FIELD TRIP: Iceland

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There were so many times when I started out to write this post, but they somehow never seemed right.  Maybe I wanted to cherish Iceland that much more, thought it wasn't fair to keep it all to myself.  Please, enjoy!  And thanks for reading… E

I felt like I'd been asleep for years.

I prayed for relationships that never materialized. I waited for change to occur without acknowledgement that it had to happen first within myself. I counseled others and did not heed the advice I gave: The only person you owe happiness to is yourself. It starts with you. It begins with me.

Moving to France aside - and yes, that was HUGE - I hadn't traveled much the past eight years. There was always an excuse. And when I did travel, as with my best friend for her fortieth birthday, it caused me great anxiety.  I knew I had to undergo several dental surgeries, which later contributed to me falling into bankruptcy. I broke out in mysterious, debilitating hives.  I broke a foot.  I broke the same foot again. I shattered a wrist. I had a cat that depended on me.  I lived in a place I hated.  I worked an insane amount of hours to ensure I was never again financially destitute.  I lost my sense of Self.

It was all my fault because I got stuck in a mindset that couldn't believe myself worthy of any better.

To say I moved to Paris because I could (link) is a half truth. The whole truth is to say I moved so I could save my Self. It was time to make my Self happy. Whether I wander through the city or  spend an entire day inside my small studio apartment, I'm okay with it because I'm happy now in my space and, to me, that's everything. And while I remain privileged to live in such a wonderful city, there are times when I tire of city life and the walks through Luxembourg Gardens won't do. I long to reconnect with Mother Nature or Mother Earth… Gaia.

***

It wasn't lost on me. In the span of a month I went from the lush forests of Belgium to the volcanic landscape of Iceland. Each with its own rugged beauty, I was captivated…. in awe.

Tervuren forest breathed life. I sensed it, pulsating and teeming all around. Light filtered through trees. Songs of countless birds rang out. Leaves crushed underfoot. And fragrant flowers filled the air I breathed. Every path revealed a new wonder and I felt connected to nature as I hadn't been in years.

Iceland was altogether different, like an eighth Wonder of the World. Isolated. Cold. Barren, yet full of life force. From the first glimpse on the final approach into KEF airport, I felt enveloped in the cradle of Gaia. Pangaea surely was created in Iceland.

'I am home', I thought.

I'd decided this would be my birthday trip. A friend in Paris offered to organize a small gathering in my honor (Thank you, Emma!) but for some unknown reason, I knew I just had to go to Iceland. Maybe it was some intense 2012 energy calling my name.

Anyway, Emma texted. "You want to do drinks or dinner?" I hesitated. "Whatever you want," she continued.

All I thought to myself was, "No.... I'm going to go sit in a geothermal lagoon in Iceland." I smiled as I typed. "I'll see you on Saturday." And just like that, I dropped my next work trip through the flight attendant trip trade board, bought my Icelandair ticket and was off!

It wasn't entirely out of the blue.

Back in 2004, I took a leave of absence and worked for a company called Mint Lifestyle. For an undisclosed (read: LARGE) sum of money, a client acquired a team of individuals who organized and obtained the impossible, hard to obtain, whims and desires of the super rich. One of our clients was the co-founder of a trendy cosmetics company and heir to a significantly larger firm, and 'David' wanted to go to Iceland. I sent him on drives and excursions I longed to do after I'd watched teams compete there on 'The Amazing Race'.  Well, 'David' came back raving about the country, and anytime I've ever heard a person rave so much about a particular destination, I make it a point to go there.  So I went!

Thanks to a generous hook-up at a coworker's family's hotel in Reykjavik, I was able to splash out on a stay at the Blue Lagoon Spa & Clinic, just as I'd dreamed of from a Pinterest pin.  Within a few hours after landing and a brief ride through what looked like endless miles of lava rock dusted in sand (I later learned this was winter's dormant moss), I arrived at the famous lagoon where my silica salt scrub and in-water massage started in less than 50 minutes.

Magda, my masseuse, worked away my jet-lagged heaviness… gently rocking and buoying me so that the pool's warm water washed over the thick, heavy blankets sheltering me from the 33˚F / 1˚C cold outside.  It was the strangest feeling to experience squinting through my sunglasses under sun so strong while a bitter breeze swept past, and to have my body literally bathed in toasty comfort, all at the same time.  When the massage time ended, Magda reminded me that my bikini top was undone, but that I could lay there and relax as long as I needed.

