Iceland: Day One

Okay, so here's the deal: I am about to fail miserably at describing the utter wildness and beauty that is the country of Iceland. I apologize. Please bear with me as I make my best attempt. 


I've wanted to visit Iceland for a couple of years now. It's actually been at the top of my list, and it has kept coming up in conversation to the extent that I think I might have actually willed this trip to happen by just talking about it so much. I'm not entirely sure why it's captivated my attention, but it seems I'm not alone; its tourism industry has been growing in the past several years, and more and more photographers and bloggers that I follow seem to be venturing to its shores, especially my favorite photographer, Chris Burkard, who has been there several times and who takes the most utterly perfect photos

One of the first things I noticed about Iceland was how barren it was. When I got off the plane, it was raining and dreary, and Elena and I battled the wind as we walked to our rental car and loaded our bags into the backseat. Black dirt, brown stones, yellow grasses, and green moss stretched as far as the eye could see; no trees, just shrubs and volcanic soil, for miles and miles.

We made a stop in Reykjavík for a quick bite to eat, and then headed north for our day-long trek to the Westfjords. It was during this road trip that I learned that if you drive for more than thirty minutes at a time in Iceland, you're going to come across at least two or three vastly different landscapes that will blow your mind and make you feel like you're on another planet. Case in point: all of the photos in this post were taken in one day, across approximately 280 miles. 

My initial reaction to Iceland was that it felt just like I thought it would. It was chilly, rainy, and wild, yes, but there was more to it than that for me. Somehow, I felt right at home. I had no reason to know what to expect, and yet it felt like I had been there before. I had the same experience when I moved to Los Angeles. I've discovered that if I want something enough, and spend enough time learning and thinking about it, it takes on an abstract, comfortable familiarity without me even really having to try. Imagination melds with tangible experiences and together, they become reality. That is what traveling means to me. 

I could tell you about how our first day in Iceland felt like it lasted forever. I could tell you that we had to pull over a couple of times so we could both sleep, and how one of those times we got hit - while parked in a parking lot, mind you - by an old Icelandic man in an old Icelandic truck, and had to spend the next hour with him at a table in a gas station restaurant so he could translate and help us fill out the required accident report paperwork to give to our rental car company. I could talk about how we both squatted by the side of the road to go pee because there were miles and miles and miles of countryside with not a single other person to be seen, much less a bathroom. 

But instead, let me tell you this: I kept catching myself staring out the window with my mouth open in awe, not being able to tear my eyes away from the scenery, because I almost couldn't comprehend how spectacular it was. It sounds like I'm hyperbolizing, but that's because it's kind of beyond all description. I don't really have the right words. Just pictures. 

We finally made it to the Westfjords region as the sun sank low in the sky. In order to reach our destination, the small town of Ísafjörður, we had to drive around each and every peninsula of each and every fjord; in total, I believe we traced the outline of six different fjords, which took about two hours to do. As we drove sun started to set and the clouds started to gather. The wind calmed and the water of the fjords became still and glasslike, reflecting the images of the snow-covered cliffs towering above them. 

And then, finally, we arrived in Ísafjörður. Hungry and weary, we dropped our things at our Airbnb, walked into town for a delicious fish and soup meal, and crashed into bed, unable to keep our eyes open any longer. 

More to come. Happy Monday!