Back in May, pandemic life had finally started to look less doom & gloom and the metaphorical rainbow at the end of the road was appearing when the COVID-19 vaccine came out. Hubby and I spent hours scouring for appointments in order to be one of the first to get the vaccine when it was made available to the general adult population.
After being double-dosed, we were so hopeful for a return to a somewhat “normal” life, which for us, didn’t mean large gatherings or big events or even tossing our masks, but simply going out to a grocery store or restaurant and not feeling so wary.
As cases started to decrease, we felt even more optimistic that COVID-19 was behind us. In our excitement, we decided to commit to a vacation later in the summer, and not just any ole vacation, but a big vacation to Iceland! This decision wasn’t made without great hesitation though. We had visited Iceland in 2018 and although we fell completely head over heels in love with the moody, green landscapes and abundant waterfalls, one of the things that put a sour taste in our mouth was the huge amount of tourists. Vaxxed or not, visiting a place that we knew had tons of tourists seemed like a bad idea after living in insolation for over a year and while recovering from social anxiety from that isolation.
On the other hand, not only was Iceland one of the few countries to welcome back vaccinated tourists at the time, it had an irresistible attraction, an active volcano! The volcano had awoken in mid-March and early photos and videos showed local residents sitting on a hillside watching a bright orange river of lava flow quietly from a fissure mere yards from where they were sitting. How. Freaking. Cool!!!!
Seeing lava in person has been the #1 thing on my bucket list and it always felt like something I would never be able to do because it meant having a certain spontaneity in life that Pie and I just didn’t possess – a spontaneity that required abandoning work and personal obligations at the drop of a hat in order to see an amazing spectacle of nature in its brief and fleeting moments. Back in 2017, new fissures of Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano opened up and emitted so much lava that it flowed off seaside cliffs and into the water. This was a once in a lifetime sight that would have been an absolute dream to book a flight on a whim to see in person, but instead, we longingly watched online.
By the time we were vaccinated and started considering a vacation in May, we thought surely Iceland’s latest volcano was at the end of its short lifespan. We briefly entertained the idea of visiting the volcano as spontaneously as we could, in a couple of weeks, but quickly dismissed the idea since hubby wouldn’t have much time off from work to give Iceland the proper visit it deserved.
However, after completely dismissing the idea of traveling to Iceland, we thought about it again and ultimately decided to book a vacay later in the summer when we would have much more time off to do Iceland’s Ring Road, the road that travels around the perimeter of the entire island.
The most popular way to experience the Ring Road is by renting a camper van and setting aside one to two weeks to see the sights and camp along the way. This seemed like the perfect compromise for vacationing in a pandemic and trying to maintain social distance. We booked our trip hoping that there would be less tourists than during normal times and with the expectation that the volcano would likely not be going by our August trip, but would be an awesome surprise if it was!
In order to not get our hopes up about seeing the incredible volcano in Iceland, we booked our trip and tried to forget all about it in the meantime. In fact, we did such a good job forgetting about it that it wasn’t until July, when we were less than five weeks out from our trip, that we realized hubby didn’t even have a valid passport for travel.
When we looked into the details to get hubby’s passport renewed, our panic increased because we found out that passports (even expedited ones) were taking several weeks to be processed during the pandemic and the chances that we would have a valid passport in time for our trip were extremely slim.
As if the passport situation didn’t cause enough anxiety and stress, COVID-19 cases had increased drastically by mid-summer due to the Delta variant and I was definitely regretting booking a vacation in a pandemic.
Hubby ended up receiving his passport after waiting exactly four weeks and one day, with mere days to spare before our trip, but we still had one more obstacle before our trip, which was COVID-19 testing. At the time of our trip, a test was required within 72 hours of our flight leaving the United States. This seemed like an easy enough task until we had a difficult time finding a test and one that was preferably free (we ended up finding a good company called Mako Medical that did have free testing); then we worried about getting the test results back in time (they took two agonizingly-long days); and then we worried about whether our test results would have the necessary identifying information to prove to the airlines it was us that took the tests (and they did).
Whew! And all of this left very little time to actually plan our trip since we hadn’t wanted to jinx it and plan anything before the passport dilemma was resolved.
All of this is to say that traveling in a pandemic was probably not the best idea for someone like me who stresses enough as it is in the months leading up to a “normal” trip… but spoiler alert, we made it to Iceland and we got to see an active volcano with lava and it was all worth it in the end!
Stay tuned to hear about all the adventures from our two-week trip on Iceland’s Ring Road, especially our most epic activity of the entire trip right after picking up our adventure wheels!