A lesson in Living and Loving
From April 16 through April 24 I was in Iceland on what would be best described as a solo woman’s retreat. I’d been dying to get out of New York for a year, just go some place quiet with a whole lot less people and a whole lot more nature. I needed to be reminded that there are things bigger than me, than my dreams and failings, than New York itself. I actually didn’t see Iceland as an option at first. I kind of saw it as an amazing place I could only go to in ten years or something… By Miriam Aqwai
…But when I actually looked, I saw it was more accessible than I allowed myself to believe (oh, the power of not making assumptions).
Iceland was breathtaking. I stayed in Reykjavik at Hotel Borg and did a few tours: the Viking Horse and Golden Circle, whale watching, the South Coast and Jokursarlon Glacial Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon. One of the best things about the trip was that I gave myself permission to be myself: no insane expectations, no strict personal rules, just me having grace with myself. It was great to see what a little love, appreciation and grace can do.
On my second day in Iceland, I went horseback riding. The Icelandic horse is a fascinating animal. My horse was Long Nose (I know how to say it in Icelandic, but have no idea how to write it). He was beautiful, a great horse, but a wee bit stubborn. He liked riding a little too close to the edge of sloped roads. At least too close for my tastes. It didn’t bother me at first, but then some of the horses would get too close to each other and once one started to trot, the others would follow and that led to overcrowding and pushing. It wasn’t anything super dangerous, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. So I’d steer Long Nose away from the edge or just slow him down. He wasn’t having it the first few times I tried to steer him. But I wasn’t having it either. So I persisted in steering him away from the edge and then he started to listen. After a while, it dawned on me that I’d grown. Two years ago, I would have given up and let that horse do whatever it wanted. But instead, I made my comfort level a priority and gave consideration to my instincts. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere in the last few months, I’d gotten confident and now riding through the Icelandic countryside, I could clearly see that confidence. I literally sat up straighter in my saddle and smiled. During the course of the ride, there were a few more stubborn moments with Long Nose and there were a handful of times that he did get his way (I’m copping it up to the fact that he is a Viking Horse). But he was still a great horse and I really wouldn’t have wanted any other horse but him.
During the course of the trip, I allowed myself to be loved by the people I came across. I met an Australian woman, Julie, during the Viking Horse and Golden Circle tour; I met Anna-Maija and Stefan, a Finnish pastoral couple, and Emma, their Icelandic friend, while whale watching; and I met Jan and Anna and their husbands Paul and Richard at the Blue Lagoon. Every one of these amazing people showed me love by simply talking with me and including me. We talked about our families, our respective trips and just life in general. Even though I didn’t need their company and they didn’t need mine, they reached out to me solely because that’s what they wanted to do. I had nothing to bring to the table except myself and that was enough. It was nice to be reminded that as human beings we are all more than what we bring to the table. We are enough, even when other people treat us like a means to an end for their own personal agenda and even when we don’t believe it or see it. I may never see any of them again, but I am incredibly thankful to God for letting me meet them. They all, in their own beautifully simple way, made my trip that much better.
There were so many moments that I got to enjoy solely because I let go. Like taking in the view of Reykjavik from Perlan, eating an amazing meal at 3 Frakkar, buying a graphic novel from Nexus and just walking to the Old Harbour. I allowed myself to let my jaw drop and gasp audibly when I walked into Hallgrimskirkja and saw their organ. I was in awe and I wasn’t afraid to show it. I wore a swimsuit without swim shorts to the Blue Lagoon (a huge deal for me because as an adult, I’ve only worn swimsuits with swim shorts, not because I don’t like my body, but because I’m just super conscious of it). At the Blue Lagoon, I tebowed underwater because the water was shallow enough and because I could. In the steam bath, I stretched my hands and feet towards the rising steam so my fingers and toes could feel the heat better and I stared at the dewy moisture from the steam that had rested on the hairs on my arms. I did this in the presence of other people and I didn’t care if they thought I was weird or not. I had a moment to enjoy and I wasn’t going to let it slip away.
So much more happened during that trip and it would take forever to fully detail it all. So I’ll end on this: I was listening to my iPod on the way back to Reykjavik from the South Coast and Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon tour when Beyonce’s “I Was Here” came on. As of that time, I’d seen an active geysir, a volcanic crater, four waterfalls and five humpback whales. I’d ridden an Icelandic horse, a horse so unique and specific to the country that interbreeding isn’t allowed and once one leaves Iceland, it can never come back. I’d ridden on a boat through a glacial lagoon and left my footprints on black sand at the beach in Vik. I’d also had several cups of great hot chocolate and eaten amazing food. I was so content to be where I was and so grateful that I was able to make the trip. And then on cue, Beyonce’s voice came: “I was here. I lived, I loved. I was here. I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be”. And I smiled because I couldn’t have said it any better. I got an opportunity to live a little and to love myself during my trip and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Photos from her Adventure in Iceland:
BIG thank you to Miriam for sharing this wonderful & inspiring adventure. For more information about Miriam check out her website here.