While we're forced to stay put, it's the perfect time to look back at the travels that made us who we are. This week, Juliette Sivertsen recalls her journey through Iceland's wild elements in her attempt to unlock her inner Viking warrior.
What on earth possesses a person to go snorkelling in Iceland in 2C water?
That person was me, and the bitingly cold Nordic gales had quite possibly frozen part of my frontal lobe.
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But Iceland had long been on my bucket list, and the number one activity at the top of that list was to go snorkelling through the Silfra fissure - the space between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Some would call it an adventure of a lifetime, others would say it was sheer madness. I say it was an exercise in character building.
My 2017 trip to Iceland came at a time in my life where I was desperate to connect with myself again, to remember who I was and what I liked doing when there was no one else around to influence my decisions. I was seeking empowerment, and a solo trip to one of the wildest climates on the planet seemed just the ticket to unleash my inner Viking warrior.
I hired a manual car in Iceland and drove on the right hand side of the road for the first time in my life. I navigated roundabouts with equal parts fear and blind faith and drove across South Iceland into stormy headwinds so strong I thought I'd be blown off the road into a ditch where I would freeze to death before help could arrive.
South Iceland looked and felt like the ends of the Earth. It was made up of vast swathes of brown-and-yellow barren land, interrupted by the odd volcano and glacier to live up to its reputation of a land of fire and ice. Winter had not yet arrived, but the arctic wind howled through the air, stinging my cheeks and making my bones ache. But not once was I tempted to stay inside for fear of the elements; braving the atmospheric conditions would not just breathe life into me, it would blow it into me like a hurricane.
I hiked to the top of volcanic craters and drove past Eyjafjallajokull, the famous volcano that caused chaos for the entire world when it erupted in 2010, sending an ash cloud across Earth and tripping up newsreaders around the globe.
I climbed behind powerful waterfalls, walked across glaciers and waited patiently for geysers to explode into the sky. I was blown sideways on wild black-rock beaches and patted Icelandic horses with manes so luscious and long they could sell luxury shampoo to a balding man.
I saw the aurora borealis for the first time in my life while staying on an Icelandic horse farm. I ate fish pate and overpriced salty crackers for dinner and met a Romanian couple who shared their home-made slivovitz with me, drinking and laughing into the night while wrapped up in blankets to stay warm.
Still, I needed something to further jolt me awake and rouse the shield-maiden inside. So I went snorkelling in glacier water in a giant crack in the earth.
The water in the Silfra fissure is crystal clear and the crevasse is deep, which means snorkelling there is akin to walking over the glass panel at the top of a skyscraper. If the bitter cold doesn't get you, vertigo will. In fact, the number one reason visitors cannot complete this snorkel excursion is because of a fear of heights, which is often not realised until they are face down in the water, by which time the icy cold has already numbed their lips, impairing their ability to explain to their guide what is wrong, leading to further panic.
But not me. Icy-lipped but determined, I floated across the giant fissure staring into the chasm below, the seals of my drysuit pressing into my wrists and neck, my frozen hands clasped behind my back to keep them out of the water. I drew on every tiny unit of Nordic blood inside me to keep pushing through to the end.
Visibility in the Silfra can easily reach 100m. From above the water, the surface looked dark and murky, with no sunlight to shine through. But as soon as my eyes pierced below the waterline, the scene brightened and I could see with great clarity blue-tinged rocky cliffs, and the impact of Mother Earth's powerful thrust.
It would be impossible not to feel invigorated after such an experience and when I climbed out of the water I wanted to roar. Except no sound came out. It was as if my vocal chords had frozen over. I gave a clumsy high five to my American snorkelling guide and shivered my way back to the changing rooms before we warmed up with hot chocolate and a biscuit. My heart thumped with a mix with elation and celebration, and the urgent need to pump blood back through my veins as fast as possible.
After my Silfra conquest, I drove to one of Iceland's many natural hot springs where I bathed for hours, alternating between the geothermal waters and the sauna.
Returning to Reykjavik, I wandered through the hipster streets of Iceland's capital, where every second shop and restaurant had a Viking symbol adorning the shopfront. I bought a little pewter Viking ship souvenir and tucked it into my pocket, to remind me always of the time I tapped into a fierceness inside that was finally woken after a long slumber.