One of my biggest personal goals for 2018 was to travel. Without the boys. Now, I love my family and all, but any time we go somewhere, it's not exactly a relaxing experience. So the next chance I got, I asked my sister if she wanted to go somewhere with me. Turns out, she's been thinking about going to Iceland but needed someone to drive (she lives in NYC and never bothered getting a driver's license). I wholeheartedly volunteered. I did all the research for the trip and planned out the 8 days we were going to spend in Iceland.
We debated going in May. July is the peak of tourist season. Everything books up early. And there are hordes of tour busses at every stop. But May didn't work for several reasons, and we booked everything for the last week of July. The temperature was around 50 degrees and it rained pretty much every day.. in the peak of summer! But everything around us was also in full bloom. It was the kind of beauty you simply couldn't witness any other time of the year.. so yea, you can say that I'm very glad we went when we did!
I also kind of loved the weather.
Yes, the cold (compared to CT!) days were often gloomy and full of fog. We usually got a sunny morning which progressively turned gloomier as the day went on. Temperatures went from 48 degrees in the morning to 50 in the day (compare that to the 20 degree shifts that are typical around here). I got to wear my jacket.. and it was glorious! Except for the "mist from hell" we encountered in Vík (pictured above), the rain was usually short-lived, or light enough to not cause too much trouble.
A few things I learned in Iceland:
- The whole Mývatn area smells. The combination of sulphur and methane creates a strong stench of eggs, or, if you want to be classy, farts. The Nature Baths that were so highly recommended online smelled too, as did any time you took a shower. But cold water was smell-free and totally safe to drink, though!
- Vík is totally awesome. The black-sand beach was one of my favorite parts of Iceland.
- The Blue Lagoon is the best! And Premium admission is totally worth it (you should have seen the "Comfort" line). There is a bar, mud masks, and high-tech bracelets to keep track of your locker and purchases. You can seriously spend the whole day there.
- And speaking of the Blue Lagoon, we loved staying at the Silica Hotel, which included Premium admission and a private lagoon for guests (watch out for the thick coat of silica on the bottom at the private lagoon, which feels squishy and super weird under your feet! Pool noodles are provided for that reason, I think).
- When it says "easy hike" and "good for old people", they really mean that it's a 30 minute uphill climb that gets progressively harder as you go. Enjoy!
- Lava and ice caves usually include a tiny entrance or a harrowing descent in a makeshift "elevator". The best option is The Cave in western Iceland, which has a wooden walkway and a family-friendly entrance.
- There are horses and sheep everywhere! Including the road.. so it's a good idea to keep an eye out.
- The little WiFi device we rented with our car is the best thing ever. Most places have WiFi (restaurants and hotels), but on the road, we could pull up maps or even make Facetime calls on the go whenever we wanted.
- During the Summer, you wake up and go to sleep to full sun in the sky. I was glad to have a sleep mask for those hotels that didn't do the best job with blackout curtains. Also, you feel like you can keep doing things all day, but businesses do close at a regular time for the most part.
- One week wasn't enough. There are some amazing day excursions that we couldn't do (like taking a ferry to an archipelago off Iceland’s south coast.. or driving around the Western Fjords) simply because we didn't have the time. We also saw plenty of families doing the sightseeing and the hikes.. so it is totally possible to enjoy this type of trip with kids!
Since this isn't a travel blog (not even close.. since I basically never get to go anywhere).. I won't go into details of my Trip. I will say that my extremely precise planning was a great guideline, but on a daily basis, we had to adjust our plans based on the surprises we encountered. Our 3-hour flight delay meant we had to skip some waterfalls that first day. A vehicle breakdown meant we never got to go on a lava wilderness walk. And an extra long (and challenging!) hike where we had to backtrack (all signs were in Icelandic.. which looks like a bunch of random letters thrown together) meant that 3 hour excursion turned into a 5 hour tour. But we also did some cool stuff that wasn't on the schedule at all. Like climbing up a crater. And walking among lava ruins.
I feel that as Moms, we're always putting ourselves last. Our kids, our husbands, our jobs or small businesses are always top priority. But like those airplane safety videos, we have to take care of ourselves first.. otherwise we really won't be able to take care of anyone else very well.
And Iceland was an adventure. A trip of self-discovery and exploration. Plus, some one-on-one time with my amazing sister. It was a way to leave the domestic part of my life behind, even if just for a little bit.