A journey from Portland, ME to Reykjavik, Iceland

By Zoe Bernardi, Community Editor  

Part one of the travel reflection


From May 13 to May 31, I took Honors 195, which was a travel abroad class that went to Iceland for 6 days. Throughout the first week of the course, we went on daily excursions around Portland. We learned how to take in our surroundings and write about what we saw. We were assigned class readings that related to our excursions. The goal was to experience being somewhere new or somewhere familiar from a new perspective. We were encouraged to write subjectively about small moments that reflect the place we were in.

The first day was in Deering Oaks Park, which is a 15 minute walk from the USM Portland campus. I wrote three dispatches about what I viewed and the things I saw:


When you first enter the park, you are immediately surrounded with tall, bare trees waiting for spring to emerge so their leaves can finally sprout. While looking up at all the treetops, I found a single swing slowly rocking in the harsh, cold May breeze. The swing, a Portland Public Art installation titled “New View.” I was fixated on the rather odd proportion of the tall branch filled the tree with one branch that is holding a single wooden board secured by two pink ropes. Behind the trees, a view of the busy highway. The noise of the roaring cars becomes background noise as you focus on the clean air that fills you as you walk around the newly growing grass. Today, the park is lacking their visitors, as it is filled with mostly ducks and some students with sketchbooks. On the bridge edge sits a girl, looking at the landscape of the park, the trees, a gravel walkway and a stream that meets with the large pond where the ducks are. The stream below the bridge is filled with large rocks and leaves that were left there from the past fall. The sun peeks its way through the grey cloudy sky, bringing warmth to those around, it cuts the cold breeze.  In the far distance, the sturdy wind keeps the flag in motion in the sky.


The following day of our next adventure was exploring the Portland campus, observing how the weather can affect the location. It was cold and raining, but I was able to see the outside world from inside. The first was observed from the planateum:

Sit upon the wooden bench behind the large glass windows that protect against the constant winds and subtle rain, observe the pace of the outside world. In comparison to the humans who are rather walking fast – face down bundled in their layers, the leaves and flowers on the neighboring path are simply moving at ease in the light wind. Feeling and seeing are two different things. See how the breeze affects the clothing of those passing, and how the rain hits the puddles on the ground. But, inside clothing only moves when the body moves, and boots are dry, untouched by the wet world outside those heavy doors. Those heavy doors, people push hard against them as the wind tries to keep them outside. The rain and leaves fly inside sometimes, latched onto those boots and umbrellas, wet scent fills the empty lobby. The wind and cold rain touches the window panes, lurking to be inside, maybe it also wishes to be warm. After all, it is May.


On our third day of class, we were finally able to see the sun! We went to the Portland farmers’ market at Monument Square:


The sun! It has arrived, and with its presence comes the foot traffic that the tall, tan buildings misses. The statue wanted something to look at, saddened by the past days filled with people running from place to place. Now, the grass below her was filled with smiling people. The air was full of laughter as sun caused squinting and unzipped jackets. The dogs are also taking in the same scents of the market, rather just feet below, sniffing the ground, where scraps of food, flower petals and leaves. They hold the same scent just at an easier level. The market is flowing with those who wear sunglasses and hold canvas totes. Slowly, spring is happening. The rows and rows of tables filled with flowers, plants and vegetables brought the scent of a fresh produce, hand picked and place ever so carefully for the hopes of being brought to a new home, while the flowers sat alongside their sisters also longing for new soil.

On our last day of class, a group of friends and I made a Portland Travel video. We went around the city, bouncing around places to film funny clips and exploring with a new group of people. It is so important to be able to explore with people who appreciate you. Traveling to a new place where you might not be able to speak the language can be intimidating, but having people you feel comfortable with and can talk to helps make that transition easier. For me, meeting new people through this class in one week was so important. I was going to be with them for the next week for 24 hours, in a plane, on a bus, in a new city, sleeping in the same room, sharing a bathroom, etc. So, you want to be able to be yourself and have the people surrounding you accept that! I was able to open up about myself, stories from the school year, or struggles I had with certain classes. Being able to relate was a way to open up and to understand other people. When it comes to appreciating others, it can build honest and open friendships. Having conversations and opening up is a way to make others comfortable and also open up to you.  

When you travel, you learn a lot about people. This one week brought me to people that I now call close friends. I was able to see Portland through new eyes and learn to write in a new way. This was only week one! Stay tuned for my week in Reykjavik, Iceland!


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