When you lead an itinerant lifestyle it is easy to start thinking of travel as a burden. My weekly trips to Finland quickly became exhausting with the 8-hour door to door commute single way, and I would rebuff the excited “you work in Helsinki? That’s so cool” uttered by my friends with a grumpy remarks about the travel’s disruption to my personal life. And yet, somewhere between the long working hours and utter depletion I decided it was time to go to Iceland.
I had of course some doubts whether the idea of a surprise trip to Iceland for my husband’s birthday was really a good one. I had to plan the trip without him knowing, which meant doing research from the hotel room in Helsinki and booking accommodation between the daily project meetings that some nights extended until 10 pm. After few weeks of working 16 hour days I was beginning to regret not going for a more traditional way of celebrating his special day, perhaps one that would involve staying home. As the date of the trip was approaching, I began to worry even more noticing that my husband’s intense work routine was wearing him down as well. Everything will be fine, I reassured myself, after all we just had to put up with one hectic evening of travel to then enjoy three days of relaxing in nature.
As a frequent flyer I had no hopes for our flight to be a pleasant one. I viewed the three-hours of being airborne as the unpleasant necessity to get us from point A to B, in a similar fashion I tend to think of my regular international commute. To my great surprise however, Icelandair came equipped with comfortable seats, pillows and a tv packed with the latest blockbusters. They even managed to make the walk through the plane more entertaining by printing various Icelandic words and their explanations on the headrests of the seats, giving travellers a glimpse into the land of natural wonders that awaited them upon arrival.
After the comfortable journey we made our way to the hotel I booked for our first night in Iceland. Set right by the iconic Blue Lagoon, the Retreat proved to deliver the best guest service I have ever experienced and provided us with a day of utter bliss. It wasn’t however until we spent the day relaxing in the warm milky-blue waters of the lagoon, resting in the hotel’s spa covered in silica mud masks and enjoying an afternoon stroll through the moss covered volcanic landscape that my husband and I fully realised how badly we had been in need of a break life this.
Over the last few months our usually manageable routines had become absolutely hectic and we’ve been struggling to find time to unwind in between the crazy pace of the weekdays that seemed to have no end. And suddenly here we were – just the two of us, in the middle of a stunning, surreal landscape, with all the time in the world to simply reconnect with each other and our inner selves.
I am far from considering myself an outdoorsy type, but I do find spending time in nature to be calming and healing. There is a strange sense of connection with yourself and the world around you when you’re out in the open, the more rugged the landscape the more tranquil the soul. So despite the amazing time we had at the Retreat, I was glad to be spending the rest of our stay in Iceland in a tiny wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere.
We quickly established a new routine – after a good night of sleep I would make us a porridge and coffee to fuel up for the road. We would then jump into our rented car and drive to the nearest waterfall or other natural wonder, finishing our day with a hearty lobster soup from the charming owner of the Reykjavik Street Food, whose warm personality made our dinner feel more like a visit to our Icelandic grandpa’s rather than eating out.
On the first day of exploring Icelandic wilderness we decided to follow the Golden Circle. I anticipated we would be driving for few hours just to see the Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfall, but I did not expect that the journey itself would be worth every minute of it. From the moment we got on the main road we could not believe the beauty of the rough rocky landscape around us and the sense of freedom the vast open space offered. We drove through the wide empty road, the alien rugged fields of the black lava rocks covered in green and tourqouise moss giving way to the gentle snow covered peaks dotted with the majestic waterfalls cascading from most unexpected places.
Spending time in the nature in its full swing was both awe-inspiring and humbling. With the smoke from the natural hot springs and tones of water rushing seemingly out of nowhere, we were constantly reminded that the land beneath our feet is a living and breathing organism. Just like life itself, the Earth was temporarily choosing to show us the best it had to offer, but any minute it could change into a force beyond our control.
Rather than feeling unsettled, however, I found this unpredictability of the nature somewhat reassuring. It reminded me of how uncertain things are in life, and that running from one goal to another might make us miss all the great stuff in between. Having had a chance to slow down and simply be present, taking a break from the constant go-go-go pace of our everyday lives provided a perspective I think we both lost somewhere amongst the busyness of it all.
If we had spent our days traveling solely to see the places we had planned to visit, we would have missed a lot of moments that were special to us. That first stop on the gravel sideway of the main road we made to look at the lake ahead of us, that in that moment was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. That feeling of thrill and nostalgia when our all-time favourite song came on the car radio. All the conversations we’ve had about life and all the moments of silence we shared. Did it really matter where we were heading if the journey itself was worth the travel?
And so we drove on for days listening to our favourite songs, discussing our dreams and vowing to make more time for all the beautiful moments that come between the life’s milestones . Just the two of us and the open road ahead. Simply enjoying the journey we’re on. Exactly the way it should be.