During my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I chose the Global Edge path, spending my first semester abroad in London. The experience taught me more than I could have imagined about independence, leadership and multiculturalism. As 18-year-olds, my friend and I took every opportunity to travel during the weekends. On one endeavor, we decided to take a trip to Iceland. And as first-time travelers, we didn’t think to check the weather.
As fate would have it, we ended up traveling to Iceland in November during the biggest storm of 2017. But after paying rocket-high prices to experience the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, we weren’t about to miss the experience. So, we ignored the warnings people gave us against going to the spa, which was a big mistake in hindsight. Whoops!
On the way to the spa, it felt as if the roof of the bus was going to cave in because it was hailing so hard. As we stepped out of the bus, I was immediately knocked to the ground because the wind was so forceful. We finally made it to the Blue Lagoon, checked in and changed into our bathing suits. We then went out into the freezing cold with our bodies submerged completely and only our heads sticking out. Pelted with hail, everyone around us looked miserable, but we all paid so much money for the tickets that no one wanted to leave … until it became life-threatening.
Suddenly, lifeguards told everyone to evacuate the area immediately. We saw everyone tunneling to the exit doors, but the wind was so strong that those of us in the back were directed to the sauna area. All eight of us filled up the two saunas and waited there for the gusts of wind to die down. Our protection, the 6-foot lifeguards, tunneled in after us. One of them received a radio call that this storm could last through the night. Because our flights to return to London were for 5 a.m. the next morning, my friend and I were filled with panic at the idea of missing a mandatory 9 a.m. class.
After 10 minutes in the sauna, everyone was drenched in sweat. I felt like I needed a breath of fresh air. Being the first to try exiting the sauna, I failed as I was thrown to the ground. We were all melting in the sauna for at least an hour. No one could even talk to one another, as we were all too lethargic.
Finally, we were escorted back to the exit doors. No cars or buses were allowed on the road, so we had to wait another three hours for the highway to reopen. Thankfully, we were able to take showers and get into warm clothes in the meantime. It was pitch dark outside by the time the bus finally arrived. The bus, full of 50 or more people, rocked back and forth from the wind. I was a bit nervous the bus might tip over, but I became even more anxious when we proceeded to the highway. With the hail beating on the windows and the wind seeping through the cracks, it was by far one of the scariest bus rides of my life.
We eventually made it back to our hostel by nighttime, slept a few hours and then called a taxi at 3 a.m. to catch our early flight. Iceland, full of wonder, hot springs, geysers and volcanoes, is definitely a place I recommend … but not during the biggest storm of the year. Lesson learned: Always check the weather!
Contact Natalia Brusco at [email protected].