In August I tried something new. Instead of researching extensively before a trip, reading articles, talking to frequent-traveler friends, and poring over maps, I decided to wing it. We had booked a last minute affordable flight to Reykjavik and would spend 5 days in Iceland. I did enough light research to have a couple landmarks in mind that could guide our wanderings. I booked a couple hotels. Everything else would unfold, one turn in the road at a time.
I could have watched documentaries and flicked through tagged photos on Instagram, but instead, I saw waterfalls and iceberg-studded lagoons and black sand beaches for the first time, without any preconceived notions. We ate ice cream on a sunny Saturday in Reykjavik, soaked in thermal waters, hiked along the border of calderas, and woke in the middle of night to bundle in blankets and run outside for a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Part of my job is to find the story before I travel, to have a plan for where to go and who to talk to. But sometimes the story is not knowing where you’re going, stumbling across people or places organically, waking up in the morning with the pleasure of not knowing what that day will hold. For me, Iceland was a reminder that this type of travel has real value.
Some time ago I abandoned the idea (or the obligation) that we must push ourselves to see everything in a single trip. I know it isn’t possible, or even fun. We can place pressure on ourselves to tick one more box, see one more thing. Or we can look at travel as a counterpoint to the pace of regular life and release ourselves from the obligation of seeing it all. In a country this beautiful, there were few wrong turns to make.