Around 23:00 in the Arrivals terminal of Bergen, Norway, I was having a meltdown. After three weeks lived from a suitcase, delayed flights, missed connections & blatant lies from the customer service department of Scandinavian Airlines, now my credit card was not being accepted by Avis Rental Car. To clarify, it was not being declined due to a lack of funds. It did not have a faulty magnetic strip. Beforehand, the agency confirmed that my Discover card was accepted at this location, but now no amount of arguing or alternative solutions ended the gridlock. Pay for the vehicle with my Visa & incur the 3.5% fee, or no car.
I heaved myself on the same staircase that I could barely walk up a week ago from being so ill. The one that my mom hauled her rolling suitcase and mine up. There, I had a proper cry. I was whooped, my patience tested, my adaptability wavered, and my homesickness kicked in. On day 21 of 27, life abroad was beginning to take its toll.
Crying never changed any of these situations -- nor my current predicament in Norway -- but, for me, it brought clarity. I allowed myself to cry & purge all the angst, fear, and frustration out of my system so I could rebound emotionally and physically. Case in point, on my fourth evening in an Ohio hospital, I vowed to rip out my IV & leave in a gown on day 5 if the endocrinologist didn't stop pussy-footing around with my health.
However, there was one major difference with the Bergen conundrum: my mom was there to console & breathe new motivation into me. She embodied a fresh perspective ("We'll just sleep in our rental car tonight and start the road-trip in the morning") and let me have my cry without letting me wallow ("It's only money; don't let it ruin your trip"). It was a relief to not have to be the strong one this time.
Mother & I met such kind people on a lot of our journeys, Scandinavia included (like the gothic man in Svalbard who counseled us on the caveats of Norwegian maps). I used to think Australians were the most gregarious people on the planet, but Icelandic people go out of their way to help others. It seems quite capricious: these people inhabit such a geologically volatile island; even in summer the weather warrants a long-sleeved shirt; the country (around 66º N) hovers below the Arctic Circle (68º N), skirting Polar Nights -- a 24 hour period without any daylight. The natives should be miserable.
Disembarking in Keflavíkurflugvöllur a.k.a. Keflavík International Airport at midnight Mom & I faced another Arrivals terminal kerfuffle. We reserved a vehicle with SixT but -- after four laps around the bustling lobby -- could not locate the rental booth. A local driver told us SixT was not located on the airport property, so wait for the shuttle, , but where exactly "I'm not sure." Still clueless, Mom inquired at the Hertz kiosk where the sweet Becky (a male) called SixT to arrange for our retrieval.
(it's past 02:00!)
After the scourging from Búri, I left my underwater camera -- filled with photos from my entire week in Iceland -- in the souped up company van. However, when I called Extreme Iceland to report my mistake, the office was closed. Distraught that I'd never see the pictures, I could only wait until morning to call again. A few hours later, Mom & I returned to our flat from dinner and the manager presented me with my camera which my guide, Jön, dropped off after-hours, having remembered where he picked me up that morning for the tour.
Iceland's small businesses have bounced back following the banking collapse of 2008. The Prime Minister lives in the heart of Reykjavík and is listed in the phone book. The American family I toured Silfra with witnessed the P.M. -- just him, no secret service -- step out of the government house and wave to the passers-by. Iceland is the only NATO country with no standing military, navy, nor air force, only a "coast guard being in charge of deference" according to my local source Atli & Wikipedia. Oh, and its police officers are unarmed. Believe me, Icelandic folk are the epitome of amicableness.
Whether solo or in a group, you'll need a reprieve from the battery that is full-time travel. If you're flying solo, the reprieve will probably manifest internally -- in my case, with a whole-hearted sob. If you're in a group, The Sacred Bravery Trade-Off suffices. My Godsend of a mother has always been that partner for me; my better half. But what is a traveler to do when everyone in the party is lost or befuddled? Answer: pray you are in Iceland.