How Iceland Made Me Sick with Wanderlust Withdrawal
February 24, 2015
By Anne, The Voluptuary
For about one week after returning home, what I initially thought was a surprisingly long bout with jet lag, was the realization that I was suffering from something else.
"Wanderlust Withdrawal" (W.W.).
Do you become depressed once removed from a destination and find it hard to normalize your life? Is your daily commute filled with reminiscing daydreams about what you've recently experienced? Is it a struggle not to constantly play back the images emblazoned in your mind's camera and find people to make jealous with photos from your phone? Do you just want to go back to that destination - as soon as right now?
Wanderlust Withdrawal is a real ailment, brought on by the unexpected nature of a magical travel experience. While I had experienced its symptoms in small doses from my other trips, Iceland became the place that brought on this travel ailment.
Exactly how did a frigid country in the Northern Atlantic, unbeknownst to many in terms of location, climate, and just about everything else bring about full-fledged Wanderlust Withdrawal??...
Well, I'm here to share how I got this magical "sick" spell...
Each of us, before October 1st had made a decision rooted in the singularity of our lives. I was on a quest to travel on group trips as a budding experience officer and travel boss in the business. I also was on an intentional passport stamp chase that, while articulated a year before, was beginning to manifest itself faster than my pockets could keep up with. Originally booked for May, I used my free one-time trip change to push my trip back to October instead with Under30Experiences. As much as I loved the sunshine, and basking in it for almost 24 hours had me excited - a little reading had me more excited to see Aurora Borealis aka The Northern Lights. I prayed I would see them and asked the Universe to comply shortly after take-off.
I was the first to arrive at the airport, but once the group congealed into smaller clusters of complimentary energies, we were off to the capital to eat breakfast together, meet others who were joining us, and sight see. The clusters were off! But the energies couldn't be contained: losing people in Reyjavik is pretty difficult as it is a pretty quaint city- but in the chase for the penis museum (official name: the Phallological Museum and the only one in the world I believe) my new friend along the journey and I lost a cluster we bumped into. We had plenty of time to connect on our way to the south part of the island for the second half of our day and that’s just what we did.
We arrived in what looked like the middle of nowhere to a city-slicker like me, but I was okay with that. We were on a farm after all -but it didn't feel too weird. Nothing, ironically about anything over those next few days felt weird. That speaks volumes about a group of young people from all over the place that could have easily been cast in a bad 5-day episode of The Real World: Travel Iceland edition, but luckily this didn't turn into that. Naturalness: definitely a sign of impending Wanderlust Withdrawal for sure. From our cabin-mates, to our last-minute itinerary changes due to the ice storm, everything including the connections being fostered felt natural and it was easy to go with the flow. Our well-mannered temperaments were rewarded but in a place like Iceland, going with the flow is par for the course as we all learned.
The Beauty of (Free) Simplicity
Iceland is a beautiful place of simplicity and that is always another impending sign of Wanderlust Withdrawal. As a world traveler, I hadn't ever been to any place that was so accessible in terms of its beauty and sights. Skogafoss; Seljalandsfoss; and Gullfoss (in Icelandic the suffix 'foss' means waterfall) – all free to walk up to, soak in (literally), and be amazed by. When we went glacier hiking, that too was gratis so long as we went with an experienced (and most likely attractive) glacial volunteer ranger and had our cramp-ons (ice pick attachments for your boots).
In the days of the "Insta" shot and meticulous editing to get the most picturesque photos - most of my pictures in these elements needed NO filter. The bluest blues, the clearest rainbows, the liveliest greens, the most wonderful clamoring crashes of waves, rolling hills, and mist I've ever seen did everything they needed to - just as freely as we walked up to enjoy them.
Considering it costs about $15 to get a glimpse of a Michaelangelo's David and $29 to go to the observation deck at the Empire State Building - I should have known both my wallet and I would have started suffering from Wanderlust Withdrawal after participating in Iceland's charming, vivid, and natural free-for-all.
Mystique, C'est Chic
Ever physically seen two continents at once? At Thingvellir National Park the crack that divides the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian tectonic plate are visible. You could literally be standing in one continent and then the other after about a minute or two and go back and forth (as the Homer Simpson in me really wanted to do).