I floated there for God knows how much time, marveling at the vast blue-ness of the sky.  Crayola cerulean blue.  I emptied my mind of all but the sun and breeze, and the warm, sulfurous water that held me up.  Humbled with gratitude, I thanked Gaia and my spirit guides for leading me to such a place.   I was in heaven.  I was all pruney, but I was in heaven.

Eventually I heard the voices of other guests and their masseuses and merged back into the immediate present.  Remembering Magda's warning about my top, I struggled to retie it under the ridiculously heavy blankets and waded out to explore the rest of the lagoon.  In the main pool, I spotted buckets of white silica mud and joined others as we slathered the goo on our faces, necks, and shoulders.  Some of the men with bald or shaved heads spread it on their scalps, too.  Curious about a great, billowing cloud of steam, I slowly navigated through the slippery, rocky floor to the opposite end.  Imagine how exhilarating it felt to stand in the path of powerful steam rising from the earth!  With each shift of the wind I stood in brilliant open air with about ten others, or completely engulfed where steam made it difficult to breathe.  And I did not move.  The steam cleansed me as the air invigorated me and the water nourished me.  Fellow bathers realized this as well, as we exchanged knowing glances and nods.  The lucky few had waterproof cameras to capture sight.  The rest of us held the memory.  Iceland truly is the land of fire and ice.

I enjoyed a light meal and the free wi-fi before calling it a night at the clinic's hotel.  Or a day… I wasn't quite sure in the land where the sun doesn't sleep in spring.  In the morning, I soaked in the clinic's private pool and made sure to buy some of that fabulous silica mud mask before catching the bus to Reykjavik.  The driver dropped me off at Hotel 66, and I used the door code to let myself in.  I think I was the only person in the hotel till my coworker's cousin arrived.  Erikur kindly showed me to the correct room and directed me to the nearest bus.  I set out to the city center in search of Rob's favorite lamb hotdogs…. but NOT the rotten shark! I passed on the smoked puffin…. How could anyone eat that adorable creature?  I passed on the whale menu, too.  I thought I'd found the hotdog joint but instead had a tasty, but wrong hotdog alternative.  I walked and searched till… Score!  And ate another… the one and only lamb hotdog.  It was the most meat product I'd had in months.

One thing I discovered: coffee houses and happy hours are great in Reykjavik, especially when combined at Stofan Café.  After tooling around town and popping in & out of museums and shops, I happened upon this laid back local hangout and ate some homemade carrot cake with my coffee, and then tried an excellent microbrewery stout.  After horseback riding and whale watching, I headed into Stofan's again, met up with a couple I'd seen the night before, and listened to a folk duo from town.  I began to contemplate if I could commute to work at New York's JFK airport and move from Paris to Reykjavik.  I wondered if I could bring my cat.

Right.  Back to reality.

Tripadvisor listed Islenski Hesturinn, The Icelandic Horse-Riding Tours as the #1 activity to do in Reykjavik, so guess what I did.  Sveinn and Bekka were gracious hosts, whereas Bekka provided the history and demonstrated the unique speciality of the Icelandic horse.  Forgive me, Vaektig, for butchering your name.  You are a noble horse and I admired your spirit, girl.  Vaektig preferred to ride ahead of the group  (an 'issue' I've come upon in the past with my animals.  Hmm…) and I worked to keep her in check.  The ride, however, provided one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the fragile landscape.  We paused to take photos in front of a collapsed volcanic crater.  A highlight ended the tour as we watched the horses wash themselves in the dirt back at the stables, unbridled in joy as they were without saddles.

Sveinn dropped me off at Reykjavik harbour where I joined a whale watching tour.  The humpbacks were a little shy but my group had a good time trying to spot things before the captain did.  We lost every time, but I'm sure he's spent more time at sea.  Minke whales were everywhere.  Those were easy enough to spot but in the end, I contented myself with enjoying my time out on the ocean… What's that on the horizon?  Our tour guide informed us we were, indeed, gazing upon the place where fire and ice first met: Ginnungagap.

Gaia awakened me.  And I know I AM worthy of so much more.

***

Shortly after my return home, Rob posted this beautiful video which captures the essence of how I felt.  Please enjoy.

À la prochaine… 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEaCbMDOfQ4]