Editor’s note: This is the second installment about Brian’s plans for a 65-day backpacking and book-making adventure in Iceland. Read Part 1 here.
I have many fears when it comes to my summer project, rational and irrational … although they lean toward mostly irrational. In fact, when I began planning this trip I made a list, to convince myself first before taking the jouney. I titled that list something very manly, like “Iceland: Foreseeable Issues.” (It sounds much better than “Crap That Scares Me Real Bad.”) It was quite a list … but not so bad to keep me at home.
For the sake of entertainment, I’m laying that list out here for public enjoyment and ridicule. In no particular order, here is the “Crap That Scares Me Real Bad” concerning my trek to Iceland this summer.
– Polar Bears. I said no particular order … I lied. This is really my No. 1 fear above all others. I love the fact that every time a polar bear kills someone I get an e-mail or someone sends me a photo of a polar bear carrying off some poor (probably dead) photographer’s tripod … it’s good to be loved. Iceland DOES get polar bears. They’ve had one already this year. I know, I got 47 emails about it. Coming face-to-fuzz with one of these monsters would absolutely ruin my trip … and my underpants.
– Volcano. If you listed the world’s most volcanically active places I’m pretty sure Iceland is in the top two somewhere. While I do have a strange fascination with natural disasters, I have a feeling a volcanic eruption could and would put a damper on things to some degree. I have nightmares of running herky-jerky to and fro in some barren landscape as huge chunks of volcanic debris smash to the earth and smolder all around me.
UPDATE: Since writing that last bit, a volcano has erupted in Iceland … right on my route, too. Awesome. People ask me, “How does this affect your trip?” The short answer is: If there’s still a country called Iceland … I’m going. Raging volcanism or not. The longer answer is: It’ll probably affect a few of my hiking routes … which means I will be rechecking maps to figure out alternatives if certain areas are off limits, and making back-up plans for areas I can’t visit. I’ve decided that I’m not going to deal with too much until I’m there and know for sure what is going on. I mostly hope this volcano doesn’t trigger the larger one next to it … at least not while I’m next to it. That would be bad.
– Ghosts and boogie-people. One of my Iceland maps has little ghost and troll icons placed in areas with reported hauntings. The icons are EVERYWHERE. That whole country is haunted. I read a story of someone in Iceland getting attacked in their tent by a ghost. I’m not going to lie, it scared me. I have enough issues just related to comfort when in a tent … having a ghost in there with me would really make it difficult.
– Hidden people messing with my gear. I hear stories of electronics malfunctioning while in Iceland … the blame is sometimes placed on elves and other hidden people messing with the devices, causing their malfunction. Look here hidden elves, I saw you in Lord of the Rings … Loved your work, you were really solid … best acting of the bunch, really. I’m astounded you didn’t get Oscars. We cool?
– Falling off a cliff. Oh, how I hate heights. Part of my photographic plan requires me photographing waterfalls as they cascade over cliffs many hundreds of feet high into the sea. This will require me to lean over an edge to photograph. It WILL be windy … and I will probably be crying on the inside. If I’m the only one there … I may be crying on the outside as well. Falling off a cliff would probably make my dead body hard to find … and my wife told me I’m not allowed to die unless they can find the body.
– Getting sick. I’m putting a lot of confidence in my body to stay healthy. I have no idea what will happen if I get a cold or flu. I don’t want to be stuck sitting in a pile of my own sick inside a small tent … being harassed by ghosts.
– Smelling so bad nobody will give me a ride. I envision a scenario where someone picks me up hitchhiking … pulls on to the road, only to pull right back off moments later, screaming “Get out!” I will bathe … but not as often as society would enjoy. I plan on showering every 5-7 days (if I’m lucky.)
– Getting Lost. I’m relying heavily on the use of maps … and to avoid forgetting them in the U.S., I’m buying them there. I will use the maps, combined with local experts and a compass, to plan the hikes. I’m not going to get a GPS (mainly due to the next fear on the list). I’m confident most tales where someone clings to survival in a harsh wilderness begin when someone decides to buy a GPS.
– Running out of finances. This trip is not cheap. I’m super grateful to all the people who are helping by sponsoring me (or my funeral) … I’ve also been saving a lot this year to prepare. There is a lot of gear still left to buy, as well as provisions while in Iceland. I have this fear of being cold, wet, lost and poor …
– Language. I can’t say anything correctly in Icelandic. I’m guessing it’s the most difficult language ever in terms of pronunciation. Sometimes, when nobody else is around, I try to sound out words … and it always sounds like I just learned how to speak that day. They have letters in their alphabet that look like they’re breeding. What is that “A” doing to that “E”?!?! It should be very entertaining to listen to me ask someone for directions. Thank God they speak English. I hope they see my attempt at their language as respectful … and don’t slap a helmet on me and send me on the short bus home.
– Food. I’m no Andrew Zimmerman, but I do like to try some odd foods when abroad. Yes, I’m the same person who scoffs when a rogue piece of cheddar lands on my salad. Believe it or not … I will try more crazy food when overseas. I’m GOING to try the fermented (rotten) shark while I’m there … and probably some other things my palette will not find amusing. You’ll have to wait for the book and video to see how this turns out.
– Equipment malfunction. This is a complex thing. I have lots of gear … any piece could rebel on me at any point during the trip, making life horrible. My new tent, despite its high ratings, does not set up the way most would think … you have to set up the poles on the INSIDE of the tent. I have a bad feeling that this will be trouble at some point. I wake in cold sweats thinking about my tent catching a breeze and blowing off a 2,000-foot cliff. My stove could decide not to light, which would be bad. My camera or one of my other pieces of technology could break, or just stop working. Most of my current planning revolves around keeping these pieces of equipment in good working order, and ensuring they stay that way.
– Time. I have 65 days to explore. Believe it or not, I actually fear that it won’t be enough. I keep thinking, “I wonder if I should’ve added more days?” I also fear just the opposite … what if it’s too much time? What if all the time away and the long days without darkness gets to me and I turn into Bobby Fisher?
– Weather. I’ll admit I’m not truly prepared for the weather I will encounter while there. I’ve taken precautions. I have plenty of ways to keep me and my gear dry and warm … but that doesn’t mean I’m mentally ready for nights of 25 degrees with 40-65 mph winds and snow. I wake up in the middle of the night, snug in my warm bed, and hear wind blowing and rain hammering down outside and shudder, “Are you sure you’re ready? It might be worse there, and you’ll be in a tent!”
The trip is now just a month away. I go up and down between excitement and being afraid. Once I touch down in Reykjavik, I’m IN it … no turning back. Sixty-five days of adventure before coming back to reality … just in time to go back to work … Now that’s scary.
To learn more about the trip or be a sponsor, visit Brian’s website. Find him on Facebook as well!
Brian Rueb is a north state writer, photographer and educator. A large selection of his images is hanging in the HDR imaging gallery at 2531 Victor Ave (corner of Victor and Cypress)