While I'm still sorting through photos and digesting my fantastic road trip, I thought I'd share with you guys a little something I wrote in a KFC parking lot, while in Iceland.
The following essay is a part of my application to the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship:
Driving in the West Fjord's of Iceland is not for the faint of heart or those who get dizzy in glass elevators. I anticipated the rockiness while looking over the map's crooked lines that zig-zagged around the coastline, but I didn't think about the mountains and I had no way to know about the concerning lack of guard rails on razor sharp turns.
But we had a destination! The Latrabjarg Cliffs at the very most western point of the country are home to puffins who only return from hunting at 9 PM, according to our guidebook. To distract ourselves from the 100+ meter incline, my carmates and I joked about punctual puffins with wristwatches on their wings.
We drove slowly up the mountains like a rollercoaster rising to a big drop, only without the tracks and, we hoped, the drop. Many times I'd look over the edge and feel my stomach fall without me. But through discovering new depths to how long I could hold my breath, dozens of new worlds passed by the window. Snowy mountain tops, mossy lava fields, and of course the massive views of the fjords. Up so high, I watched the long fingers of the Atlantic interlace themselves with the land. It might have felt like we were driving in death's unclenched fist, teetering on the edge of tragedy, but it was damn spectacular.
In the end, whether or not we found puffins was debatable. Let it be known, I swear one flew by my window when no one else was looking. But we saw and felt so much more than bird life. In a part of the country even native Icelanders consider remote, I had found the sense of smallness I seek out while traveling. On what I once considered a tiny country, stranded between the old world and the new, I found grandeur in the West Fjords.