Live Young From Iceland

Darnell Cox -Live Young LifestyleThose of you who know me, know that my bucket list is a big part of who I am. You see, I grew up in a very small farming town in the central valley of California and, when we were young, we didn’t travel. Anywhere. We just couldn’t. Being one of five children in a working class family, I was always aware that money was tight. And the one trip we did take was a month-long summer road trip from California to Arkansas with my grandparents and cousins, which bordered more on child abuse (kidding)… (kinda) than a vacation. Surprisingly, I have fond memories of even that trip, most of which are of me with my siblings and cousins. To this day, we all laugh hysterically (in retrospect)… wondering how in the hell all 10 of us kids survived the whole ordeal!

I realize, though, that with each adventure I learn something new. Even on that first hellish road-trip, I learned two very important lessons. #1. Don’t wash your hair in a truck-stop sink basin EVER. (My cousin, Kathy, actually had her head stuck between the faucet and the basin for 10 minutes before she finally maneuvered her half-shampooed head free from its hold.) #2. Cover Girl’s “Marathon Mascara” will last for 4 straight weeks without washing off. (However, the advertising slogan from the 1980’s, “Marathon looks just put on, until you take it off,” is complete bullsh*t! (By the end of the trip, all of my eyelashes were stuck together into 4 or 5 large, doll-like lash clumps per eyelid.) Uggh!

After that trip, I figured I was just fine staying home, thank you very much!

And yet… Funny how things can change so drastically. How one’s life can suddenly, one day, turn on a dime. You make one decision, which opens up an unintended opportunity, which then instigates yet another event and…. your life –  just –  changes.  Me?  Despite surviving the hellish caravan across the United States in my youth, I became a traveler. It didn’t happen overnight. First, I merely wanted to experience a different town than the small, sheltered one in which I grew up, inspiring me to go all the way to Fresno for school (It’s an hour drive from my hometown). Then, a decision to finish my degree in psychology and experience an even bigger city brought me to Los Angeles. (Now we’re talkin!) Next, in order to follow my future husband back to his home, I found myself in Singapore, which then inspired me to travel throughout Asia. (Wow! I didn’t see that one coming). So my decision to go to Fresno as a 20-year-old farm girl led me along a path to travel the globe, and as I did, I came to realize that I had fallen in love with the thrill of discovering worlds very different from my own. I feel that travel changes us for the better. It opens our minds, makes us more tolerant and respectful of other people and cultures, and keeps us humble – yet excited – about this big, beautiful world we live in. I try to travel to a new place at least once a year. At now 50 years old, I’ve seen a lot of places.

But it takes money, effort, and time to execute an adventure. And I’ve had to adjust my travels to all sorts of limitations of those three elements. But no matter what the obstacles, throughout all of the planning, I just keep telling myself, “Keep your eye on the prize.” The “prize,” to me, is that one moment during an adventure, when my reality exceeds everything I had imagined, and I am overwhelmed with emotion. And that moment always comes. In India, it was the moment I turned the corner and saw the Taj Mahal for the first time. It was so surreal; it looked like the backdrop to a movie set. In Africa, it was on Day 4 of our family safari. We were in Tanzania on the Serengeti (it amazes me, even as I write those words, that I was lucky enough to take that trip). There, parked by a watering hole, we saw hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeests, truly as far as the eye could see. It was at that moment, when the sounds, smells, and spectacle of endless animals literally took my breath away. In Peru, the moment came when I was sitting on the ledge of a cliff with my Dad, looking down on Machu Picchu, the same image he had emailed me five years prior when he had asked if I had ever heard of it. When that magical moment comes, I always cry a little. I cry because I am overwhelmed with what I am experiencing. I cry because the time, money, and effort to get to that exact spot, at that time of my life, was all worth it. I cry because I know I am unbelievably blessed to experience these things.

And then…. I blink back my tears (in a very “Chin up, Tits out” Live Young kinda way) so that I  can snap a million pictures to remember that moment.

Click, Click, Click!

Last week, however, the story took a new twist. I was in THE MOST beautiful place I have ever seen – Iceland!  And, sure enough, that magical moment came. It happened when we stepped out into the Blue Lagoon. I was overwhelmed, choking back my tears, when I realized… nobody had a camera to capture the moment. Uggh! You see, on this particular trip, we decided to use all of the pictures from the iPhones of our 4 teenagers in order to make our travel album. However, none of us had the waterproof cases that would have enabled us to use our phones in that environment. And so, there was no “Click Click Click” that would normally follow the “prize” moment, the moment that exceeds my expectations of the entire trip .

Surrounded by my children and partner (now husband), our faces covered with the healing muds extracted from the eerily beautiful blue geothermal waters, and without the usual ruckus of posing for photos, we drifted around the lake as a peaceful, beautiful family unit. The galactic-looking mist kept us all close for fear of losing sight of one another. There were the occasional giggles and whispered decisions to go one direction or the other, but for the most part, it was the most “quiet” we had been for the entire trip. (Actually… I think EVER, for that length of time). It was beautiful. Not just the setting, but the entire experience.

Instead of committing to film that amazing moment which had brought me to tears… I just took it ALL in. Committing each detail to memory; the temperature of the water and the air, the silkiness of the mud, the cloudy, yet blue-Gatorade color of the water, the taste of the fizzy Prosecco (yes, friends, there is a bar in the Blue Lagoon), the giggles of my kids as they climbed on my back (and each other’s) for a piggyback ride over to the try a new face mask.  And my children, who know their beauty-blogging mother, accommodated my whims to try every facial treatment, hair conditioner, and algae ointment available, and to take their time in doing so. Because there is virtually no night-time in Iceland this time of year (nearly 22 hours of daylight each day), we were really not in any rush to do anything but just BE there. Eventually, however, we did get out of the water, put on our robes, and head back to the dressing rooms. I was the last one out. And as the large wooden door closed behind me, I stopped. Turned around. Opened the door again and stepped out into the Lagoon one last time. I took in the sights, inhaled a deep, yogi-breath, and smiled, knowing that – even without the photos – I would hold onto this.Live Young Lifestyle- Iceland

Now, back home in LA, I’m collecting the images off of my kid’s cellphones for our travel album, and although I could describe every single moment of that experience, I want to at least add a visual image to our album. As I pore through the million Internet images of the Blue Lagoon, I find myself right there again, sitting in the volcanically-warmed, fantastically blue, other-world-like water.

And it dawns on me. The magical moment that chooses me in each adventure I take is not necessarily always best re-lived through photos. Experiencing something in your soul, may, occasionally, require putting down your camera.
Be there. Be right there. Experience it as if you cannot snap a picture, keeping your eye (if not your iPhone) on the “prize.”

Live Young,
Darnell 🙂

Click HERE to see the photos from my Iceland trip.

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