Landing at midnight in Keflavik is kind of a trip, no pun intended. I am accustomed to looking out the aircraft windows and seeing lights: brake lights, city lights, headlights, traffic lights, office lights. But when you come into Iceland, you’re greeted by a pitch black that envelopes everything but the faint glow of the landing strip. We deplane and head to Passport Check, where I’m third in line to a teller who I’m not even sure cared if I had a passport at all. With barely a glance at me he stamped my visa and told me to have a good night. Surely I had missed something. Where was the long line of weary and miserable passengers? Where were the angry customs officials, tired of dealing with people who don’t speak english? I grabbed my suitcase from baggage claim and headed to customs. This is it, I thought. This is where someone will demand to know why I’m coming into this country. I entered the tunnel-like hallway, following the arrows for passengers with “nothing to declare”. And then I stepped out of the hallway and directly into a rental car queue. Um. Did I miss something? Again? Why does no one want to know why I’m here? This feels very anti-climactic. And also like I may have entered this country illegally. But it’s late and I’m hungry and I decide I don’t care.

I take a taxi to my AirBnB, a lovely basement apartment with two beds and a coffee maker I’m too tired to figure out how to use. I go to bed but jet lag sets in and I end up awake most of the night. I get up the next morning to glaring sunlight and glance at my watch. 4:30am. Still on East Coast time. I put on three layers of clothing and head out into a whipping wind that almost blows me backwards. The ocean is steps from the rented apartment. Dark and blue and angry, I watch the waves crash into the rocky shoreline until the sting of salt and wind makes my eyes water and I have to look away. The sun has long since risen, but the clouds are still beautifully illuminated. The sea wind and salty spray from the waves exfoliate my face better than any spa treatment. People pay hundreds of dollars for this.

Keflavik is a sleepy town, particularly on a Sunday when nothing is open but the grocery stores and the pizza place next door that also sells frozen yogurt, candy, and an icy beverage called Krap, which by the looks of it, is exactly that. I hiked 7 miles of the shoreline trail, which offers some nice ocean views, but I know the best is yet to come. Tomorrow, we pick up the rental car and travel the golden circle, a popular tourist destination featuring waterfalls and a geyser and some stunning landscapes. My camera bag is already packed.