It’s been a over week since Iceland and I can’t believe my first solo trip is over and done so quickly. Granted it was only 6 days, but I experienced more than I could ask for. If you read my I Left My Job And Headed To Iceland article, you’ll have a premise of how I was mentally prepared for this trip and the events leading up to it.
I can’t cover much on things you should know about traveling solo since it’s different everywhere you go. But I will say that Iceland is considered one of the safest countries, so I highly recommend it for a first time solo traveler. I felt 100% safe even during the night in city and rural areas. The biggest threat was the weather that was ever changing. And while I’m still traveling to new places and gaining new experiences, I’ll share what I’ve learned specifically on this trip and how in some ways it’s healed me mentally and how it’s one of the best experiences thus far.
Mental health has always been important to me since I’ve struggled with it from time to time. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. But this has by far been the most healing experience I’ve given myself and I want to share it with others in hopes that this will be an open call to do what you need to do to be a better you; and frankly, just live. I’ll give you a minute to swallow all this cheese.
Ya good? Alright. Here are the 3 things I learned on my trip:
1. A new peace and quiet
I arrived in Iceland at 4am and couldn’t check in at my hostel until 2pm. I ventured out to wake myself up. I checked TripAdvisor to find a good breakfast place that was open early and was on my way there by foot. I sat down and pulled out the one book I brought. That was the moment I felt truly alone in another country. Like the first time in a long time my mind was quiet. Even with people around me, there’s something about being in another country with a different culture where no one knows who I am that lets me strip from the societal acts I put on. The low-key hostility we all have. You take on behaviors from your surroundings and people around you unconsciously; good and bad. By giving myself a reset, I reminded myself who I could be without any influence. Hopefully a decent human being.
I also had moments where I was truly alone. They were so pure. I witnessed the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. I was in the middle of nowhere with no one around me. The wind was quiet and all I could hear were my own footsteps in the snow and the gentle stream running beside me. I sat there for a while in disbelief. I didn’t know how to feel, but eventually felt dirty. Dirty from all of the pettiness, worry, and ungrateful thoughts and feelings that take over me. And all the energy, light, and quietness from that moment felt like forgiveness. It was a secret therapy session with nature.
Being back in Los Angeles and the hustle, I catch myself going back to these moments when I feel stressed. It’s like a quick getaway. I like to think that what I feel and see is where my passed loves ones are. It’s my little Heaven on Earth that now lives in my mind.
2. More opportunities come when you’re openminded
I’ve always been openminded which makes traveling alone more fun and easier. And what do you know, my experience was so much richer because of it.
That moment when I finally felt alone on my first day was temporarily short lived when I checked Instagram and saw an old friend had posted a photo in Reykjavik. I had to message him to confirm and met for dinner later with him and his friends.
If it weren’t for running into them, I would have never experienced St. Patrick’s day the way I did, I would have spent $90 on waterproof gloves (thanks Kevin!), and I would have never seen The Northern Lights. Sometimes coincidences feel like more.
The last thing that happened on my trip made it come full circle. The deal closer on why this trip was the best thing that’s ever happened to me and why I felt there was another force at work other than my own to show me something new.
3. There is kindness in the world
To premise why this was one of the most amazing and coincidental things to happen to me, before my trip, I discovered a documentary series called “The Kindness Diaries“. It’s about one man who traveled the world solely relying on the kindness of others. The food he ate, places he slept, and gas for his motorbike had to be given by a stranger and never bought. The line that struck a chord with me was when the man asked a stranger why he was helping him when he almost had nothing himself. The stranger said, “because you are human, and humans help humans”. I wanted this experience for myself.
On my second to last day in Iceland, after everything felt as if it fell into place and all was perfect, I got caught in bad weather conditions. The roads closed and I was stuck in a 300-person town called Vík. I was supposed to drive back to Reykjavik (3 hours away) to prepare for my flight the next day. But it already being 8pm and no sign of the road opening soon, I didn’t think I would make it to the city.
I parked at a gas station and decided to walk around the town, stopping at the corner of where the road was closed to see if it would open anytime soon. Then came two people around my age who also stood by me looking at the closure. I asked them if they were waiting for the road to open too. Turns out they were locals and offered me a place to stay or at least a warm place to wait. I was caught off guard by their gesture, but they were friendly and welcoming so I accepted.
They lived in a two bedroom apartment with three people. The two that found me were Ira, Icelandic, and Maxim, French but spoke in a British accent because he hated the French. The other woman was French too, but spoke no English. Only smiled and offered cookies. Ira was a sweetheart and Maxim was the type that acted like he hated the human race but actually has a soft heart. The other woman was constantly messaging on Facebook. I imagined she had several boyfriends in different countries, catfish style. I mention this because while I sat on their couch with alcohol in hand, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a book with these interesting characters. It was a chuckle-worthy experience.
Without even asking, these strangers fed me, provided alcohol, and a place to stay. It’s the greatest random act of kindness I’ve ever had. One day, I hope to contact the one sweater shop in Vík where they both work and offer some kind of kindness back. I’m sure it was a small gesture to them, but left a lasting memory in this city girl.
If you couldn’t tell, this trip was transforming and it was all because I decided to wander off alone. I don’t dislike my friends or family, I just love who I am and who I become when I’m completely vulnerable.
We don’t make ourselves vulnerable often and it’s a tragedy. We build walls and wait for others to show their worth before we can befriend them. We judge the way people live and what they believe because we don’t think it’s necessary to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.
Learning is not just for academia or “what life throws at you”. I like to put myself out there to learn more about the human condition, what I’m capable of without boundaries, and to make sure I am still someone without anyone. I live for the moments that make me think “I knew there was more to this”. It’s addicting, sometimes sloppy and dangerous, but I love it all.
A week after, I still feel peace, healed, and happy. I don’t know how long it will last, but it happened and I can live with that.
You may not have the same experience as me, but you can get an idea of what can happen if you let it. It might not be Iceland or a spiritual awakening for you. The events in my life lead me to the point of needing to feel some type of relief. Whatever you’re looking for is out there somewhere, but it starts and ends with you. Don’t be afraid to find it.