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Swimming in Iceland

How would you feel about showering naked, or changing into a bathing suit with only the privacy of two walls, in front of complete strangers as well as a friend?

Until my trip to Iceland, this was a completely hypothetical question for me, and certainly not one I would have thought much about at all. Once I did start thinking about it, though, I got nervous. This was hardly my idea of fun, and not something I was excited about.

Admittedly no one forced me to do these things. But they were requirements for getting to what I really wanted to do.

The first experience was on Saturday, when my friend and I went on a hiking trip out to some natural geothermal hot springs. The one concession to privacy for changing was an odd little station with two walls forming an X, so at best you had walls on two sides – but the other two sides were open and visible to whoever else happened by. It wasn’t all that busy, but it did have some foot traffic.

But everyone was so matter-of-fact about it, averting their gaze as necessary, that it didn’t seem worth getting upset over. And it really was worth it to go hang out in the naturally hot water in such a beautiful setting.

Then Monday we visited the nearby swimming pool. Here you have to shower without a suit, and use soap to be thorough (especially in certain places), before going in. This was more nerve-wracking to consider.

But again, when the moment came, the lack of self-consciousness of the other women helped put me at ease. No one was there to check each other out – we were all just focused on getting clean so we could get to the pool. In the end, the most awkward part was putting on a bathing suit when I was already wet.

The pools themselves were lovely. They had one pool for swimming laps, but we went to lounge in the heated pools. They had different temperatures, with my favorite being around 100 degrees, especially in the section with the water jets, so I got warm water plus a massage. All for under $10.

Looking back, I realize I really didn’t have anything to be nervous about, and in fact, having those experiences was helpful. Intellectually, I have understood for a long time that my body isn’t hideous or monstrous, but emotionally it’s hard to let go of that fear, or worry about how others might judge me. This helped put some of those old feelings to rest, as well as remind me that even with wrinkles and scars and loose skin, I can enjoy my body and delight in the sensation of being cradled in warm water.

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