WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Owning the Boomerang

By on May 24, 2016

The Icelandic adventure comes to an end.

The author stands in front of Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík on the eve of his Jackson return. (Photo: andrew munz)

The author stands in front of Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík on the eve of his Jackson return. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Everyone has a boomerang story…

By the time this column goes to print, I will be safe and sound back in Jackson Hole putting a period on the Great Icelandic Adventure. I’ve been traveling to Iceland and returning to Jackson ever since 2012, and it seems only fitting that I complete the circle and return home for a breather. I wish I had a better story to tell regarding my decision to leave the land of fire and ice. If only I could say some volcano exploded and I was forced to evacuate! The reality is admittedly less exciting, but for me, no less urgent.

Previous columns have depicted my struggles with ex-pat depression and trying to keep my spirits high in a place as remote as the little fishing town I called home. It’s always difficult to have something you love turn around and nip you in the ass, and living in Iceland was the ultimate backfire. I didn’t plan on spending my entire life here, but I still had expectations of assimilating into the culture and staying here for a while. But coming face-to-face with living abroad made me realize that I’m far too addicted to adventure to settle down and limit myself to a single country.

I left because I didn’t want to fall out of love with Iceland. I didn’t want it to lose its sheen and become just another place where I lived.

My final week before flying home gave me a chance to soak up Iceland as much as possible. I rented a car and went on a road trip from the east fjords to the west fjords, visiting friends along the way and checking out places I’d never visited. I’d concocted the perfect recipe of nostalgia and discovery, and managed to finish off my Icelandic journal in the airport as I waited to board my Denver flight. With the last page written, I was able to literally close the book on Iceland.

I don’t feel any sort of guilt retreating back to my hometown, although I’m sure I’ll receive a fair share of I-told-you-sos. With such a massive trip behind me, this return is a chance for me to ground myself, finish editing my novel, and begin planning out the next few years.

Those who know me well understand this pattern is no longer a surprise. I’ve left and come back so many times that it’s starting to feel like a Benny Hill hallway chase scene. There’s plenty of other people who leave Jackson “for good” and return months later, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. Jackson is a cushy environment with a strong community and plenty to do, so I don’t think anyone should be faulted for wanting to find comfort in it after a failed journey.

In my mind, I didn’t fail in Iceland, nor did the country fail me. This whole experience has been incredibly rewarding, and my four-year Icelandic obsession has opened my mind to so many opportunities.

Without it I would’ve never known how to spot a whale from 800 meters. I wouldn’t have eaten a sheep eyeball in the warm company of singing Icelandic families. There would be no trans-Atlantic ferry trip to Denmark, no grandmotherly drag queen interactions, no desperate attempts at speaking Icelandic. I still wouldn’t know how to properly cook fish, make reindeer pate or bake bread. And I certainly wouldn’t have all these new wonderful, unique, important people in my life. Had I limited myself to a single week-long vacation, none of these things would exist in my world. And if I didn’t leave them behind in order to cherish and appreciate them, then I would take them for granted in the long run.

Nothing pairs better with adventure than fear. And even though this particular adventure has come to a close, I know that I’m ready to open myself up to new ones. And yes, it’s practically guaranteed that I will continue returning to my family and friends in Jackson between them, no matter what I say. I’ll also return to Iceland again. What’s important is that I’m staying available to even the slightest prospect of a new escapade, and that absolutely thrills me.

Everyone has a boomerang story. I just happen to keep tossing mine. PJH

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