... and then 1/3 of the population died
Scott, my husband of 28 years1, and I just returned from a trip to Iceland. Why Iceland? Why not Iceland? It’s only a five-six hour flight from the upper east coast and is, as it turns out, absolutely amazing. As Scott pointed out, it’s a hard place to call beautiful, because that word doesn’t quite work for a landscape that a) changes by the moment and b) keeps getting transformed by glaciers, lava, geysers, and earthquakes. It is striking. It is alien and fascinating. But most of it is not beautiful.
And, yes. I am absolutely ready to toss my shit back in a bag and return. We were in constant motion. We only saw a sliver of it.2 There is so much more to see.
In short: magical, wonderful trip that I’m glad we took the time and money3 to go on.
As is my usual when getting home from a great trip, I looked forward to unpacking.4 Surely, one of the souvenirs I’ve returned with will capture all of the wonder of the trip. I must have found an object that preserves the utter magic, like a complete experience bottled in a snow globe.
And as is my usual, I felt crushing disappointment when I realized I hadn’t purchased that thing, mostly because it doesn’t actually exist.5 I’ll have to rely on pictures and memories and words to capture something uncapture-able. Same as it ever was.
Iceland, as Scott pointed out, is very much a fuck-around-and-find-out7 kind of country, which is refreshing. This holds true for people — witness the sheer number of perp walks after the Panama Papers leaked8 — and natural features. Safety around, say, spots where you could easily step off of a path and die, amount to a thin rope that suggests a subtle “hey, maybe don’t do that.” It’s a startling change from the U.S. approach, where not pointing out every hazard will get you sued. I don’t know that one approach is better than the other because there will always be folks who don’t think the warnings pertain to them. I do know that Iceland’s approach is decidedly less ugly.
The FAFO spirit must have been born9 from the centuries where a sizeable chunk of the population would get wiped out every few decades by famine, epidemics, exposure, or lava. Icelanders know how much risk is involved in simply being alive in a place that is only just sort of hospitable. So many of the Helpful Plaques at Perlan contain a sentence like “… and then a 1/3 of Icelandic people died.” You either come to terms with that or never leave your house.
That might also be why Icelanders seem to genuinely care about building systems that inherently honor how interconnected we are. Are they perfect systems? No. But they come from a fundamentally different place that ours. Where the U.S. is focused on protecting what you might be lucky enough to have10 from folks who you don’t feel deserve it,11 Iceland feels like every human should have the basics because they are humans and being a human is less hard if we help each other.
I mean — maybe that kind of human-centric approach only works when your population is about 350,000. Maybe it doesn’t scale. But, still, maybe we should give it a whirl?
With that thought, more pictures and captions:
I could totally keep going — but won’t, if only because I’m near the limit of what gmail will support.
I’ll leave you with a question: what is the best souvenir you’ve brought home?
Reykjavik was home base. We drove the Golden Circle (including a stop at the Kerið crater) and to various points on the Reykjanes Peninsula like the Blue Lagoon, the Bridge Between the Continents, and a geothermal area whose name is escaping me. We took a boat to see puffins and generally walked around. Oh! And went to Perlan and ÁRBÆR and the Settlement Museum. All in about 4.5 days. Holler if you want tips — and I highly recommend this place.
We didn’t need cash at all, btw. Iceland — even when we were in essentially nowhere — you could use a debit/credit card.
Yes, I am one of those “unpack right away and do laundry” people
with a photo or ten
Please let the Jan. 6 hearings lead to perp walks. Please.
like healthcare or a home
because they are brown or speak a different language or like Lee Greenwood