There are many words you could use to describe me, but “outdoorsy” definitely isn’t one of them. It’s not that I don’t appreciate how breathtakingly beautiful nature is, I just like to appreciate it on the couch, with air conditioning and preferably also some wifi.
Since most of my semester abroad will be spent living in flats in downtown London, there won’t be too many situations where I’m outside of the comfort of civilization. Iceland, on the other hand, has been another story.
This week I’ve walked an average of 11,000 steps per day (I know this because my friend has one of those fitbit contraptions for healthy people), I’ve hiked up a mountain and then a volcano, I’ve gone horseback riding at sunset, and I’ve trekked across seemingly every glacier and waterfall on the entire face of the island. I’ve stayed in upscale hotels, cute little cottages in the mountains, and even a cabin in the highlands without any electricity or heat. I’ve repacked my bags every night, changed roommates almost every night, and eaten whatever food was put in front of me.
All of this came as a shock to my system at first, but in some ways I think it was the best possible start to my adventure. With each new day, I don’t necessarily have a choice about where and how I’m going to be spending my time. If you had asked me a week ago if I would like to voluntarily climb up a steep peak of basalt gravel in 30 –degree weather, I would have laughed at you. If you’d told me I would go to sleep with the sun in a tiny cabin with 20 other people while candle flames danced on the walls, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had offered me a hunk of lamb meat and a bowl of piping hot pumpkin soup… well actually I probably would have eaten it at any point, because food is awesome. But I wouldn’t have expected to like it so much.
Each day has presented a series of small challenges, and I’ve learned the value in changing my attitude rather than my circumstances.
On the night of our horseback ride, when I wasn’t hanging on for dear life, I had a lot of time to reflect on the way just a few days here have begun to affect me. My horse, whose name was Kimne, didn’t really like to take any direction from me while she plodded across the terrain. There were moments when that really scared me, because we were walking across a ravine or making an abrupt stop or seemingly veering off the path. But then I realized than in an effort to yank the reigns back and forth and maintain control, I was missing out on the incredible view surrounding me. Kimne had walked the same trail hundreds of times, and I just had to trust that she knew where she was taking me. I had to let go of my thirst for control and just appreciate the present.
Horseback riding struck me then as a metaphor for my whole experience in Iceland. I didn’t get to choose where we went or what we did every day; the only thing I could control on this leg of the journey was my own attitude. And I’ve decided that no matter what stretches out in front of me, I’m going to do my best to trust in the direction I’m going and never forget to enjoy the view.