Although not technically part of my service year, my trip to Iceland and Ireland in July was the perfect way to frame a year of traveling and exploring new cultures (and adapting to a new climate.)
Iceland’s striking beauty was unlike anything I’ve seen on earth. Within a four hour drive lay bubbling mud pots, glacial waterfalls, black lava beaches and moon rock landscapes. Even in the summer months, we were able to take a boat to see massive glaciers up close, whose bright blue ice is constantly in motion. It’s a country whose mythology has withstood the trials of centuries, but whose ground is still being formed. I was fascinated, too, by the vibrant culture of music and dance that arose in Ireland despite (or perhaps because of) centuries of turbulence.
In both Iceland and Ireland, I saw how people can make homes in wild nature, something we rarely think about in suburban America. Neolithic monuments in Ireland showed prehistoric connections to the cycles of the sun. Signs on an Icelandic island marked houses that were destroyed by a volcano that erupted only 30 years ago.
These few weeks in northern Europe reminded me of the vastness of the world, and I learned a valuable travel lesson, too: always bring a raincoat.
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