Iceland

April 19, 2020

Things not to do on your next vacation to Iceland.

  1. Travel alone right after a break up.
  2.  Rent the smallest, cheapest car.
  3. Go during the winter.
  4. Think that you can drive in the snow in your tiny car.

So first thing I did after breaking up with my boyfriend of 6 years was book a flight to Iceland. In November. Solo. 

Why Iceland? Because I want to see the Northern Lights. Why November? Because flights were cheap. Why solo? Because I just had a rough breakup and thought I needed some alone time. 

Day 1. 

Arrive in Iceland at 4am. Get rental car at 5am. I know that it snows in Iceland and can have a rough terrain. However, that didn’t stop me from renting the smallest car available in order to save money. Also, it was a stick shift. Did you know stick shifts are cheaper to rent? Worth it. So I took off in the VW UP and drove four hours in the dark with sleet poring down on the winding roads.

I was barely able to stay awake so I pulled over and took a quick nap. An hour later I woke up freezing. I then turned on the car and went back to sleep for another hour. It was 10am and I was behind schedule. I only had the car for 1 day and I needed to make the most of it. I was determined to see everything along the Golden Circle. 

1st stop. It was a crater formed from a volcano. Blah Blah. You don’t care. Top 10 places to go in Iceland: You can read that on any other blog about Iceland. I know what you want. Adventure! Adversity! Drama! OK, you queens. Here you go. 

I had one last stop on the golden circle. By now it was 4pm and getting dark. I didn’t realize how short the days would be, but I’m determined to see everything regardless. Some refer to it is as stubbornness, or stupidity. Semantics. So I park in an abandoned parking lot. All the other tourists had already left months ago. So I start this hike to a waterfall- path unknown. Luckily, some other unfortunate souls were on the trail to guide me. It is dusk and the waterfall is still a 35 min walk away. I heard Iceland is really safe so I wasn’t worried about kidnappers on this trail waiting around in the rain, at night, to take me away. Oh yeah, it was raining. Some of you are thinking, “I’d never travel with this girl. This sounds miserable.” At least that’s what my family tells me – all the time. 

I finally make it to the falls. It’s just, meh. Probably looks better in daylight. The opposite of me at a bar.

But I conquered the golden circle so I’m stoked. Now for the way back. It is completely dark. The moon is out, but covered by rain clouds. I can still see some of the main path with my phone flashlight, but not the connecting ones to get me to the car. I see a lone figure coming towards me. I tell myself, “Iceland is safe. Iceland is safe. How close will I let him get till I should run? But my camera is so heavy. I can’t leave it behind! It was so expensive.” The figure turns into a man that gives zero shits about me and keeps walking in the dark. I’m not sure if I’ve passed the path I need to take. Worry sets in.

That was the first time I thought, “I’m going to die here and nobody will find my body until the Spring. Iceland is not safe.”

“Oh there’s the path!”

I quickly realize that I need 5 minutes every time I make it back to the car to defrost my hands and face before I can drive. After singing Olaf’s “In Summer” song I drive to my hostel.

My hostel is warm, central, and had a bar. Heaven. I’m sure you’ve already heard from all your friends that it is expensive in Iceland. My hostel burger and beer was $30. Tomorrow’s grocery list: meat, cheese, and crackers er’day. We be on a budget.

Day 2

Walked around Reykjavik. You can do this is about 2 hours. It’s the size of San Francisco Union Square. My favorite place was the Penis Museum.

Penis Tie: Made by a jealous girlfriend

Now I had 4 hours before I had to return the rental. I had heard about this sweet hike to a hot springs creek. It will take 1 hour to get there and 2 hours to hike and 1 hour to get back. That is if I don’t even get in the hot springs. Hmmmm. I bet I can hike it in a shorter time.

As I’m running on this hike peeling off my layers mid run I think to myself, “I should have brought better shoes.” Yes. That was the only thought. Not, geez Amy chill out. Why do you have to do everything? Can’t you relax?”

Pshhh. Nope. I wish I bought better hiking boots instead of the waterproof boots that I bought on my last rainy trip for $15. I could feel every rock as I ran up the mountain. My lungs were on fire by the time I got to the top in- 30 mins! Now to strip down to my bathing suit and jump in the “warm” spring.

Yes, “hot” spring was an exaggeration. So I sit there shivering trying to convince myself that this was worth it. If I could get a sweet selfie then it would be worth it. Isn’t that the whole reason we travel? Cool backdrops.

