By Robin Morris
Think of the most attractive person you’ve ever seen. Now imagine them working at a sketchy gas station and smiling, baring two straight rows of paper-white teeth, as they scan your snack-size bag of beef jerky. That’s Iceland (except instead of beef jerky, it’s dehydrated fish skin). Everyone born in Iceland is beautiful and a lot of these angelic people work normal, boring jobs. It’s disorienting at first. The guy who picked us up at the airport and brought us to our rental car looked like a young Ryan Gosling, decked out in some sporty chic H&M get up. The girl that worked at the market near our hostel would’ve been dating Leonardo DiCaprio by now if she lived in LA.
My friends Tim, Cam and I decided to go to Iceland for spring break. Our reasoning: why go somewhere warmer if we can go somewhere colder? We rented a car, secured a hostel and made plans to climb glaciers, see geysers and search for fjords. If you scroll through my Instagram or happen upon one of my blog-like Facebook posts about the trip—it will seem magical. All the picturesque turquoise waterfalls and black sand beaches; it’s a photographer’s dream. The country is also an Environmental science major’s ideal place to nerd out (volcanoes, glaciers and tectonic plates? That’s the earth science trifecta). Environmental science was coincidentally Tim’s area of expertise and his eyes lit up when he talked about Iceland’s geothermal energy. My eyes glazed over. It’s fascinating stuff.
We had a great trip, I promise. If you don’t count the two days we spent driving aimlessly without a GPS. Or the flat tire. Or when I shattered my phone on the sidewalk while running (an activity I try hard to avoid). I blame most of the misfortune on the abundance of black cats that often seemed to dart out front of us. That’s not even a metaphor, it happened three times.
The city of Reykjavik is known for its eclectic café culture and vibrant nightlife, but most travel blogs neglect to mention its confusing roads and lack of helpful street signs. Names of streets were usually at least twelve characters long—the middle of the word stuffed with five consonants in a row. When you’re so tired that you’re seeing double and are faced with street names like, Sjarnargata and Bergstaðastræti, it all starts to feel like a hazy fever dream. Narrow, cobblestone roads looked too small for our already claustrophobic Hyundai hatchback. It was almost comical the way surprise one-way streets would materialize and we’d get stuck driving an extra fifteen blocks to reach to our destination. You must be thinking: Silly millennials, use a map! We tried, I swear. Decoding a map while running on fumes comprised of fake energy from half a Cliff bar is incredibly difficult and I wouldn’t wish that kind torture on my worst enemy. It takes a big person to admit that they can’t survive without technology. I admitted it the moment we got in the car. It took Tim a bit longer—he was somehow convinced he was less geographically challenged than Cam and I. The turning point was when we tried to leave Reykjavik and drove for twenty minutes before realizing that we had just circled back into the city. After that, we went straight to the rental car place and begged, tearfully, for a GPS. Once we got one, Iceland was ours.