I recently took a trip to Iceland – my first to that country. It was also my first solo traveling venture, as all my previous trips had me visiting friends. I was alone in a foreign country; and with that came all the liberation and all the fear of being totally on my own.
The entire trip had me filled with gratitude. Everyone who had supported me, financially or through simple encouragement; my travel-veteran friends who gave me tips about what to do and not do in Iceland. The family with the cozy apartment who had a room to let. The shop owners who answered my questions, the cafe workers who patiently waited while I counted out my money. These are the people who made Iceland for me.
Being a solo traveler, I was accustomed to being alone in the city, alone among people as I visited shops and museums. Alone in the crowd I was able to absorb the feel of the city. Reykjavik was friendly to loners. But then one day I journeyed out of the city and into the lava.
The map told me that I was in the middle of the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula. But really I was in the middle of an ancient ocean, under more sky than I had ever seen. The mountains in the distance, so far away, looked like another country.
Out here, my aloneness was nothing akin to loneliness. This barren plain of black rock was alive with every color. Moss and wild grass and scrubby little bushes all covered in berries. The thrill of seeing a wilderness like this enveloped me like the unceasing wind.
Gravel paths showed me that I was not the only one who came out here to take joy in this wild aloneness. Lava rocks ground to a powder crunched as I walked, louder than the wind. I wanted to walk forever, to follow the dark line made by bicycle tires in the gravel, and see where it took me.
I was filled with awe to be so alone. Filled with awe to be surrounded by so much life. Everyone who had walked these trails before me, from the first Viking boots to the bicycle tires of the man yesterday – they were all my companions.
Iceland, the land of contrasts. The land of fire and ice, to be sure, but also a land of modern cities and unspoiled nature. The restaurants and shops and historic buildings of Reykjavik can entertain, inspire, and not leave you lonely.
I would tell you to go to the lava fields of Iceland if you want to be alone. And in the lava fields you will find that you are not alone after all. With the history beneath your feet and the future in the sky and all around, you’re never alone.
About the Author: Grace Robinson is a writer of fantasy, and a fan of arctic places, world music, mythology, and linguistics. She is a world traveler and author hopeful. Grace currently lives in Virginia with two rabbits and a lot of books. Find more on her blog.