I spent January to May of 2013 in Iceland, living and studying in Reykjavik and travelling around the country. If anyone asks me about it I will tell them how amazing my trip was and how beautiful Iceland can be. But it never goes further than that.
I will answer specific questions, like where’s the best place to eat? or where is my favourite spot? But I can’t elaborate on my experience as a whole, besides mentioning that it was one of the best experiences of my life.
So if it was so amazing, why do I find it so hard to talk about?
Well, frankly, I have no idea! I mean I have a few guesses which I will share with you, but I have no concrete answers. In fact I feel like it changes each day.
- It’s Mine. It really was a great trip filled with a lot of wonderful people and events, and they are all mine. It was my first big solo trip and there were many deeply personal and formative moments. I don’t want to share my experiences for fear of diluting or cheapening them. I know realistically that sharing my thoughts on Iceland will likely do more good than harm, but like a child with a coveted toy it’s mine and I don’t want to share it.
- I Don’t Know How. Part of the reason why I fear that I will cheapen the experiences by talking about them is grounded in the fact that I don’t know how to do any of it justice. I’m still very much developing my writing and communication skills and I have yet to gain confidence in my ability to convey my emotions and experiences accurately.
- No One Cares. There are many people in my life who love me, but don’t share the same passion for travelling and adventures. They are happy I had a great time but they don’t really care about the details. They are just being polite. And then there are the strangers, who really don’t care. I’m afraid if I start sharing I won’t be able to stop and the people around me will get sick and tired about my stories from Iceland.
- Reverse Culture Shock. All of these, I believe, can be summed up under reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock happens when you try to re-integrate yourself into life back in your home community and have difficulties. You’ve changed as a person and this community or life you left behind evolved in your absences as well. Sometimes returning from a trip feels just like coming home, and sometimes it feels like the puzzle pieces just don’t match anymore, which can be disconcerting because they once fit. It can be big or little things, for example I spent a lot of time marveling at forests and sunsets, both of which were lacking in May in Iceland.
It’s been over a year since I returned from Iceland. I still feel sad when I hear songs by Of Monsters and Men (A great Icelandic band, and the soundtrack to a particularly fun road trip), and nostalgic every time I see Icelandic landscapes. It is getting easier, but only marginally. So it’s time for me to take steps to help myself.
Step One- Admit It: I admit that I’ve been ignoring this problem. It was 5 months of my life in particularly life changing circumstance that I have yet to process. At this rate I’m just going to block out this period of my life, which would be a far greater tragedy!
Step Two- Talk about it: Find the people who do care. Or in my case I will tell you, lovely reader. You can chose to read this post or not so I’m assuming those who are still reading to this point really do care. (Thank you for listening by the way!)
Step Three- Appreciate: Hopefully, through posting various pieces about my time in Iceland I will be able to better appreciate how this trip made me grow, I mean it was partly and inspiration for the start of this blog, so there’s that. But I mean more on a personal level, like fostering my self-sufficiency and direction in life.
Step Four- Prevention: I’ve never been good at sharing my feelings and this is how I ended up in this situation where I can’t share one of the best experiences of my life with other people. I don’t want to be unable to share the coolest parts of my life with other people because I can’t deal with my feelings. So the strategy is to deal with these things as they come up. Again this blog can help out with that, but so could a simple journal. My trip to New Zealand will likely be a life changing experience and I hope by posting regularly I can work through some of these feelings as I go so that 8 months of intense emotion doesn’t just get bottled up. It will also give me the chance to develop my communication skills so that I can share what I’m up to with such vivid detail you can feel all the feelings with me at the same time (well I can dream!).
Stay tuned, you can see how it works out for me! And please let me know if you’ve ever experienced anything like this too, it’s nice knowing I’m not alone 🙂
P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve also realized I have successfully skipped around talking about my trip to Nicaragua, and that was 4 years ago. So let’s add that to the list of experiences I need to share!