By Tammy Davis
In Kerry Egan’s new book, Fumbling, she says pilgrimages start the moment you pull the front door shut behind you. I’m the worst packer in the world, so it wasn’t easy getting out the door for our big adventure to Iceland, but we finally did it, with five minutes to spare. Thank goodness my daughter keeps me on track.
For years, I wanted to be the representative for my school’s Country of Study Program. In December 2015, I won the trip to New Zealand, but that was not the best year for me to travel. The alternate was one of my best friends which made it easier to give up that opportunity. The next year, the country of study was Morocco. I really wanted to put my name in the hat for that trip. I wanted to plan an additional stop to Portugal to see Prince Henry’s School of Navigation, but my daughter had hesitations, so I passed. The next year’s country, Japan, didn’t appeal to me, but when Iceland came up, I wanted it. I really, really wanted it. According to my school’s Country of Study protocol, you get an “entry” for every year you’ve taught full time at Hammond, so I thought my odds were pretty good.
I teach a tiny little bit about the Vikings as part of my Age of Exploration unit, but this trip to Iceland would take that lesson to a whole new level. All my fifth graders knew how much I wanted to win. One of the James girls (Lily, I think) had me rub her lucky necklace, and many of my sweet kiddos brought in their good luck charms on the day of the drawing. They crossed their fingers, and said their prayers, and when my name was called, they all cheered. The entire school was in the gym for the tree lighting ceremony when they made the announcement. I scanned the high school section, looking for my daughter. My Laura is not the emotional type, but we both teared up a little bit when we made eye contact. It seemed almost too good to be true. We were going to Iceland.
The first decision we made was to accept the opportunity. The second was to invite her very best friend, Lyndsay. Much like the Arctic Circle, which part of Iceland sits in, we were all on top of the world.
The drawing happened in December 2019. I got the funding in January 2020 and started planning the minute the check hit. About the time I put the finishing touches on my itinerary, Covid 19 hit. I held out hope until the very end. Unplanning a trip is just not much fun at all.
I held my breath about Iceland for 2021. Finally, I got the word. I had Hammond’s blessing for summer 2021. We were going to Iceland. My daughter, her best friend, and I were going on a very big adventure.
The concept behind Country of Study is simple. Hammond School sends three teachers to that year’s country of study, one from the upper, middle and lower school. Their jobs are to learn as much as possible about that country and then share that knowledge with their division.
Lots of teachers let a travel agent handle all the details, but since Iceland is one of the most expensive places in the world, I decided to plan the trip myself. There were many, many times I regretted my decision, but the hours spent planning the trip meant I learned a lot about the island nation before I even set foot on the soil. Through all the planning and unplanning and planning again, I already feel like I have become a bit of an expert on Iceland. But now I get to experience it for myself.
I know a pilgrimage is some type of spiritual or religious journey., but aren’t all the trips of our life some type of pilgrimage? I’m traveling with my daughter and her best friend who are about to be seniors in high school. While we are not traveling to the Holy Land or to see any famous cathedrals, I have a feeling this entire trip will be a pilgrimage of sorts for all three of us. We will be experiencing God’s grandeur. We will re-set and re-charge and reflect before their last year at Hammond begins. We will enjoy precious moments together before a senior year that will fly by. The inevitable departure to college will be here before we know it. As I prepare to close the front door behind my child for that next adventure, I’ll have these Iceland memories to treasure.
It’s been a long time coming, but when the big day finally came, we said good bye to the cat. We adjusted the thermostat. We set the security system. We closed the front door, and our pilgrimage began. I think it’s going to be a good one. Wish us gangi þér vel.
Tammy Davis is a teacher and writer finding lessons in everyday life. Follow along on her adventures to the land of fire and ice. Visit www.tammydavisstories.com and on Facebook and Instagram and You Tube @tammydavisstories. Davis really hopes her students and former students and all curious folks will send her questions about Iceland. If she doesn’t know the answer, she will find an expert who does. E-mail [email protected].