Snow pants. Insulated, waterproof, snow-white pants. Planning the big Icelandic trip, somehow these were necessary. Or rather they were on sale at REI and, after I looked at them twice, they followed me around the internet. But I thought this through. What were the obstacles to fulfilling my trip goals of northern lights, glaciers and horses? Being cold…or wet… or cold and wet. The pants were an investment in the dream.
There is a deep stream of true in knowing your priority and purpose. This is an obvious truth in life but for me, it is an absolute when I travel alone. Going to relax or to ‘have a good time’ is too ephemeral for me. If I know what I am about, then choices fall into place. The old flaws of chickening out or defaulting to an easier plan B ease.
Saturday night, my arrival at the high end hotel I had so looked forward to seeing was a little rocky. The public areas were beautiful, but closed for a Christmas buffet. The hot tubs were full of children. My room was eventually quite wonderful but at first glance had a retro-state-park-knotty-pine style. But smaller.
The other guests were testy. They too were here to see the lights but seeing the Northern Lights proved more about arguing over your ISO setting and the tripod than seeing wonders of the heavens. With your eyes. In the moment.
So, the hotel staff telephone your room when light activity starts. The first round at midnight was a cold and chilly disaster. When the phone rang again at 2:30 a.m., I had doubts. (I could hear the photogs setting up outside my room’s window.) And my morning plan was to leave at 7 and make a long drive to get to the glacier pool to see the sunrise over the ice.
Here is where it started. It was very tempting to stay inside and warm. I had an early morning ahead. And furthermore, the much heralded buffet didn’t start until 9 a.m., long after my take off. I deserved a sleep in, it was a little scary to drive in the dark, and why would I miss the much reviewed breakfast buffet in the morning? The glaciers would still be there at noon.
Clearly, This is not end of the world stuff but you can feel the adjustments and the scaling down beginning. If I took the easier travel path this night, I would have had more sleep tomorrow. If I postponed even my departure, I could enjoy the hotel. I would also lessen the risk of telling off the grouchy Brits outside my window struggling with more camera than they could handle. But how would I feel later? Would that slow and insidious feeling of everything being less begin?
So, I got up and put on the bright white puffy pants, 2 Buffs, double gloves and resolutely stomped out. I stomped out to put myself square in the possibility of seeing those lights. The pants were great. I was warm and I stood there for over an hour.
I only marginally saw aurora activity, but standing there, we all saw the miracle of the clouds rolling back from the southern horizon until revealing, at last, the whole huge sky of stars brighter than any I’ve seen. In a week of forecasts of 100% cloud cover and rain, it was magic.
A few hours later, at six, I hauled out of bed and made that dark drive with the solid knowledge that I had come and done just what I planned and worked and wanted to do.
Yes, I did tell off the Brits. It was a Dixie Carter, fire batons over Georgia, milestone moment for a courteous traveler. And true, I could barely stay awake at the end of the day Sunday as I drove back, even singing classic rock as loudly as possible with hand motions.
But what I had was the buoyant, unconquered glow of success for which I had come to Iceland.