Looking back at the last three weeks while traveling all around Iceland, makes me think of my past travels abroad and how I have changed with and after each trip. These past three weeks have been very eye opening in all sorts of ways. When I travel, I always do my best to immerse myself in the country's culture but I also look for ways on how I can become a better person.
Yesterday I realized what it was about Iceland that I am bringing back home with me.
I noticed that after a couple of years, I have been slightly more lightly afraid to do certain things. For instance, I realized that I am slightly afraid of heights and more recently, I realized that I don't trust my balance when I hike (usually when climbing boulders or walking on slippery terrain). However, and quite luckily, I've been able to still try those things because there is no reason strong enough to prevent me from doing it. During my time exploring Iceland, and more specifically during the first half of my trip, I struggled with not being able to really interact much with locals simply because of the nature of the activities that I was doing and well there aren't many Icelanders. Half of the outfitters I knew were foreigners that fell in love with Iceland and have made it their home. Yet, the few conversations I did have with local Icelanders, gave me a good insight to what it is to be an Icelander living in Iceland. There was one common denominator in all of this, and that is nature. Iceland is filled with epic landscapes that are almost muted but still have some tonal contrast. Now, this sounds more like the photographer in me coming out but it really is a nice monochromatic landscape. One of my favorites locations I got to spend a few days at was the land of Thor, Þhorsmörk (Thor-smerk). I did some hiking while there and got the opportunity to conduct a class at the top of a mountain. I think that day was the glow of my trip or at least one of the many trip highlights. Another glow was the second to last day in Eyrarbakki (Eeh-rar-bah-key). I had been in this small town for a couple of days at the start of my trip and wasn't super impressed with the landscape as it was mostly flat but it was right next to the beach which was quite beautiful.
To continue this story, I went horseback riding along the beach on one of the days. The afternoon itself was very nice. A bit chilly which I never mind, and a bit cloudy but with nice overall feel. Horseback riding is not one of those things that you would actually hear me say "yeah, let's do that!" as I am terrified of horses. The only reason is that they are big and I don't know them nor they know me and they idea of building that type of relationship in such a short time, just doesn't click with me. Granted, I have to admit that (thankfully) Icelandic horses are smaller than your usual horse. They average around 800 pounds or a bit more. Definitely less than your regular horse, but to me that is still very impressive. The ride was about 90 minutes or so, and I was assigned Blessi. He's 16 years old, loves to eat, and for what it seems like, enjoys long walks by the beach. Blessi is a little clumsy too, but oversell a very safe horse who apparently is the "boss". I developed a quick relationship with Blessi which consisted of constant pats on his back imploring him not to trip and not go too fast. We did great but I do have to say that getting on Blessi was nerve wrecking. I remember feeling the urge to want to cry and laugh at the same time and out of sheer nervousness. However, I did it. I got on the horse. Then came in the movement. Oh boy, I'm sure that if someone taken a video of my face I probably had a plethora of facial expressions suitable for the best of Broadway. Thankfully, I only have some photos that prove that I did it and that I looked happy. During the first half which I already mentioned, was the hardest for me, I kept repeating to myself that I could do this, and would take really, REALLY deep breaths. The conversations with our guides helped a ton and the fact that I did have good balance made me feel a bit more confident. On our way back, I felt more comfortable asking my horse to go faster and was finally able to enjoy the surroundings and the views of that beautiful beach landscape.
This experience was one of the best I have had in my life and I am so thankful for it. Yes, it is a horse and smaller one at that but, this is just a reminder that we all have our own individual battles that need to be fought and conquered.
On a lighter note, I went glacier trekking for the first time, used crampons for the first time and fell in love with them. Crampons and I are a match made in heaven.
Last but not least, I had the opportunity to meet a psychic who believes in the existence of elves. If you didn't know, 30% of Icelanders believe in the existence of these fantastical beings. During this stop in Northern Iceland, I got to visit an Elf Stone. An Elf Stone is a large boulder in a beautiful field. After a short briefing and hike up the hill, our group had the chance to meditate around the stone. I didn't know what to ask or meditate on as really all I needed was mental clarity. I did my best to capture a mental picture of the moment. It was me, the grass around me, and this massive blue sky that started to unfold in front of me as the clouds began to move and the sky began to clear, showing me the beautiful colors of that amazing Icelandic sunset.
Whether you believe in elves or not, Iceland certainly is filled with a very special energy that can only be felt if you really open yourself to it.
I am coming back home from Iceland knowing that I still have more battles to conquer and more adventures to live. In the meantime, I will do my best to make the best of everyday and appreciate (even more) my environment and the people in it.
Takk fyrir Island!