Our next summer story comes from Carrie Andersen, who spent two weeks road tripping abroad:
The highlight of my summer was a trip I took to Iceland with one of my best friends, a fellow former high school teacher with whom I share a love for Jim Carrey movies and karaoke rooms. The two of us have taken a trip together every summer since 2009, previous destinations being Australia, the UK and Ireland, and Alaska. This time, we spent two weeks driving Iceland’s Ring Road, a highway that runs around the entire circumference of the country, which is about the size of Ohio.
After a brief misstep with our rental car that sent us careening into a ditch on a dirt road (one of our wheels detached from its axel and left our car pigeon-toed and thus undriveable), we took one of the most geologically diverse road trips I could have imagined. This was no Kerouac-style jaunt back and forth across the great plains: our route took us through winding fjords, comfortable walking paths surrounding craters, active volcanoes, steam vents, hot springs, sulfur pools, mountains, glaciers, moss-covered lava fields, farmland, and jagged cliffs. It’d be impossible not to feel the sublime terror and awe at the landscape (and, needless to say, I exhausted my camera’s memory card trying to capture the scenery – you can see my feeble attempts below).
Even after such an inauspicious vehicular start, the trip was somehow very relaxing, to my pleasant surprise. Listening to the always fitting sounds of Bruce Springsteen, the Steep Canyon Rangers, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Justin Bieber, we often drove without speaking, lost in thought about what we were seeing and wondering how the initial visitors to Iceland a thousand years ago might have reacted upon seeing such awesome, but as yet undiscovered, geological formations. What a frontier to traverse, especially without the benefit of a mostly functional Hyundai SUV.
Although our journey was largely macroscopic (we did not have the luxury of time, so we hopped quickly from place to place), I could have spent more time in a town called Seyðisfjörður, nestled in a fjord on the east side of the island. While the drive down the mountains was more anxiety-inducing than I would have preferred – think hairpin turns and a 15% grade all the way down, so we thanked our lucky stars that our brakes still worked – our brief stay there could hardly have been more zen. With fewer than 700 residents, the town is known as a tiny bohemian center inhabited by plenty of artists and local fishermen.
Which means, of course, you encounter some colorful and wonderful characters. We stayed at a hostel run by a man who, upon seeing my companion and I reading quietly in the living room, insisted that we hear some of his favorite music (Avishai Cohen, a bass player from New York) and lit some incense as he discussed with us the ins and outs of the Israeli jazz scene.
Needless to say, I can scarcely express what a pleasure it was to chill out in this village for an evening. I hope to somehow rekindle my relaxation as I reenter the bumpy atmosphere of graduate school, but what happens in Iceland might have to stay in Iceland.