Tips on Traveling in Iceland, Part 1: Driving/Renting a Car

So, I’ve had a lot of people recently mention they are planning a trip to Iceland soon and are looking for recommendations for when they travel. I figured it might be best to blog about my thoughts/tips instead of writing to each individual person. I was going to try to do one big ol’ blog post, but then I ended up writing nearly 2,000 words on just driving alone, so I figure I’ll split these up and spread them out (making them more digestible AND making me feel more productive on the blog front)!

Hopefully this information will prove useful to people, though definitely keep in mind there is much more to consider beyond my experiences and opinions. Also keep in mind that I am currently traveling during their spring/summer period, so the weather conditions are considerably different than if you are planning to come here in the winter. I’ll try to note some additional considerations you’ll need to make for other times of the year, but since that falls outside of my own experience, you’ll probably want to do some additional research if you’re coming here during the winter months.

For a little background on me for those who might have found this blog through a friend or an independent search: I’m currently in the middle of my 2nd trip to Iceland. The first one was more of a quick, tour-heavy, pre-planned excursion, which was perfect for the 4-day venture me and my travel companions had set out for (we found a pretty reasonably priced deal through Travel Zoo that include airfare, hotel accommodations in Reykjavík, and a Northern lights tour that brought us here in November 2013).

The trip I’m currently on is a month-long tour of the country, though I am primarily based in Southern Iceland, fairly close to Rt. 1, the main road in the country, also known as the Ring Road. Although one of my main intentions while being here is to write, I’m also trying to see as much of the country as possible. And considering that Iceland is about the size of Ohio, there’s plenty of opportunity to achieve this in the time I’m here!

This particular blog deals with getting around in Iceland, specifically with my experience of renting a car. I know many people debate doing this, both because of the fear of driving in a foreign land and because of the price, but based on my experience, I think having your own vehicle is worth the expense. Continue reading

Iceland I love you, but you’re bringing me down

I woke up this morning from a dream where I was talking along the field outside my parents’ house in NJ with my best friend (who actually lives in California). I was annoyed because the neighbor was blaring country music since it was warm enough for them to be lazing about outside, and their giant dog, who was unleashed, came barreling towards my friend and me.

This is the last time I deal with their shit, I thought to myself and began to storm towards their property.

Right about then my alarm went off. I was awake, but not really, and the sounds of the birds outside and the rain on the window were familiar enough to let me believe a little longer I was home. As I re-oriented, I began to remember where I was, which in turn made me realize how far away I was from the things that just felt so close. And suddenly I found myself dealing with the thing I’ve managed to stave off pretty well up until now: homesickness.

I’ve now been in Iceland about 12 days–a little less than halfway through my trip. I won’t say that I haven’t missed home before this point, but I think I was able to suspend the realities of the two enough where I did not allow the feelings about one to affect the experience of the other. It’s essentially the same backwards logic I used the other day when visiting the Víðgelmir Cave during my road trip to West Iceland. One of the other girls from the residency and I decided to go explore the western part of the island, and saw info for this trek into the largest known cave in the country (the guide informed us that because of the porous nature of the lava rock that has formed this place, there are most likely thousands more yet to be discovered). When we agreed we should check it out, I wasn’t really considering the potential triggers for panic that this excursion might cause–being that I am very claustrophobic and not really great with heights, either.

When we got there, I asked the guide if the claustrophobia would be a problem. He assured me that beyond one area where you had to duck your head to get in, it was very open and you could stand with no problem.

“OK, I can do that,” I thought. Continue reading

I was lonely, but I was having fun…

Day 3 Musings: When I first planned this trip, I didn’t necessarily expect to be taking it alone, even though I didn’t necessarily have anyone particularly in mind to take it with me. Maybe it was the beginning of my shifting mindset–for as long as I could remember, I always had a plus one of some sort to come along for an adventure, whether it be a boyfriend or a best friend. Looking back, it felt like there was never a situation where I couldn’t find someone willing to go along with whatever crazy whim I wanted to follow, but I think the truth is that if I couldn’t find someone, I often just bailed on the plan. Ironically, it took getting married to someone who wasn’t always up for the same adventures as me to realize that I had to get comfortable with doing things on my own or I had to start getting used to missing out on things I wanted to do. Continue reading

I’m on the pursuit of happiness

It’s funny to think that life events aren’t totally official until they’ve been mentioned online in some capacity. Although I’d argue I live a lot of legit, undocumented life offline, there’s something to be said about the things we want recorded as part of our Official Personal History.

