WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Return to Form

By on May 10, 2016

When taking a step back helps us to move forward.

A glimpse at the author’s journal he has kept during his Icelandic adventure. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

A glimpse at the author’s journal he has kept during his Icelandic adventure. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The first time I visited Iceland was in 2012. I was 25, working in Chicago as a human resources manager for a tech start-up called SingleHop. After accruing a heap of paid vacation days, I was contemplating where exactly I wanted to go. Paris was high on my list, because I thought nothing would make me happier than to spend two weeks drinking coffee in cafes while sprinkling museum visits into my schedule. But because Chicago’s chaotic city life was getting me down, I chose the more adventurous path, and took my friend Karilyn’s advice to check out the land of fire and ice.

I hadn’t made any plans before I arrived and knew no one. I was flying blind and the notion of this exhilarated me. I purchased a simple journal, a Moleskine rip-off, to document my travel adventures. I wrote my first entry while sitting in a restaurant at the JFK airport terminal.

“I do wonder what I’ll say when it’s all over. Too short? Did I overpack? Was it miserable? But honestly I don’t care. Whatever happens is meant to. And optimism will be my best guide. Oh…hey, courage. I wasn’t sure you’d show.”

As of today, I’ve completed 177 pages of that journal. Each time I returned to Iceland I made sure to write down as much information as possible. I was obsessed capturing every moment I experienced, every person I met. If I didn’t write it down, then all those good moments would be victims of my unreliable memory. When I didn’t have time to flesh out a full journal entry, I resorted to keeping brief notes in my phone.

“Road trip w/ Sigga”

“Deacon of Myrká”

“Víðir’s Hjalteyri paradise”

“AMAZING Lamb dinner”

Each little note was enough to remind me of the full experience, and, when I found the time, I would flesh out the moments across the journal’s pages. I promised myself that since it was called “The Icelandic Journal,” I wouldn’t write in it unless my feet were planted in Iceland. But even after I left Chicago and returned to Jackson Hole, I occasionally offered a brief update.

“It’s important for me to keep returning to the pages of this journal,” I wrote. “I make sure to leave out all the frustrating, trivial problems of my day-to-day Wyoming life, but often times I’m so overcome with thoughts about Iceland and the life I left behind that I’m forced to crack open this book and reenter the mindset of the man who began it.”

Throughout the journal I talk about Icelandic Andrew: the adventurer, the optimist, the guy who eats sheep eyeballs and guides a whale watching ship. And I also talk about Wyoming Andrew: the insecure writer, the guy wrestling with depression and figuring out his path. Recognizing those two versions of me is the creamy filling between all the adventurous travelogue entries, and without that self-reflection, the journal probably wouldn’t be as valuable to me.

Now that I’ve more or less settled in Iceland, working insane hours with little to no social release, I haven’t written as many entries. I chalk that up to the fact that Iceland is, regrettably, becoming less exciting. I’m not saying my sense of its wonder and majesty is fading, but, as I mentioned in last week’s column, things are becoming oddly… normal. I don’t feel the impulse to record my thoughts on every stranger who enters my life, nor do I jot down the fact that I, yet again, ate smoked lamb and butter on rye bread.

But even when I’m feeling like I’ve grown accustomed to this adventure that I placed in my path, I can always return to my journal to remind myself of why I came in the first place. I know now how important a journal can be for people. It’s incredibly different than jumping back in time through your Facebook timeline to see how you reacted to a certain pop culture phenomenon. It’s far more human, personal, beautiful.

At a time when social media and technology is testing our sanity, it’s always nice for me to have this handwritten, tangible, beat-up little book— a reminder that it’s important to stay primitive. PJH

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