Iceland

Iceland: Part 3, Planning

I probably should have planned out the order of my blog posts before I started numbering them. As I started to write about my road trip I was reminded of what happened while I was planning for it. So let me backtrack…

While I was I in the planning stage of my trip I knew this road trip would be unlike any other I had ever embarked on. First, I would be alone. I wondered would I get bored? How much of an introvert am I really? I started posting on random travel sites I came across. Maybe I make new travel friends or at least ease some of the financial burden. Initially there were two responses. The first person to respond had travel dates that conflicted with mine. The second person to respond, we corresponded a few times, and it sounded like it could work, but there were compromises to make. I wanted my trip to Iceland to be everything, I wanted the freedom to go where I want and do what I want. And so I decided to go solo. A few weeks before my trip I started getting multiple responses, it turns out people who use the travel sites are last-minute planners.

Iceland: Part 2, Getting There

Iceland - Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Before I even boarded a plane I was offered a $1000 United credit to take a later flight the following day due to the flight being overbooked. Earlier this year I was offered $700 from United because of the same reason. At that time I was in a place to change my schedule so I took it. This time I hesitated. My hostel was already booked and it was too late to cancel and get a refund. I was purposely flying to Iceland a day earlier than I needed to because I was worried about any one of my four connecting flights being delayed. I was flying on miles so I could only book flights with award availability rather than the most direct route. I had just seconds to decide, the agent looked at my flight itinerary and drew a deep sigh. I could be rebooked and expect to arrive 12 hours later than I had originally planned. I wanted to say yes! $1000, that’s a free flight home for the holidays! But instead I thanked the agent and said no. I had already booked a guided hike in the highlands of Iceland and I didn’t want to miss it. The rebooked flight would still have 4 connections and I didn’t want to chance. The kicker, the first flight departed at 6 am, knowing how easy it is for me to oversleep I would probably do just that. I decided it was a safer to stick to my original travel plan. That didn’t prevent me from guilting myself with buyer’s remorse and wishing I could be headed back home with a $1000 United voucher in my pocket.

And so while I continued to run what if scenarios in my head I boarded a plane to London! I chose to route through London to check out United’s new lounge. The lounges in the US are nothing to be impressed with and I never end up using them since I always arrive at the airport at the last minute possible. In my daily reading of travel blogs I ran across news of United’s new lounge. After a ten hour flight and the usual one mile walk to anywhere in Heathrow airport (why???) I arrived at the United lounge, sheepishly displayed my paper lounge pass (thanks United MileagePlus Explorer card) and was ushered inside.

First stop, shower! Last year I had to pay $20 for a shower at the Vancouver airport, this time it was free! The bathroom was nice. It was the first and last time I will ever snapchat in a bathroom.

Next stop, food! One of the other reasons I decided to route through London was to get free food in the lounge so I wouldn’t have to buy food in the airport and thus save a few dollars along the way. When you’re traveling to the most expensive countries in Europe, everything counts! It’s buffet style with a variety of cuisines, skippable in my opinion. I had a few minutes to grab a few bites before embarking on my 5K through Heathrow  airport to catch my next flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

I was flying away from Iceland… I booked my tickets for the end of high season with miles on Star Alliance just a month out from my departure. That didn’t leave me with many options. Once I arrived in Frankfurt I had about an hour to find my gate for my connecting flight to Hamburg. Somewhere in Germany I sneezed and the person next to me said, “gesundheit!” I was shocked at first. It was small, but that was my first authentic German cultural experience.

Finally just after midnight after over 24 hours of flying I landed at Keflavik airport just outside Reyjavik, Iceland. I looked out the window searching for the aurora and I saw a slight green glimmer along the horizon, I thought maybe it was just light pollution. The next day I went on a walking tour in Reykjavik and the guide said last night’s Northern Lights display was the most impressive he has ever seen! The airport was hopping at midnight, I did not expect that.

I made my way over to the airport coach that takes you into Reykjavik. The cold air quickly woke me up and I quickly forgot how tired I was. It’s about an hour’s drive into the city. I peered out the window catching my first glimpses of Iceland.

Iceland: Part 1, Why Iceland?

I finally made it to Iceland and it’s nothing I imagined it to be. Everything I read prior to traveling to Iceland reminded me of New Zealand. They both have (melting) glaciers you can visit. You can hike on volcanoes. Sheep are everywhere. In Iceland, the sheep are not always fenced in and frequently cross the road. I was quite impressed that they stopped to look both ways before crossing and would move to the side of the road when a car approached. I did feel the numbers of tourists was greater in Iceland than New Zealand but I always travelled to New Zealand in the low season and I travelled to Iceland at the end of the high season. I thought New Zealand was most beautiful place I had ever visited but there’s something about Iceland that seems mysterious and I find that intriguing.

So let’s backtrack a bit…

I wanted to plan a trip somewhere for the fall of 2015. I wanted to go somewhere in Europe to take advantage of the strong dollar and was considering Croatia. I asked some friends if they would want to travel together but with friends popping babies out on both coasts… schedules didn’t work out so I decided on a solo trip to Iceland. I didn’t jump at the chance to travel solo in Iceland but I also didn’t let having to travel solo prevent me from traveling at all. I was feeling restless and I needed to travel and embark on another adventure.

I scoured the Internet reading up on everything I could find on Iceland. I filled my Instagram account with photographers who had travelled to Iceland. I read countless blogs on solo travel and Iceland came up as a recommended country for solo female travelers. It was already a place I was interested in traveling to one day. I’m not new to solo travel but I’ve never traveled extensively on my own, and here I was planning a 10-day road trip in a country I’ve never even visited.

Having now had the experience of traveling to Iceland I did feel safe at all times. Even when I was out late at night in the middle of nowhere by myself shooting photos of the aurora borealis.

Because I’m a millennial and I suffer from FOMO I only booked a one way ticket to Iceland and continued researching before booking my return ticket. I wanted to make sure I covered all my bases in Iceland. My initial thought on planning for my Iceland trip was to include everything I wanted to see so I would never want to visit Iceland again. Now that I’ve returned I realized it’s impossible to say I will never travel to Iceland ever again. Last year I was ready to pack my bags and move to Queenstown.. I’m not saying I want to move to Iceland, I’m not sure how I would survive without seeing the sun everyday. I’m already struggling now with the early sunsets. It worked out that I waited to book my return ticket since it allowed me to tack on another week to spend in Norway.

Hopefully this is part 1 of many more parts. Stay tuned!