Every so often I revisit my bucket list. I remove activities that seem less interesting and re-prioritise the remainder. Often I just simply delete existing activities. If I haven’t got round to doing them in the first 60 years of my life, they can’t really be things that I want to do, can they? If hang gliding was an overwhelming priority, I would already have done it. And when you reach the point that activities are just simply being added for the sake of it, why bother?
But an entirely different matter came to a head last week. I have been meaning to go to Iceland for some time to tick it off my bucket list. I have even, more than once, made tentative plans with friends which have somehow fallen through. But last week it actually happened. I went to Iceland. We landed in Reykjavík on Monday and spent a hectic four days doing most of the obvious and immediate tourist destinations and activities.
On the first day, we ate Icelandic delicacies such as fin whale (which I promise I will never eat again and shouldn’t have eaten in the first place) and – I’m not making this up – dung-smoked guillemot (which I also promise never to eat again but for entirely different reasons). Tick.
In the evening, we were driven out to the middle of nowhere and saw the Northern lights. If I’m honest, there were a mite underwhelming but our guide assured us that they were normally much more spectacular. Still, tick.
The following three days were a melee of waterfalls, geysers, geothermal springs, volcanoes and glaciers. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. We passed on the opportunity to rub silica mud on ourselves at the Blue Lagoon. I’m from Yorkshire and can never really get my head around this Scandinavian penchant for public nudity. The world has enough trouble with me fully clothed. It’s certainly not ready for me in my birthday suit. We parked ourselves in the bar while the rest of the coach party cavorted in the lagoon. Two small beers and a bar of chocolate. £37. Yes, Iceland is unbelievably expensive. Tick.
In the four days that we were there, we barely scratched the surface of the country. Yes we saw volcanoes and so on. Yes we went to lots of places. But no, we don’t feel we really “did” the country. This is not a country to be examined in 20 minute blocks, getting off large tourist buses. This is a country to savour at your own pace. It’s a country which repays an investment of time. You need to get off the beaten track. You need to avoid the tourists. You need to get away from civilisation. And when you do, the country will give up its secrets.
I thought I would tick Iceland off my bucket list. Boy was I wrong.