I’m tapping this post out 38000 ft above the North Atlantic, on an Icelandair flight bound for Reykjavik. The sea looks solid beneath us, although I know that it isn’t. I feel half-surprised to be here, as if booking the flight back in December, shoving some t-shirts into my backpack last night, and making my way to Glasgow this morning by train, then to the airport by bus, and then through the non-queues at security and onto the plane had somehow been completely irrelevant to where I am now.
Because true, the journey to the airport had seemed so commonplace, no different than commuting into work or heading out to Dundee for the day. I hung out in the departure lounge reading Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, completely ambivalent to my surroundings, as if I’d been reading over a bowl of soup and a flat white in the Fat Cyclist instead. It didn’t become immediately apparent to me until the plane pulled out of the gate and rolled out to the runway, where I watched the Emirates plane bound for Dubai take off ahead of us. Wow, I thought to myself. I’m on a plane.
But I remember, when I arrived in Manchester back in 2011, the very first thing that I did was snap a photo of a gateside Icelandair plane as we taxied towards the airport, and I sent it to a friend of mine in Washington State as soon as I found a reliable Internet connection. Accompanying the picture was “Officially in the same timezone as Reykjavik!” or something to that effect, as if I was more excited at my proximity to this supposed hipster holy land than I was about having come back to England in the first place. But wasn’t I? Perhaps the only preconception that I’d had about England back then that actually turned out to be accurate was the fact that it was more accessible to the world than the US is. From here, I can go.
And I’ve found out since then that lust is a falsehood, that reality is never on par with your expectations, although it’s scarcely ever worse. If I was so excited at the prospect of coming to Iceland when I moved back to Britain in 2011, I don’t know why I haven’t been yet, but now feels appropriate, as if I’ve had to pass a series of checkpoints and test out of lessons to be allowed to make this trip. Whatever Reykjavik turns out to be is what it is, but if I’d have come here at 19 and found out that it didn’t align perfectly with an image designed in my head at 15, an image designed with very little information and thought, I imagine that it would’ve killed me. And how stoked I am now to be heading this way at last, to see how things really are, even if my head is still back in Stirling and wondering how it is that I’m sitting on a plane by myself, gazing down into the ocean seven miles below.