This spring, my main squeeze, Rich, completed a course of study in economics. He now has four degrees to my mere three. To celebrate, he had the idea that we should take a trip—something significant but eminently feasible. He suggested Iceland, somewhere that he had already visited briefly and that I had long dreamed of exploring.

I can’t pinpoint the earliest spark of my Icelandic fascination (perhaps it began with Björk, whose Debut album became a favorite of mine in the early nineties). But I do know when I first took a disciplined look at the small island nation.

In my freshman year of high school, my honors world-history class required an in-depth investigation of a country, any country. I picked Iceland. I remember being nervous that one of my classmates would choose it before I could, but when my number was drawn from the hat, the tiny Nordic nation was still available.

The research required was deeper than I’d done before. My sources went beyond encyclopedias; I remember using LexisNexis and microfiche at the library. I ended up citing the Los Angeles Times, the Economist, OECD documents, and Ms. magazine.

According to the original WordPerfect files my father miraculously dug up for me, the resulting paper was 30 pages in length, plus appendices that included images and, I recall, Icelandic currency. It must have been my first “multichapter” work, with each of eight chapters homing in on a different issue facing Iceland at the time.

Bringing the paper along with me on the trip we took last month brought everything full circle. It was oddly moving to introduce my almost-twenty-year-old attempt at scholarship to the place that inspired it, and to greet Iceland itself with a token of its own power to inspire.

I’m waxing profound, but the research we do really can stick with us through the years, informing and shaping the choices we make. When we realize (as in complete) the journeys—literal and figurative—they open up for us, a measure of true satisfaction sets in. Thanks for sharing this slice of life with me.


Thrilled to carry what I learned in high school across a continent and the Atlantic

Stopping in front of Eymundsson book store's wall of gigantic volumes by Icelandic authors

Stopping in front of Eymundsson book store’s wall of gigantic volumes by Icelandic authors

Tweedy socks made of Icelandic wool and all still connected, fresh off the knitting machine

Tweedy socks made of Icelandic wool, fresh off the knitting machine and all still connected cuff to toe


Inside an Eymundsson bookstore in Reykjavík, Iceland

Inside an Eymundsson bookstore in Reykjavík, Iceland

I found a houndstooth wall in Reykjavík

A houndstooth wall in Reykjavík