Jon and Auja are the symbol for unconditional helpfulness and unlimited hospitality. They have inspired us, nurtured our journey and lifted it to the next level. But they’re not like that only to us. Throughout Iceland, they leave their loving footsteps, and so many may benefit from it. Wander along, and meet this Icelandic miracle couple.
"This is what happens when open-minded people meet," Jón proudly states during dinner. "Then unfamiliar people may get to know each other and share stories." Beautiful words, that kept reverberating during the evening and stuck with us for a long time. Yes, this is what ‘Wander the World With Us’ is all about! Thanks to Helene Wiesenhaan, a Haarlem based photographer and friend, who brought us into contact with Jón and Auja.
Jón is a happy soul. Life is his playground, and he makes use of it gratefully. As a very young man he – and his older brother – worked as a guide in Iceland. Together, they’ve shown visitors the most impressive places on this beautiful island. A rewarding job too, because Jón likes to be challenged by fulfilling tourist wishes. That's because of his need for unpredictability. Proudly he starts telling a story about a German family, which he saved from death once. They were trapped with their car in the middle of a river and he was able to free them. "If you ever come to Germany, please come and visit us," the freed couple urged Jón after their rescue. So when he travelled to Munich to study automotive engineering, he got in touch with them and they welcomed him as their son.
“I’d rather be a jack of all traits and luckily I have a very supportive wife next to me, who always helps me with difficult decisions.”
A very typical characteristic of the man we were honoured to meet, is his lust for change. After his studies – with a few jobs in between - he became the managing director of TNO - an Icelandic MOT-test company. However, he and Auja left the safety of a steady job behind when he got fed up being able to predict how his day would go.
After Jón and Auja’s courageous decision, they decided to start their own private company. Jón would travel around Iceland again, but now working as a guide for customised tours. Besides that, the two of them owned several lodges all over Iceland and also a company renting out white 4x4 Land Rovers. Altogether it was the perfect picture, but ultimately it was costing them more energy than it yielded. They were almost constantly working, and for them, that was a huge restriction of their freedom. So after much deliberation they decided to sell the businesses.
Since Jón and Auja have regained their freedom, slowly some time is becoming available for other activities. Currently there renting out a few 'summer houses' across Iceland. This definitely keeps them involved, but it does not take up all of their time.
“My body is tired, but my soul is happy!”
would be a typical Jón-statement, because since the sale of his company, he enjoys to play handyman around the summer cottages.
Auja is spending her newly won time very creatively. In addition to her ceramics skills, she will also start working with wood in her workshop. Moreover, she is playing with the idea to run a small guesthouse. Something she is made for, considering she is one of the best hostesses I’ve ever met: warm, caring and very attentive to details. During the week we spent with them, she increasingly learned more about our preferences and acted silently upon them. It was almost inconspicuous, but as we both have worked in hospitality for decades, we noticed…
“I don’t want money, I want lots of life experience.”
It was very special to get to know Jón and Auja a little better every day. Slowly, our connection grew and in the end we were even invited to their private party in the north of Iceland, in the valley Fnjóskadalur. There, Daniel played the role of master grill chef while I proudly walked around with my Leica camera.
The next day we were allowed to treat Jón and Auja with Daniel's famous chicken dish with grilled vegetables from the oven. While we were having fun in the kitchen, Auja enjoyed a book and Jón - the gin and tonic king – enjoyed his drink in the hot tub. "I want to die poor," Jón announced with a beaming smile while stepping into the hot tub but naked.
Eventually we ended up spending all seven Icelandic nights at Jón and Auja’s. We ate and drank with them and they buried us with useful tips for our road trips through the country. It was an exquisite experience to meet them and we are so very grateful for this wonderful encounter
Text: Maartje Grond
Photography: Daniel Maissan