The self-loathing simmers into its active state. How many times can you gently wash your hands over your shortcomings, urging forgiveness only to realize you’re way too good at playing this game of deceit? How many broken promises to yourself until you realize you’re full of shit?

It’s uncomfortable in this skin suit. I’d do anything to peel it off and break free. I hastily gobble up some instant noodles but feel they are squirming in my stomach. I eat some honey and toast to squish the worms, get them to settle down. With a now bloated stomach and feeling much sicker than before, I conclude I have no self-control. I start rushing Sarah as she puts on eyeliner. I keep belligerently asking if I can take shots. She says no; she knows what I am up to and she refuses to enable.

“Hey lady!” I turn around and see our Italian friends from the campsite. They have trouble pronouncing my name and they’ve resigned to calling me lady. I find it somewhat irking but more comical. Through broken English we learn that they too, hitchhiked around the country. Except being three males, their wait times  often went up to six hours. Any sense of badassery we felt leaves us pretty quickly after that conversation.

Sarah and I are in the que line to get into an American Bar. “You have a nice body but your face is alright” says the guy behind me. I could and probably should ignore him but I feel obligated to stand up for myself. “Who hurt you” I retort. Five minutes later, he’s inches away from my face and I can smell the alcohol seeping off his breath. He’s drunk enough to clock me. I bite my tongue and turn back around. I complain to the bouncer at the front of the door and watch him get shoved out of the line and fall backwards onto the pavement. It feels damn good.

At this point, I’m pretty pissed off and restless. It’s strange; usually I’m the one in an energetic dancing mood but tonight Sarah and I had switched. She wants to soak in the atmosphere and I am desperate to make a worthwhile connection. We hit up an Irish bar next and a ginger dude comes up to us and notes how we are glaringly sober on Reykjavik’s biggest night of the year, as if it isn’t painful enough already.

I walk along the streets, a symphony of smashing bottles and catfights playing in the background, eyeing everyone. What exactly is it that I’m looking for? Am I naïve enough to think I’ll find solace dissipating off the lips of some grubby half-lidded boy in a bar? Do I just want my curves falling rhythmically into a strangers hands so I can forget for a moment that I am more than this tightly wound up body finessing in a skin tight dress?

And in the back alley of a corner street, the universe doesn’t give me what I want but exactly what I need. The venue I am standing in line for announces a surprise $30 entry fee and I’m too broke to pay for cheap indulgence. A burly bouncer with thick framed glasses stands outside an adjacent door. “Come on in. There’s a band called Rythmatik playing tonight” he says. The venue isn’t on my list but I’m intrigued by the notion of live music. I climb the steps two at a time and find myself enveloped in punk guitar riffs and reverberating bass. The charged lyrics interwoven with punchy drum beats resonates and awakens a self-activated sense of wonder  I pull up a chair in the back corner, a beer in hand, trying to mask that there is currently a game of Tetris going on inside of me. In the midst of fist pumps and head bobs, I confirm to myself “This. This is what I was looking for.” Sarah leaves to go eat Subway and there I sit for the next hour, getting more in tune with myself every song they play. I begin to realize that everything I needed was already within me; I just had to call it to light.

Excerpt from Sarah’s journal: If I can emulate the feeling of God in the backseat of a car, I can make any moment feel like home.

Homecoming

This trip taught me many things but one lesson paramounts : constant noise doesn’t equivocate progress. Half the time, launching yourself at tasks doesn’t even equivocate progress. Having peace of mind enables progress.

Travelling forces you to slow down. By tuning into your senses, you live in the present moment. In today’s world, we are always on the go with deadlines to meet, people to spend time with, lives we have to attend to. There is no space in our minds. When we abandoned these makeshift principles of everyday living, we found that we were somewhat lost. We felt uneasy without a plan because we had been conditioned to confuse information with meaning.

But the parts I enjoyed most about the trip weren’t preplanned. The people we came across, dancing on the side of the road, laying on the grass with Sigur Ros playing in my headphones, staring at the blue cloudless sky. And the sky in Iceland isn’t much different from the sky in my backyard. Wonderment arises from within and you don’t need to fly kilometers away from home to tap into it.

I learned to appreciate sleeping on a bed and having access to boiled water.  I’ll probably even miss cuddling to sleep in the freezing weather, my forehead against Sarah’s back. Going to gas stations and asking where the nearest campsite is. Trying not to get mental splinters while putting up our weather botched tent. Coercing myself to live in the present. Eating too many white chocolate Oreos and then having the guilt fuel me as I climbed up a mountain on the way home from a grocery store.

I was reminded over and over that the earth is not a cold dead place and that people are so goddamn kind. We were given free meals, rides, museum tickets, and beds to sleep in. But don’t get me wrong- relying on the kindness of strangers as a type of currency is an entirely reciprocal act. You need to give off authentic positive energy in order to receive it. But if you ask me, that beats working 9 to 5 any day.

“Own only what you can always carry with you. Know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag”

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