The Land of Fire & Ice: Post 1

Some adventures take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny.

CS Lewis

Near World’s End

My wife Lois often jokes that life with me is an adventure. “A good one, I hope,” I often joke back. The truth is, I don’t like stagnancy. Perhaps it’s got something to do with being a writer. Or a polyglot. Whatever the reason, I get these inexplicable, out of the blue urges to do something different or out of the blue. Lois, who’s more methodical by nature, has learned to expect and accept that. So, she wasn’t too surprised when I proposed a family summer trip to Europe. She was surprised when I said where I wanted to go.

“Iceland?” she said. “Why Iceland?”

I had no idea.

I once had a student who went to Iceland and loved it. But that wasn’t really enough of a reason. My family hails from the Caribbean so a place where summer temps average a high of 55 degrees and whose interior is a glacier wasn’t exactly high on our bucket list. I couldn’t explain why I was drawn to this island that’s nestled between the Labrador and Norwegian Seas.

Google maps placed Iceland just below the Arctic Circle which, in my mind, is the equivalent of the “world’s end.” So, I wanted to go. Besides, I had a knee injury that a few years ago hasn’t healed properly. Iceland’s dramatic landscape offered the opportunity for great hiking and I was in the mood for challenge. So, we booked tickets, planned out a jam-packed schedule, and made all the arrangements.

Enter the volcano

Everything seemed to be going well. But one week prior we learned that a series of earthquakes were shaking the area and a volcano near Keflavik airport was about to erupt. In 2010, a series of volcanoes in Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland shut down more than 100,000 flights and disrupted air traffic across Western Europe. As a dad, I’m responsible for protecting my tribe. Needless to say, I began to wonder if taking my kids now, with the possibility of an eruption, was the best idea. We held a family meeting and the verdict was unanimous: Team Robinson wasn’t going to back out.

Fast-forward a few days. We had a smooth flight on Iceland Air and land last Friday morning. The temperature difference was huge. We traded Pennsylvania’s 90 degrees for coats, winter hats and scarves to combat Iceland’s 30 degrees and strong winds. I’ve experienced stunning landscapes in Europe, the Middle East, and other places. But after I got behind the wheel of my Kia Ceed and nosed into the traffic on Route 1, I realized that Iceland was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

To my left, the morning mist swathed a glittering lake in a coat of light. Green-coated mountains, once active volcanoes, surrounded us on all sides. In the distance, Iceland’s latest volcano poured dark smoke into the heavens. My family totally forgot about jet-lag as we oohed and aahed at something new around that appeared at each bend in the road.

About 40 minutes later we pulled into the driveway of our AirBnb. Everything in Europe is smaller so that was a cultural learning curve for my American kiddos. But they adapted quickly and learned life lessons about simplicity that will stay with them for a long time. My daughter came with me to a local grocery store as we stocked up for the week. Navigating prices/names in a language we don’t speak was fun. Fortunately, most Icelanders speak excellent English. When English failed, I encountered several people who spoke French or Spanish (as I do) and that facilitated things.

Faith & Culture

Despite the beauty around us, it quickly became clear that trip would have its challenges. At the top of this list is the permissive moral code. Despite the fact that 80% of Icelanders are baptized into the Lutheran church and consider themselves Christian, Iceland is very liberal. Our kids got a ton of exposure to lifestyles that we oppose. But I’ve often told them that their faith has to hold up regardless of their environment or it’s simply not real faith. I was grateful to see that the things their mom and I have poured into them guided their thoughts even here. Before leaving the States, I assigned a complex research project to the older two while my youngest did a comparative analysis project on Christianity as presented/lived in Iceland versus what he sees in America. Learning doesn’t stop when summer starts, right?

Embrace the adventure

Later that evening, we began exploring the beautiful village of Hafnarfjördur, which is about 20 minutes from Reykjavik. A quiet boardwalk lines the harbor of this historic town who’s reputation is built upon elves and trolls. Lois and I were more interested in the coffee than “hidden folk” so we stopped at a quiet café with friendly staff and awesome pastries that our kids devoured. As I sat in a cafe in a corner of this speck of the planet, I wondered again: why am I here? There seemed to be a purpose beyond vacation. Something I could sense but not yet know.

In life we sometimes draw back from the possibility of the unknown because the risk seems too great. That’s where I was before leaving the States. Analyzing risk based upon seismic and volcanic activity. But as Lewis says, sometimes our adventures take us forward to our destiny. There was no way I could know it at the time, but the next week in Iceland would do much more than provide down time—it would transform the way I see life itself.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

What do you think about this post?