Last year I escaped the snow storm to go to a sunny place: Daytona Beach, Florida. This year I escaped the cold only to come to colder. Iceland was consistently in the thirties with high winds at times, but I'm so glad that I went.
A year ago, I never would have chosen Iceland to be my first choice to visit alone. I'm usually a big sun person. I'm on the floor so much at work that sometimes I feel like I don't ever see the sun, especially when I walk to work in the dark and go home when it's dark, or when I'm sleeping in the day time to prepare for the next night shift. I hate the fluorescent hospital lights, and so I always opt to go somewhere sunny.
So what changed my mind?
In addition to sunlight, I also love being outdoors and nature (so urban, right Sophia?). Seventy-five percent of the time I love Boston, but it's way too congested. There are too many skyscrapers, close-knit buildings, traffic, cars, and people all doing a million things at once or in a million places at once. That, on top of the work flow in the hospital, can drive me insane. So I really wanted to be somewhere with lots of space. A lot of space so I could breathe, a lot of space so that my mind could breathe. Reykjavik just happened to be the cheapest flight in the time slot I had. So I took the few days I had off from work to go to Iceland. And I'm so glad that I did.
Iceland is the first place I've wanted to visit again. Even after I visited Paris, which was my dream destination as a teenager, I knew I'd had enough of the place after I came back. Here are the few things I loved, and reasons I'd go again.
The colors. I know this sounds weird, but I didn't expect to get so much color in this trip seeing as to how I went during the winter. I assumed everything would just be white and covered in snow . . And it was, but there were instances where I saw such intense, beautiful colors that I'll never forget them. The first instance of extreme color was the second day when I was driving my car to do the Golden Circle Tour (consists of a park, geyser, waterfall, etc.). It had snowstormed wildly the days before my arrival, so acres upon acres of land were just covered in perfectly untouched snow. In addition to that, there were these beautiful mountains in the distance (I'm going to be saying beautiful a lot in this post), and had the other one or two cars not been on the same road as me, I would have thought I was the only person in the country. That's how much space there was. It was so expansive and vast - literally just a big fat stretch of perfectly powdered snow. The sun was gleaming on its surface and made the ice sparkle at times. Right on top of the mountains in the distance was this warm, periwinkle sky. Periwinkle's like this soft, lavender-purplish. I swear the snow soaked those colors right up because there was a pink hue to it as I drove past. Other times, it was this beautiful tropical tealish color. My favorite color schemes floating in the atmosphere.
The second instance of intense color was at the geyser. Iceland has a lot of geothermal pools, and one of the geysers I visited erupted pretty routinely. Right before it bubbled and exploded, the water formed with perfectly clear, cerulean, glass-looking dome that reminded me of the bubbles that form on top of the soap bottle you had when you use to blow bubbles as a kid. You know, when you dip your stick with the circle on top in the solution and yank it out to blow a bubble but to your surprise a big bubble forms around the ring on top? Okay, maybe not. Anyway, you can see it in my video very briefly below. The magic in it is that you see it for a split second, and the next it's gone.
The last instance was at the Harpa Music Hall. The design reminded me a lot of the Rainbow Fish. Have you ever read it? It's a children's book about a fish with colorful, shiny scales. The glass made up a beehive sort of network and the ceiling had a scaly, mirror-like appearance, which you can also see in the video below. I also took a shit ton of pictures of it above. Parts of the glass changed color periodically and in waves, and I thought what a wonderful way to epitomize music through design. Because the way the colors were changing and flowing, it looked as if the building itself was playing the music.
The landscape. In my short time, I was able to see waterfalls, walk between two continents (Thingvellir National Park), hike a mountain, and sit by the sea. I could only imagine what it looks like in the summer, although Iceland in the winter is truly a winter wonderland. One of the things I loved the most was that I constantly felt surrounded by these big mountains in the distance (a reason I took so much driving footage). It made you feel small, but also grounded and connected with your environment. Like you were just one small piece of this one city, and that that city actually belonged to something bigger which was the mountain's land. My favorite thing was waking up early and taking my rental car on the highway to try a new breakfast spot because I was driving towards the mountain. And when you're driving inland or south, you're constantly cradled between these large peaks on both sides. No pun intended.
The challenge. Another reason I chose Iceland is because it was totally out of my comfort zone. No cell phone, no knowledge of the language, no real experience with the wilderness (I've never even gone camping), and it scared me. Particularly, the idea of being trapped in a blizzard all by myself in the dark on an island scared the shit out of me. I had to use my judgment and change my plans a few times because it was either getting too dark too quickly, the winds were too strong, or the roads were too slippery even for my four wheel drive. Before I rented my car, the agency member told me 1). It was still very icy out 2). Don't go south because of sandstorms followed by a picture she showed me of a car completely demolished from gravel and sandstorm and 3). If your door is open and the wind is heavy make sure you hold onto it because she's seen the door fly right off before. I cried on the inside and ten minutes into driving, I was hit with a snow shower and panicked. I thought I was going to die in Iceland. They say wait five minutes if you don't like the weather in Iceland. Luckily, that was the worse it got for me (aside from getting a parking ticket and skidding on the road twice) and I felt very fortunate. I drove by a car that flipped over on the highway and nearly wet myself. But I'm glad I drove through Iceland alone, and knowing that I did it alone gives me confidence that I am 1). Totally capable of traveling alone and 2). I'm not a stereotypical Asian female driver. I have a nasty parallel park too, if I do say so myself.
Apparently I'm very bad at using GoPros. Sorry, but enjoy!
GoPro - my baby cousin, Nathan
Music - "St. Clarity" by The Paper Kites