Last Month, we read about Sana’s emotional trip to Jerusalem. Traveling comes with bravery in its own form, it could be visiting a conflicted region or treading down a road less taken just like Yasmin. Yasmin decided to ticket off one of her Pinterest bucket lists, despite the misunderstanding of her family and friends. Here is the story of a Muslim girl’s solo trip to Iceland.
Ever since I discovered Iceland on Pinterest, I was determined to go. I asked all my friends but they all looked confused as to why I, the one who doesn’t even go to the mountains an hour from her house (shout out to the Appalachian Mountains), would rather go to a whole new foreign country to camp overnight. But here’s the thing, I love putting myself in challenging situations. I thrive from situations that I’m not prepared for because I fully believe and trust myself to survive. It may sound dramatic, but there’s something inside me that’s always telling me, “No, keep going. See what comes from it.”
So with that being said, I booked my ticket and watched as all my friends and family asked me questions like what my plans were?, do I have the right equipment?, do I actually think I’ll survive? This fueled, even more, to show them I was capable to go on this trip. I wanted to prove to the world that you can achieve anything, no matter how scary or how challenging.
And the million dollar question: how did I convince my parents to let me spend five days alone in Iceland as a Muslim woman? Why would they let their eldest Somali daughter run recklessly around a country? So I only told them after I booked my ticket, and I told them I camped after I survived camping. They still don’t understand any of it, and that’s okay.
When I touched down in Iceland, it was something else. First of all, it was flat. SO flat. Where were all the giant mountains I saw in pictures? A nice man eventually came to pick me up from the airport gates to take me to my new rental car right around the corner. Once he gave me all my camping gear, I packed my backpack and set off. This was where my first challenge occurred. Not even five minutes out of the rental parking lot at the airport, my car would not accelerate. My car slowed itself to the side of the road as other cars zoomed past me. Panicking, I checked to see if my EE sim card worked in Iceland. I wasn’t even sure, but I called the car company. No answer. I kept calling and calling, and then finally I called their emergency number.
Eventually, someone picked up (Thank God) but the guy was confused like me, and said he would send someone. When I hung up the phone, I put my head on my steering wheel as every doubt, every fear, every worry came crawling back. I was discouraged from moving forward. Is this what it’ll be like? Car problems in remote areas? Unreachable phone calls? Do I have to pay for these damages that I don’t even know about? Are cars different in Iceland that I didn’t know?? All of these worries were flashing through my head before I barely left the airport!
Suddenly, I heard a car pull up. It was the same young guy who originally signed me into my rental car. We talked a little and he checked out the car. I felt so out of place as we both awkwardly tried to figure out the problem, moving all of my bags and camping gear to his car. As we were driving back, we discussed possible causes until he remembered he left the radio on while the engine was off, leading the battery to die. HAH! It wasn’t me, as long as it wasn’t me! As he leased me a new car, which ran beautifully the rest of the trip (except when I tried to drive over these rocks which led me to an isolated house in the mountains, which made me and my car feel like we were in an earthquake … but that’s another story), we got ready to say our second round of goodbyes. Except, this time, he said something that set the course for the rest of my trip in Iceland.
“It can only go up from here!”
Do you know how powerful those words were to me? Every worry, anxiety, question, doubt I had melted away, just as fast as they came. He was right. I can choose to believe that my trip can only get better, or worry for the rest of the trip that an even worse event could happen.
I would be lying if I said more crazy situations didn’t happen, but I always remembered my first moments in Iceland and realized – it’s okay. It’s just an obstacle, not a dead end. There’s an Islamic saying I learned when I was younger, which goes “Nothing is permanent, not even our troubles.”, and boy did I live to experience it!
Final words on Iceland
The rest of the trip was like a dream. Every sight was too beautiful with sounds of waterfalls everywhere, and cold chills to remind you that you’re still alive. The road trip alone was such a powerful feeling to me. Being completely alone has unlocked emotions in me that I didn’t know existed. I still don’t think I’ve fully processed them a month later. Right now, I feel closer to God, closer to myself, and closer to the beauty of nature. In fact, I cannot fathom the beauty of this world anymore, and I cannot believe the power I have within to keep myself going. To keep myself strong and whole. The people I met on my trip were beyond helpful. Iceland has become my number one city with the most helpful people. The whole country was full of explorers, despite color, religion, and accent. If you were ready for an adventure, you were part of the club.
I miss Iceland like an old friend, and I love it more than words can describe.
Yasmin Ali is a 24-year-old Somali-American photographer from North Carolina. She is the founder of the travel photography website. Yasmin is currently working on a “Letters From” series which will hold a compilation of travel photos from a certain region or city, with commentary of her own narrative, thus creating the perfect letters to her readers. Follow Yasmin on her Instagram, Twitter or just go old school and send a Hello email.
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