I raise my eyebrows at the toddler staring at me, and give her a look that clearly says: Nope.
I end up talking to her for a few minutes, through baby babble, gestures, and some help from her actual father. Her name is Julia, she’s two, and she loves jazz. The jazz part I inferred from her breaking into dance when Sinatra starts playing.
After close to seven months of singleness, after six years of very un-singleness, I have determined one thing about dating.
I don’t like it.
After spending most of my twenties trying to stress the importance of having a relationship with my parents, clinging to someone’s arm after one too many drinks, and really really wanting him (whoever he was) to buy me flowers for no reason, I quit.
A few months ago, I interviewed my sister Erica for Conversations. What she said moved me so much, I couldn’t write about it. I needed time to process.
I was talking to her about who inspires her. She talked about our family; parents, brother, and other sister, Sharon, as well as her high school mentor, Mike Myers. She spoke of how their passion and encouragement inspired her.
This movie never ceases to remind me how right, and how wrong, I can be.
I saw 500 Days of Summer six years ago.
I was sitting in my apartment at The Piazza at Schmidts, one of many residences over the past decade. I had never seen 500 Days before, but had heard good things. The various messages of the film resonated with me so deeply, I cried.
I’m on the side of a road in Egilsstaðir, Eastern Iceland. The biting Icelandic wind bites my nose and ears. It blows through my thin leggings, the only clean pair of pants I have. I hold up a sign that simply reads, “Akureyri”.
Cars speed past. Some drivers appear sympathetic, some ignore us completely. Some even seem entertained, as if I’m an adorable four year old with spaghetti sauce all over my face. My ex stands across the road, holding a sign that reads “Hofn”, a town about an hour south.
I am furious with him. I don’t remember why now. As we stood on opposite side of the road, all I could think about was how cold, tired, and frustrated I felt. I’m embarrassed to admit why this part of my Iceland trip is so undocumented.
During the last two weeks of our Iceland adventure, we were always on the verge of breaking up. I was afraid to admit it, and carried the failure like carry-on luggage. So much, in fact, I didn’t feel proud of the trip anymore.
In that desperate moment, on the side of road, I prayed. Just for a warm bed, my best friend Elizabeth, and a beer. Little did I know, two out of three of those requests were about to be granted.
Within 10 minutes, a dark green Jeep pulled over on his side of the road. He rushed over to it, and within seconds, waved me over. We climbed in, and were greeted by two friendly, burly Icelandic men.
They offered to drive us to Hofn. We figured it was a good compromise, a convenient stop on the way to Vatnajökull, a glacier in Southern Iceland. We had to be there in 48 hours.
I had booked us a tour with Arctic Adventures. I was expected to write about the glacier, about the experience. Although we still had two days to arrive, hitch-hiking is pretty unpredictable, and I was getting worried.
As we drove, we started chatting with our drivers – who questioned why we wanted to go to Hofn. It’s not a commonly visited area. We admitted that we were actually trying to get to the glacier, and that Hofn – a town on the way – was just a place to find another ride.
Hörður, one of the Icelanders, asked about the tour we were going on. I explained that it was with Arctic Adventures, told him the name of the tour, and the time. In perfect unison, Hörður and Jon (the other guy) exclaimed:
“WE’RE YOUR GUIDES!”
They were leading the tour. I couldn’t believe our luck. Hörður and Jon insisted that they drive us the entire way, and that we crash at their base camp. So I spent the next two days hanging out with Icelandic glacier guides.
Beers with Glacier Guides
I had beers, slept in a warm bed, and met new friends. Two days later, I climbed the incredible glacier – that’s right next to the glacier they use to film Game of Thrones. IT WAS AWESOME.
On the Arctic Adventure school bus, heading to the glacier.
Climbing the glacier.
On the glacier.
I’m so grateful for that experience. Not only did Jon and Hörður give me a ride, but they gave me faith in the kindness of strangers. I still occasionally talk to them – in fact, I told Hörður the other day to let me know if they need a travel-sized glacier guide (me).
Call it a coincidence if you want. But on the side of the road, angry but optimistic, I strengthened my belief in things just being meant to be. That trip was such an incredible adventure, something I manifested over time. This was just further proof that I was meant to see Iceland, to travel.
I love that story. In moments where I feel doubt or uncertainty, I cling to it. It’s one of the pivotal moments in my life that I’ve felt incredibly confident in my faith.
Plus, Hordur does a great impersonation of a tourist.
Some jargon: Don’t steal this stuff from me. Seriously. I’ll find you. All of the sarcastic remarks and adventures are mine, as well as the doodles. The texture used in my travel guides, “BB_VintagePaper_05″ was used under an attribution license on Flickr Creative Commons. Credit for that goes to Dustin Schmieding.
“Do you want to dance?” the dark haired, slightly exotic looking guy says.
“Depends. Are you going to make it weird?” I ask, loudly, trying to be heard over the sound of Pravda’s speakers.
Maybe it was the couple of drinks I had, or the shot of fireball I insisted we take, but for some reason, I missed one of my closest friends, Rachel, sending me telepathic “HE’S A CREEPER” messages, during this entire back and forth.
It’s very telling of our friendship – me, the sassy one, with a tendency to overlook details and welcome the unknown, and Rachel, the meticulous, determined one – the one who eventually refused to dance with us, informing me that the guy dancing with me (and yes, making it weird although he said he would not), had been gawking at us awkwardly the entire night.