During October Travel Week, Blythe wrote about the amazing and beautiful sights that she and her fellow sophomores experienced while on their trip to in Iceland. We share her thoughts in its article.
I am not the biggest morning person so for me to be excited in the morning is hard. But last Saturday, even the earliest of mornings did not allow me to hide my excitement. I was going to Iceland. I have been a TASIS student for nearly 6 years and I have made some incredible memories along the way but I had never been able to travel internationally with the School before. I knew this experience was going to be unforgettable.
After a sleepy plane ride, the group I was traveling with arrived in Iceland. Not only was I excited that this trip would be an opportunity for me to get to know my peers and have some fun, but I was also excited about seeing Iceland. I love to hike and be in nature and see places that are so beautiful they take your breath away. Iceland is made for me. The first morning we went on a tour of some hot springs. They were magical; the scenery seemed like it should be something out of a fantasy novel. We spent that afternoon at one of the 25 wonders of the world: the blue lagoon. The juxtaposition of the cold Icelandic air and the warm soothing water is a feeling hard to replicate anywhere else. The sky-blue water looks like it should only exist after a filter has been placed on a photo, not in reality, and the way it refreshes you is unlike any other body of water I have ever been to. My classmates and I laughed and smiled until the world outside of the bubble of this reality seemed like it did not exist. Time flew by and I was shocked how long we had spent there when the time was over. We went back to the hotel for an early night after our busy and very long day.
The next morning arrived with a gorgeous sunrise streaming in through my hotel window. The day began with a trip to a geothermal power plant. Here I learned that Iceland is powered on completely renewable energy. This opened my eyes to the way the world is answering the climate crisis beyond the world that I have grown up in, and it reminded me that the possibilities are endless. We then traveled to a geyser and saw it splash into the air and then travel swiftly down, screaming attention to the natural world and the geography about me. It was so breathtaking that I stayed to watch it erupt twice more, getting soaked on the last eruption. Although this was an incredible experience and one of the most amazing natural beauties I have ever seen, it is nothing compared to the inconceivable event of that evening.
It has always been my dream to see the northern lights. Their flashing masterpiece and otherworldly splendor has had me captivated for as long as I can remember. I have visualized running into a chilly evening with a warm hat and gloves keeping me toasty inside and staring up at the sight above me. On this trip my dream came true. That evening I was bonding over a card game with my peers when our chaperone came running in and informed us that the northern lights were above our hotel. I was stunned so I dropped my cards and ran outside along with the rest of my group of screaming students. We stood there with the cold wind not bothering us and gazed up at the green and purple stricten clouds above us. There are no words to describe what I saw. It is so humbling to stand there and be reminded how small you are in a world with much larger forces at play but also feel so empowered that, if the world has things this beautiful, what else is possible? It was truly an unforgettable experience.
In seventh grade science class at TASIS, I read an article about black beaches in Iceland. I did what any 12-year-old would do, I read it and never thought about it again. That was until our tour guide for this trip mentioned what the itinerary was for the day. We were going to the black beaches. My brain backtracked in time to that science class, and I began to remember how spectacular I thought these beaches must be. I love the ocean. The constant and unchangeable movement of the tides and the bitter smell of salt hold the most precious memories of my childhood. But these black beaches were like nothing I had ever witnessed before. They were magical. The sand was the same color as charcoal and off in the distance were rocky pillars that, according to Icelandic folklore, were trolls that had accidentally seen sunlight and as a result turned to stone forever. There were beautiful basalt columns growing out of the ground to create a headland and the sun was low in the sky. It was not only picturesque but also fascinating.
In January of 1973, there was a volcanic eruption on the Westman Island of Heimaey which rocked the small island and destroyed around ⅓ of its homes and small businesses. Before this trip, I had no idea Heimaey existed let alone anything about its history and I had no intention of changing that. However, on this trip, I not only learned about the history of the eruption but also went to the island and the museum dedicated to the event. This allowed me to become a better citizen of the world, one that is more aware of events of the past, which allows me to become more mindful for the future. Whilst on this island I also got to know my peers a lot better through the simple yet powerful action of playing together. We found a playground on the island and although we are years too old to admit it, we loved it. Being able to laugh with people I had only gotten to know well a few days before whilst jumping on a trampoline and playing on a seesaw is the best type of bonding I can think of.
I came to learn over this trip that Iceland is not home to very many people and the only real city is Reykjavik. But touring it made me realize how gorgeous and incredible it is. Every spare wall is covered in a stunning mural often depicting nature. The sea is right there in front of the buildings and every corner is lined with another cute bakery or store. I greatly enjoyed the free time I was allowed in the city exploring what it has to offer and eating some of the best food I have ever had. We also went on a whale-watching tour where I was able to see humpback whales swimming together and splashing their backs and tails out of the water. They were truly magical beasts and even the harsh wind and violent rocking of the boat were not enough for me to be able to take my eyes off them for even a moment.
However no great thing can last forever, and the end of this day saw me bidding farewell to this incredible nation filled with nature unlike anywhere else, and sights that I struggle to believe I truly saw. I will never forget this trip and I am wholeheartedly grateful that TASIS allowed me to be privileged enough to have this unforgettable experience.