I wanted to see Iceland before anyone even knew it existed, save Icelanders. Before the Blue Lagoon, before the Ring Road or cooing over the cuteness of arctic foxes, I’ve yearned to see this land of extremes. See, before all of the hype, there was a girl standing in her kitchen, brunette buns wound tightly on her head, Hindu dots carefully placed above her thick eyebrows. She sensually rolled eggs along her pale skin while singing about the planet Venus as a boy, her melody accented with an infectious purr and growl.
I was barely a teenager, and I had fallen in love with the music and creative genius of a woman named Björk. Her unique, lyrical approach to everything from music to fashion to life left me smitten, and also encouraged me to explore the intricacies of curiosity within my own being. I played her CDs incessantly, eagerly awaiting the release of each new album. I devoured the artwork of the leaflets, memorized the words, and felt each new song reverberate within me with each musical note.
Through Björk’s biographies, I learned about her musical background, including her previous band, the Sugarcubes, her favorite literature (including the erotic Story of the Eye, which I read in one sitting, no doubt), and her stance on teenage pregnancy (she had a son, Sindri, at the age of 18). I also discovered, through her, a small city called Reykjavík, located in a tiny country, inhabited by about 265,000 people at the time, where she grew up.
Iceland was where her creative mind and impassioned visions were formed. It was a place where the sun didn’t set until midnight in the summer, and barely showed itself in the bone-aching cold of winter. The landscapes- from geysers to mountains to fjords to hot springs- were as if from another planet, ranging in size and color and appearance with no reason and no apology. Nordic tradition and folklore followed suit, spinning tales of trolls and a monstrous cat of Christmas. Colors of the rainbow danced in the sky at night amongst the stars, watched below by the childlike eyes of farmers and fishermen.
Iceland was a place more fantastic, and yet more concrete, than any fairytale could have promised. My infatuation with the country and with Björk refused to fade, and only became stronger as I grew into a young adult. My best friend and I would sit in my maroon, hand-me-down Pontiac in community college, getting high on cheap weed and teaching each other about our musical obsessions. I enlightened him about Björk, whose voice he considered alien in the best of ways, and he showed me the beauty of Led Zeppelin, where I closed my eyes and traveled through the Amazonian jungles of my mind. We watched the Californian leaves of fall rustle in the wind and planned our trip to Iceland, where he would settle as a farmer, and I would traipse through the snow during the day, hiking mountains like Jack Kerouac, and return to my cottage to write after the sun retreated.
Dreams disintegrate for some, but for others, the hope they inspire grows like the embers of a raging conflagration. About eight years ago, my friend had a daughter, whom he gave the surname of Aeronsdottir, per Nordic tradition. I, on the other hand, did not have a daughter, but I continued to explore the world and vowed to see all of the beauty this earth offered until I took my last breath.
“Goddess sparkle, looking hard for moments of shine from twilight to twilight…” -Bjork
It seems I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. A magical moment like when I’d been dreaming of seeing orangutans in the exotic destination of Borneo. It’s not one of those trips that you know or even half-believe will eventually happen. It’s one that seems so distant, so intangible, so perfect that the thought of actually realizing it spins your mind in a fit of surreal day dreams. You imagine yourself there, walking the streets with your winter coat on, breathing the crisp air, hands stowed away in your pockets. You breathe out and a puff of fog trails out like smoke from the caterpillar’s mouth. But will it really be like this?
Expectations can be deceptive, but they can also be massively surpassed.
So now that I actually have my flight booked to Reykjavík ($99 USD from Boston to Keflavik- you know I’m a budget traveler!), what the hell am I actually going for? Obviously I’m not going to throw back shots of Katla (an Icelandic vodka) or sing karaoke with Björk. (I would however, like to explore her local hangouts and childhood home, if possible.) My sophomoric motivation was planted years ago, but it has morphed into a more sophisticated mission for exploration. Or at least I’d like to believe so.
Reykjavík will be my base for about four or five weeks, where I will be volunteering at a hostel for the first time. This trip, like others, will be budget-focused, and I’ll be using alternative types of accommodation as much as possible to lessen or completely eliminate the cost of lodging. With roots set in the city, I’ll explore as much as I can throughout the country, eating vegan food along the way, and trying to see as much wildlife as possible. Since I am going during the winter, it is dubious that I will be able to see arctic foxes or even puffins, but more than likely I will be able to successfully whale and dolphin watch. I’ll be dipping into hot springs, witnessing geysers, delving into caves, photographing glaciers, and maybe even learning how to dive in Iceland’s cold, cold waters. I may learn some Icelandic along the way as well. More than anything, I want to see the Aurora Borealis, and refuse to leave the country until I do. The earth’s cycle of solar activity is heading into an 11-year remission, and so the time is now. Before the ice caps melt. Before Reykjavík becomes an abhorable hotbed of tourists like Cancun. Before this previously unheard-about country is exploited down to its very soil. Before it is too late, I must explore Iceland and discover what it has truly meant to me all of these years.
And another thing… It is time that I become nomadic full-time, listening to the gypsy impulses that tug at my soul, propelling me further and further across the globe. And so, my trip has no expiration date. I have no ticket back to Portland, and no intention of stopping any time soon. I could not be more elated. Now is my time; now is the time for Iceland and beyond…