Within the speedy aftermath of marital breakdown, an individual is left with lots of questions. Issues like: how did we get right here and whose fault is it and what can we do now? One query I had not anticipated could be central to my loss was, “What time does the solar set in Iceland?” The reply, as I found at 2am on a really bleak June morning close to Reykjavik, is that it does not, actually, which isn’t data you need when your marriage has simply ended and you’re alone on the primary day of a romantic month -long vacation you had booked collectively mere weeks earlier than.
Like getting married, happening this journey alone had appeared like a wonderful thought on the time. Solo journey has lengthy been bought – to ladies, I feel, particularly – as a privileged shortcut to non-public development, an easy-access type of empowerment, so long as you outline “simple” as “solely requiring time and cash”. A global jaunt is not only the chicest technique of operating from one’s issues, however probably the most culturally mythologized. “Attractive girl travels world, fucks and finally learns” is its personal style of novel, memoir and private essay. Who amongst us has not learn Joan Didion’s packing checklist and imagined ourselves sitting alone, having fun with the foot room in Premium Financial system and writing tart observations in our pocket book, a deal with of bourbon and “two jerseys or leotards” in our Céline carry-on? When my calendar alerted me to the tickets, bought throughout extra optimistic occasions and, resulting from fare class, utterly non-refundable, I believed, “What the hell? Possibly I will get an Eat Pray Love out of it.”
I nonetheless assume fondly of the flight over, earlier than I understood the way it was truly going to go. All the things appeared charged – the empty seat beside me, the loved-up couple to my left, the second vegetarian meal I let go chilly as some sort of symbolic gesture, then ate anyway. I had a cleaning Purple Wine Cry to a forgettable interval drama and stared out the window, interested by the sort of particular person I’d be once we landed, the methods I’d develop and alter and the thrilling, European (?) issues I’d do with my hair. Possibly somebody referred to as Sven or Ingibjörg would save me from some sort of geyser accident and educate me how you can love once more, or at the very least stroll me by the fingering strategies of the North Atlantic.
After we landed, I took a shuttle bus to my hostel and lay awake, curtains drawn towards the endless grey-white pre-dawn till 9 or so. I opened the journal I would felt compelled to pack, in service of my surefire bestselling break-up memoir. However as a substitute of shelling out any Gilbertian knowledge, I discovered myself filling web page after web page with particulars of my break-up, cataloging petty disputes and debating the chance of our getting again collectively. It was unbecoming and – worse – uncompelling stuff. Later that afternoon I went into city, spent $30 on a mayonnaise-based sandwich, and got here residence. Virtually daily of my journey handed like this. I’d sleep poorly, scavenge as a lot as I might from the breakfast bar, then present up underdressed for an tour the place the confused information would say “the reserving is for 2…” and I would shout “JUST ME, THANKS!!” within the sort of too-chipper tone reserved for American cheerleaders or individuals poorly overlaying up a homicide in movies. I went climbing with a gaggle of sturdy Germans, discovered the place Icelandic townspeople used to drown their witches, and noticed the President’s summer season residence from afar, trying dour and feeling dour-er your entire time. I miserably purchased a really well-made sweater. I rode a type of strapping Icelandic horses with heavy hooves and beautiful manes. After briefly dropping management of this large beast and unexpectedly regaining it with solely the ability of my thighs, I felt a surge of potential so highly effective I burst into laughter and began crying. My journey diary from that day barely mentions this, focusing as a substitute on an argument my ex-husband and I had over Skype in 2011.