"I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU RIGHT NOW!!!!" I yelled into the hurricane-force winds of Dyrhólaey, knowing he wouldn't hear me, but feeling comfort putting those words into the abyss.
I lowered my head and made my way back to the coach. We were at a pitstop en route to Vík í Mýrdal. Of all the seats on the bus, I was the only single traveler who had someone seated next to them. My seat partner filled the hours with miniature photos on his tiny point-and-shoot and boring stories of his last trip to see his sister.
I was not in the mood to make friends.
What lead me to Iceland -- a vast, desolate, dark, cold place -- is a story that's been told many times before. It's a story that's also never taken to heart unless you've been through it.
Þingvellir National Park, Bláskógabyggð, Iceland
I was in a relationship that had far exceeded its shelf life. I had tried breaking up with the guy countless times, but somehow always felt miserable when that pathetic look crossed his face; I'd believe him when he'd say he could change or convince me that what we had was good. Three days after each conversation, we'd be right back to where we started.
I needed a break. I needed to get away from my boyfriend, my work, my everyday everything that kept me exactly where I was. So I turned to what I knew -- running. And I took it to the Reykjavík Marathon.
I had never traveled so far before. I'd never packed a bag, hopped a flight, flew over a body of water, nor landed in a place where the airport was in another language. I'd never traveled internationally, and I'd also never traveled without my partner.
"Imagine how much smaller the world will be after you do this once," a confidant had told me during those trying times.
Those words stuck with me as I ventured through my first trip. I made my way around the airport, then the bus station, then the hotel, with a smile on my face and asking all the questions I needed to feel comfortable. English wasn't much of a barrier, but I definitely felt out of my comfort zone without a partner to lean on.
And I loved it.
I not only completed my first international marathon on that trip, I saw roaring waterfalls, turquoise waters, windy black-sands beaches, tectonic plates, active volcanoes, the most hardcore ponies and puffins, and mossy green lava fields where trolls and folklore definitely live. I made new friends on day excursions when I felt like being social, but I felt no need to spend time with them if wasn't feeling it. I felt comfortable walking around Reykjavík alone, ordering meals and beers solo, and talking with locals at an outdoor concert when I wanted to.
I told the man on the bus I was more interested in looking at the scenery out my window than at pictures of his family on a tiny screen.
I learned how to be on my own.
Skógafoss, Skógar, Iceland
The world didn't become smaller after visiting Iceland -- it became much bigger. It became vast. The cultures to experience and the food to taste and the drinks to drink and the conversations to have and the sites to see became infinite.
Iceland is where my relationship ended, and the rest of my life began.
Blue Lagoon, Grindavík, Iceland