by Isabella Hernandez

Iceland has been one of the best things to happen to me. Without having spent so much time in India, where females are very much limited in their life choices and daily comings and goings, I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the freedom and gender equality in Iceland and the overall lack of fear while living in this Nordic country.

When I think back to my life and general outlook six months ago, I am surprised at my growth. After that, looking back any further just makes me filled with wonder. I could have never fathomed where I would be right now. If someone had told me I would be traveling the world on scholarship even just a year ago, I would have laughed at the improbability of it.

I have felt a profound change within me, starting with my feelings of being a child; seeing them slowly slip away. In the past I have always known about the existence of my naivety and how young I looked and acted. I was mature in my dedication to my education and future success, but I was still a sheltered child. It never crossed my mind that this would change, and especially not while I am still very young.

Amazing "graffiti" in downtown Reykjavik

Amazing “graffiti” in downtown Reykjavik

My time away from North Carolina and my family has created an environment that continues to lead me down an accelerated path towards maturity. I have gained self confidence during my solo traveling, and have begun to accept my flaws and overall person. I used to feel like that awkward kid who never really fit in. I never-ever imagined feeling another way, but I have been placed in situations that have allowed me to see the good in me; leading me to greater self respect and self worth.

After much effort, I managed to find this place. Yes, it is exactly what you think it is.

After much effort, I managed to find this place. Yes, it is exactly what you think it is.

The Lord of the Rings comes to mind a bit when I start trying to describe how I feel at present. Pardon me while I quote Mr. Bilbo Baggins, “I feel like butter scraped over too much toast.” I used to say this about being tired with endless school assignments; however, it has come to mean something more. In this analogy, my body and mind are the butter, and my life experiences are the toast. It is a bit confusing but i’ll try my best to make it clearer. I am such a young person that all of these experiences in such a small amount of time have become quite overwhelming to me. The energy it takes to deal with the “new” and “different” makes me tired.

The famous LGBT bar in Reykjavik. Iceland is one of the most supportive places for those involved in LGBT matters. I think more countries should follow the lead.

The famous LGBT bar in Reykjavik. Iceland is one of the most supportive places for those involved in LGBT matters. I think more countries should follow the lead.

This is what has been the reason for the sudden maturity that I have felt happening within me. I have pushed my little naive self so much that I have had to go and find “more butter” so I can cover the toast. I know its strange phrasing, but that’s the only way I can get my point across. I was always a bit independent and mature for my age outwardly and in my thinking, however I have truly advanced beyond my age group in many more ways when it comes to actual “street smarts.”

Bear with me…I feel another reference coming on. In a sense, I am also beginning to feel like Tristan from Stardust or the Count of Monte Cristo, except not that epic. Mainly because I won’t be returning to North Carolina with flowing manly hair and a new expertise in swordsmanship. However, this mini hiatus has changed me and my life path. I have so much more direction and clarity with my place in the world. It makes me excited to fully see the changes that have come upon me during my time of travel.


And just for kicks…


“How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure” – Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas. Oh how accurate this is in expressing my feelings of leaving and returning to North Carolina. Going on a tangent…you need to read this book if you haven’t. It is the type of story that makes you jump out of your seat and bounce up and down from the shear epic quality of the Count and his elaborate comeback.

Anyways, getting back to my update. I wanted to share a few extra quotes that have really touched me these months away from home. They have acted as teachers, and have helped guide me in my life choices now and previously. However, their words have meant more to me than they ever did before. When reading these quotes, all I ask is for you to keep an open mind…even if an anarchist said these words, or some terrible dictator. I think there is truth regardless of where it’s coming from.

“The liberty of woman consists solely in this, that she obeys the laws of nature because she has herself recognized them as such, and not because they have been imposed upon her externally by any foreign will whatsoever, human, or divine, collective or individual”…”I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and chose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no infallible authority; even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person” – Mikhail Bakunin

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom goes on as fruit” – Dawna Markova

These quotes give me strength in knowing that others have taken a similar approach to life as myself, and I am glad to always have their words of wisdom and assurance with me.

After living in India and Iceland, I have been exposed to the cultures and world-views the people have in these countries. From this exposure, I have expanded my own perceptions and gained a greater understanding of what it means to be human. These experiences thus far…have shown me how closed-minded I had been before leaving America.

It is something that I don’t care to admit. It was ridiculous was for me to have thought I knew so much about this world. My concept of ‘normal’ was based only on a microscopic part of the world: Durham, North Carolina.

The “generally accepted” changes across time and space, and I have had to adapt my outer appearance, speech, and opinions concerning religion and politics in order to have the least impact on my new surroundings, to “do as the Romans do.” I am in no way saying that I have turned into a person without opinion in regards to my morals or life opinions. I am merely trying to show that I have been made aware of differences and learned true respect for the unique ways of life on a global scale.

As much as I once thought I knew of the world, it–the world–has constantly surprised and shocked me every day since I left the comforts of home.