Mom stuck a note in my backpack when I wasn’t looking. How Mom is that? The note might have been a profanity laced plea for me to come back home ASAP, but it was cute nonetheless, thank you, Mom.
It all kicked off on a fairly interesting note as sitting right in front of me in the airport terminal was a neo-nazi casually sipping Honest Tea. How did I know it was a neo-nazi? He was wearing black tactical boots, black cargo khaki’s, a black long sleeve, and sporting the ever in style skinhead on the sides Bieber on top neo-nazi haircut. I like to imagine his tinder profile says something along the lines of, “When not antagonizing members of other sexes, nationalities, and religions, I enjoy the organic, all natural, ingredients of Honest Tea. Like me, it’s just a tad sweet.”
I have to admit as I boarded the flight a crazy rush of nerves and excitement overtook me. I had never felt a feeling like it before, I was completely on my own, I’d studied abroad but I’d went with my friend Kieran and did the whole thing at a University. I’d traveled quite a bit, but almost always with my parents or at least to a destination where I knew someone. This was it, my car was now sold and any future employment was and still remains uncertain. I just had me, a stuffed to the brim backpack that I had to kick in to the carry-on test bin, and a window seat on the left side of the plane towards Iceland.
The window seat is a big deal because I’d heard you might be able to see the Northern Lights if you could look out the window on the left side of the plane. I’d gotten lucky, getting a window without even requesting one, and better yet, I’d gotten my own row. But something suspicious happened right out of the gate; the man who’d sat in front of me, whose potent odor squeezed through every nook and cranny between the seats, had gone to the bathroom and had not returned to his seat during the taxi. Being that I’m from the U.S. and if you can’t already tell from our airport security protocols, we’re all very paranoid about the process (of course for good reason) I began to have the internal debate over whether or not I should tell someone about the missing smelly dude. Luckily, or unluckily, in the midst of my panic, he returned and I could tell right away he was probably a tweaker.
To begin, he looked like the “after” in your classic Meth user photos and could’ve easily played an extra on Breaking Bad. His nails were long, his hair unkept and greasy, he was a mess and again the smell. My God, the smell. I decided I had no choice but to just power through and hopefully catch the Northern Lights which I decided might make it all better. That being said, I immediately fell asleep before the plane even lifted off the ground.
When I awoke it was already dusk. I kept my eyes peeled on the ever darkening horizon for a while, but eventually gave up. Looking out the window on a dark night seemed like a good way to make the four remaining hours feel like twelve. I decided to do some prepping for the trip, making sure the phone was properly secured, etc. After an hour or so, I figured I’d be best served for the following day with some sleep since this was technically a red eye (albeit a short one) landing in Iceland at 4:30am. As I went to shut the window, I took one quick glance to see what appeared to be a green streak crossing the sky just up ahead. This was a rush all on its own, it wasn’t clear enough that I could be sure it wasn’t just a glare on the glass, but I readied my camera nonetheless.
Sure enough, the light grew closer and closer, and went from a teaser to 100% Northern Lights, but as they were rapidly approaching something even more amazing happened. The tweaker had managed to work his sweat-soaked sock and foot around the window armrest landing it right above my knee. I looked at it with complete horror. The angle alone seemed impossible, though I have to admit it was almost impressive. I had a number of options all of which awkward or bad in their own right. I could wake the man up, ask him to move his sweat-soaked smelly foot from my leg. I could shift away from the foot and be forced to lean to look out the window awkwardly. Or, and this was probably the worst option, I could be super passive-aggressive about it, gently try to nudge his seat to wake him, while still looking out the window. After much deliberation, I decided to be passive aggressive and gently try to nudge his seat to wake him and it didn’t work, but I think it was worth it because I was able to get a world class picture of the Northern Lights.
Can’t find quality pics like that in a magazine.
Welcome to Iceland
After landing and going through security at a comically quick pace, I was in my rental car and out the door by 5:30am. This is when I made my first bad decision of the trip. I figured, hey, it’s early, there still plenty of time until check-in, why not go see some sights? Tackle the Golden Circle. Be adventurous.
Just some travel advice, when trying to be adventurous don’t begin in a snow storm and don’t begin before any of the parks you’re actually trying to see open. Additionally, try no to begin in conditions so bad that the landmarks aren’t even visible. I wasted the first five hours of my trip driving out and back from Thingvellir, a tectonic plate caused separation in the ground and a meeting spot for Iceland’s first settlers, only to find that there was no way to access it in the storm. But, don’t fret! Things would turn around, after returning to my hostel, the storm cleared up and I took the drive out to Vik, a town on the southern coast of Iceland famous for it’s black sand beaches. The highway that brings you there; Highway 1 or the Ring Road actually brings you all the way around Iceland if you’re dedicated enough. It’s littered with waterfalls and picturesque landscapes, some of which you can see below.
Time to quell those Hostel fears
For weeks people had been warning me about hostels. They told me to watch my stuff, to watch the people around me, to make sure that I wasn’t kidnapped to have my body harvested for organs. I’m serious (Mom don’t worry, I’m still not taking them lightly). But, upon entering my first hostel stay on my own in a room with 16 beds, I realised the true horror of staying in such a place: Canadians. There were a dozen of them, all nice and polite, asking me where I was from and what I was doing, offering up trip recommendations and organising a trip to the bar. The horror.
The following day (my second of three full days in Iceland), I took a free walking tour which I now know is a really great way to start off a visit to any city. Reykjavik has some very interesting Viking history and social history as well, they’re the country with the lowest gender wage gap in the world, they have a huge free the nipple movement there, one of the lowest prison rates in the modern world (only one of their prisons even has a fence), and now for my favorite fact about Iceland… Bill Clinton f**kin loves their Hot Dogs.
And for good reason too. They actually make them with Lamb instead of the parts of a pig that make me chuckle, and he’s right they’re delicious, certified best hot dog I ever had, I actually visited that very stand twice in three days, and I really don’t like hot dogs. Also, there’s fermented shark for those that are interested. I wasn’t, I did get to try Brennivin, the shot of unflavoured Schnapps that gets paired with it and I can assure you that trying that over the shark was probably the softer option.
On my final day, I finally did get to explore the Golden Circle managing to see Thingvellir, Gulfoss (a two tiered waterfall that was impressively large and pictured below), and Geysir which is a Geyser. One all nighter later and I was once again in an airport, this time instead of tweakers and neo-nazi’s I had backpackers playing the ukulele and doing yoga in the terminal which I consider equally as bad, if not worse.
Being as I’m running a bit behind, you should keep an eye out for my next blog on Ireland shortly! Thanks for checkin in on me, hope you enjoy.
The Trump tracker! I’d thought a lot of people would ask me about Trump while I was away, and as it turns out, I was correct. In just about every conversation I’d had that lasted more than five minutes, if the person wasn’t american, Trump would come up. We’re at five times so far. I’ve got to work out the kinks on my little widget tracker, but rest assured it will be up there soon.
Stuff you shouldn’t miss in Iceland; HOT DOGS, the Golden Circle, Vik, Skogafoss, and the Reykjavik walking tour were my favourites.
Proper english spelling; the hostel computer is set to it and autocorrects it, I’m too lazy to change it. Recognise should have a z in it you socialists.