Iceland was the closest I've gotten to stepping foot on an alien planet.
It's also the closest I've gotten, in recent memory, to serious bodily harm or death - and it was all amazing.
The unbridled landscape and scenery of the island nation was unlike anything I had seen, straight out of movies - literally. Our days were filled with ogling everything around us. As the midnight sun cast hours of golden light on everything around us, sleep seemed like a punishment. I was told before I went there that I'd probably want to move there - this was instantly true.
Even before our adventures outside of Reykjavik, the capital city was welcoming and like something from a dream. The main thoroughfare in the more tourist trodden area was like a little nordic fairy tale land. And being in a foreign country with a large English speaking population took me out of my comfort zone just enough as well.
I learned more about photography than I thought I would. In fact I felt like I had learned more from bringing two lenses into the mountainous distances of this place than I could learn sitting in a classroom for weeks. I learned about the risks I need to take with my drone (and also some mistakes to avoid - missed out on some good footage due to rookie mistakes... ROOKIE MISTAKES). I absorbed and examined everything around me and I left feeling like a different person.
Iceland doesn't coddle you though, the landscape takes you just out of your comfort zone as well. The more you get into the wilderness, the more dangerous it becomes - but no one is there to stop you. I started calling it, "The Land of Too Few Guard Rails."
I recall a moment, while driving through the highlands, where I got to the top of a ridge with a deep ravine on the left and a decline so treacherous looking that I paused and said,
"You have got to be fucking kidding me."
I rode the brake the entire way down, I don't think I've gone that slow for that long in years.
And the coup de grace for realizing the visceral danger of Iceland's many raw terrestrial vistas was in the highlands, walking on clay with no tread on my boots, while rain beat down on us. I had climbed some "steps" to the top of a ridge and attempted to move forward. I got to a thin portion of this ridge, with steep falls on either side, and I started to slip. I had a moment where I was transported back to childhood - I wanted help, I wanted someone to grab my hand and help me down - I was frozen.
I took a second, steadied myself and told myself no one is coming, I must take these steps by myself and bring myself to safety. And I did, but not before shouting to Amanda to "GO BACK DOWN!" as she was coming up behind me.
The earth there demands respect, and in the process of learning that I felt I had learned a lot about myself.
I mentioned in my past post the idea that I hope my traveling bug is for the right reason. I want to be running to something and not from something. At one moment in our journey, I was behind the wheel of our "4x4" Kia Sportage, driving down the thin roads that rocket across the seemingly desolate expanse of Iceland's harsh terrain, and something hit me. I was deep in thought and my mother popped into my mind, as she often does, but this time there was something heavier there. I stared straight down the road as the dividing lines continued past us and a voice asked,
"Well, which is it? Are you running from something or to something?"
I was taking the figurative idea literally, of course, of staring down the road ahead of me and wondering that.
What was ahead of me? Some semblance of solace or acceptance, or more grief or depression?
And I couldn't answer the question.
I felt an uneasiness from this. Does that answer my question? What if it's neither? What if this is a totally different beast? What if that's the point and I'll look back in 20 years and say, I always knew the answer, that's why I did it.
So I'll keep looking. I've got the world ahead of me, and I suspect at some point down the road, that voice will again ask, "Well, which is it?"
Which is it?