It’s hard to believe that this trip is almost over as much as it’s not hard to believe at all.
This month has been strange–this weird suspension of time where my life equally existed and did not exist. It’s hard to feel completely isolated from Life As You Know It when, in this day and age, you are able to carry practically all elements of your life with you on your phone, in your pocket. But for as comforting as that at-your-fingertips feeling was while I’ve been here, the Looking Glass effect of Social Media and smartphones can also feel tremendously amplified when you’re thousands of miles from home.
Today is my last full day in Iceland and I wish I could say I’m making the most of it, but to be honest, it’s hard not to be focused on home and all the things that are waiting for me there. Yes, it is beautiful here and there is plenty here left to see, but it will have to wait for another trip perhaps. For now, I am ready to go home.
I’m continuing to take my best friend’s advice by not forcing myself into having big expectations for myself and feeling guilty about having to cram in all the last-minute things I need to do in the city on this beautiful day. So, instead I mainly enjoyed the sunshine from cafe windows and restaurants around downtown Reykjavik.
I have to admit that I’m already slightly dreading having to answer the “How was your trip?” question. I feel pressure to say it was incredible; that it really was the amazing journey of a lifetime everyone keeps telling me this should be. Don’t get me wrong–in a lot of ways, it definitely was, but not in the beautiful, edited way that a few Facebook posts and Instagram photos make it seem. This has been a good trip, but it was a hard one, too–full of a lot of exploration–both around this country and within myself.
The whole self-reflection aspect of the trip probably sounds cheesy and a bit bullshit-y, but you can’t go away for a month, spending the majority of your time by yourself without focusing on the things you like about yourself and the things you can’t really stand. This past month gave me the opportunity to really focus inward, getting to know understand who I’ve become in the whirlwind of the past few years, and making me really focus on what it is I want, and what I need in order to be happy.
Happiness–damn if that ain’t one hell of a loaded word. I think, above all, this trip has made me realize how I might need to readjust whatever it is I’ve been carrying around as my expectation of what that really means for me. I know that probably sounds weird.
Let me explain:
I think for a very long time I have believed that I would be able to achieve Real Happiness if I could just get away from all “Those Things” that were standing in my way–stressful situations, difficult people, imperfect jobs and relationships. It was always something or someone that stood in between me and what I wanted, though never the same thing, and if only I could get over that *one* obstacle, I Could Be Happy.
So maybe that’s how I ended up in Iceland–maybe I was trying to prove to myself how much better things could be without all the distractions. Maybe I thought I could finally just be the person I wanted to be–the focused writer, the care-free traveler, the positive, driven, determined Happy person of my dreams. Iceland was the first place where I didn’t feel like a walking car accident after my husband and I separated. It was the first place that I felt like I would eventually be OK again. So I think for me, I think that by coming back, I hoped to gain more of that sense of reassurance and peace.
Having this time to myself here has definitely has been beneficial and rewarding–I might never get the chance to spend an entire month doing exactly what I want to every day, never having to worry about setting an alarm or being set to any major obligations, beyond the ones I choose for myself (though I hope that possibility will exist again). I got to travel, I got to write, I got to just be in a place that is almost surreal in its beauty. And that allowed for a lot of really, really wonderful moments. But that doesn’t mean all of them were wonderful. Even though I left all my perceived frustrations at home, there were new ones to replace them–different issues I had to adjust to, other people and circumstances that didn’t always align to The Plan I Set in My Head. Beyond that, the truth is there’s just some inherent restlessness in me that I realized I could no longer blame on someone or something else. This trip forced me to deal with these things. No more excuses, no more bullshit. And damn if that’s not a scary thing.
The bright side of all that Being Stuck With Yourself is Getting to Appreciate The Things I Do Well. Sure, I became painfully aware of my need for more patience, compassion, and understanding, especially for those who might not feel as comfortable within themselves, or those who I may not feel as comfortable around, but I also saw the ways that I am helpful and kind. I see that I’m braver than I might realize, and I’m able to navigate through a lot of situations that others might turn away from.
Soooo, self-discovery? Check.
Next up: Appreciation of The Things You’ve Already Got.
Sure, this trip made me better appreciate the beauty and wonder of another place and a different culture, but it’s also made me recognize the amazing things I have at home that I have been taking for granted. I’m lucky to have a family who loves me, a job I’m excited about, and friends who offer me an incredible support network. In some ways, I definitely will be sad to leave here, but I’m also very much ready to go back to Real Life, to be with my people and to get on with all the good things happening at home.
With life so incredibly in flux the past couple of years, I think that I needed a break from it in order to really look at in from an objective viewpoint, and see that it hasn’t just been me Getting to the Next Good Thing–it’s that I’ve already got a lot of really good things in place right now. And I continue to be thankful and humbled by how many people have supported me to take this trip–my family, my loved ones, my job,
I’d like to think that important life lessons were learned and character building was achieved, but at this stage, it’s honestly pretty hard to tell. I’m curious, and almost a little frightened, to see what it will be like once I get back home. I keep expecting to experience this incredible transformative moment once I step off the plane, back on U.S. soil, or some sort of weird Cast Away-esque scene where I just keep turning the hot water on and off, wondering why it doesn’t smell like sulfur. But I doubt the feeling will actually be that dramatic–I’ve been in Iceland after all, a place that speaks English and has enough cultural overlap with home that it’s not totally foreign to what I know. One thing is certain though–this trip isn’t the end of the whole Figuring My Shit Out–I’m looking forward to continuing with the lessons I’ve started to learn here and implementing them stateside. Look out, Tristate Area–I’m coming for you.