Have you ever been to a place that feels like home, but it’s not even close to home? Like 2,270 miles not close. For me, it’s Iceland.
Other than seeing photos and Groupons for Iceland, I knew nothing about the country when I decided I wanted to go there except that it was beautiful. Often times I get fixated on an idea, obsessed with it almost, and I’m not satisfied until I see it through. This is true for me whether it’s planning a trip, becoming a licensed architect, decorating a new space, or even a romantic relationship. I fantasize often, and much to my demise.
So, I knew that I needed to get there it was just a matter of when.
This is the first trip I would plan by myself start to finish. I stalked photographers based in Iceland on Instagram, I followed all the Icelandic accounts I could, I scoured the web for tips and tricks, for two years. I didn’t know I’d actually even be physically going there until eight months before, but like I said, I obsessed over it.
Simultaneously, I was tirelessly succumbing myself to a mentally abusive relationship. I knew I wanted out but had no idea where the exit was. I really could have used Dory at that time to read “ESCAPE” for me. I would daydream about getting away, thinking that would be the cure, but of course it takes a lot more than just ten days in foreign country to free your mind from manipulative behaviors. Best part? Technically, the relationship was already over.
I started tracking flight prices for October (it was only early February). I remember semi-consciously waking to my phone vibrate a few weeks later, the fare had dropped to its lowest price. Within hours, four round-trip tickets and $1200 had been added to my credit card.
Buying the flight alone was freeing, I was doing something for me. I was in control.
But I wasn’t. It was only a matter of time before the guilt would set in that I was doing something without him. How dare I take a trip and not bring him along? Why did I spend my money to go somewhere seemingly random as opposed to an all-inclusive trip we would often talk about? I had steered the train off the tracks for the first time. Oh, but remember, we were not even together. Manipulation is intangible, yet its grip is suffocating.
Guilt in tow, I tried to focus on how amazing this was going to be. I get to go somewhere that only existed in my wildest dreams. It was finally attainable.
We would be spending ten days traveling around the entire country. I knew of the major spots thanks to all my research for years and began adding them to the list of must-sees. We would land in Reykjavik, pick up our rental car, and drive southeast on the ring road.
Our countdown was quickly moving from 140+ days to just a few weeks and I couldn’t have been more excited. We even titled our group chat “Soul Searchers” out of anticipation of what was to come. Little did I know that would be precisely my experience.
October 8th, 2017, we landed. It was an overnight flight, so we arrived around 6:00am Iceland time. It was cool, rainy, and confusing. We managed to get through the airport, stock up on snacks and alcohol while there, and headed out to find a shuttle bus to the rental car. Mostly everyone in Iceland speaks English, and a lot of signs are also in English, but seriously, finding this shuttle was a mystery. We were standing outside in the rain trying to stay warm and I remember thinking to myself “Oh boy, was this really where I wanted to be?”
Hell yes it was.
We picked up our Suzuki Vitara and headed out. Just kidding, we needed breakfast. We drove towards Reykjavik only to find that breakfast is not how it is in America (duh) and settled for a burger joint. It was only 8:00am.
Bellies full of weird food, we were now officially on our way.
I am speechless even now thinking about the first drive on the ring road. Actually, I am crying as I write this. Odesza’s “A Moment Apart” album blasting through the car speakers. A landscape like no other I had ever seen presented itself flawlessly. Mountains, glacial rivers, the ocean, and volcanoes were sprawling before us in one view. It was lush.
It truly only took hours upon arriving for me to feel at peace. Like I belonged here. That I would heal here.