I recently returned from an 8 day trip to Iceland, where my sister-in-law and I rented a 2008 Jeep & decided to circumnavigate the entire country to stop and see everything we possibly could. We had no schedule, no real reservations, & the open road/open mind ahead of us.
Only a few hours after arriving in Reykjavik we were climbing around a volcanic crater lake, watching boiling water blowout of a volcanic geyser and standing on top of the largest waterfall I'd ever seen off of the famous Ring Road. As the trip became progressively more adventurous, challenging personally & climactically - I found us hiking a ridgeline that overlooked one of the largest glaciers & glacial pools in the world. (Glaciers are literally the air-conditioners of the planet & they are melting at an ever-increasing rate due to climate change.) We drove South/Southeast & saw the most jaw-dropping coastline, so dramatic with sloping mountains & icy waters slamming against a rocky coastline. Radio on. Snacks galore. It was beautiful. Confident & high on life, we decided to take a "short-cut" & cut off 3 hours of driving to North Iceland. The 20km gravel road without guard rails climbed up to a plateau & the first sign of snowflakes. It got my adrenaline pumping, we were ready for more and we got it. We drove through a valley & started to climb...higher & higher...rain turned to sleet then to snowflakes. We found ourselves driving 2.5 hours through a high-altitude mountain pass, dumping snow, no guard rails surrounded by mountaneous cliffs. I wasn't afraid of the snow or the 80mph gusts, I was afraid of what I didn't know. I didn't even look at a map to be foreworned I'd be driving over a mountain, I didn't know if we were still getting higher, if the storm would get worse, I couldn't point to where we were on a map, and I had no idea what was waiting for us ahead. It didn't help that we hadn't seen a single soul in over an hour & miles and miles away from anyone and any glimpse of real civilzation if we were to get stuck or god forbid - fish tail off a cliff. Long story short, after a lot of white knuckle driving, dry mouth, and a backache - we made it over the pass & slept in the snow near a volcanic lake.
This article isn't so much about how Iceland pushed me far out of my comfort zone or their progressive environmentalism with geothermal and alternative energy sources - which has taken their entire nation off of fossil fuels - but more so, I want to talk about how I truly felt taking 8 days "off-the-grid".
Since I graduated college & started working in advertising/production/the creative industry - I would dream of the day I could really disconnect & not have a care in the world about who I was answering to, what e-mail was coming in, what opportunity I may have been missing out on, or what other people were doing. I dreamt of the day I would become present - live without the stress of the future or pain of the past.
Yet as anyone becomes more present in life, it takes you away from where you were, the people you were with & gives the people and places and things in front of you all of your energy...allowing every moment to come to its true potential (good or bad) & fill your past with unforgettable memories & a future worth looking forward to.
But if you scroll my Instagram, you'll notice unreal photos of Icelandic beauty and landscapes. But you want to know how I really felt on this trip? I felt guilty.
It slowly hung over me on this trip that travel, adventure, and simply recreation in itself is a privilege. Each one of those things takes us out of the survival game, the just getting by, and takes us into a new realm of how we see & experience life. I know, as an adrenaline seeker, that the closer I feel to fear or even deathly moments - the more I feel alive. You know, riding as fast as I can down a mountain, paddling out into bigger and bigger waves or waters, and taking myself places I've never been, alone. Sounds crazy & fun to chase things like that, I'm sure if you're reading this you can relate. But if you think about it - there's too many people in the world that get that same shot of adrenaline brought about by fear...but...without asking for it...people set up in horrible social, political circumstances chasing safety and solitude...the very things that I give up on a regular basis... and here I am climbing mountain peaks to feel alive & escape my "safe" life... Pick up what I'm putting down?
It sounds like I'm self-loathing or ashamed, but I'm not. I'm keeping myself in check & making sure that every little step huffing & puffing up that mountain, I don't take for granted. As the cold wind blows & maybe a little rain comes over me, I try not to complain about my discomfort because I chose to put myself in a new place & challenging situation...I repeat, I chose. Never take for granted the power & gift of choice.
My wish would be that as I have and will continue to proudly share my adventures, exploration, and travels - it doesn't just inspire you to book a flight or make a change in what you think may be a mundane life - but more so, look at your life from another angle, take a second look at what you have before you wish for the things you don't have, and as you carefully choose how you want to circumnavigate your life, that it is one filled with great appreciation...and maybe even generosity.