In the beginning of July 2015, I started a fancy new job in the marketing department of a renowned financial firm in suburban Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. It was damn cushy. I got a raise, an eight-hour work day, and my very own cubicle.
It was around that same time I started googling flights to Iceland.
A few weeks before, I had traveled for 10 days around the Czech Republic and Germany with some friends. I had two layovers on the way there and one on the way back. As far as layovers go, none of them qualified as “soul-wrenching” or even “bad.” My first landed me at the Oslo International Airport.
(Brief aside: If you have not been to Oslo, I highly recommend it generally as a place to visit, but if you have choice of layover destination, always choose the Oslo airport. This airport is actually airy. It is made up of light, natural wood, artificial sunlight, and happy blonde people. Even customs and security is pleasant, and I do NOT say that lightly. As a person who semi-regularly flies out of Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia, maneuvering through OSL is like being in a jetlag-induced dream state where everything costs just a little bit too much. In fact, I could write a whole essay on the beauty and wonder that is OSL, but I will refrain for the time being. #notmythesis)
After OSL, it was a hop and a skip over to Stockholm – no jump required, as I believe the flight was around 45 minutes – then finally, it was onto Prague.
Praha is a gorgeous city. We were staying in the less gorgeous, more residential area, which turned out to be incredible anyway. Great hostel stocked with great people and we went to a weird, many-storied club.
Then it was onto Nuremberg, a city steeped with history, both ancient and recent. Plus, I got to see an old friend, two additional German cities, and CASTLES.
I left Nuremberg for Berlin, a short, unaccompanied trip during which I saw the Queen of England (and Prince Philip), reunited with my country-hopping friend (Hi Colin!), met Nefertiti (or at least her head), was frequently mistaken as German (I’m blonde…), and generally decided I loved Berlin.
My flight back to the states was decidedly the worst transatlantic experience I have ever had. (Do not take WOW Air across a major ocean. It is not pleasant for your body or mind.) However, this back-straining, soulless flight was briefly and gloriously interrupted by a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. Since my flight was cheap AF, we de-planed on the tarmac and I was greeted by this dazzling blast of fresh air.
The air was cool and sweet and tinged with a the scent of water and mountains and was exactly what I imagined air in Iceland to be. As I walked towards the airport, I marveled at it and, like the famed coke addicts of my profession, could not stop sniffing. I sat inside the terminal looking out the windows, gazing at the mountains in the distance, in disbelief that I had just signed a contract for my new job back in the States and wishing I could just stay in Iceland. At one point, I actually said out loud (to myself) “Oh, I’ll just stay here” and almost left the airport to find a place to stay.
So I started searching “major sectors in iceland” and “financial jobs reykjavik” on my phone as I sat there. The wifi was iffy and I did not get very far before I had to get back on the uncomfortable winged death machine.
Back outside, I caught a last few breaths of Icelandic air before my lungs were to be subjected to the recycled oxygen of the mouth breathers on the plane. Soon enough we were back off into the skies, a mercifully short flight across the northern Atlantic punctuated by moments of desperate boredom and cramped legs.
We landed and I was back in Maryland. I started my job the following Tuesday. Exactly one year later, I quit. Two months after that I found myself on another flight, but my bags were heavier this time: Edinburgh for a year, a masters degree.
The new job in DC ended up being exactly what I was looking for, except I had no clue what I wanted at that time. My only point of reference was that blast of air I got on the tarmac of KEF. Maybe I didn’t want to live and work in Iceland specifically (major sector: fishing), but I wanted that fresh air – bear with me – metaphorically. So I spent a year with my friends and family, working, and figuring out myself and my goals. I needed that job for money, direction, and for stability. Through it, maybe in spite of it, I established what I wanted. Four graduate school applications later, I had it.
I do not know what I want to do with my life next. PhD? Teach? Librarian? Historian? Bartender? But I’m going to do whatever feels like taking that breath of Icelandic air.