In the final moments I spent in Iceland, filling up the tank of my tiny car just before turning it back in at the airport, I watched the sky turn from a sunny, picturesque canopy to an impressive whirlwind of a blizzard that seemed to be yelling at the earth. As I fidgeted with the machine--scarf and hair whipping in the wind and obstructing my view of pretty much everything--my hat flew off my head in a fury and danced madly across the parking lot.
I couldn't muster the strength to chase after it, especially with my frozen fingers, but my travel mate, wonder woman that she is, did. Still gas-less, I used all my might to re-open the car door against the wind before nestling back inside the sanctuary-of-a-space we'd spent the previous eight days driving around the island in. Cheri climbed in a minute after, and uncontrollable laughter erupted from both of us. A cinematic moment, indeed, but this was the Iceland we'd learned to love, and the weather we'd come to expect.
In our short journey, we experienced literal white-outs, cloudless, azure-blue skies, sleet, gentle snowfall, thick rain, heavy fog, and even hail. Despite the unpredictable weather--and the white-knuckled steering wheel gripping that ensued--this spontaneous trip was soul-nourishing and restorative.
There were black sand beaches, hot, bubbling mud pits, geysers, glowing northern lights, ferocious waterfalls, seal-filled glacier lagoons, volcanic craters, impressive mountains, welcoming guesthouse owners and many an excited traveler eager to exchange stories.
It's hard to pick a favorite moment with such an impressive list to choose from, but there's one that certainly stands out: the dip I took in an abandoned, outdoor, hot swimming pool. As you'll see, it was nestled between snow-spotted mountains and a thunderous creek that I imagine was just reawakening for spring. A guesthouse owner told us about this "secret" destination--which has become more well-known as tourism continues booming in Iceland--and we added it to our "must do" list promptly.
Getting there requires some gusto and dedication. I can't say for sure, but I assume the 25-minute hike in less than ideal conditions is perhaps why the pool, built in 1923, was abandoned in 1980. To this day, though, it re-circulates with warm water, and many contend that the hike is worth it.
I found the entire experience--hike and eventual pool reward--therapeutic and perhaps even symbolic of life itself. There were obstacles along the way, including a swiftly-moving, deep creek that required clever maneuvering, cliff-hugging turns on slippery rocks, paths that have since become unusable, and blustery winds paired with a chilly drizzle. All that, and not even seeing the pool in your sight until the very end, requires both mental and physical tenacity.
About 20 minutes later, just when thoughts of, "Am I really on the right path?" and "Should I turn around?" became a little intrusive, this happened.
The water wasn't as warm as one would like when temperatures are near freezing, but that's all part of the fun. It was actually quite hot in some places, so anyone who entered migrated toward the warmth.
Getting out of the warm water took additional strength, but once dried and dressed, Cheri and I found ourselves particularly reinvigorated on the hike back. As she put it, it was an experience she needed, but didn't know she needed; the challenge she was looking and hoping for. And I felt the same way.
Perhaps it's cheesy or cliche to liken such an experience to a therapy session, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it. Traveling in general has always proven healthful for me, but it's experiences like these--where I challenge myself and do something a little zany--that cultivate a stronger version of me.
- What's the best non-therapy therapy you've experienced?
- What's your fondest travel memory ?