How does anyone bring themselves to leave this beautiful country? How was I driving away from Hermann’s farm at 1am to make the four hour journey to a plane that was going to take me away? It could be due to not having slept more than seven hours in the past two days, but this was a very challenging moment. Iceland had been filled with so much adventure and I was very aware of the mere fraction I had seen.
Of my favorite experiences, I had made a friend. Marta, from Poland, was working for my airbnb host for the summer. On top of Hermann’s home constantly being booked through airbnb, he guides tours on his Icelandic ponies, and is a butter and cheese maker in town. Being the only one manning his home, he found it was very hard to keep up with his frequent guests. So, he found Marta, and I’m so glad he did! She’s on her way to becoming the very best tour guide, and this summer job in Iceland was a great way to get some experience under her belt (as well as a fabulous excuse to live in Iceland for a summer). When I arrived my first evening, she immediately took me under her wing. I could not have asked for a better spontaneous travel partner.
Over the dirt roads and through the pastures, to hot pools and waterfalls we went!
I discovered that Icelandic people do, in fact, believe in elves! We refer to them as gnomes back in the states. Many construction catastrophes or setbacks in Iceland can be due to building on land elves inhabit. It’s best to respect their territory and build somewhere else 😉
It seemed like Marta and I shared a similar passion for beauty and adventure. So much, in fact, that when we saw an opportunity to climb the mountain at the geothermal site, we went went for it! Half way up this lone mountain, we realized rain had eroded the path up. Usually, this wouldn’t be a big deal. A little rough terrain ain’t no thang… but the sediment that made up this mountain was like soggy chalk. To make matters worse, I chose to wear my rain boots for the day’s adventures. I wanted to make it to the views at the top so bad, but I quickly realized there was no hope in gaining a foothold. This made sliding all the way down the slope a very real possibility.
The smart decision would have been to go down, but we could see a couple who had made it to the top. This provided enough evidence to convince Marta, (the more sensible of the two of us) that we could do it too! We happened to be a mere 5 feet away from the only boulder in sight, if we could get to it, we figured there may be clearer path up. After a lot of strategizing and teamwork, we both made it to the boulder. Sadly, the way up only became more daunting. By the time we gathered ourselves, we saw the lovebirds making their way back down. This was perfect! Now, we could trace their steps to the top. This, too, was a bust. Their way down was the way we agreed not to go up. They quickly passed us at the boulder, and descended safely down the mountain.
Deciding we wanted to leave the geothermal site intact and in time to see more of Iceland, we decided to let dreams of the summit go. Getting down was even harder, but working together, I’m proud to say we made it!
After one last stop, we ended our eventful day listening to the beautiful sounds of a choir. We wandered up to the Akureyri Church just as a women’s choir was performing “Hallelujah”. And oh, did this day deserve a hallelujah. I was leaving Iceland, but I was leaving with a full heart. I had been humbled by beauty, blessed with a new friend, and encouraged having survived my first solo adventure abroad. Next stop, Scotland.
See you soon, Iceland.
Serena Baker is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Serena is spending the summer abroad with UMKC Honors Summer Program in Scotland. Taking full advantage of her trip abroad, Serena will make a stop-over in Iceland and visit Germany after the program to improve her language proficiency.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.