Life is about moments. Fragile and ephemeral, ecstatic and soul shattering, they carve and leave marks in our memory. Some influence us more than others, and change the view we have on certain aspects of life. This is a story about the moment that is responsible as to why I am currently writing this from the other end of the globe and how I got to where I am.
Today my Dad would have celebrated his 59th birthday, had he not passed away 4 years ago. In an indirect manner, his death is sort of the reason why I began to travel. At that point in my life I was depressed, sad and angry, both at myself and everyone around me. I honestly didn’t really see the point of anything in life, it was all merged in this consistently grey zone with very little joy. It was not a pretty time. I was looking for a way to escape it all, go to a place where I was a stranger, where nobody knew my name or what demons I was battelling. On August 25th, a few months after his death, I boarded a plane to Iceland. My very first, terrifying, yet most influencial journey.
My Dad has been to Iceland himself a few times, either with work or to visit one of his friends who, to this day I believe, still resides in Reykjavík. There is this old film photograph of him in front of a waterfall there. Earthy tones, slightly distorted, bit of a blur. Judging by the coat he’s wearing, it was cold that day.
I remember I saw it as I was masochistically going through old photos when I was home for the funeral. And I knew I wanted to find and stand in the exact same place when I landed on that chilly and grey day. I don’t know what I expected would happen when I did. A part of me desperately pleaded for some kind of awakening, a miracle that would suddenly fix everything that had been broken, to provide me with answers to questions that nobody in the world could have given me. I could feel my legs getting weaker as I made my way down the trail to that precise waterfall.
And there I was, standing in the exact same spot as my Dad in the photo, waiting and really wishing for something, anything, that could help me feel at peace with my life. But there was no miracle; no epiphany, no lightning strike, the heavens didn’t open above my head, nothing. I was just getting cold and wet from standing too close to the water. I’m almost certain I made a grunt noise and turned around. Life is not a melodramatic indie movie turns out.
After completely losing faith and being almost certain I will never feel joy again, I came back to sulk at my hostel. Despite having breathtaking nature around me and incredibly friendly and warm people, my mood didn’t really change. After wandering the streets of Reykjavík for a few days, I decided to book one last tour before I left. If riding pudgy, cute icelandic horses wouldn’t make me happy, I would have officially declared my soul gone. We were in the middle of the countryside, making our way through the beautiful black lava field landscape, when I witnessed something that, to this day, echoes in my memory. It started to rain quite heavily as we were out, but at the same magical moment the sun started to shine strongly upon us. A double rainbow appeared, making an amazing contrast to the jet black ground. It was like nothing I had ever seen before in my life; I stopped my horse and just admired it all in awe before it faded away. I have no photos of this scene, and I am glad I don’t. It will forever be an incredibly personal and perfectly contained moment that is just mine to reminisce and enjoy. When it was over, I realized that I wanted more of this; I had the desire to see if the rainbow looks just as vivid on the other end of the globe; if the horses have the same fluffyness somewhere else on the planet; if rain in Asia, South America, Africa feels just as cold hitting my skin as it did that day in the middle of nowhere in Iceland. Nearly 3 years of off-and-on travel later, the desire to wander has not faded, nor has my appreciation and joy for life. And I am happy for that.
However, sadness returns when I remember the reason as to why all of this began. I have had ‘Icelandic’ moments in every single country I have been to so far, but I will never be able to ring my Dad and tell him about them. I find myself from time to time thinking about what would he say if he saw me today… Would he be proud of the life I have (or more so trying to have) for myself, of the person I have become? Would he perhaps be disappointed?
The way I have chosen to live my life is slightly different compared to how my parents lived when they were my age. They were already married. They had jobs. I have two backpacks to my name and no idea where my feet will take me tomorrow.
I would like to believe that if he could see how happy I am and how my eyes light up when I set off to explore this beautiful planet we live on, he would be happy aswell. Maybe he can, who knows…
Wherever you are, I hope they have cake…
Happy Birthday, Dad.