Across Northern Europe: Lonely Love in Iceland

I checked my e-mail yesterday and got that feeling you get when you have a giant crush on someone and they show up in your IN box. Your eyes go to their name and everything else becomes spam and you click on the message like unwrapping a package. You are in a kind of love.

I’m in a kind of love with Marie. She’s the Brit who posted a message on the hostel message board saying she wanted to go to the Westmann Islands with someone. I was very happy to see that message because I wanted that too. So I e-mailed and waited, like a kid passing a note to the cute girl in class. Iceland’s biggest festival crams 10,000 youngsters into a campsite each August and I didn’t want to be there alone

When you’re traveling alone the desire to meet someone is like a hunger. Explaining it to someone who has never traveled alone would be like explaining hunger to someone who has never had an empty belly. Like real hunger, it can make you a little loopy in the head and make everything around you sharper and more real. Then when you no longer feel it, you can’t even really understand what you felt or why you wanted to eat so terribly badly.

When I got home from my long trip I gobbled up people like a castaway survivor. I think there’s a Jack London story where the protagonist makes it through a terribly hungry ordeal and then can’t stop eating once he’s rescued. I was like that for a while too, until finally I realized I couldn’t eat anymore and realized some other things that don’t extend so neatly in this far-extended metaphor.

The thing I like most about traveling is how you have to work just to get through the day. You don’t know where to shop or how to get to town or which bus leaves when. You don’t speak the right language or know the customs or have a favorite restaurant you visit too often. You are engaged in a way you just can’t be at home.

I can’t say I like that feeling of stomach-empty loneliness but I like that I feel something and I love the rush you always get when the cute girl in class passes a note back.

So it was last night and Marie wrote back. We met up on the porch outside the hostel with a little light left in the 11pm sky. It was cold. I sat at the same table where earlier in the night the British couple celebrating their 20th anniversary asked me to snap a picture as they sipped champagne. They were in a different kind of love.

But I’ll settle for Marie and I’s kind right now. We’re going to take the 5.40pm bus to the 2am ferry. We’re going to share some booze and food. We’re in love, Marie and I. We’re never going to speak after Monday, we’re never going to kiss. But I checked my e-mail today and no one made me feel like she did.

Previously on Across Northern Europe: Shining a Light On Iceland

Brook Silva-Braga is traveling northern Europe for the month of August and reuniting with some of the people he met on the yearlong trip which was the basis of his travel documentary, A Map for Saturday. You can follow his adventure in the series, Across Northern Europe.