So when my parents planned a family vacation to Iceland a couple of years ago, I thought, yea us! I was terribly, terribly excited.
Unfortunately only a few months shy of lift off, plans had to be scratched due to my dad’s pesky double bypass surgery. Whatever.
Truth be told, I had doubts about traveling with my family. Five days together in a foreign country, where we were going to hike steep cliffs, share a narrow steel cage as we’re lowered into a volcano, and carry sharp ice picks while mountaineering, was probably four days too long.
We’re just not that family. You know, the family that takes holiday vacations together; renting cabins on lakes in the summer, or grazing the buffets on a cruise ship. The fact that we meet up at Thanksgiving every year is a Christmas miracle.
We used to travel together, but that was before my brother and I could drive. Now it’s only on a ‘need to see’ basis. Trust me, it’s best for everyone.
I wasn’t mad at my dad for having a bum heart (although no one made him smoke two packs a day for 20 years) but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed. I really wanted to go to Iceland. I had my electric heated gloves already packed.
Cut to: My ex-boyfriend went to Iceland. Oh, no he di-int, (I said like a preacher in church on Sunday morning). Funny how the time seemed just right for me to charge my electric heated gloves and start packing.
And then I wondered, if I go to Iceland now, everyone’s going to think that I was following my ex and that Iceland was his idea. (I’m not sure who everyone was, or why they’d care). Please refer to paragraph one for the facts.
As soon as I found my way out of the sandbox, I grabbed my family’s original Icelandic itinerary, made a few tweaks and off I went.
It took two and a half hours to go from my apartment in mid-town Manhattan to JFK. I’m convinced that my cab driver was legally blind. At the very least he had cataracts. He had zero idea where he was going, and clueless about short cuts that would bypass the standstill rush hour traffic. He even had the balls to blame me for not suggesting that we take the bridge. What bridge? WTF?!
When we got to JFK, two of my credit cards didn’t work, so I paid cash, which was fine, but ‘blind man river’ never moved from the front seat.
“So, you’re not going to help me with my bag?” He looked at me, mumbled something under his breath that sounded a lot like, “no, I don’t…” and he trailed off. He popped the trunk and picked up his cell phone. I grabbed my suitcase and slammed the trunk shut.
By the time I went through security, my blood pressure had leveled off to a healthy resting state. I walked onto the plane, only to find my aisle seat actually in the aisle. Literally. Look at the picture. It was the bulk head but for whatever dumbass reason, the dumbass engineers shifted it into the aisle. I begged for sleep.
Despite the early hassles, I fell in love with Iceland. And because I’m not a travel writer by trade, I will only regale you with a personal story that I believe is the answer to what’s troubling the world today.
One day I joined a tour that was headed to the Langjokull glacier. Skarpi, a sexy, and adorable man in his 30’s was our driver and guide. He was funny, a former professional basketball player (now personal trainer). We laughed and flirted the entire ride. I definitely saw a future with this man, had it not been for his wife and 3 kids, (and the one on the way).
He surprised the entire van of strangers when he spoke candidly about the likelihood of getting a vasectomy. I guess four kids were enough.
Skarpi mentioned that his family lived near the President of Iceland, as well as the singer, Bjork. “Oh, I love Human Behavior,” I shamelessly tried to impress.
He then told us this adorable story.
“My kids were going around the neighborhood collecting bottles and cans to raise money for a school project one day and when they got to the President’s house, he and his wife, who’s Jewish….” Whoa, hold up their Sharpie marker. What does her being Jewish have anything to do with recycling bottles? I thought, please don’t make any racist remarks like, Jews don’t drink carbonated beverages… except for seltzer, ba-dum tss.) He continued.
“The President answered the door and told my kids that he didn’t have any bottles or cans because…” I held my breath. “…neither me or my wife drink soda.” I exhaled.
It was a story with absolutely no pay off whatsoever, but Sharpie marker’s accent was hot, so, I hoped that he had more long and boring stories.
We drove through isolated, fascinating and breathtaking landscapes. If you’d like more descriptions go here. I’m not a travel writer, remember.
Many internationally famous locations were pointed out to us like where Justin Bieber shot his music video, “I’ll Show You” and where Tom Cruise’s tour de force, “Oblivion,” was filmed. I know, who cares, right? Just keep talking Sharpie.
We reached Langjokull Glacier, suited up, and climbed on board our snowmobiles. I’m fully aware of global warming and leaving my exhaust-filled footprint on that glacier, and I can honestly say that I won’t be doing it again. But it was friggin’ awesome.
I asked the guides how they felt about tourists traipsing over their glacier. They said that it was so ginormous that they weren’t concerned. I’m sure Antarctica felt the same way once upon a time. I told them that they should limit the traipsing if they could help it.
We reached a stellar peak and stopped to take pictures. Sharpie approached me and asked if I could take the young Iranian boy, who was on the tour with his family, on the back of my snowmobile because his older brother crashed the snowmobile that they were both on. “Of course,” I said. Anything for you.
Wait, I wondered, don’t the parents want to meet me? They were on their own machine a fair distance away from me. When I caught their eye, they just smiled. They didn’t say anything about me taking their son under my preverbal wing.
The young boy climbed on the back of my snowmobile.
I thought, wow, they must really be trusting people. They didn’t ask for credentials, or have me sign a waiver. They just let me drive off with their son. Then again, where was I going? It wasn’t likely that I’d make a break for it and motor over the 360 square miles of white and ice by my lonesome.
I drove forty miles an hour taking hair pin turns and racing the other drivers up and down hills. I kept my passenger and myself alive, and in smiles. I felt a sense of responsibility; for someone else’s child, and for US and Iranian relations. The optics couldn’t be ignored. People were watching.
Maybe we should all carry strangers on our back, so to speak, in the middle of nowhere, where nothing matters but staying upright because you’re laughing wildly with delight.