Can you see my goosebumps?

100 pictures later. I’m toweling off as fast as I can using the 6×6 inch shamwow I bought. I strip off my soaked suit and booked it back down to the car, which I have to be to at in 35 min. You know I made it. Back to the hostel with 15 minutes to spare. They do pick up and drop off so I’m golden, right? That is when I read the instructions of the car rental. Oh wait, I have to bring the car to them and then they drop me off! Noooooo! I get to the rental place with no minutes to spare and an ulcer. 

Day 3

7am wake up to get on the tour bus. I’m stoked to not be driving for the next 2 days and have everything planned for me. I’ll just sit in the car and relax. Well due to the whole island storm we are holed up at our hotel. It is just me and a Chinese couple who don’t speak. Not that they don’t know english they just don’t speak to anyone, but each other. Luckily, the tour guide was a social, Spanish flirt. The flirt part wasn’t too lucky. (We did keep in touch and met up in SF a year later. Still a flirt. Still no chance.)

We eventually brave the storm and hit the sites. Name one thing that is better seen in the rain than in the sun? I agree. Nothing. Iceland, why do people like you? You’ve been a total dick the whole time I’m here. 

I don’t know how girls get such cute pictures while traveling. I’m doing my best to not look like a drowned rat.

Day 4

Holy shit, it’s sunny. I had to lay all my clothes on the heater the previous night and luckily they were dry. Our first stop was to the “glacier park”: that is my name for it because you can’t even try to pronounce it.

The storm had knocked off bits of glacier and it was floating in the ocean. Perk #1 of the storm. Perk #2 never came. I didn’t want to leave you in suspense.

Did you know that glacier ice is very expensive and sense it is so dense an ice cube size piece will stay cold for 4 hours. Some bars use them in their cocktails. I could never afford to go to a bar that uses Icelandic glacier ice-cubes, but the thought of some rich person doing it reminds me of the Hunger Games. Not jealous. 

Have you ever thought it would be cool to hike Everest? I have. Not anymore. We hiked up a glacier to go to an ice cave. Sounds great, huh? An ice cave! Glacier hiking! However, the wind was so strong that we all had to hold onto a rope and each others hands so we didn’t slide down. We lost some good tourists out there. Unfortunately, not the ones I came with. 

Ice cave was alright. I’m kidding, it was amazing! 

After we got back from the tour I went on a food hunt at 9pm. I couldn’t let a Saturday night go to waste no matter how tired and beat up I felt. I got the world’s most expensive lobster soup. Then as I was heading back to my hostel I heard American music… I get home at 4:30am.

Day 5

Oh were you planning on me going over my night out? All I did was hang out with a bachelor party then dance with the Norwegian Soccer Team. Typical going out itinerary.

Back to day 5. Rent VW Up again. You think I learned from the first time to rent something a lil brawnier? Nope.

Next was a self-guided tour through the Western Fjords. Nothing like driving alone for 6 hours a day, without any radio stations, right after a break up. There was never any crying, talking to myself, praying, or thoughts of driving off the cliff. The cliff diving was only because I thought the wind would push the car over. I even saw a waterfall moving upwards due to the wind.

This country is insane. The sites were beautiful when you had finally had enough balance to look over the edge of your impending doom. 

Also, you would think that major sites would have paved roads? Nope. I almost got my Up stuck on some bumpy secluded dirt road. That day I rededicated my life to Jesus. For Iceland, being an atheist country the only radio station that would occasionally grace my stereo was gospel with a sprinkle of the most depressing songs I’ve never heard before. 

I can’t tell you how glad I was that I decided to take this trip, solo, after a breakup, in the winter. It made me so much stronger. I got to take as many stops as I want to take pictures and…

…enjoy nature or whatever.

I made it to the old converted convent where I was staying. I had dried shark for dinner, which tasted like it sounds. Awful. I missed my cracker, meat, and cheese that night. And the Icelandic yogurt, which is the best, affordable food in that country.

I was so relieved to be done with driving that day. Never in a vacation had I started to long for home. Not home necessarily, but longed to not worrying about dying in this frozen waste land. I tried to dream that night of the soccer team I met the previous evening.

Day 6

Same as Day 5. Freezing my butt off trying to look at sites.

So after I almost got the car stuck on another dirt road I prayed that I would do anything if God helped me survive. So now I’m a nun. Also, I promised myself that if I tried another dirt road I would have to shave my head… again.

