Wisps of white escaped with my every breath, but they were quickly lost in the steam that encircled us. Warm blue-grey water shielded us from the bitter cold; it was nearing the end of October and winter was coming. I had spent the last month adventuring through Iceland with my friend Daniel Bruce Lee, but our time near the Arctic Circle was nearing its end - soon we’d be traveling to Nepal to begin the next chapter of our journey.
I’d read a bit about Robert Greene’s Art of Seduction; by his standards, I had certainly fallen victim to Iceland’s charm. During the past month, I experienced some of my highest highs and lowest lows. My first week on the island, I danced with death on a stormy glacier after twisting my ankle on a cross-country descent. I survived, but not without a fight. (More than a month later, my ankle is still sore.)
The very next day we missed the only bus to Jökulsárlón, Iceland’s famous glacial lagoon, by mere seconds, but were able to hitchhike to the lake with a crazy, mad-scientist French guy who called himself Batman. As soon as we stepped out of his oversized SUV, the clouds broke and we were rewarded with our first view of the northern lights as they slowly danced above one of Iceland’s most scenic locations. As quickly as they had come, the auroras disappeared.
I reflected on my time spent in Iceland as we soaked in the serenity of our private blue lagoon. And by soaking in serenity, I mean we were cliff jumping into the water, lathering ourselves in grey mud, and doing our best Blue Steel impressions. This definitely wasn’t the Blue Lagoon where tourists pay $75 a pop to sit in a crowded pool - rather, ours was accessible only with a two-hour hike into the mountains.
Hurting myself early in the trip caused me to slow down for the first time in my adventure career. While I enjoy every minute spent in nature, I often push myself to complete objective-based adventures: Can I be the first person to summit Mt. Whitney on the 4th of July? Yes. Can I finish a five-day backpacking trip in less than three? Absolutely. Can I do a 27-mile hike through the mountains in just a day? Of course. Each new adventure had to be be crazier than the one that came before it; until I got hurt, this trip was destined to follow that same path. And that’s not a bad thing; what I do is incredibly challenging and rewarding.
But simultaneously, I put these expectations on myself to push hard and “succeed.” Getting hurt was a great reminder to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy being in nature with some good people. Our hangout at the lagoon was perfectly that.
Filip and Marek of the Wildness Production had led us to the lagoon. We met the two 19-year-old Czech adventurers behind a gas station in Vik on our second day in Iceland. Daniel and I were catching a bus to Skaftafell to begin our adventure; they were heading back to Reykjavik to work through the winter after a summer of exploring. We all had plans in Nepal and we hit it off right away. Their flat in the city offered Daniel and me a safe haven in between escapades; the more that the four of us hung out, the closer we became. It was only fitting that we concluded our time in Iceland together with an adventure.
I was incredibly inspired by Filip and Marek. Their desire in life are the same as mine: to explore the world and inspire others to do the same. They left their home country at age 19. I was 26 before I finally figured out what I wanted, much less had the balls to go get it. The duo are both explorers at heart; their passion was infectious. I have no doubts that we’ll meet again.
The four of us continued to soak, splash, and throw grey mud at each other for as long as the light allowed. Night set in by the time we finished the 3.5-kilometer hike back to the car (and we hadn’t thought to bring a headlamp). Our adventure in Iceland had officially come to an end.
Shortly after returning back to the flat, I posted a picture of myself lathered in the blue clay. Someone commented on Instagram, “that’s how people get parasites.” Upon Googling it, a pang of uncertainty shot through my mind. Apparently parasites reside in warm pools of water, like the hot springs we were in. In rare cases of infection, there’s one that enters through the nose and can eat out your brain in less than a week. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. That’s why you’re not supposed to dip your head under the water. We had been cliff jumping in and swimming up from the bottom.
I freaked out for about 30 seconds. Then I closed my computer, took a deep breath, and remembered that not only was my time in the lagoon my absolute favorite moment from Iceland, but it was one of my favorite moments from life. When it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. I’m living each and every day in the best way that I can and I’ve never felt more alive.
When I do return back to Iceland and revisit that lagoon, will I still jump in? Absolutely! But maybe I’ll hold my nose.