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THE HEALING WATERS OF ICELAND’S BLUE LAGOON

A DIFFERENTLY ABLED TRAVELER FINDS JOY IN AN UNEXPECTED PLACE

Of all the photos my high-school German teacher, Frau Schock, uploaded to Facebook after her 2008 trip to Iceland, the place that really caught my eye was the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa set in a lava field in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula. The more I gawked at photos of the otherworldly-looking body of water, the more I wanted to be there. I added the Blue Lagoon to my travel wish list, but I wondered if that were a realistic dream.

 

As a power wheelchair user and someone with the degenerative muscle-wasting disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I don’t do well in the cold. If temperatures get too cold, my muscles literally freeze up, and I become unable even to drive my wheelchair. So a country with “ice” in its name made me nervous, but I was determined to immerse myself in the Blue Lagoon no matter what. My quest may have started because of the lagoon’s beauty, but after reading about the water’s supposed healing properties, I was on a mission.

 

In 2015, I spontaneously booked a $250 round-trip flight to Iceland, and a few months later, my mom and I were on our way. We landed in Reykjavik, the capital city, and hopped into a wheelchair-accessible tour bus headed toward the Blue Lagoon.

 

After a short drive, we arrived and were immediately overwhelmed by the lagoon’s strong sulfurous smell. The sight of the milky blue water, though, made me forget all about the stench. The smell—and even the jet lag—couldn’t halt my thrill for getting in the geothermal waters.

 

The lagoon’s staff showed my mom and me the accessible changing room and offered to assist with getting me into the water. Luckily, the Blue Lagoon has an amphibious wheelchair, and once I was in it, I could easily be rolled down a ramp and into the water.

 

As soon as I entered the water, I was in paradise. My worries drifted away as I floated in the Blue Lagoon’s perfect 102-degree-Fahrenheit water.

 

In my everyday life, I have to worry about staying as healthy as possible, and I need help from caregivers for various tasks. This is especially the case when I’m traveling. Being a wheelchair user definitely comes with a surplus of issues, but in the Blue Lagoon, I was able to forget about it all and have a remarkable experience just like any other visitor.

 

With the warm water against my skin and the lagoon’s signature mud mask on my face, I realized that this was my happy place—and not just because of its beauty, kind staff, or even the peacefulness of the experience.

 

The Blue Lagoon is my happy place because it’s the first place that made me realize how freeing travel can be, no matter your abilities. Did I experience the Blue Lagoon’s healing effects? Not physically, but the lagoon did wonders for me mentally, and that’s why I keep returning. I have been to the Blue Lagoon twice in the past five years, and I am already looking into a third trip for late 2021.

 

Usually, I travel to new destinations instead of ones I’ve already visited, but I just can’t quit going back to my happy place.