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.