There is nothing quite like having photos to remind you of the good times from your travel adventures. But you know what's even better? Having video of it.
I was not exactly religious about taking video of my experiences in the beginning of my 15-month journey in 2014 to 2015. I was barely familiar with my new camera during my first stop in Iceland. I also did not really have any ideas in mind about how I should film or what I should film. What resulted was a random selection of moments—what I think perfectly summarize my time in Iceland.
In this post, I share the raw, uncut footage from these moments. You'll see the Blair Witch-style in which I film and you'll get an idea of the carefree mindset I was in. The following are a sequence of videos from the start to the end of my 9 days in Iceland. It includes my starts and stops and the times I let the film roll when I suddenly felt the urge to capture the moment. It's random. It's fluid. And I think I naturally ended up capturing some of the best moments from my time in Iceland.
After dropping off the rental car and checking into our hostel in Reykjavik, I had a few hours to spend before the backpackers from Akureyri would be back in town. I took the opportunity to wander and see more of the streets of Reykjavik. I wanted to get a better feel for the city and pick up a few small souvenirs to bring to my hosts in Germany from the shops along Laugavegur. Here are a few highlights.
Considered the “capitol of northern Iceland,” Akureyri sits at the Eyjafjörður fjord and is the second largest city with just under 18,000 people. We decided to make it our first and only two-night stopover after Mývatn’s flies ran us out of town the night before. Fabrice and I had no plans except to make new friends again since the group we met the night before had split up and left town—Canada and England were traveling south and France, Germany, and Wales were traveling to the northwest fjords. We had a great experience hanging out with them so we were craving more interactions just like it. Good times with new people can be rather addicting!
Having missed out on the hot springs in Mývatn, we decided to go to the Akureyri public pools. While these were not exactly natural hot springs, they were a welcomed alternative to dealing with the flies! On the way to the pool, we got to witness a bit of the charm of Akureyri. Small parks and cute shops lined the streets.
I watched Carolina trot away from the car toward the bus stop in Höfn. It was early in the morning and we had just said our goodbyes. I was excited to learn that one of her stops on her 10-month journey will be New Zealand—one of my main destinations. Perhaps we’ll see each other in a few months on the other side of the world.
Fabrice and I got back to Route 1 to continue our drive around the Ring Road. Today we would have to travel the most distance in one day: 360 km to Lake Mývatn. I had heard there were amazing natural hot springs there—less expensive and less touristy than the famous Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik.
On the dashboard, Earl was propped up next to Fabrice’s phone blaring music from The Nationals. My cheeks felt warm as I squinted out the front windshield at the dark fields spotted with greenish-yellow plants. In the distance we could see Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier at 8300 square kilometers, emerging from behind craggy mountains in the foreground. As we got closer, we saw many tour buses pulling off the Ring Road to the left. It looked like something to check out.
At Skaftafell, tourists can purchase guided tours of the Vatnajökull glacier and surrounding park area. Many locals told us that walking on the glacier on your own during or surrounding the summer months is never something Icelanders risk—only tourists who do not know the dangers of falling through the ice, never to be seen again. Guides are absolutely necessary and increase your safety significantly, but instead we opted to do an off-glacier, self-guided hike along the Gönguleiðer trails. Up the mountain 30-45 minutes would take us to see another waterfall—Svartifoss. A morning hike sounded good to us all even though we had already seen spectacular falls the day before. Grabbing water and a few snacks, we headed in the direction of the trailhead.
As a foodie I love to try new foods. I also love to learn about a culture by opening myself up to what they eat even if it means deviating from my own dietary norm. Rejecting food from others in a cultural exchange or missing an opportunity to experience a food significant to that culture due to my own choice would, for me, be an injustice. Therefore, I am putting nearly 20 years of eating habits aside for the whole year of deviation trip. I will try anything—even if presented with food I would never consider eating while back in the U.S. My first norm-deviating food experience occurred while in Iceland.
Not much has changed in the diet of Icelanders since the Viking age. The majority of the Icelandic diet comes from what surrounds the country—the sea. Einar, my host in Reykjavik, told me if I wanted to try a snack that locals commonly munch on, then I should try Hvammsfiskur (ravine fish), a type of fish jerky. Not crunchy or soft, this somewhat tough, dried fish reminded me of tilapia but slightly duller in flavor. If I had the opportunity to eat more I probably would as I enjoy the taste of fish and it’s a very healthy snack.
I laid in my top bunk under a hand-woven blanket watching the sunlight trickle in through the far window. I smiled to myself as I heard the light ba-ah-ah-ing of sheep in the distance mixed with the faint breathing of my two new friends laying in the bunks next to me. We had all stayed together in the same room the night before even though we could have each had our own room in the place. I had chosen the room on the east side strategically so the sunlight would warm me up in the morning. What I did not anticipate was the emotional warmth I would feel when Carolina and Fabrice decided to stay in the room with me. We were becoming fast friends, and now it was like we were children away at camp together.
The day before we began our Ring Road trip by detouring around the Golden Circle. Today we planned to get back on Route 1 to see some waterfalls before reaching Vik for the night. Today was also the day that I was to learn how to drive manual—finally! I had always wanted to learn. Most cars for rent (especially the less expensive ones) are manual in Iceland. So with Fabrice and Carolina as my teachers and nobody around on these country back roads, this was my opportunity.
On Thursday, September 4, I met Fabrice (Quebec) at the Egilsborg guesthouse. We were handed over the keys to a white Toyota Aygo for just $60 a day. We picked up Carolina (northern Sweden) from Einar's place in Breiðholt and set out on Route 1 to go counterclockwise around the Ring Road (Route 1). We decided to take an initial detour along the Golden Circle first. This path would take us to many special sites and wonders despite having to go slightly out of the way of Route 1.
Every kilometer there was something new and beautiful to look upon. Thew constant spectacular views made the decision to stop and take a picture of what and when very difficult. What a dilemma, right? The first time we stopped the car to take pictures was when we first emerged from Rekjavik. Outside the city, the land suddenly stretched out to reach mountains surrounding us. Fields were dotted with cute homes, churches, farm houses, and animals (sheep, horses, etc.). We were instantly awe struck and had to stop the car by a little bridge just to stand outside the car and take it all in. Little did we know, this was only the beginning of what we were about to see over the following days.
I squinted into the morning sun and watched puffy clouds float by outside the plane window. My insides leapt as the clouds parted revealing Iceland: a treeless green mass jutting into the sparkling sea. The pilot switched from speaking Norwegian to English announcing our descent into Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik.
After landing, I fastened my backpack buckles around my waist and raised my chin ready for whatever adventures laid ahead. I grabbed a local SIM card at the airport Duty Free, bought a bus ticket, and headed outside to the bus stop. A young Icelandic Excursions bus driver wearing reflective aviators took my bag and told me he could drop me at the Mjódd station. We shared an exchange over our matching sunglasses as I boarded. I said, “Nice sunglasses!” He laughed, “You, too!”