We were all sad on Friday morning. Though we’d done and seen so much in three full days, we were just starting to get the hang of life in Iceland. We weren’t speaking the language, but the place had gotten comfortable. None of us wanted to leave yet.
Once we were all packed and ready for the airport, Jeremy took a moment to say goodbye to the neighborhood soccer pitch. Oh, the hours he could spend there.
We also said goodbye to the house cat. Since the cold snap ended, much of the snow melted near the coast and it was a comfortable 43 degrees with low humidity.
Unlike our flight to Iceland, which was entirely in the dark, we chased the sun home to the States. It was particularly nice since sunlight meant we could see Greenland.
One of my favorite photos from the whole trip was taken with my phone from the plane. This is UNEDITED. I took it with my cell phone.
Once the sun was dim, the moon showed up. She, too, was glorious.
I’ve spent the last week discerning my overall thoughts of Iceland. When people asked me what it was like, my first inclination is to respond with, “I don’t know,” not because I’ve lost my memory but because I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. It’s an island made of volcanos and glaciers. It’s hot and cold at the same time. It’s confusing and mysterious. It’s vast and open. It’s impeccably clean and efficient – seriously, even the public restrooms. (As an American, I was embarrassed that we can’t be as considerate.)
People were friendly enough, but not in your face about it. To each, his own seems to be the Icelandic way, and I’m libertarian enough to appreciate it.
But what was it really like?
Well, I’m not a fan of its tax code on matters of economic principle, but Icelanders seem okay with it. As long as we could grocery shop and make wise choices financially, the priciness of traveling in Iceland wasn’t a bother.
The little churches everywhere? Love.
The language? Gosh. It would take months to get a handle on basic conversation and years of immersion to speak it fluently. Our AirBNB host is British and he said it took him three years to learn Icelandic. For purposes of travel, though, the language wasn’t a barrier because much of the signage was in Icelandic and English, and everyone we encountered spoke English. (Google Translate helped with the rest.)
I can’t say much about Icelandic cuisine because we didn’t patron a true restaurant with Iceland food. Sure, we ate at IKEA twice, but that doesn’t count. Since we were traveling with the boys, we opted out of authentic restaurants and instead chose to grocery shop and save our money. (That wouldn’t be the case if Chuck and I had gone without the boys. Choosing restaurants to try is a favorite part of our travels together.) That being said, grocery shopping was still an adventure for all four of us, and it’s there where we relied on Google Translate to identify basic items such as coffee creamer and yogurt. For three days worth of breakfast and lunch items, we paid $63. Compare that to ONE MEAL we had our first day in Iceland, which was $101, a poor decision we made in fatigue and hunger.
But these things – food, language, budgeting – are secondary, peripheral matters. The long term affects of our trip to Iceland are rooted in the moments when we watched a geysir explode from the earth, when we slipped into a geothermal bath while our eyelashes collected snowflakes, when we stood in the place where two plate tectonics meet…
Waterfalls and frozen streams and Icelandic horses.
A lava rock beach on the North Atlantic coastline.
Five hours of daylight with the longest and most vibrant sunrises and sunsets of your life.
On our drive home from the airport we remarked that it didn’t feel real. Did we really just go to Iceland? I mean, who does that? Who chooses to vacation near the Arctic Circle, on a whim, no less, because we found some cheap airfare and had the days to spare? Who decides to take a chance on an adventure and go to a place where everything seems uncertain?
Well, I guess we do.