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These are a Few of My Favorite Things

  • Writer's pictureJulia Valencia

Iceland: Being Present, A Present In Itself

Updated: Dec 30, 2018

Kerid Volcanic Crater, Iceland

Okay cool, I made the plunge in taking off on a one way flight without a plan. Check. Can I go home now? I'm getting slightly terrified, or something a little more paralyzing than anxious. Sure, I was excited to do this.. but I had no idea what exactly I was doing. First item on the agenda was figuring out where I was going to stay. I talked to a couple friends who were avid travelers and they suggested Couch Surfing, keeping in mind that I had seen one too many horror movies to think about test driving the dynamic of a hostel yet. The set up of Couch Surfing (CS) is that like-minded travelers offer their spare couch or guest room to travelers in exchange for getting to stay with their guest if they ever visit their hometown/ country. Yeah yeah, you could argue that staying at a complete stranger's house is waaay more horror movie-esque than a hostel.. but I liked the fact that these people had references from past house guests and they did background checks, which hostels did not. Ya win some, ya lose some. Anyway, back to Iceland.

As I was on the hour bus ride from the Keflavik to the capital, Reyjavik, I was getting slightly worried that I still hadn't received confirmation from my CS host that I could stay with him. He had great reviews as a host and lived in a great spot downtown which was central to getting everywhere.. as dandy as that all was, it did diddly-squat for me if I still know if I could stay there. I was spending the entire ride through the countryside on my phone trying to figure out alternative options, when God was nudging me to put my phone down, look out the window, enjoy the view and not stress about the situation. He was saying "I've got you, it's already handled." Okay okay, fine, I'll do it Your way. And boy was I glad I did- the little towns along the highway were so cute and different than anywhere I've ever been. The wonders of just being fully present in a situation are way underrated. 

The bus arrived at the drop-off spot and I checked my phone to receive confirmation that I could stay at my host's place and to leave my bags at KEX, a hostel next to the bus stop (and pretty central to everything in downtown). If I ever go back to Iceland, I would hands down stay here in a heartbeat. Over the next 5 days, I spent so much time there meeting other travelers, at the coffee shop and at their "backyard" hole-in-the-wall indie-pop concerts which were all so rad. Yep, it was "rad". I put my bags down and decided to grab a coffee while I charged my phone (that pesky phone getting in the way of being present again!). There were these two guys doing the same at the table next to me, when one of them turned to me asking "hey, you were on our bus from the airport, weren't you?" and immediately picked up their Boston accents. This led our conversation to them telling me how they were going to hike the back-country over the next few weeks but included me in their plans to grab breakfast and explore the city with them for the day. I'm so glad I did because they were laid-back travelers but had done their homework and actually knew of all the cool spots to check out! 

After an action-packed day, I decided to grab some grub at the hustling and bustling KEX. While I was there, I met someone who also took the solo-travel plunge spontaneously after quitting his job. He was friendly and wanting to explore the same Golden Circle national parks so we decided to forgo the overpriced guided tours and were going to rent a car the next day to check out the countryside on our side on our own. Initially, this sounded like a great idea until about two hours into driving when the guy kept "complaining" about everything that had been going horribly wrong in his life. I put the emphasis on "complaining" because, looking back, I feel terrible for processing the situation the way I did. This person was at the lowest point in their life, expressing that to me, and all I could think about was how this guy was really cramping my style on trying to enjoy my trip. I kept thinking about how I couldn't wait to get back to my solo adventures the rest of my stay in Iceland, and kept focusing on wanting him to stop talking. Dang, how incredibly insensitive and selfish of me. I should've been focusing on being present and enjoying the views instead of soaking in the negativity. I should've seen the hurting person in front of me and responded with compassion. Sure, I acted politely, but if my thoughts weren't "'polite", then is there really a difference? 

*Fun fact: The sun doesn't fully set half of the year in Iceland, so you may have to publicly scale the side of your passed-out Couch Surfing host's 3rd story apartment at 2am in complete "daylight" after stacking the nearest cafe's 2 tables, 1 chair and 1 construction cone to get inside. (My bad for the run on sentence, but I honestly had no other ideas on how to consolidate that chaos.)

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