getting off the grid

after the volcano adventures and the whale steak hijinks, I awoke the next morning with the intention of hopping on a bus to the remote fishing town of höfn in the southeast corner of iceland.  simple enough, right? not for ol’ miquelon, it’s never that simple. after the front desk person at my hostel attempted to book a ticket for me, she hung up the phone and gently informed me that on that very day, bus service to a majority of the island had shut down until the spring time.  I was either out of luck and stuck in reykjavik, or I had to now rent a car and strike out on my own.

this is what I had been hoping to avoid. renting a car in iceland is roughly 3-4 times as much as you might pay in the US, and to make things worse, the last thing I did before I left denver was cancel my cellphone bill.  my iphone has become nothing more than an ipod, which means no gps, no navigation, no google maps, no texting, no calls.  no nothing, just music (which I could probably make a case is more important than navigation in my life).  the thought of venturing off blind into the unknown in a strange country without any preparation or real knowledge of the laws or landscape was minorly terrifying to me. i had been hoping i could just jump on a bus and they would magically take me where i wanted to go and i could just sleep the whole time. I’m ordinarily a very prepared person in day to day life, and especially on trips, I usually have everything planned out to a T so that once things start happening, I don’t have to think about anything, it’s just automatic. I just roll from one thing to the next and life is smooth. That’s the way I look at it. Other people don’t always see it that way, however.  I’ve had girlfriends leave me because I wasn’t spontaneous enough, and I’m “too much of a planner.”  there was probably more that went into their decision.  I hope there was.

but here’s the real truth:  I knew this was going to happen eventually, I just figured it would be later on in the trip. I get very frustrated when things don’t go the way I’ve prepared or planned in my life, and often times I let these things bother me so much that it can change my temperament or ruin my whole day. so one of the key things that I wanted to do on my journey was address this. I wanted grow and learn patience through trial and error by “going with the flow.”  one thing I did in order to force myself into this style of thinking is I have not made any plans for after amsterdam, the 3rd stop on this trip.  I have ideas, but no reservations. one effect that I’ve noticed but did not anticipate was that I find myself living more freely in the moment.  I’m not paranoid about making sure I’m in the right place at the right time.  I’m trying to enjoy life in the present tense, and I think it’s actually having a calming effect on me.  I’m sure the stress will creep back up when something goes wrong again, but each time it does, I work to create new habits, and I start to get a little better at handling them. I’m not always sure what is harder: building new habits or breaking old ones.  Or maybe they are the same thing, I don’t know.

hyundai i10 escape pod
hyundai i10 escape pod

so I went and rented a little Hyundai economy class escape pod that looks like it was ejected from the rebel spaceship on star wars. seriously, this thing barely fit me, and I’m not even a big guy.  at first my distaste for the car led me to produce the nickname “whitey,” and i would yell “kill whitey!” whenever i would floor the accelerator, but that slowly evolved to “whitney” after i started liking the car the more i drove it. I fueled up and then guessed my way out of the city.  Luckily, once you leave Reykjavik, there is one main road that you follow, the “ring road” it’s affectionately called (or highway 1), and it will take you to about 95% of your destinations elsewhere in Iceland.  not only that, it is a gorgeous drive.  as mentioned in the previous post, the landscape has such strong contrasts that you can’t help but be mesmerized and wonder if what you’re looking at is really there.  It’s as if nature decided to snap a selfie of a beautiful coastline and put it on facebook to impress her friends, but she didn’t feel the photo was impressive enough so she photoshopped a fortress-like wall of deep, black volcanic rocks with iridescent green moss covering the first 800 feet of elevation.  Pretty good, but not good enough, better add some low drifting fog and a setting sun off in the distance.  okay that should work, nature will get a thousand likes for this one.  actually, more like 50, because there’s NO ONE around once you get outside the capital city.  okay sorry, i’m getting lost inside my own ridiculous metaphor.
porsmork canyon
actually, speaking of the remote loneliness of the countryside… I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of my unexpectedly favorite things of Iceland was pushing my crappy rental car to its top speed of 160 km/hour (100 mph) and whipping through the country roads with the only threat being the occasional wandering sheep in the middle of the road. I think I saw one cop the entire time I was out there. It was fantastic.   I definitely got my money’s worth out of that car.  Especially after the first time I tried to fill up the gas tank.  things to remember in iceland:

  1. unleaded gas is in the green pump, and diesel is in the black, and not the other way around like in the US.
  2. your rental car will still run like a champ when you absentmindedly pump about .2 liters of the wrong fuel before realizing what you’re doing.

but the car took me wherever i needed to go, even offroad a couple times whenever i’d get the sudden urge to turn off the highway and follow a random trail to see where it went.  those sudden impulses almost every time yielded some incredible undiscovered gem that was certainly not in any guidebook, be it a waterfall, or a different view that hardly anyone else had discovered of the massive glacier Vatnajökull.  all in all, halfway through my roughly 300 mile drive, i started to enjoy being “lost.”  it was sort of liberating, not knowing exactly where you’re going.  not having a female-ish cyborg direct you turn by turn to your destination was somewhat calming, and i stopped caring about when i would get to my hostel.  i would just stop wherever i felt like and enjoy what the world would send my way.

skogafoss
the massive waterfall of Skógafoss

that night i landed höfn, on the far southeast of the country.  it wasn’t quite what i expected, but i was open to possibilities…

And lastly, your earcandy for the day.  This is a new track from Delta Sprit, the title track, Into the Wide.  I find it particularly fitting for the Iceland portion of my trip.  Here are the lyrics:

“Into The Wide”
At the end of the last road in town.
At the edge of that wall of trees.
Further in, past any trail or sign.
Back to the wide open arms of the Earth.

The wind whispered no name,
but it’s voice cracked off the cliff.
Almost see it rush right through you.
Back to the wide open arms of the Earth.

It’s a grind, the business role.
Every new year, a new bell to toll.
Before it’s too late, I’m gonna save my soul.
Back to the wide open arms of the Earth.

https://soundcloud.com/dualtone/delta-spirit-into-the-wide/s-rBvxe

(sorry, i am unable to embed this song in the post, you’ll have to follow the link for the song)

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