I’ve tried to think about how many times I’ve written one of these columns sitting in an airplane seat. I will admit that if I’m in a seat in the sky that I’m usually a little druggy, so my apologies if this is a little muddled and unorganized.
I did not travel internationally for the first time until I was in my mid-20s with the Nebraska LEAD Program. That’s where I learned one of the greatest lessons I’ve been blessed to learn – and that is even though we may be from different parts of the world with different backgrounds, cultures, environments and experiences, we are all connected to some extent.
One of the challenges about agriculture is that I find it challenging to step away from the job to regenerate and refocus. Though sometimes it takes months of intense planning, these trips away have always been good for the mind and the soul. I come home with a renewed sense of purpose and drive.
Iceland is a gem. Surprisingly contradictory to the name, it is not covered in ice. I headed across the Atlantic to join nine other females from four different countries on a 10-day adventure. I had not met any of the women prior, which was a little nerve-wracking in itself. The Boss Man and Boss Man’s Wife asked about the upcoming trip participants, and after some preliminary social media stalking I told them three words came to mind: liberal, vegetarian, and lesbian.
While it was some of those, it was also so much more.
The trip started with a brief orientation at a small restaurant in Reykjavik and then a trek out to the Icelandic Highlands. For four days we hiked across the Highlands averaging anywhere from 7-11 miles a day of rocks, mountains, snow, black sands, creeks and rivers, and did I mention rocks? We ate on the trail, slept in mountain huts or tents along the path, and had an experience that will be tough to rival.
The group bonded quickly under the guidance of our guide, Inga, who was the epitome of what every leader should be. The beauty and barrenness of the landscape made us focus more on each other than ourselves. Our evenings were filled with foreigners and other Americans that were on the same trek as we. Most were intrigued with the thought of meeting a “cowboy” and the questions would come fast and furious.
The hike ended with one of the most enjoyable luxurious hot showers that I have ever experienced.
After the trek, the following day was spent riding the Icelandic horse, the only horse breed that is allowed in the country. The horses are naturally gaited with the three main speeds (walk, trot and gallop), but the breed has an additional two gaits (the tolt and the flying pace).
I was put on a sorrel gelding that resembled a whiskey barrel and spent the day in the mountains exploring. I was a little out of my element riding an English saddle and not being able to neck turn, but we survived. Once the gelding and I had a come to Jesus moment, he was amazing with all five of his gaits. I have decided the Icelandic might become the top choice for those times that you just need to have a drink while riding and do not have to worry about spilling a drop.
The ride ended up at a hot spring before the return home when it had become the running joke that anytime someone took clothes off to change into a bathing suit or to cross a river that it would be referred to as the “Nebraskan.”
The horses and hiking were definitely in my comfort zone. The following two days, I was challenged way beyond my comfort level as we headed out to the sea with kayaks. The first day we paddled to a private deserted island surrounded by cold water and not another group in sight on the water. A variety of sea birds and jellyfish kept us company on the trip, and once we reached the island, we set up camp for the night.
I only cried once that day – after belly laughing too hard at the description of what to do if you had to take a No. 2 (I may never look at an Oreo cookie the same way every again). I definitely found peace with the water the following day on the paddle back to the beach.
After some touristy stops to finish up the trip, the 10 of us went our separate ways as 10 new friends that learned and grew and experienced one of the most touching travel experiences I have yet to be on. While I didn’t turn the vegetarians into carnivores, I walked away with a sense of gratitude that we were all put in that place at the same time for a reason.
The flight to New York will be followed by an overnight stay and airport switch before flying into Nashville for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention. My agenda starts not long after I arrive. I have the privilege to talk to American National Cattlewomen members about perseverance.
I think the 10 of us lived just that these last 10 days, and what an experience. I’m just hoping that I’m not going to have to persevere without my conference clothes. I shipped my business attire to the hotel, and I’m hopeful that it shows up as planned – or else more might be experiencing the “Nebraskan.”
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com. This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.