For weeks I was telling my friends and teachers about my back to back trips to Greece, Italy, and Iceland. I decided to skip school for three weeks because I couldn’t miss out on the money from two work trips in one megatrip. You can imagine my disappointment when twelve hours before I am supposed to leave for Iceland, I get call from my coordinator, and she told me that my next group to Iceland has cancelled due to fears surrounding the coronavirus. I was told to make a decision: Stay in Rome, where the numbers getting infected were exponential and I would have to buy a new ticket home for God knows when OR go on to Iceland and get a plane ticket home for God knows when. Well frick, I guess I am going to Iceland.
I got to Iceland and quickly realized shit had hit the fan. Not only was I not guiding a trip, I was not getting paid for a trip. I had no idea when my company would change my flight home, or if they would, and I had no idea how I was going to spend my time in Iceland…..and I had no idea how to afford it.
After a bit of an optimism boost, I decided to take advantage of the fact I was in fucking Iceland, the literal arctic, and I jumped in and booked a few things. First, I went to the Blue Lagoon. This expensive experience is aaaalllmost worth it. It went from snowing to sunny to hailing all within my three hours in the hotspring. It was quite the experience. I bet that the hotspring is what hot tubs in heaven will look like (looking at you, God). This is where I met Olivia. Let me preface this by saying there are two types of solo travelers you will find abroad: escapists and seekers. Escapists are those in the corner reading their kindle or drinking their free beer in the quiet part of the lagoon. Seekers are trying to find relationships and connections; the type that come up to and strike conversation with escapists. Olivia was lovely, and she was a seeker. She was a Kiwi (her words) living in Paris. We had a great time doing mud masks, drinking, and getting the perfect shot to make our friends jealous on Instagram.
That same night I had booked a northern lights tour with Arctic Adventures, which was the best thing I did in all of Iceland. Frimann, our guide, was full of jokes, patience, and photography skills. We drove for about an hour onto the side of the road bordering a large lake which was overlooking a snow covered mountain and a small town. It was there that we started to see wispy cloud like fuzzy things in the sky between the actual clouds. They were so hard to make out, but once you looked at a long exposure photo, the realization was magical. I saw them!! I saw the northern lights!! The thing I put on my bucket list before I was 15 had come true. I saw it. I cried….and not the single tear happy crying that makes you look pensive and beautiful. I was borderline bawling. Was I happy? Was I lonely? Did I wish I could share this with someone? Was I proud to be able to do this kind of thing on my own? I think the answer to all of the above, was yes.
The next day I booked myself on the tour of all tours across the Southern coast of Iceland. It included all of the famous waterfalls, the black sand beach, a small town, and a glacier. To be honest, I skipped the glacier out of exhaustion and pure unadulterated fear of ice. No, thank you. It was sunny with a high of 32 degrees that day, and I got a sunburn. Honest to God, I came home with a warm pink Icelandish glow. It’s amazing how small the world seems on a charter bus in the middle of nowhere Iceland. There was a couple from Florida (Tampa, ew), two best friends in their seventies from England who had a knack for photography, a family from France, and so many more interesting people. If you want to people watch, sit on a bus for 10 hours with people who are just as crazy as you in a foreign country.
That night I had one more northern lights tour. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I almost slept through the whole thing. I was there on the bus, in the dark, out like a light. But it’s okay! It was a failure anyways. The blizzard coming was moving quicker than expected and the skies were full of clouds.
The next day before I boarded my flight, they asked me if I had traveled to “China, Iran, and…” and then he trailed off, but I never heard the word Italy, so I said no. They let me back into the states (Thank God), but then I just began my new journey, self-quarantine.