Coors Light understands that for restless spirits like National Geographic Explorer Andrés Ruzo life is an endless adventure. Each journey inspires the next. So, for Ruzo, leaving Iceland isn’t an ending, but a beginning—the first day of planning for his next big adventure. In the fourth of four photo essays, follow Ruzo as he reflects back on his epic Icelandic journey with Coors Light, starts dreaming about what’s next, and encourages other restless spirits—like you—to explore more.
Lessons from the “Little Black Rock”
Some trips are special. It could be the destination, the company, the timing, the place where you are in life—maybe all of the above. There are journeys, however, during which life just seems to resonate at the right frequency, and you know you are living through a milestone. For me, this was Iceland.
A few times on our trip I heard Icelanders lovingly refer to their island as, “our little black rock.” There is a special and admirable bond between the Icelanders and their natural environment. They seem to know and take pride that their seafaring ancestors thrived where others could not. Over the past millennium, the brute, raw forces that shape this island—the wind, sea, ice, volcanoes—have also defined the Icelandic character.
As I head back home, my mind brims with new ideas of how to better connect to my own landscapes. The most potent elixirs are said to come in the smallest bottles, and this has absolutely been my experience in Iceland—lots of big lessons from a little black rock. Area-wise, it is slightly smaller than the State of Kentucky; population-wise, it is only about half the size of Washington, D.C. Yet this little black rock has provided such wonder, awe, and experience that it will keep me coming back. This is a country you experience rather than visit, and I sincerely hope that everyone gets the chance to experience Iceland at least once in his or her life.
For Sofía and me, our experience in Iceland reaffirmed how being a restless spirit continually creates opportunities, such as this epic journey with Coors Light, to make new discoveries—whether close to home or on the other side of the world. Our time in the land of Fire and Ice was a lesson in life, landscapes, and ourselves.
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. The more I explore, the more I realize I still have so much to see. It is a painful irony of life that it is so unbelievably short, and that we are infinite spirits trapped in limited bodies. I know I’ll reach the end of my days looking to the horizon and wishing I had seen even more.
I’ve barely unpacked my bags from the Iceland trip, and yet, I’m already eager to embark on my next adventure.
So, what happens next? Where do I go from here? I plan to travel back into the Amazon to put what I’ve learned into practice. My Icelandic colleagues showed me some new ways to approach geothermal conservation questions—so there is more work to be done.
Furthermore, this trip truly was the start of something bigger in my research and work with the Boiling River Project. My colleagues and I want to understand these large, thermal rivers on a global scale. Where are they? What causes them? What are they home to? What is their cultural significance? These are just a few questions we hope to answer.
Personally, Iceland made me realize that although I travel a lot professionally, I rarely take a break from my work, and often miss experiencing where I am. When Coors Light approached me about going to Iceland, the idea was to go on all these new adventures simply for the joy of discovery: no work, no research, just fun. Based on this experience, my new resolution is to make the time to do one just-for-fun activity on each business trip.
Secondly, the journey to Iceland made me want to follow up on something I have been putting off: visiting places close to home. It is embarrassing to admit as a geothermal scientist living in the United States, but I have never been to Yellowstone National Park. It is another geothermal paradise, and only a quick flight from home, but, as the saying goes, we don’t always fully appreciate what is right in our own backyard. You can’t look down at your feet if your eyes are fixed on the horizon. That’s what’s cool about being a restless spirit, someone who is curious and loves to explore. You don’t have to travel far to discover something new.
“No man is an island,” according to legendary English poet John Donne, and, as nations are collections of humans, even island nations like Iceland are not quite as isolated as they may seem.
One night in Reykjavík, I had the chance to talk with two Icelandic officers, from the internationally Instagram-famous Lögreglan police department. We were all enjoying meals from Ali Baba Grill ‘N Shawerma. One officer drank French water and the other Spanish juice. They talked to me about Iceland, how the tourist boom is a much-needed boost to the economy, and how common it was for Icelanders to go abroad for some time before settling back home.
In my own experience, the bulk of my becoming who I am happened between three countries: Peru, Nicaragua, and the United States. I often feel like a nomad—not in that I don’t have a “home,” but rather that the world is my home. Listening to others, I love how this sentiment is in no way unique to my own experience. The more humans connect to each other across the globe, the better off we will all be.
One thing my travels have taught me: it does not matter where you are in the world, you always can find sushi, tacos, stir-fry, hamburgers, and pizza. The world's gotten a lot smaller. Any given person is more difficult to define by only one nationality. Amazing things happen when we embrace this. Even in science, many of the most important, cutting-edge discoveries now happen at the intersection of different disciplines, not from just one.
One thing Iceland highlighted for me was the importance of the personal discoveries that come with travel and exploring. Simply reconnecting with our inner personas is essential to becoming our best selves.
My son is seven months old and he already has two passports. I cannot wait to explore the world with him: to show it to him, and see it through his eyes. One day, I will be gone and he will continue his journey without me. I will have known a world that he can only read about, and he will live in one of which I can only dream. What binds us, however, just as much as our blood and common experiences, will be this shared planet—our own “little black rock” floating in the vastness of space.
Our world presented our species with the conditions to thrive, and we evolved and adapted to seize the opportunity. We could not be more a part of this planet, but one of the downsides of city life is that this reality it is too easy to forget—that is, until you ask questions about where our food, water, air, and resources come from. Get out. Ask questions. Be curious. Follow your restless spirit. We're all a part of this system and it is part of us. The more we travel and the more we learn, then the better we’ll understand this planet—and ourselves.