Every year or so I get that itch. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you want to get in your car and just keep driving until the road runs out. Or head to the airport to catch the next plane, no matter where it’s going. The travel bug. I was bitten as a child during my family’s love for summer road trips, and have never quite recovered. I’m in the middle of planning my next trip (Utah national parks!), and I started looking through the pictures of my last one and thought I’d share some.
My last trip out of the USA was a ten-day drive around Iceland. I didn’t quite know what to expect. Glaciers, yes. Waterfalls. And fingers-crossed, an aurora borealis. (That event was crossed off my bucket list my first night in Iceland, with a spectacular display.) But the atmosphere, the culture of the country, that was all a mystery.
I can’t overemphasize how much Iceland exceeded my expectations. Yes, the people were friendly and ninety-five percent of them spoke English. And, yes, the sights were spectacular. But what struck me most was something I can hardly describe. The feeling that Iceland evokes in you is amazing. It feels magical, like anything could happen. I understood why Tolkien used it as his inspiration for Middle Earth. Why Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth using one of Iceland’s volcanoes as the entrance. Myth hangs heavy in Iceland, and it is easy to believe what you can’t see.
I was there in early October, when the sun travelled a low arc across the sky. The dim autumn light probably contributed to the mystical feeling. But I know I’m not alone with my wonder. Iceland’s literary history is riddled with sagas and myth. Why did their writings tend to the fantastic? Where they lived had to have had an influence. And over half of Icelanders still believe in elves. Something about the country just draws you out of the ordinary.
It’s easy to get inspired in Iceland. After reading about a female Viking pirate who is rumored to have given birth to the first European on North American soil, I started thinking there was a romance novel in there. (Not on the same literary scale as Jules Verne, I know. But, hey, I’m a romance writer, and that’s where my mind goes.) I haven’t written it, and might never get around to it, but if I ever do pursue that project, I know just where to go to do more research.
(The picture of the aurora borealis was taken by Kirsten Weiss. The rest were mine.)