By Brody Leven
I saw a friend and her mom at the farmer’s market last week, and we started talking about my recent trip to Iceland. “Have you ever been there?” I asked. “Actually, she just returned from a two-week trip to Iceland,” the mom said about her daughter, in a mom’s typical kids-before-me fashion. “But, heavens no, I haven’t been there since the 70’s.” “Wow, I wonder how much has changed in 40 years,” the daughter thought aloud. After two trips to Iceland in the past two years, I thought the same. Iceland is no hidden travel secret to my generation. Flights from the US and Europe are quick, easy, and relatively cheap. Food is “normal” and abundant. The water won’t make one sick. Hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and campsites are conveniently located and cater to all budgets. There are 90 gazillion rental cars for each Icelander. Most roads are smooth and maintained. Over 170 geothermal, inexpensive, public pools dot the country. And Iceland has one of the most dramatic and unique landscapes a traveler can find without leaving his or her car. I wonder if, 40 years ago, there were gravel roads around every single peninsula and outcrop on the island; if every gas station clerk spoke perfect English; and if one could purchase miniature Icelandic license plate keychains with American names printed on them. No Icelandic farmer was fazed to see us setting up a tent downstream of his cattle, and no middle-aged Icelandic man, walking groceries home to his children, seemed to mind me charging my laptop with a couple of Nomad 20 solar panels in the parking lot. Heck, even since my first visit in 2013 there is a noticeable increase in the availability of fresh produce in the more distant areas of the country. But I bet, 40 years ago, the waterfalls were just as intense; the purple hue of freshly-misted lupine was just as vivid in the early-July sunshine; and the attraction to the less-frequented sections of the island was just as strong. It’s just that, 40 years ago, there were more of them.