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why i’m going to iceland (by myself)

photo: Andrea Schaffer

This is it. After months of thinking and talking about nothing else (and subsequently driving my friends up the wall, as in: did you know Icelandic water is the cleanest in the world? doesn’t this scar look like Iceland? isn’t it crazy how 54% of Icelanders believe in elves? have you seen this hiLARious SNL Björk impersonation?), I am getting on a plane to the land of volcanic lakes, treacherous fjords, and elvish habitats tomorrow.

My agenda is this:

Peruse Reykjavík’s delightful cultural offerings. Meet interesting people, preferably Icelanders, although Germans and Canadians are cool too. Eat skyr. Don’t eat rotten shark. Visit museums with sculptures of blob people. Soak in milky blue natural hot springs until my fingers and toes look like shriveled prunes. Stand on two continents at once. Listen to live music that sparkles like Icelandic fairy dust. Make friends with fuzzy sheep and/or fuzzy ponies. Bear witness to melting glacial ice and this.

All by myself.

Traveling alone was my choice. In the way we live now, it is very difficult, if not close to impossible, to ever find complete solitude as a city-dweller (or suburban dweller, for that matter). Cars pass outside my windows. Neighbors blare the TV. Friends and I text, call and message each other to seal the physical gap that separates us. As inherently social animals, we shy away from feeling alone or lonely. Because when we are alone, really alone, we risk the inevitability of confronting our own scattered thoughts, fears, and yes, dreams.

In a country of just 300,000 people, it will be very difficult, if not close to impossible, to distract myself from a very necessary bout of solitude. After I leave the city and head out in a rental car, I will be a lone woman on a lonely road, in a lonely landscape, with no phone service, Facebook, friends or family to extract me from my week-long meditation. I will have time and space to build a relationship with my 25 year-old Self and to give Her time to figure out what She really wants to create in the next 75+ years of life.

With that, I leave you until I am back on this side of the pond in September. I’m shutting down from most technology, but you can follow me through the Icelandic wilderness on Instagram-a-land, where I will be posting the occasional photo of puffins and murderous mudpots.



  1. Mateyo Bonham says

    This is wonderful Jess and I wish you all the best!! Turn off the phone, the computer, the Ipad and turn on your mind. The exploration is infinite.

    I wish you the best on your voyage. May you look at the world and yourself through a new lens upon your safe return. God Speed

  2. Melissa says

    Wow! Get after life, cuz! You are inspiring. Have a safe and wonderful journey. I can’t wait to hear about it when you get back. Xoxo!

  3. Green with envy! I love traveling, and while I’ve never gone somewhere entirely alone, I always arrange a few days alone. As a new mom, I’m hoping to still make time to travel alone, even if it’s only for a weekend ;). And I’m looking forward to traveling with my little girl and teaching her the art of getting ‘lost’ in a new place. Thanks for your words!

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