Rakel Karlsdóttir travels the world on her bike and runs her own business: - Too many people spend their lives in jobs they don’t like
There’s a reason why Rakel doesn’t have a nine to five job at which she daydreams of what might have been. This Icelandic architect has a different story to tell. One where everything she does can be narrowed down to one word; Living.”
By Emma Kjær Lauridsen
There’s a sound of soft jazz, a smell of coffee, and a dog is running in between the furniture. The pace is slow, but Rakel herself is everything but that.
Pieces of fabrics, screwdrivers, literature, and leather boots are scattered around in her Copenhagen tower where she lives and runs her own creative studio - two things that are hard to separate.
Through a mix of grit, long nights and enough Redbull to kill a horse, Rakel has climbed the professional and personal ladder in her own unique way. Although she admits with a grin; long hours you can do that when you’re 23.
Now she is 35. She has Master degree in Architecture, studied at the Royal Danish Academy and a bachelor degree in architectural technology and construction management.
Her work as a creative consultant primarily involves designing housing and working on collectable design pieces of projects she gets hired to – often by world-renowned architectural firms.
In her spare time, she travels all around the world with her bike, an old Harley Davidson from 1974 shovelhead she bought in New York a couple of years back.
"Follow your dreams. Tell yourself that you want to learn how to fix a bike or become an architect- and then do it. Put your mind and time to it."
Stubbornness is a key to freedom
The common denominator in Rakel’s work and her hobbies is freedom. To get to a point where that has become fact, rather than the fiction, she has set a series of explicit goals and worked hard to achieve them.
- When I took my driver’s license for my bike, I got mad at myself for not understanding the mechanics of the engine. I could ride the bike, sure, but I didn’t know how it worked. Then I went down to a local workshop and asked if I could join them when they fixed the bikes.
- They were like; “do you want to be here? With all these old men?” And I was like; “YES”. They took me in and taught me everything. Every day after school I went there and stayed until at least midnight.
The stubbornness has made it possible for her to travel all over the world independently with her Harley.
- Follow your dreams. Tell yourself that you want to learn how to fix a bike, become an architect, or move to another country - and then do it. Simply put your mind and time to it, she explains.
History of one way-tickets
Rakel Karlsdóttir is originally born and raised in Iceland but moved away from her home at the age of 16, then to London when she turned 17, and at 18 she ended up in Copenhagen.
Each time she bought a one-way ticket. And each time she was chasing either adventures, parties, or love. The fun stuff. The things that made her heart pound.
- I’ve always been open towards life and what was coming at me. I’ve always said to myself: Let’s see what happens. I’ve packed my bags, bought a one-way-ticket, and then left. I’ve always done what I think would make me happy.
The mentality of not wanting to waste time doing something she doesn’t enjoy also permeates her work. She only takes in the projects she gets excited about and hires people to do the tasks she doesn’t enjoy in most cases. It’s a choice she made long ago, and being her own boss gives her that opportunity and the happiness it brings.
- That’s why I would not fit into a 9 to 5 job. I like the freedom, the diversity, and the creativity I can allow myself to have because it’s my own. I’m not forced to do anything I don’t like. And I don’t have to ask anyone for permission.
"It’s a shame that it’s usually when people reach the age of 50 or something that they start looking at themselves"
People are narrow-minded
She’s been working on her company in Copenhagen for some time, only interrupted by a few months in the US when she was chasing this guy - speaking of the one way-tickets. But that has sort of become the story of Rakel’s life. The seemingly irrational adventures that bring either joy or the opposite.
That’s perhaps also why she’s not living with a guy called Henrik in a village in Western Jutland working to save up money to their retirement.
- First of all, I don’t think a guy like Henrik would be able to cope with me, to be honest, Rakel laughs.
- Poor Henrik!
But there’s more to it than just a laugh. It’s a conscious choice. Rakel thinks it’s a shame how many people are narrow-minded and are just repeating the same thing every day because of their comfort and lack of knowledge, she says.
- So many people get up in the morning, go to work at 9 am, come home at 5 pm, and spend their whole lives in jobs they don’t really like, waiting for retirement. Then they buy a small holiday home and spend all their time in a tiny box for the rest of their lives, Rakel points out and continues:
- And if that’s their dream – go ahead, live that life if that is what makes them happy. But if they knew how much they could experience, or how many possibilities they’ve got, my god, it would be a completely different life. I know we’re different, but life is full of fun and adventures!
Was dragged down to hell
Rakel has created a life of fun and adventures. Despite happiness being a fundamental life philosophy to her, she has been riding a crazy roller-coaster ride, as she calls it. And she is still riding it.
A few years back a period in her life forced her to take a closer look at herself and her life, she points out.
- Three years ago, I had a meltdown. I had a great job, I made some decent money, I had everything. Looking from the outside, I had a perfect life. I should’ve been the happiest person, high fives and wuhu all around, but I was just feeling so bad and I couldn’t figure out why.
- I was literally being dragged right down to hell. I felt so bad I didn’t know what to do with myself.
- Then I started working on myself and my mind. Not a lot of people do that - or not enough people do that. Often you need to hit rock bottom to pull yourself together and see what’s the deal with us.
We’d rather investigate the moon
That process has opened Rakel's eyes to see things in another perspective, she tells, even though she is still learning a lot about herself.
- It’s a shame that it’s usually when people reach the age of 50 or something that they look at themselves thinking – Who am I and why do we exist? What is going on with me and my life? Because they’re about to explode on the inside. We need to look at that a lot sooner.
She believes that if everybody took a closer look at themselves within, they could enhance themselves to be better human beings. They would get closer to what is happiness for them.
Then people would figure out what made them happy and go for it. They would try to find the things that give them energy and make their hearts pound like hers did. Because as it is now in our society, Rakels points out, we’d rather investigate the moon than ourselves.