I rose late after a restless night of endless tossing and turning and worry. The perfect trip that I had planned for our family to Iceland had been drastically altered. I tried to think about the options and the “what if’s” over and over again, spinning circles in my head. The more I tried to research everything online, the less answers I found. I felt like we were in one big mess and there was no easy way out.
We were still in Höfn, with two days left in our Ring Road Trip itinerary. We were in a bit of a pickle as there was no way for me to get back without riding in the rental car with my family who all tested negative, and it would take a minimum of six hours to drive all the way back to Reykjavik. We had already paid for our hotel in Vik and had two of the best days planned of our trip ahead. The only solution we had was to go on with our trip as planned, and try our best to distance me from the rest of the family and not go near anyone outside of our family for the next three days. I layered up in three masks, only left the room to use the bathroom once the whole car was packed up and we set off with all four windows open, heading to our next destination, Jökulsárlón.
I must confess the mood was heavy and no one said a peep during the hour drive to Jökulsárlón. All the rules about social distancing by six feet with my family were basically thrown out the window as we continued on with our trip. I felt awfully guilty despite the fact of course it was not my fault. It was a risk you take with traveling during a pandemic and despite all the precautions taken, vaccines received and masks worn, sometimes things just don’t go as planned. My daughter was the one who was most morose because she was soon to start a new high school and if she ended up testing positive from me, everything would be a wreck.
I tried to focus on the glorious scenery passing us by yet instead worrying thoughts continued to pass through my head. I was stressed and a little bit nervous since we had gone down this road before back in October and it was no fun at all. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like having Covid being in another country. As we reached the first of many endless glaciers bounding off of the mighty Vatnajökull Ice Cap, I tried to lift my spirits and remember the utter awe and joy I’d felt 13 years ago along this very same road, but couldn’t bring myself to relax. I have always been a worrier, that is my greatest downfall. It was hard not to let my mind wonder.
We arrived at Jökulsárlón a little after noon and the small parking lot of my memories from 13 years before had definitely grown. Thankfully we found a spot and I walked several feet behind the rest of my family up the short path leading to the glacial lagoon.
As we approached, a sudden burst of memories came back to me of that first time my dad and I pulled over to see this very same sight. There were only a couple of cars in the makeshift lot and we had the entire place to ourselves. I remember marveling at the gigantic icebergs gleaming in the sun like diamonds floating off to sea. The surreal aquamarine color of the water mirrored at times inside the icebergs, freckled with black. It all felt like it was out of a fairytale it was so sublime.
Yet, the feeling wasn’t the same and I wondered what was wrong. Was it the overall stress and concern of my situation or was there a little piece of me that like the glacier had demised. I didn’t have the same skip in my step or the gleam in my eye as I did 13 years before. Instead, I felt a bit unmoored. Where was the passion of my youth? Had it all slipped away like glacier flowing into the sea? I felt like a shell, a bit numb to it all. Unsettled, unsure and not myself. How could I feel this way in such a supremely beautiful place?
I wondered if the past two years of the pandemic, the upheaval in my hometown and in my own personal life had somehow left a deep hole within my heart. A wound that has been slow to heal. The past few years have been hard. Even before the pandemic.
But then again, isn’t that what life is always about? The incredible ups and downs along the way.
As I pondered these thoughts, the next few days remained equally as hard. Little did I know that another 36 hours later I’d be back in Reykjavik at the last available appointment of the day getting another Covid test. Thank God, that test was negative. But unfortunately I wouldn’t know that I didn’t have Covid until the very end of the trip. I was one of the less than 4% that had a false positive test. Thankfully I could go home and avoid the 14 days quarantine and uncertainty of being stuck in another country and perhaps being sick. Yet is sure put a damper on the last few days of the trip and reminded me that travel just like life has its ups and downs. It is all a matter of how you react.
Want to learn more about my trip around Iceland? Check out these posts!
Great that you didn’t get stuck in Iceland and didn’t actually have COVID. That would have been super stressful. What I wonder, leading on from what you have described is, should we be saying it is time to end this sort of tourism? You refer to feeling less awed by what you saw. Is that because of COVID and stress? Or is it because we all have a growing realisation that we shouldn’t be taxing the planet to fly to and drive past sights? How meaningful is such tourism, really? Is it like buying throwaway plastic items that we use once, see a few more times, but don’t ever integrate into our lives? Perhaps our tourism should be more integrated with people and communities and definitively deliver something back to the planet rather than taking away from it. It’s time to invent a whole new approach to slow travel, and integrated travel and less travel for longer…
For me, travel is the most important part of my life besides my family. It always has, always will be. It has made me who I am.
You have touched on a very incredible point and something I care deeply about: Sustainable travel. I have been a member of the Impact Travel Alliance (www.impacttravelalliance.org) for about five years now. I have volunteered in various roles with ITA and it has truly changed my outlook and the way I travel for the most part. What you are saying is exactly how ITA views travel. I wholeheartedly agree that tourism needs to change. Some of my best experiences I ever have been when I’ve gone to off the beaten path places and lived with the locals. When I’ve been able to stay a place for a long time as well. But unfortunately now I can’t always travel that way. So how do we as tourists balance our love of travel without ruining the planet? It is something I think about a lot. you should check out the ITA Blog and space as I’m sure you will find it inspiring. Let’s hope that we can all travel more sustainably in the future and give back more to the communities who welcome us. I sure hope I can!
Traveling, like Covid, has its ebbs and tides. I am so glad you didn’t have Covid, yet it sure put a black cloud over the best part of your trip. Traveling during a pandemic is not for sissies. We learned that the hard way when everything that could go wrong, went wrong leaving us stranded in NYC on our way to Iceland. Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches, no matter how difficult it seems. Hopefully, someday I will learn how to do that. You photos are amazing, as always. I have followed your Iceland trip anticipating our own trip, but now vicariously.