I went back and forth on the need for a “public announcement” about this, namely because it feels a little silly and self-important. But here we are, May 1st, and I’m sitting here at 5 a.m. trying to figure out how to craft the proper public statement to commemorate this day that I have been waiting for for the past 18 months.

So here goes–making it official: I’m leaving today to go to Iceland to attend a creative residency program about an hour’s drive outside of the capital city. I’ll be there for a month. Continue reading

Things Fall Apart to Fall Into Place.

Despite a lot of the radio silence on the blog, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on here discussing the various ways that my life has been shifting/transitioning/changing during the past couple years. And though change and growth are obviously good things, the feeling that I don’t really have any solid ground to stand on has been challenging. There would be these moments of clarity and feelings of progress, but more often than not, they would be fleeting. And for every “step in the right direction” there were countless detours and setbacks and unexpected reroutes.  Continue reading

When people change, they gain a piece/peace but they lose one, too.

There’s something comforting about going on a first date and discovering that both you and the other person mutually aren’t feeling it. The feeling of relief is instant–You can drink your drink as fast as you want to, order a second without guilt, smile only when you actually mean it. Best of all, you can have a pretty honest conversation about the various disappointments and dissatisfactions that come from dating in your 30s/40s (because even though you’re currently sitting across from Another Disappointment, at least you know they’re Normal Enough to Commiserate With). Mix in some friendly one-upmanship regarding each person’s personal “bests” from their collection of stories and characters gathered in random diners and dive bars, and you leave feeling equal parts comforted and depressed.

The Things We Are Usually Hesitant to Admit, now being talked about, Out in The Open, because There Is Absolutely Nothing To Lose. Continue reading

I Ain’t Down Yet.

The stages of Alzheimer’s are so difficult and complex to try to explain to someone. I know hearing someone say “you just wouldn’t understand” almost sounds aloof, but it’s not even like that. It’s more just like–where do you begin? It would be like trying to explain something like city trash pick up to someone–it’s shit that’s so commonplace background noise that you don’t even know how to dissect it from what the rest of “normal” life is supposed to look like.

I never really know what to say when people ask about my mom. I don’t know how much detail is fair to give, or really necessary. It’s a kind gesture on their behalf to acknowledge that they care and recognize this thing happening in your life, but it also makes you feel like you’re always exposed and vulnerable to this fact, especially on the days you’re feeling particularly exposed and vulnerable about it.

It’s funny because I always think that I’ve gotten over it to a certain point–that this shit has been reality so long that there’s no reverting to complete sadness about it anymore because how can you legit cry over something that you’ve been carrying around that long? But then something happens–I smell her perfume while I’m out running errands, or for a brief second, some brain glitch makes me think that she’s just at work or reminds me of what it felt like to sit in the passenger seat while she drove to the mall. Suddenly I actually remember that these things were once real and happened. I used to have a mother. She used to know who I was.

These moments are easily the hardest to deal with because for a second there is so much happiness and hope and then suddenly everything snaps back into place, like some shitty reality rubber band, and it’s back to remembering that point and time is Over. Continue reading

It’s the Climb.

The world feels so much smaller during the wintertime–days shorter, sun weaker. The range in which I travel and move is different, too. I find it harder and harder to divert from my usual pathways, to expand my radius beyond work and home and the grocery store. In some ways I don’t mind–although the holidays were lovely in their way, I was glad for them to be over and for quiet normalcy to return. I’m enjoying making dinner again, heating up leftovers for lunch, having my set schedule of weekly events with weekend variation. Granted, the routine never seems to last long for me, but maybe that’s what makes me appreciate the periods where it actually comes together even more. Continue reading