Iceland hooked me on travel
Phrases like "travel addict" and "the travel bug" tend to make me cringe. They're cliché, and annoying. However, I do identify with the sentiment.
I remember when it was I decided to prioritize travel in my life; when I realized my passion for it; when I first felt the thrill.
It was January of 2015. Myself and two friends had opted for a 4 day "stopover" in Iceland (included in flights from North America to Europe through IcelandAir) on our way to a semester abroad in Dijon, France.
This was the first time that I had ventured off the continent without my parents. It was also my first time doing any sort of travel that wasn't centred around a resort, cruise or hotel.
We touch down outside of Reykjavik around 10am local time. As we leave the airport in search of our rental car, it's still pitch black around us. The sun won't be up for another hour, about the time it will take to get into the city. It's a dark but exciting cruise along the windy Icelandic highway.
Upon arrival to our hostel, I'm taking my pack out of the trunk of our silver Kia. Facing the ocean, I can see pink clouds hovering over a snowy mountain; the sunrise chased us here. I've never seen an alpine glow before, and in this moment I'm convinced it's the most humbling and beautiful sight in the world. With that, we head inside.
Our first day is filled with a jet legged exploration of the trendy, colourful and outdoorsy city that is Reykjavik.
It's an incredible city, with a young, artistic personality. But, honestly, the real awe comes when we leave the urban core.
Iceland is small. You can drive around the perimeters of the country (via the Ring Road) in just 10 days. It has a total population of 323,002 people. There's even an dating app for Icelanders which helps them ensure they aren't sleeping with a relative. Despite knowing its teeny size, I didn't expect to encounter natural wonders a mere 30 minutes outside of the capital city. We did.
We see a whale, several waterfalls, a volcanic black beach, and countless mountains. We drive into clouds and windstorms. I push the limits a little too far, and almost get blown off a cliff. We eat mainly bread, because one of the only downside's to this trip was how expensive the food is throughout the country. (On my last night, I cracked and paid the equivalent of $20 CAD for a burger). Every second along this trip was a chance to feast my eyes on a different sight. Although, our stop at Seljavallalaug, Iceland's oldest geothermal pool (built in 1923), really sticks out in my mind.
Nestled in a narrow valley, the pool neighbours a volcano/glacier called Eyjafjallajökull. The pool is an easy 10 minute trek from the road, but you can't see it until you're almost there, which made us wonder several times if we've stopped at the correct spot (at a sign that read Seljavellir). But when we see wet people walking towards us, it's clear we're on the right track.
Soon enough, the pool comes into view. Ella, Emma and I all gasp. It's stunning.
Squealing in astonishment, we pick up the pace and eventually start running towards the changing room. Emma is first to brave the water, and to discover it's cold; the air is frigid enough to cool the hot spring. Luckily, we soon find the pipe from which the fresh water flows, and huddle around it as we watch the sun go down over the mountains.
This is the moment I'm talking about. The place in time that I told myself I would keep travelling. The point where I took a deep breath, felt both calm and exhilarated all at once. Can you see why?