Remember that prayer I mentioned earlier? Well turns out on the very first night of our arrival, the Universe allowed me to witness a luminescent green sky that seemed as if it was dancing around itself erratically. A kick there, a shimmy here, a faint lean to and fro. It was nature's little light show and for a few minutes, to the naked eye, those of us who stayed up were able to witness the Northern Lights! That was the only day we saw them clearly - but I had the great fortune of being the Northern Light "whisperer." I could see the dances behind the clouds and helped the photogs in our group get some Google-worthy shots in the extreme cold as we waited until about 2am every morning to chase the lights like Ghostbusters.
The coolest things usually have us primed to experience Wanderlust Withdrawal because they just can't and don't happen in the trivialities of our regular lives. I didn't anticipate being on two continents, I had hoped to see the Northern Lights and I can say that I did, and while I don't have any physical proof, who needs that when the witnesses all shared in the experience?
Braving the Elements...Happily
Nothing quite spells impending Wanderlust Withdrawal than being okay in circumstances where you are normally not, by any means okay. It was October but we had transplanted ourselves into an extremely cold place prematurely. The elements were nothing short of what I would consider oppressive here in New York City. Iceland is unique in that it will literally be EVERYTHING in a span of 25 minutes (they even have a souvenir mug that confirms the spastic nature of it all). Snow, sun, hail, rain, more sun. But always cold, very cold by the time we arrived.
The ironic thing is none of us complained about any of the elements. Even when Mother Nature rained on our parade and forced us to cancel our trip to Vestmanneyjar Islands (and hopeful Puffin sighting) no one really expressed any pressing dissatisfaction or grievances. I know for a fact though, that being home I've complained about cold, rainy days, and snow as if together they could bring about the new plague. I refused to go out multiple times because of the elements at home but in Iceland I never did that - not even once.
We visited a black sand beach as it rained on us, but people still found ways to run, play, smile and laugh showing that the sunshine in their spirits couldn't be dimmed. After some pizza and in the quaintest of towns, we headed to the Saga Center and played Viking dress-up while others went for a hike and found more quaint houses on hills. We traded stories and happily made the best of an overcast, dreary day full of rain. The cold was constant...except that one day we went to Skogafoss and hiked the glacier. It felt like the most beautiful day ever after happily braving the elements we were dealt. It was great dharma to be rewarded with some warmth and sunshine (especially on a glacier) but it was nice to stay in a warm place mentally despite the cold elements. I impressed myself with being able to press on without my typical adverse reactions.
Experientials of the Human Kind
Ultimately Wanderlust Withdrawal will surely form when one has connected to people in special ways in a special place. We lived on a farm for a few days and even in that short time, we created norms and mores for our Under30X Iceland family. There were so many successful, engaging, caring, deep and entrepreneurial conversations and exchanges - just listening allowed me to learn through osmosis. When I returned I felt a longing to actually go back to our nightly cabin hang suites, to share and hear roses and thorns from people's days, and to see just one more rainbow - no matter how much snow or rain it would take. What began for me, individually as one thing or a series of 'me' driven motivations led to the discovery of many things embedded in the 'we' and 'us' collective where I saw myself growing.
Each of us, before October 1st had made a decision rooted in the singularity of our lives. After October 5th, our experiences all weaved into one another to create a web of memories intertwined. We created laughter, safety, awe, and wonder in our farmhouse cottages, under the icy skies, counting rainbows so much that we got tired of them, and hoping for puffins. We shared, enlightened, chased, connected, encouraged through fears, experiences, and wanderings on glaciers, through small towns, in jacuzzis, at family dinners.
I have to thank Iceland for making my diagnosis of Wanderlust Withdrawal full-blown. Under30x however is the driver of this travel ailment of mine - for making sure I (im)patiently await the next time I get to meet amazing people; do and see things I never would have imagined; and be witness to journeys of discovery of the self and others. I'm not sure where my next bout of Wanderlust Withdrawal will come from but if Under30x has anything to do with it - I can't wait to be "sick" all over again.