A Boy and His Mom in Iceland

Here’s some things that those gorgeously glossy travel brochures couldn’t possibly tell you about Iceland...

From the moment you land, you’ll feel like you are filming an incredibly peaceful Lord of the Rings mini series - it’s that breathtaking. You will drink the very best and very most expensive $7 latte that literally gives you life. It IS possible to pack for a week long cold weather trip with just a carry on, but only if you wear your snow jacket and snow shoes on the plane (seriously, go for it). It’s entirely doable to lose yourself for an entire day in a drive or in the depths of a museum. Their ice cream is the best you’ll ever taste. The Northern Lights are worth chasing in below 20 degree weather at midnight. Finally: the most informative Iceland brochure couldn’t possibly begin to tell you that amongst exploring the sweeping landscape, befriending with the native animals, and $7 lattes you’ll find enough life changing, memory searing, heart swelling moments to last a lifetime.

I’ve sat down to write this blog post countless times. No literally, I’ve lost count. Now, I could sit here and blame it on the season: the holidays have always been a wildly wonderful time. In reality though, it has nothing to do with time and everything to do with Iceland. Because it’s... Iceland. A land of baffling, breathtaking, beautiful contradictions. How do you explain a place that’s both archaic and constantly changing? Where lava meets ice? A place that’s both lush with greenery and an eclipsing frozen tundra? That’s electrifying and chilling to your core and out of this world calming, centering and soothing at the same time? It’s a place where unpredictable weather makes it seem like three seasons have passed in the course of four minutes, and where without a shadow of a doubt elves exist. It’s indescribably beautiful. It’s really, really weird. It’s everything all at once, and I’m homesick for it after spending only a week calling it ‘home’. I worried that when I sat down to try and put all of that beauty in words, I’d epically fail. I’m not sure anyone could ever do Iceland justice and yet, it’s too glorious not to try.

Being a mom to a little boy with an incredible thirst for adventure, endless pursuit of knowledge, and wisdom that far exceeds his 7 years means that we’ve always made travel a priority. Every year, we do what we call a “Mom & Jude trip” that he excitedly plans hand in hand with me. I couldn’t have created a better travel partner if I’d tried: he’s adventurous, easy going and loves finding joy in the everyday little things. This year it came as a surprise to everyone but me that he came to me with Iceland on the mind.

Jude holds my heart in a way that only mothers could begin to describe - I watch in wonderment as he grows into the most amazing little man and from the minute we met, I knew that I wanted to be present for every single moment. Not just physically present. I mean fully and completely there in ways that modern life often makes challenging. I didn’t want to blink, for fear that I’d do so and he’d suddenly be sixteen, pulling out of our driveway with that quiet confidence of his, fresh license and that trademark grin. Worse yet, I’d blink and he’d be off visiting prehistoric looking lands with his own little guy, and it would have all passed me by.

I know time doesn’t work exactly like that, but it sure does feel that way sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s like the quickest thief. So I obviously came to Iceland ready to not only soak up every single moment with my little heart holder, but capture it so that someday I could pour over those pictures, soak them up in their entirety and when I close my eyes,  still trace the outlines of little Jude in a snowsuit.  

That was my plan but instead, I let my camera collect dust. That's right. The professional photographer only took iPhone photos in arguably the most photographical land in the world. The decision to put away the camera and take the moment as it came, fully and as if it was too grand - too massive - to capture, was the best idea yet.

I got to be fully present for all of it - for the snow moiling in a wickedly beautiful (and frigid) ice storm, for all of the local fresh fish and traditional Icelandic cuisine that we ate (and for all of the pizza we ate afterwards because as it turns out, pizza is still BAE), for the nights we collapsed into cozy beds and fell asleep to Doctor Who, and for the unforgettable eight hour road trip excursion into the middle of the country, complete with geysers, waterfalls, tectonic plates, mini horses and a lunch of rich tomato soup enjoyed inside a greenhouse, populated with bumblebees.

We don't have the perfect photo of every moment. We didn't "do it for the 'gram" until we nailed the perfect aesthetic. We have snapshots. And above all else, I have a week’s worth of memories - forever in my mind - of spontaneous adventures stumbled upon as we explored this gorgeous little slice of the world - talking about anything and everything, laughing deep belly laughs until it physically hurt, eating ice cream until our tongues froze, taking in scenery and natural wonders that so many people never get to see with their own eyes, running alongside the frolicking mini horses until we collapsed in another fit of laughter... all of it.  Iceland, you were so good to me and my Jude.

The Honey LifeAlyss Charles