Holidays for shy people

Entrance to Seyðisfjörður.

Entrance to S—. (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)

Three nights at sea in the cheap bunks in the bottom of the ferry. No carpet on the staircases, but that’s ok, the boat rises and rocks smoothly, you can hear the water break against the hull.

The last morning in Iceland I went to the swimming pool for 45 minutes or so. It was an overcast day and light vapour came off the warm lap pool, old men talked shop in the hot pool, a lady in a cap was doing laps, and some young teenagers were throwing balls around.

I walked through the back streets. Windows are homely but neat, with knick knacks on the window ledges.

At the bus stop, I had a moment where looking back, I couldn’t say what happened for sure. I thought the bus driver looked at me, and I looked at him and his van and wondered if it was him, and he didn’t stop so I kept waiting. But maybe he did stop, and that’s when we looked at each other, but I didn’t go over and he didn’t get out. Anyway, I missed the only bus to the ferry and luckily hitched a ride with some old Islanders whose tour guide ‘welcomed R— from Australia, we’re happy to help you out!’, which I thought was a diplomatic way to tell the paying customer ‘like it or lump it’.

I had a dowdy night reading in my hiking pants and pink thermal, and talking to an artistic German bunkmate, listening to Icelandic folk sing-alongs in the bar, watching the fjord pass from the decks.

In the morning the next day, a grey landshape loomed up, and we started to pass through the Faroe Islands.

I watched the back hatch lower, and walked around for an hour or so. It was misty and drizzly, but the grass was green—i.e. not snow bitten—and daffodils were blooming. An Islander lady told me she thought Iceland was cold. I looked in the window of the Red Cross, prowled around a historic headland with cobblestone streets and turf roofs, and then came back to boat. I finished a book They shall inherit the earth, and liked the sweet naturalness of the couple in love.

In the morning I sat on the top deck and tried to reread Ripples from Iceland (out of novels). I like in that book how she says Icelanders are shy and take a while to get going. It reminds me that outgoing, public personalities are not the given, and that reserved or shy personalities may just as well be the norm in some cultures. The book was written from the perspective of a housewife of a time over fifty years ago, but the German says she thinks they are still shy.

Anyway, I didn’t get much into the book, but spent the morning daydreaming about the pleasant future and looking at the waves. I had my lunch and did a budget on Excel, and had a rest for a few hours. Up on the top deck we had run into mist. I looked through my book of Galway Kinnell’s poems and thought about something I read about telling the truth and writing about your passions and sadnesses etc, so tried for something plain of my own. Ran into the German girl, chatted for a while, read.

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4 thoughts on “Holidays for shy people

  1. enroo says:

    Do you have any comments about whether the boat was worth it? Do you think it would have been better to fly? Or were you happy on the sea?

    • The boat was worth it. Firstly, it puts the size of the world in perspective, which never goes astray, I feel. Time at sea gives a chance to reflect, to be amongst the sea elements, and a chance to enjoy your one inclusive meal daily, whilst snacking on two day old bread and fruit at other times to save money. It also gives a chance to make ship friends. It’s about the journey rather than the destination and I think that’s really a beautiful metaphor for life, wouldn’t you say?

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