Yes I remember your story so well! I can’t imagine how disappointing that was! I usually do ok rolling with the punches when it is just me but I think on this trip it was hard because my daughter was already really anxious about starting a new school in two weeks and how it would go. She was really upset that perhaps she would get stuck too! That made it even harder as it was that mom guilt. I’m not sure yet when I will travel outside the US again. It is so hard because I can’t afford to get stuck and also I am a worry wart. I hope that the pandemic ends soon but it seems to never end. Hard times for sure.
I can imagine how frustrated you must have felt when you saw those impressive glaciers. If I were you, I think I would also feel the same. On the one hand, I would tell myself that I’m looking at nature’s beauty and I should be feeling happy. But on the other hand, the fact that I tested positive for Covid in a foreign country with my family would certainly dampen my spirits. I like what you said at the end of this post, because in the end we have no control of life, but we have a much bigger control of our reactions to life.
Very true Bama. The experience made me wonder when travel again will feel reasonable. If I had been stuck there, it would have cost us over double the trip expense and also who knows if I’d gotten sick, how that would have sorted out. Now the variants. Argh! But I have to remember to keep a positive attitude in life. We can at least control that, right! 🙂
It’s your attitude towards things you cannot change… }: sk
Talk about ups and downs! I’m happy to read that you didn’t actually have Covid (and to get the end of the story.) You’re right that life can be difficult but much depends on our reactions to what happens. I am sorry you weren’t able to enjoy the rest of the trip in the way you would have liked but thanks for sharing the beautiful photos for us to enjoy. Sending you lots of hugs and prayers for things to be looking up soon.
Thanks so much Janet! I realized that I never finished sharing any of the photos from my Iceland trip because it felt like the end was so hard. I looked over them the other day again after a friend asked me why I wasn’t blogging much. I realized I did have a story to tell! I am hoping that things are ok for the holidays as I really hope to see our extended family! Happy holidays to you!
The girls, our son-in-law, and one sister-in-law aren’t coming this year but we’ll share Christmas Day with my parents and Zoom with everyone else at another time. Hopefully next year we’ll all be together again. But thank goodness for Zoom. 🙂
Yes I don’t know what we’d do without Zoom!
We are due to travel to Ecuador /Galapagos in late winter. With new testing guidelines requiring a neg test 24 hrs before departure back to the US, I am anticipating one of us in the group May test positive😩. We have had to postpone this trip twice.
Wow, that sounds like a beautiful trip ! A place I’ve always wanted to go. Yes it has gotten so hard now to travel. One thing I learned from this experience however is to take another test if it is positive as for me, it was a false positive. Here in Minnesota we are back at record cases of Covid. I thankfully just got my booster however my son is 7 months out of his last vaccine and doesn’t quality yet. Meanwhile cases are going crazy at his high school. Such challenging times!
Oh, what a nightmare for you… Wonderful images of that scenery
Yes it was a tough time but I’m glad things improved and I learned a lot of hard lessons too. Trying to fit too much in and having it all turn out not as expected.
Sorry the end of your wonderful family trip was so stressful. In these past couple of years, it’s been easier to slide into despair and a feeling of helplessness. Your last sentence sums up what I’ve been working on myself: we can’t change events or other people’s actions and attitudes, but we can change our reaction to them. It’s not always easy, but it’s helped me stay a lot calmer!
Thanks Lexi. Life has been so many ups and downs these past two years! I was so glad to get to take a trip after such a tumultuous year (a lot of hard stuff going on with our family life) and I confess I didn’t handle the situation as best as I could. It has been hard and now cases are skyrocketing again here in MN. I try to get out every day and walk which helps me keep my sanity. Hoping that the holidays are ok this year as I really want to see our extended family. 🙂
I remember your telling me about your false positive test Nicole. I can well imagine what a damper it must have thrown on the rest of your trip. It’s but natural to worry. I am realising too that our reactions are the only things we can control in these crazy times. Calm acceptance doesn’t come easy to me, but I’m getting there.
All best wishes for a happier, healthier year ahead to you and your family. Stay well.
Thanks Madhu! You too! 🙂
Oh I feel your pain! Those last 2 days of your trip must have been so worrying. It’s no wonder there was no spring in your step, or sense of awe.
Gorgeous photos. I can see why you wanted to go there.
Stay well Nicole
I can only imagine the beauty you would capture in Iceland Alison!
Aww thanks. You did a pretty good job yourself!
you are an amazing photographer Alison! 🙂
Fantastic writing, it seems at this point in life there are many of us asking and pondering the questions you wrote about as we are faced with not just restrictions in a changing world but becoming older as well: “Where was the passion of my youth? Had it all slipped away like glacier flowing into the sea? I felt like a shell, a bit numb to it all.” And to be able to do this while visiting such a beautiful place and beautiful memory makes it all the more powerful. The photos you have are incredible as well, and make this such a special post. The highs and lows of life are what makes it so perfect ~ cheers to you and have a wonderful holiday season.
Oh thanks so much for your kind words. For awhile I haven’t felt like writing and then a friend inspired me to keep it up. This has been a hard few years. In addition to the pandemic, so much hardship in my hometown and upheaval in Minneapolis and the US and world. I also have turned 50 which was a big deal. My kids are growing up and entering such an unsettled world. It feels so different than the world I entered at their age but then maybe I was just a bit naive to it all. Yes I agree…the highs and lows of life is what make it so grand. And I’m so grateful for a loving family! 🙂 Cheers to you too and happy holidays! Nicole