I flew into Keflavik International Airport on Thanksgiving day. After backpacking alone around Western Europe for a month, I was finishing my trip by meeting a friend in Iceland.
I picked up Abby at the airport at 6 A.M. and we started our drive north toward Akureyri, where we planned to stay for a few nights. Because of the season, the days were short and the nights long. Even starting so early in the day, we were in the dark for hours still. After driving for awhile, the blue night sky shifted to white as we became caught in a terrible blizzard and were forced to turn back. Having both grown up in Central Illinois, we’ve driven through our fair share of harsh winter weather—but when an Icelandic trucker turned around and flagged us down to do the same, we knew it was in our best interest to follow suit.
It was hard for us to give up the anticipated experience of taking Highway 1—the “Ring Road”—around the island, but ultimately agreed it would be best to be flexible and avoid getting stuck. We ended up staying at a hostel outside of Reykjavik.
Over those few days, we ventured out on the west side of the island, covering the western peninsula, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and the southern plains of Reykjanesfólkvangur. From there, we moved east to finish the remainder of our trip on a horse farm in the southern region.
There was no end to striking visuals around the island nation, even in the dead of winter. Around every turn, we discovered new abstract shapes, bold textures, and vivid colors. From the asymmetrical spires coming out of the ocean to the deep blues of the glacial ice, I was constantly in wonder.
"Iceland showed me an environment constantly tearing down, destroying, and recreating in front of my eyes."
The most captivating moment came while waking up at 3 A.M. and looking out the window to find the sky lit up by the aurora borealis. I yelled at Abby to get up and we haphazardly threw our on coats and ran outside. I’d never experienced anything like it before. Iridescent blues and greens floated through the air like a cloud. We were frozen, quiet, and in awe.
To me, Iceland was an otherworldly experience. It showed me an environment that is constantly tearing down, destroying, and recreating in front of my eyes. A life cycle of growth I’ve been working to recreate within myself ever since.