For those unfamiliar with the expression, itchy feet is a traveler’s disease. Like other viruses, once contracted, it remains in the body forever, flaring up at the most inconvenient times. The only treatment is hair of the dog. You’ve got to get the hell out of Dodge to find any relief. For me, treatment is only effective when airplanes and passport stamps are involved – long weekends and camping trips rarely make a difference – and generally, the destination must be someplace new.
Scotland, Macau, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Costa Rica – all of these places have at one time or another cured what ailed me, and become, for a little while, my favorite spots on earth. When I left each destination, my find was filled with the joy of scheming my return. But except for Japan, I’ve never returned to any of them. There are so many places I haven’t been yet, and life is so short. How can I return to Sri Lanka when I still haven’t seen the Maldives? However much I might love Glasgow, if I’m going that far, why not keep going and find out if Trondheim is as cool as it sounds? The tragedy of itchy feet is that no matter what wonders it drives you to discover, the drive for novelty pushes you on before you’re done.
Confession: On the bus to Keflavik, I cried. I wasn’t filled with schemes for return. I was well aware of my own travel history and the likelihood of return. With Korea and Egypt and New Zealand yet to explore, what were the odds I’d really make it back to Iceland? Instead of the happy and satisfied feeling of returning from an itchy-feet spa treatment. It was a perfect scene from a Hollywood rom-com: riding to the airport through a desolate landscape of lava fields under leaden skies, raindrops rolling down the window silently echoed by the tears on my face. Soundtrack: Stevie Ray Vaughan, obviously. Even though I missed my family and knew it was time to go home, leaving Reykjavik felt like a break up.
And here I am, over a month later, still thinking of things I need to do in Iceland. I haven’t moved on to the next destination obsession. Usually, once I’ve been someplace and downloaded my photos, I start to think about all the wonderful places fellow travelers told me about. I’ll read a book or see a picture, and a new obsession will be born. Instead of obsessively reading books about Egypt, I’m going back over notes on Iceland. How much would an apartment cost in the 101 if I brought the family and couldn’t stay in a dorm? When do the countryside excursions start up again in the spring? Do I really need that coffee or can I put the five bucks in savings for airfare? I’m starting to think that Iceland may be an itch I just can’t scratch.