Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Valhalla Still Awaits Me

I decided to stay on the eastern side of the Atlantic for winter break. Assuming I may never have the opportunity to travel as freely as I can now, why would I give up even a day of it? It’s only one holiday season. I’ll see plenty of my family in the Christmases to come, and truth be told, I’m still full up on my heavy dose of family over the summer.

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Despite all my parents’ insistence and then demanding that I return to the States for winter break, they were completely supportive of me when I reiterated my decision to stay on this side of the pond after arriving in the UK. In fact, they were offended that I thought they would be unsupportive of my decision.

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Then all I had to do was decide where to go.

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I mentioned my conundrum to one of my friends, and she mentioned that she and a bunch of our mutual friends were going to Iceland for a few days on their way home for the holidays.

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Iceland was already among my top choices, so I joined their party and to Iceland we went!

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Not that we saw anything for the first 20 hours.

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See, since Iceland is so far north, in the winter, they only get about 4 hours of sunlight, and we arrived just as the sun set, so we didn’t see much of anything until roughly 11 am the next day.

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So when I returned to Scotland several days later to a rare sunny day, the light was like a kiss from heaven.

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But why couldn’t we see ANYTHING in Iceland? Weren’t there lights? Well, yes, of course. But Iceland doesn’t have a big enough population for those lights to make much of a difference against the pitch blackness.

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None of us were prepared for how desolate Iceland is. I, for one, expected it to be like the highlands of Scotland where the population is small but still enough that the towns and villages are of good size and you still feel like you’re apart of some sort of civilization. Not Iceland. We went around the Golden Circle, and in between each site there was absolutely nothing. We saw one small village. The rest was flat, occasionally rocky, frozen nothing as far as the eye could see.

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It was the first time I’ve ever been afraid of a vehicle breaking down. I’ve driven through some rural, dangerous areas, and I’ve never been afraid of my car breaking down. In freezing temperatures, miles from anywhere, and with so little sunlight, we would have been sitting ducks.

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Yup. Just like Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.

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It was so alien and unlike I (or any of us) had ever seen that we frequently looked at each other, bewildered, asking, “Where ARE we?”

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It extended to the food as well. Icelandic cuisine wasn’t exactly what we had on our taste buds – whale, puffin, shark, etc. – so we had a lot of lamb.

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Of course, none of the foreignness was bad. We saw some amazing sights. Waterfalls, geysers, and the continental rift.

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We went to the Blue Lagoon to take advantage of the fire part of the land of fire and ice.

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It was very nice.

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We saw northern lights. Sort of. We saw what looked like a weird white cloud. It was a bad night for Aurora, but I was happy to see anything.

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And, we saw penises.

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Yup. Penises. As soon as we arrived, we looked through maps to plan out what all we wanted to see in Reykjavik, and we found The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

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It automatically became our must-see. We looked forward to it all week – singing “deck the halls with lots of balls, pha-la-la-la-logical museum.”

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The only problem was that while we were there, a large group of children (like, 5th graders) came in an explored the museum too. It was a tad uncomfortable.

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One of the best parts of Iceland, however, was not something that many of my friends appreciated as much as I did. See, I haven’t seen more than a couple of inches of snow at a time in nearly a decade. Since I moved to the coast, it’s been even more scarce. (We got flurries last year and people lost their minds.) My friends live in New England, so they couldn’t care less about the snow. Meanwhile, I squealed constantly over the snow.

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But then the snow turned on me.

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I’d been so good about walking on the ice. Though I haven’t lived in a cold climate in many years, I grew up in the ice and snow, so I’m well-versed in the penguin walk and all that goodness. But for one second I didn’t look out for the hidden devil: black ice.

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I fell flat on my ass.

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Apparently it was a spectacular fall (good enough that a couple took photos of me lying on the ground rather than helping me up – shout-out to those bitches!).

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It better have been good, too, since I badly sprained my ankle at some point on the way down. I just laid there on the pavement while everyone within a block radius with a soul came up to make sure I was okay (not taking pictures).

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That was the evening we went to see the northern lights, though, so I couldn’t stay on the pavement forever.

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I managed to hobble to the bus that took us out of the city, and thankfully, a couple of my friends were tired and disinterested in the lights, so they kept me and my swollen ankle company in the back of the bus where we watched the lights through the window and sang Disney songs. We experienced all the important parts of the trip – we were part of their world – just from the comfort and relative warmth of the bus.

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Fortunately, that was also our last night in Iceland, so the next morning, I limped my way back to Glasgow, where I collapsed with a million ice packs never to move again.

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