So to avoid being a shaved head nun I stuck to paved roads. “Shaved Head Nuns” is the name of my rock band.

I found a natural geyser to fill up my water and met a buddy.

Best part of the day was the sleep pod that I stayed in. It had a jacuzzi!! The only problem was that is was 24 degrees out so you had to run to it and then run back to your private shack. Best sleep ever. 

Day 7

I wake up sick. I’m starting to get a cold. Oh and it snowed overnight. Also, I forgot to mention that I’ve been setting an alarm at 2am every evening with the hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Still haven’t seen any. Ok so now I have to get to my next stop while the roads were covered in snow and it is still snowing and it is dark. Most of the time I don’t know if I’m in the correct lane or going the right way. More prayers, crying, talking to myself. Writing my will on my phone. Audio writing. You should never text and drive. Do I seem like a moron?

I find it! The volcano! Hardest part about taking pictures is that I would have to take off my gloves to adjust the camera. My gloves kept trying to run away from me faster than my growing hate for snow. It only takes 3 minutes without gloves before I can’t feel my fingers. Luckily, the tour was inside a cave. It was only me and another unfriendly couple. By the time the tour was over, I saw sunlight!

After the tour I headed back to Reykjavik. I dropped off the car and kissed it goodbye. She had been so good to me. I was so glad to be off the roads and never driving here again!!

I spend the rest of my evening eating hot food by a fire and buying souvenirs. I worked so hard. This wasn’t a vacation, but a hazing ritual from the Amazonians.

When I got back to the hostel all I wanted was sleep. What I had was a bunch of drunk Europeans as roommates. I quickly found out that most people aren’t renting cars, but staying in the capital and partying. Most couldn’t believe I was going out into the snow on my own. I played it cool, “pshh, it’s sooo fun. You should all do it. Do you believe in a higher power?”

Day 8

I wake up on my last day, officially sick. Luckily, today I get to relax because I survived. I would just go to the Blue lagoon and chill, then jet off to the airport. 

I wish I could end every vacation at a spa. What a way to end my trip, I thought. I was even starting to feel healthy again.

I get to the airport and find out my flight was canceled.

We were put up in a hotel near the airport. Now I’m really sick… and tired of this awful country. People with layovers on the flight found out I had spent 7 days here asked if I would give them advice on what to do and if I’d rent a car with them…

Day 9

Flight isn’t until 4:15pm. By 8am we are driving in a blizzard…. again. I should have just stayed in the hotel.

Now I’ve done this before. No prob, cause I’m an expert in stunt driving. But the driver is not. I realize that this is how I die. Some fuck nut tourist who hasn’t gone through the harsh hazing like I did. Why didn’t I offer to drive? Oh because I hate this country and want to go home. As we are driving away from where we stopped to take pictures I realized that I dropped my go-pro somewhere, anywhere. We head back to this desolate spot where I look in the world of snow while cursing Iceland. I found my go-pro laying on top of 4 feet of snow where it had fallen out when I went trudging through the snow when my gloves flew away while taking pictures- again. Once back in the car I was completely covered in snow and soaking wet. Fuck this country. 

We make a stop in the capital and I run up to the Cathedral. I’m pretty much done seeing everything, but I need a break from the arguing couple I’m with. I wish I had just gone to a bar.

Next I go to a bar and wait for the couple to be ready to go. Not just any bar, but a Big Lebowski themed bar. As we drive back to the airport I’m starting to freakout because it is only 2 hours until our flight and we haven’t even returned the rental car. Luckily, I convince the couple to drop some of us off first to let the airline know that the rest of the group might be running late. I refuse to be stuck here another day. 

On the plane I had no voice left. However, that didn’t stop the Indian man next to me from asking me if he can read my palms because he was learning a new profession. I drink hot water the whole flight not because I’m sick, but because that is the only thing they will give you for free and I’m not giving Iceland 1 more cent.

As I get closer to home, I think about the crazy adventure I’ve had.” I’ve done things I never expected:

  1. Didn’t die
  2. Drove in the snow
  3. Saw glaciers floating in the ocean
  4. Ran up a mountain
  5. Ate shark
  6. Went into a volcano
  7. Hiked up a glacier
  8. Explored an ice cave
  9. Saw terrain that looked like another planet
  10. Chilled in the Blue Lagoon

This trip made me feel more powerful, weak, independent, and alone in ways that I hope to never have to feel again.

But yeah, you should still go. It’s great.

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