Call it fate, dumb luck, or maybe even karma: After a delayed flight out of Chicago followed by a missed connection to Berlin, I got stuck in Iceland.
At 7 a.m., when I arrived, everything around me was pitch black. Swathes of lava rock and green earth were illuminated only by the street lamps outside of the Keflavík Airport; the sun wouldn’t shine until nearly four hours later.
I booked a hotel 2 km away, opting for proximity to the airport over the 40 minute trek to Reykjavik, the nation’s capital. After an hour long wait for a bus, and bonding with some of my fellow ill-fated travelers, I found myself alone with a burly driver who seemed to speak nothing but Icelandic. He dropped me at a bus stop and suggested I would find shelter in the direction of several industrial looking buildings.
Upon arrival at the hotel I had booked through my low budget airline, I was asked to pay 14,000 ISK. I slid over a credit card, desperate for a bed, only later to find out I had spent nearly $130 on a hotel room — my food budget for a month at school. My room didn’t even have a private bathroom, but rather a small shared facility was down the hall. I cut my losses and closed my eyes. After resting, I woke up to a new world.
To my surprise, the sun had transformed the land around me into one of stunning beauty. A message appeared on my phone saying Hans, a 26-year-old Lutheran preacher and expert in Esperanto, who had previously traveled to Iceland, was waiting to take me for a hike. Every warning bell in my head was going off, hiking around Iceland with a stranger? Nevertheless, I decided to join him.
We spent the day trekking around the small, quirky town of Keflavík. Houses were modern and cozy. Nearly every window featured a paper lantern star, a remnant of the holiday season. The town is situated on the southern coast and the ocean is visible from every viewpoint. Although cold, we stumbled upon Sigga the Giantess, a 20 foot tall statue of a friendly giant featured in a series of Icelandic children’s books, whose permanent residence is a small cave near the sea.
Post-cave, we climbed some cliffs for an amazing view! Hail proceeded to pelt us, and we sought refuge in a small cafe with seafood chowder. By 4 p.m. the sun was setting, and I arranged for an airport shuttle, settled in with strawberry tea, and called it a night. Despite the misfortunate that landed me there, I am proud to say I made the most of my time in transit.