After 24 hours of travel from our home in Brooklyn, we landed exhausted and disoriented in Iceland on a Saturday night just two weeks ago, the midnight sun shining through the airplane windows. The otherworldly feeling I always get landing on this volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic was more intense than usual, because we had left one reality—the crisis-induced confinement of our small apartment—and were entering another—a country that has by and large stopped the spread of the coronavirus. We gathered our sanitized belongings, roused our young children, and exited the plane for the empty airport and our COVID-19 test, which we needed to get through customs. With the national contact-tracing app installed on our phones, we felt free for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
We had been planning our annual trip to Iceland to visit my wife’s family for a long time, but getting there took on increased urgency during the outbreak in New York City. First there were near-constant ambulance sirens and an ominous feeling that people were suffering and dying all around us. During the Black Lives Matter protests, the sirens transformed into police sirens—a new kind of ominous. Low-flying police helicopters and fireworks kept the children up at night. New rituals—limiting our outings to only the most essential trips, sanitizing our groceries, constantly washing our hands—helped us manage our persistent trepidation, but they were unnerving in their own right. I learned to master the mute button on conference calls when my children would fight or scream for whatever reason children fight or scream.