(Also titled: Iceland on the cheap with peanut butter sandwiches and mainly just the clothes on my back)
The how: A friend and I got coffee sometime in September and in the conversation, she mentioned how cheap flights were to Iceland a few weeks later.
“We should go someday!”
That evening I checked flights for the dates she mentioned, thought of all my reasons for not going (finances! time! my fall wedding season!) and realized how desperately I needed a break and a deep breath of the open sky.
The next morning we bought our tickets, had one day to plan our trip before my friend left for somewhere else, and waited with incredible excitement.
Our goals: Northern Lights, Glaciers, Black sand beaches.
A surprising twist: I normally fly with just a carry-on since it’s really convenient. We flew WOW Air though and since they charge less for one checked bag than it does for two carry-ons, we split a checked bag. Unfortunately, that suitcase got lost somewhere on the trip (arg!) and didn’t make it us in Iceland until the day we were heading home. So for pretty much the entire trip we only had what was in our personal item bag, which meant we did a little laundry in our room at night and I wore practically the same shirt the entire trip. It was actually one of my favorite parts! And proved how little we needed. Just snacks, my camera, a hat, scarf and a couple things for layering, and at least for one of us, a toothbrush.
This trip felt like such a desperately needed getaway. My last year has been really intense, with starting a second company while also being a wedding photographer, and on the personal side, my mom was diagnosed with advanced cancer last spring, and then I had some health issues and surgery that really set me back for months. There was just a lot to manage in 2017 and to not feel discouraged about emotionally, physically, and mentally. (Current good news update: after surgery and some intense treatment, my mom is doing great and is cancer-free on her 1yr anniversary!)
We don’t always get to fly off to a mountain to escape our struggles, and sometimes we have to be faithful to press on through a Tuesday and make the most of a Wednesday, and that’s what I tried to do (with mixed results) last year. This trip was just a breather and a gift – to go somewhere new, to live it unexpectedly, to be reminded how magnificent creation is and to come home with renewed hope and determination to not let discouragement win.
It was only fitting that we arrived at dawn to a beautiful sun rising, and the blue skies followed us almost every day.
- – Lots of the best roads are unpaved so get an SUV.
– Add an additional driver so you can take turns sleeping in the car.
– The places you’ve heard of on the south coast will have busloads of tourists. They’re worth going to, but don’t make those your only goal.
– Cars don’t have as large of gas tanks as we do in the US, and gas stations aren’t as quickly found. STAY AWARE of your gas levels and check for stations on a map! We had to backtrack once. Otherwise we would’ve been stranded somewhere faaar outside Allstate coverage.
– Gas stations etc require a pin for credit cards. We never use them in the US, but it’s sometimes needed there.
– Use trackers like this one to check northern lights activity and visibility levels.
– If you want to save money, like on any trip, you can always buy groceries to bring around with you. There are so many remote areas you’ll go that having a backpack of sandwiches with you will make you feel invincible for wherever you are.
– It doesn’t matter that everyone and their mother has gone to Iceland in the last few years. It is more incredible, more majestic, more thrilling than I ever could’ve imagined.
– HAVE SO MUCH FUN.
To Be Continued…