Two Hitchhikers in Iceland

Two Hitchhikers in Iceland

The four-door sedan comes to staggering halt.

"Dad! What's going on?," my younger brother exclaims, taking his nose out of his book after hours.

I look up to see my dad inch the car closer to strangers standing at the corner with their thumbs up, the universal sign for hitchhiking. There's two of them: one tall and slender man, his skin kissed by the sun, and a shorter, muscular woman with illustrious green eyes and fair skin. They each carry a large rucksack affixed to their backs full of gear, a water bottle in hand, and a map in the other. They also wear smiles on their faces and sleep in their eyes.

"Let's just go. It's been a long day," my mother explains. Instead, my dad rolls down the window and pokes his head out.

My family and I are in Jökulsárlón, home of the glacier lagoons and blue waters in Southeastern Iceland. On day three of our week-long trip, we made the four hour trek from Reykjavik to marvel at one of the most majestic natural wonders. We spent the day eating our packed sandwiches at a small picnic area overseeing the glistening icebergs of Diamond Beach. Later, my mom and I shared a much-needed hot chocolate near the tourist stop, while my brother and dad went on a boat excursion sailing among the icebergs. Several hours later, we were fatigued (not to mention cold) and ready to go back to our AirBnB to a warm meal and fuzzy socks.

My dad, however, could not resist lending a hand to others. A born storyteller, he was fascinated by the culture, tales, and lives of others- especially explorers- and was inclined to be a part of their experiences.

“Where you going?” he asked.

“Thórbergur,” the woman replies. “It’s about 45 minutes away.”

 A split second later, my dad unlocks the doors and gestures them towards us. “Come on in!”

They tossed their backpacks in the trunk of the car and squeeze into the back seat.

The rest of the short journey flies by as we hear about our new friends. The man is from Sydney, Australia and the woman from a small town in Argentina. They became friends as their paths crossed during their respective travels throughout Iceland and decided to finish the rest of their trips together.

The Australian reminisced about the warm beaches and the golden sun compared to the frigid weather in Iceland. The Argentinian talked about how much she missed her mother’s mollejas and smoked morcillas.

In return, my dad explains how he immigrated from rural India when he was in his late 20s and he too misses his mother’s roti and paneer despite the wide variety of Indian food options in New York. He discusses the hustle and bustle of sleepless New York City, the crowded subways, and the hunger to succeed that drives us.

For less than an hour, we laughed and shared and bonded, knowing that this moment would inevitably be part of our Icelandic story. For the duration of the trip, it didn’t matter that there was an eclectic group of people (four Indian-Americans from New York, an Australian and an Argentinian) jammed into a small car in the southernmost tip of Iceland in the middle of August.

We were strangers, yet unified in our love to travel and our love for new stories.

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Written by Pooja Shah; Photos by Pooja Shah.

For more travel photography from Pooja, follow her on Instagram.

Gotta see this magical country for yourself? We don’t blame you! Self-drive tours are available throughout 2019 with Nordic Visitor that include car rentals, accommodation, daily breakfast, and transfers from Keflavík Airport.