It’s morning. I’m peeling my clothes from the radiators in each room of my Airbnb and wondering why time is only ephemeral when I don’t want it to be. I close the door to my Faroese home for the last time and carefully memorize the walkway between it and my rental car. Tiny black rocks crunch under my boots. I’m sentimental and a little sad, but I take solace in the fact that I’m heading to Iceland today. It’s not home, but it’s not foreign anymore. It’s the kind of in between that makes me feel okay to be boarding a plane away from here today.

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I arrive in sweet, sulfuric Iceland in the early evening and find my way to my last new home of the trip. It’s a white stucco-walled horse ranch laced with worldly furnishings and a clawfoot soaker tub. I make note to ensure that I’m buried here some day. It’s more than comfortable. I’m more than comfortable. Even so, I feel the need to get out and explore Reykjavík. There are streets here that I still don’t know.

I spend the evening filtering in and out of vibrant shops that line a brick-paved road. Bikes, cars, and passersby gently glide past me in the street. I don’t leave until I feel well acclimated to the bustle.

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The next morning, I have plans to drive north to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It is 100km of fjords, volcano peaks, sea cliffs, waterfalls, hardened lava remains, and a lonely 19th century church that I haven’t yet checked off my list. I first arrive at Snæfellsjökull National Park. It is long stretches of grass and moss pressed up against the shore, but I stop for the peaks stacked around them.

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The next stop I make is at Búðir. Here I find a lonesome pair: a 19th century black and white church and a 20th century hotel in the otherwise empty lava fields. The church has my attention. It is sullen and valiant all at once. Rocks are stacked to form a fence around it, but it is still utterly inviting. I let myself inside its fence and peek inside its windows, noticing for the first time the tiny, ancient graveyard laying next to me on my way. When I look inside the church, I see fragments of wood and wallpaper. It is simple in the most elegant way. I don’t want to leave, but there is more to see.

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My next stop is brief. It’s a place called Hellnar, and I’ll remember it by its arches. They extend into the sea, and like everything else I’ve seen today, they are casual about their beauty.  I spend no more than 20 minutes here, as daylight is spreading thin and I still have one last stop on my list.

The last place I see today is Kirkjufell and the roaring waterfalls that surround it. It looks like what the Faroese would call a Toblerone mountain because of its shape. I follow a pathway to nearby falls and look back ever so often to find my favorite view of it. When I wrap around the falls, I know I’ve found it. Night is setting in now, so I head back to my AirBnb for the evening.

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In the morning, I head back downtown. This time, I find Kex Hostel in all of its eclectic glory and a warm meal at its restaurant. The laced wooden plank floors here aren’t heated, but I feel warm when I look at them. Books that are mostly not written in English, various shoehorns, Edison light bulbs, archaic photographs, and records line the walls and shelves around me. I could spend the day here, but I have one last item to check off the list today: Puffin Island.

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I board a tour boat with two or three families and a chatty skipper. We set out to find a few nearby islets where puffins and seagulls nest. It’s not long before we reach the first one covered in spots of black and white. Puffins everywhere. They’re flying overhead and diving into the ocean beneath us. Some have fish in their mouths. Some are simply floating. I’m imposing, but they don’t seem to mind. We head back to the harbor, and then I head home. My last night has arrived.

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My trip is coming to an end. It’s a sobering thought for someone who has been living a fantastical existence for the last couple of weeks. I boarded my first international flight with certain expectations. They’ve each been more than met. I imagine my world perspective has shifted like tectonic plates, but I’m still sorting that out. I’ve seen untouched natural wonders. I’ve photographed and filmed them for proof when I wake up tomorrow and wonder if this actually happened. I’ve decided that I won’t sleep until I book and shoot more couples, weddings, elopements, and engagements here. I’m leaving with the expectation that I’ll be back again soon.

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Catch up on the rest of Rachel’s Journey

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

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Rachel Gulotta
My biggest dream has always been writing. My pipe dream has always been photography + video editing. It's pretty neat that I get to do both, and it's more than pretty neat that I get to do what I love with my best friend.