-19 cases have been diagnosed for the last 5 days. We really hope every single person continues to be proactive in preventing a second wave of Covid-19. If though that happens we for sure know ways to react quickly.
As is true for many people this period has taught me a lot and I for sure appreciate what I have. I loved spending time with my husband in Reykjavík during the epidemic but I for sure love being back in the countryside to my little house in Hvolsvöllur. I loved the peace and calmness during the epidemic but I now love the noise when surrounded by my grandkids. I loved being a nurse and thus getting the opportunity of participating in the Contact Tracing Team but I love more being back and now starting working again at Midgard Base Camp, serving drinks at the bar and making peoples days on a trip with Midgard Adventure. I’m just grateful for my life.