I’m writing to you from a small little Turkish café in Kensington, about a 10-minute walk from my current hostel. Just some travel updates – my lease doesn’t start until the 16th of September, so I’m basically forced to do some traveling around the UK in the meantime! It’s hard not necessarily knowing what I’m going to do each day, but the general plan is to go to Bath on Tuesday, Oxford on Wednesday, and Cambridge (or back to London) on Thursday. Saturday is when I move in.
I flew out of Chicago around 8:00 PM Friday night, and factoring in about a six-hour flight, I was able to fly in to the sun rising over Iceland. I have no pictures, so maybe a short description can do it justice. The island had this pillowy fog settling in on certain areas, where others came the steam from natural geysers. Patches of black rock contrasted the cream-like fog, and the stretches of green grass were a perfect intermediary color between the two opposite shades of the fog and the rocks. Iceland seemed so crisp and vacant, where the vacancy of humans created all the more space for nature to show itself.
Upon leaving the airport in the shuttle to get my rental car, I noticed a few sculptures that resembled the nature around them. One was a depiction of men and women in a wind-like form, giving the impression that they were together as one with the wind. (As an aside, it gets *really* windy there, and the wind chilled me more than I was expecting. Nothing a good outer jacket and scarf couldn’t solve!) This kind of embodied what I gathered from my many interactions with Icelanders – they had this great respect for the nature around them, and truly integrated the nature in with themselves. Even in the process of renting a car, the renter basically gave me the impression that some damages happen due to strong winds, random rocks, and other forces of nature… in other words, these damages were ones that I couldn’t possibly control.
This reminded me of a time when I went swimming in the Caribbean Sea off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. We would venture out about eight feet into the ocean only to get slammed by the incoming waves. My body would be taken up and thrown against the tiny round pebbles comprising the shore. This lack of control was fairly comforting, because I was able to let all control go and succumb to the powerful force that the ocean is.
Taking a slight interlude, here’s a picture of my little sport that I rented. There were a few times when I thought I’d get stranded (funny noises, forgetting to have the clutch in when starting the car…), but Martin (see note in following paragraph) pushed through!
This respect for the ocean was translated into a general respect for mountains and the other natural beauties I experienced in Iceland. Following this paragraph, I’m going to take you on the journey (remembered to the best by my sleep-deprived mind) that I took after leaving Keflavik with my trusty steed. (I felt like calling it Martin, for some reason.)
First up was my drive to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I almost stalled my car upon leaving Keflavik, only because the “driving a manual transmission” muscle memory was buried in my “high school memories” repository. My time in Reykjavik would be used to find coffee (that for which I was in a dire state of need), and some sustenance that would last me my entire day.
Fun fact, eating out in Iceland is incredibly expensive.
Why is this so? Quora.com says this…
- Climate and farming regulation
- I was wondering why this was and my first thought was that due to Iceland’s climate, they might have to import many of their goods that they use in their meals. However, a quick Google search tells me that importing many products that can be locally grown is forbidden by the Icelandic government. So wouldn’t that make things cheaper? Not quite – it seems that keeping up a farm in Iceland costs about twice as much there than it does in more temperate climates.
- Labor comes at a high cost in Iceland
- Apparently there are a lot of extra costs for labor, like mandatory overhead fees, a high income tax, and full paid parental leave.
- Foods that are imported are expensive
- Pretty self-explanatory!
I did, however, manage to spend about 800 krona (about 8 dollars) on “exercise bread” (bread full of oats and fiber), a granola bar, water bottle, and two bananas. So my guess is that when you factor in labor from someone serving you as well as the time and resources it takes to cook and prepare food, perhaps that is what contributes to the expense of eating out in Iceland.
Back to the course, though! After getting some coffee, I walked back to where I parked my car and stumbled upon this seaside park. I loved the sculpture – it reminded me of the deep connection with nature Icelanders seem to have, including with the sea!
From Reykjavik, I began my journey along what is called the Golden Circle, a pathway in southwestern Iceland with many natural wonders unique to Iceland, like different geysers, nature reserves, lakes, and mountains. Not having done my recommended amount of Icelandic homework on the Golden Circle, I decided to basically go where I saw other people going. The route is mainly a highway with various areas were you can pull of and get out to take pictures, hike, or do what you please. So when I saw a bank of cars, I stopped! Simple as that. I told myself that I would take as much time as needed at each stop, and I would feel ready to go when it was time to go.
To spare you the extra reading, I’ll add each photo with a little caption.
These next banks of pictures were (in my mind) a bit excessive to add into the post one-by-one, so take the time to click through them!
One final picture, and it had to be an iPhone panorama…
Lastly, while I was driving back, my path was slowed down by Icelandic lambs! I was going to upload a video, but alas, the site does not support videos. Find me in Facebook and you’ll be able to see a video of the lambs! Sorry mom, for taking the video whilst driving… I was going slow, and I just *had* to document the precious moment… Please excuse the moments when I had to shift while taking the video.
On my way back to Reykjavik, I ended up extending the path down to the south coast of the island. In a small town called Selfoss, I managed to find a very quaint coffee, books, and wifi joint. The place was absolutely adorable, and the woman who owned the place was spectacular and very relaxed. I made a new friend there, Lauren, who happened to also be from Michigan! An incredibly small world, truly. Shoutout to Lauren – she had just finished a 250 kilometer super-run with her dad in the northern part of Iceland. Incredible!
Upon ending, I’ll leave you with a selfie that I took in front of the national park’s welcome sign along with some coffee (truly amazing from this trip, and much-needed to stay awake and alive at the wheel) and a postcard that I got from the welcome center (coming at you, mom and dad!). It was hard to say goodbye to Iceland, but I feel as though I truly made the most of my 24 hours in that country. I stopped back in Reykjavik to the sculpture to give a sort of cyclical goodbye, and then returned to the airport.
After a long night of (attempted) restless sleep in the airport, I did end up making it to London! Side note: my friends were not lying when they said that the Tube is really easy to operate. Here’s a teaser for my next post, my first meal in London!