Gullfoss

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Because every tourist in Iceland has a picture of Gullfoss.

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Only The Music is Dark

petzlFifteen years ago, I spent three months in India. Before I left, my husband gave me two gifts – a really nice pocket knife, and a Petzl headlamp. Both proved invaluable. Although the knife was later stolen, I still have the headlamp, and I still use it. It has accompanied me to multiple continents. I’ve used it on night hikes, to find the bathroom at state campgrounds, and harvesting vegetables from my back yard late in the season. It’s one of the best gifts my husband ever bought me. He ended up buying one for himself, too.

But when we were packing for our recent trip to Eistnaflug, the heavy metal festival in a remote fjord in Eastern Iceland, I pulled both headlamps from the pile on our bed of things to be packed.

“You don’t think we’ll need them?” he asked in the voice of careful doubt men reserve for moments when they suspect a woman has lost her mind.

“We’re not going to need them,” I answered.

When I left the room, he put them back in.

“They don’t take much space,” he said, tucking his headlamp into his backpack as I pulled mine back out and put it in a drawer.

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What you can do at 40

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I love this sign at the Keflavik Airport in Iceland. Even though I’ve passed 40 long enough ago to disbelieve it. Climb a glacier? Hell no, I can’t even manage a proper crow pose in yoga class. But I also love this picture of my friend on her 40th birthday. She celebrated her birthday by traveling alone to a new country for a writing retreat, and while there took in her first heavy metal concert. Here she is posing with the lead singer of one of the bands.

Maybe a 40 year old can’t do anything, but being 40 – or any number – is no reason not to try something new.

Bridge to the Unknown

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In 2014, I attended the first annual Iceland Writers Retreat. At the time, I was contemplating leaving my day job for a freelance writing career. Walking in the natural area around Perlan, I saw this bridge jutting out from the path, not appearing to connect to anything on the other side. It was so rickety-looking, I wasn’t even sure if it was meant to be walked on. It seemed like a powerful, and somewhat frightening metaphor for my present circumstances.

I did not walk on the rickety, open-ended bridge. I didn’t want to be the dumb tourist who destroyed an art piece, or the dumb tourist who fell and needed rescue from a natural area inside the city. So I stayed on the path, which soon switched back below the bridge. From the lower path, the bridge looked like this:

I did not go back to cross the bridge. But I did go home and quit my day job.

Hang On Saint Christopher

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I bought this medallion of the defunct patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher, on my first backpacking trip at a flea market in Wales. He’s accompanied me on every trip since. I’m not quite superstitious, but he’s been such good company over the years that I can’t imagine getting on a plane without him.

I bought the “jade” pendant from a night market street vendor in Chiang Mai, and was quite proud of myself for talking him down to 30% of his first price. Then I walked into a bead shop two doors down and found a box of them for half what I paid. I wear it now as a reminder not to get too cocky. Life will always win, but the consolation prize is often a great story.

Today I am wearing these two mementos again, as I head to the airport for an overnight flight to Iceland. For the first time, I will not be visiting that country alone. I’m bringing my husband with me, and I hope he falls in love with it as I have.