Today’s submission to my personal blog site is a reflection on my short trip to Iceland with my niece and from which I have returned.
Alhamdulillah, it was the perfect precursor to a new job which I am due to start tomorrow. Admittedly, I was a little anxious before going away given the financial strain I’ve been under like many other countless people across the world. However, for those magical 2-3 days, the usual worries and concerns all melted away whilst I immersed myself in another realm and experience. I was surprised how seamlessly I flitted from anxiety to carefree reverie. And for that in itself, it was worth spending the money. As I mentioned last week, I vowed my life will no longer simply be about paying one bill after another without any respite in between. So this trip was always going to be a litmus test for what’s ahead.
Iceland is the perfect place to reconnect with natural beauty and therefore, of course, with Allah. The two are inextricably linked in my opinion. Both my niece and I were in awe of everything we saw and commented how we couldn’t appreciate the natural world without appreciating its Creator. SubhanAllah. What a feast for the eyes! Volcanic rocks, fissures, mountains, waterfalls, lagoons, lakes, glaciers, geysers and last but definitely not least, the Northern Lights! To try to encapsulate all that wondrous beauty in a few sentences embellished with admiration will never do it any real justice.
Despite the subzero temperatures and piercing winds, where we were sometimes struggling to keep our fingers exposed for just a few seconds to take pics on the camera, we savoured every moment. Two days seemed like a week given the plethora of sights we saw. I had never seriously considered Iceland as a holiday destination before but I was not disappointed. In fact, I would like to return there to see the sights we didn’t have time to explore such as the black sand beaches and ice caves.
Whilst a tourist will always experience a new country through rose-tinted glasses, I can confidently say that I appreciated the slower pace of life out there. Reykjavik is noticeably much smaller than even some satellite cities in the UK but that is where its charm lies. As an older person, I enjoyed the calmness of the place. There were no rat-race commuters or soulless skyscrapers dominating the skyline. Beyond the nucleus of the city, the vast emptiness of this underpopulated and quite barren land was surreal. I often had to remind myself I was not travelling through a desert nor in the American plains both of which this country’s landscape bizarrely shares so much in common with. There was an air of tranquility which permeates the country throughout and all of this the perfect decompression process I needed before returning home.
Yet, my trip to Iceland was more than simply staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the stunning scenery. It was about realising that I now want to see more of the world if I possibly can. I don’t wish to compete with other travelers and boast about how many countries I can claim to have visited. I am still cynical about the disconnected tourist who travels without actually getting to know anything about the people and culture of the host country whilst indulging in the oblivious comfort of their 5-star ivory towers. Alhamdulillah, I have lived amongst the ordinary folk in the countries where I previously settled with family and have been enriched by all those daily encounters. So, I know the stark difference between a tourist’s lens vis-a-vis the perspective of an ordinary citizen. It’s like having a front seat in a lesson in anthropology. The experience is priceless!
However, my days of living abroad are on hold for now, maybe even permanently. But, the desire to dip into an ‘otherness’ will always be with me. So, even standing with my niece in the geyser cloud that absorbed us as it sprang up from the earth’s core, or trying an unusual local dish which is a staple for others in the host country, all these little experiences are like pearls on a string that form a beautiful and complete piece of jewellery. They are the things that adorn my life and restore my humility towards my Creator, Allah.
Travelling through this world in a metaphysical sense can’t happen without travelling through this world and accruing a heightened spiritual awakening. I say this because I don’t just see with my eyes but I see with my soul. Allah’s presence in His world is intrinsic to the natural phenomena that bestows so much intense beauty in our midst. If I need any excuse to travel more, then this one reason alone will suffice.