On Sunday morning I woke up in a hostel in Grundarfjödur, a small coastal village on the western peninsula of Snaefelsnes. By 6:19 I was on the road, driving towards Reykjavik. Speeding along at 100 kilometers per hour, I passed through wild places I had no time to photograph. Ironically, I was listening to an audio book called Out of the Labyrinth, yet I missed a crucial turn and lost half an hour amidst strange, outlandish Icelandic place names. Stykkishólmur Buðardalur. Akureyri. Borgarnes. Finally I found the right road and followed it for the next two h0urs. Passing Reykjavik again, having no time to explore the capital, no time to look for that Icelandic chess variant, Vikingaskák, which I was hoping to find. No time to browse woolens. No time anymore. I had to get the rental car turned in before 10:00 am.
I arrived at Keflavik airport before ten, which was actually a little early, turned in the rental car, and walked my bicycle over to the tiny airport. There I had some difficulty getting the pedals off, and asked another cyclist to help me. He and his young son were turning their bicylcles into the Odd-Size-Baggage area, and their bikes were pedalless, so I assumed he could assist. He did so, and with little effort we had my pedals off. I thanked him, put my bike into its enormous plastic bag, secured the excess with a zip-tie and left the bike to check in and get my boarding pass. After this, I labeled the bike with the airline sticker and left it in the hands of the airline crew. It was perhaps 11:30. My flight would leave at 5:20. So now I had time, but was necessarily restricted to staying in the airport. I found something to eat, spent whatever Icelandic kronur I had remaining on small gifts, bought one last beer, and settled into a couch to hammer out the last few entries which you have already finished reading. Somewhere around 4:20 I headed over to my gate and awaited our boarding time.
I was happy to be going home, but had been gone for so long, that I had no real feeling of impatience. I had grown accustomed to waiting for the things I really wanted. I had found other things to do with myself while waiting. While the people around me milled about, shifted, complained, and anxiously watched the crew members, I put in my earphones and drifted away on a sea of sound and memories. My mind flickered back and forth between thoughts of the future and of the recent past, while my fingertips drummed out the rhythm of the music. I felt calm, as though I was able to keep myself somehow apart from the flow of time, from the feelings of both urgency and boredom. I had accomplished everything essential to what I had set out to do, and was returning with a complex sense of gratitude, fulfillment, joy, and expectation. Whatever was coming, I felt I would be able to handle. It would be so good to be back.
I had left Alaska on June 11, and it was now August 9. Two months of traveling with my bicycle through seven countries and a multitude of languages. All that I had learned had not yet completely manifested itself, but would continue to emerge in small sudden epiphanies over the next few months or even years. As fascination waned with one culture or language, it waxed with another, or my understanding of various things I had experienced previously deepened with the length of time I spent among them. The entire phenomenon of traveling for so long, of living out of two bags and a handful of clothing, in a mixture of dependency and independence in my surroundings, and the frequency of change was having an effect on me I didn’t quite fully understand yet, but I could sense that it was taking place. More than anything, I simply felt more at peace. Quieter. I felt that I knew what I wanted and how to get it, and could sense what was truly inessential to being content every day. I cherished the dear ones in my life more than ever, but the former feelings of pain in missing them had been eased by the confidence that I would see them again. Or even if I didn’t, I had learned better how to bear difficulties and to rely on myself.
The line started to move forward. I followed the people in front of me until we entered a bus, and then the bus brought us to the airplane. A woman looked at my ticket and told me I would board in the front, so I did. A stewardess handed me a bottle of Icelandic water. I found my seat. Within a short time, the familiar routine of flight departure blended together and past: the settling of persons and baggage, the announcements, the taxiing to the runway, the engines revving, the slow lurch forward, the acceleration, leaning back just slightly, and the subtle breath of wind which sweeps underneath the aircraft as the entire impossibly heavy object experiences Bernoulli’s principle of the fluidity of air and lift and we are flying towards Greenland, towards Canada, towards Alaska.