Here I am coming off of a month-long stay in Prague, leaving a city I love to begin a three week backpacking trek through Europe. Like most people I find change to be difficult and uprooting, and though I knew all along I had two very different types of trips back-to-back I didn’t want to leave the familiarity of Prague behind.
I was shallowly excited about going to Iceland because people told me to be excited about Iceland. Maybe Americans simply find it exotic to fly to a country situated in the middle of the ocean. It being the first country departing Prague from, I was facing slight post-program blues, clinging onto the realization that I had somewhat made a foreign city feel homely to me and now I was being forced to leave for another unknown setting. I was egotistically taking pity on myself, and poor Iceland didn’t stand a chance to be thoroughly loved, curiously explored, and ultimately, conquered. That, and I had only scheduled 2.5 days to be spent there.
The one thing for sure on our agenda was the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool and one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. You arrive to a glowing, milky blue spa, shower and douse yourself in deep conditioning treatment, and relax in the 102 degree Fahrenheit silica and sulfur mineral pool with 50 degree windy rain waiting for you as you exit. I’d completely recommend, by the way, if not for anything other than its eccentricity. Other than that our trip was an open book, and that complacency was probably the biggest mistake made in Iceland. Because we got late starts on both days we didn’t get to see The Golden Circle or a lot of the other wonderful things recommended to us. We did see geysers, however, and the iconic Gullfoss waterfall, and lakes and rolling hills and probably more sheep than people. We got lost among the back roads of Iceland (with explicit direction to not take backroads from the rental car company) and because of that saw cliffs that looked like rolling waves and flowers from the tops of lookouts and bodies of water that couldn’t be distinguished as lake or ocean.
The country is covered in purple flowers that would put Texas’ spring bluebonnets to absolute shame. The sheep, like I said, are sprinkles strewn liberally across all terrain types. They really don’t do much, but their blasé presence makes you smile as they roam about and nonchalantly brave the rain. It’s probably comical how giddy the sheep were making me– I would catch myself smiling in our little red rental car’s review mirror and realize it was because I had just watched something as mundane as a baby sheep gallop beside the road.
What was the most prevalent though, more than the sheep, was the rain. There was rain rain rain and it invasively moved sideways because of the wind. It really altered the experience of Iceland, and I say this not completely negatively but impassively and realistically. I was forced to stop shooting very early in the trip in fear my camera was being put at risk, and after a while every part of clothing on me was saturated. I was aware of this by the way the wind whipped me with freezing air. Iceland was beating me.
Because the sunlight never truly disappears in Iceland, my unsuspecting body couldn’t figure out when to let me know I was tipping into exhaustion. We sat at a coffee shop one of the nights and lost track of time, people-watching out the window, until we were interrupted and asked to leave because the cafe was closing– it was midnight. I’m fairly certain my eyes narrowed at the barista accusingly as it was sunny as day out until I saw my watch confirm the time. Falling asleep here held the same issues, accidentally staying up beyond 2 and 3 simply because of the light streaming in my AirBnB’s window.
To be honest with myself means knowing I didn’t give Iceland enough time or patience to let its’ beauty stimulate me the way it seems to do with most others. There’s only one way to cure this ignorance inside me though, and that’s to fight complacency with immersive exposure. I guess that means I’ll have to make a trip back to this beautiful, uncharted land– and if you thought I hadn’t already started working my mom to make a trip back with me, you’d be so, so wrong.