Guest post:Running Away from Reality. First stop: Iceland by Catherine LaMacchia
It is that time of year again, where college students are thrown into the real world and expected to know exactly what they are doing. I have a news flash for you guys, we have no idea what we are supposed to being, and that is totally okay. 100% normal and okay. Honestly if you are in your 20’s and have your life together, I probably don’t trust you. When you are in your 20’s, fresh out of college and feeling like a fish out of water is when you discover the most about yourself. So embrace it.
Anyways, amid all the “are you seeing anyone?” and “so, now what are you going to do?” questions, the decision struck me to book another adventure. I mean let’s be real, nothing is a driving force to get away more than those nagging questions mixed with the pressure of graduating.
This time I decided to switch it up, and break my bank account. In the summer of 2015 I decided the trip to take would be to Scandinavia. So I booked a one-way ticket to Iceland and went from there. The rest of the flights and destinations gradually came. Until eventually, the itinerary looked something like this: 2 days in Iceland, 1 day in Stockholm, 2.5 days in Oslo and 1.5 in Copenhagen. Eight days and four cities. One backpack.
I didn’t go on this trip to find myself or figure out what direction to go in. The purpose of this trip was plain and simple. I had just spent a couple grand and accumulated about $45K in debt all by myself. So as a reward and a pat on the back to myself, I booked this trip. I was proud of myself. I had made it through four years of college when all I was ever told was that I would fail and I might as well get a job at the local supermarket. So with a BS under my belt, I boarded a plane.
The trip all started on May 19th. A few days after graduation, I boarded a JetBlue flight from Boston to NYC, to meet two of the girls coming with me. From there, we boarded a 2:10PM flight with IcelandAir to Reykjavik, Iceland. We landed somewhere around 11PM Iceland time. One of the girls had already been in Iceland for a day, so she picked us up from the airport. After a quick stop at a Subway (yes I know, but it was 24 hours and we were hungry), we headed for our hostel. Hlemmur Square, hostel had been recommended to me by my best friend who had been to Iceland around the same time the year before. Despite the interesting characters we met, as you do in every hostel, we had a decent stay. It was in a very good location, only 20 minutes walk into downtown.
Reykjavik isn’t really somewhere you go to as the destination in Iceland. I went for a two our walk around the city and saw the whole city, that includes doing some shopping. It isn’t like Paris, Barcelona, Bangkok or any other major city in the world. You can walk from one end of downtown to the next in a matter of minutes. The houses are nothing special and the town is all in all pretty small. When you go to Iceland, you need a vehicle of some sort. You need to be able to get out of the city and explore the Mars like expanse of land that is Iceland.
Iceland is a country of natural wonder. In case you didn’t know Iceland is a volcanic island with a total population of about 328,000. (Just for some perspective, Boston has a population of about 668,000. So the whole Island has half as many people in it as in Boston and all its burrows.) Iceland has some amazing waterfalls, volcanos, geysers and more though. And it is more than possible to see all of it because, their days consist of 20 hours of daylight.
After a very, very short night of sleep, we got up and embarked on our first adventure. The ultimate goal: Find Gullfoss. An almost two hour drive out of Reykjavik, in the middle of nowhere, with basically no signage or sign of life for a while, we found Gullfoss. When driving in Iceland there are all these turnouts and scenic stopping points. Stop at them. Take in the beauty. It is aweinspiring. The ecosystem is very delicate though and it is against the law to walk on the volcanic moss or take any volcanic rocks I think. So don’t do it or you will mess up all of Iceland and it will crumble and the whole world will blame you. Maybe not that extreme, but that’s what they make it sound like.
After obligatory selfies and pictures had been taken at Gullfoss, we sat down to have lunch. Sitting in the sun, with this massive waterfall crashing down in front of us was surreal. The rapids are tremendous and almost impossible to safely cross. There are legends of people trying and failing, and one of someone who actually made it across for love.
Before turning down what can only be describe as a Gullfoss’s driveway, there is a geyser park. Here you will find Strokkur Geyser, which is huge and erupts quite regularly shooting very high up into the air. If you have never seen a geyser erupt it is the coolest thing ever and you have to see the Strokkur Geyser erupt. The geyser bubble and boils for a while and then eventually sucks in on itself and shoots the water high up into the air, emptying itself and then refilling with more water. Probably one of the coolest things I have seen in my 22 years of living.
With the geyser and the waterfall adventures under our belts, and some serious jet lag, we made our way out to the Blue Lagoon that first night there. The Blue Lagoon is a man-made thermal bath that is all natural. Basically the sulfuric water that is naturally found running underground in Iceland, is tapped and redirected into the man-made Lagoon, creating a thermal bath that is very popular among tourists and locals alike.
The water is so hot and contains so much sulfur that no chemicals are added and bacteria does not survive in the water. The sulfur is amazing for your skin, it keeps it firm, helps with your pores and helps defy wrinkles. You can purchase many different package options, we purchased the ‘Comfort’ package and for 55 Euros we got access, a free beverage and two face masks. One face mask (this white sulfuric one) comes with your basic entry. It is made from the water, again all naturally. The second mask is an algae mask. Which hydrates your skin after the sulfuric mask dries it out some.
Day two in Iceland was the day I was most excited for. We were hiking up and into the Thrihnukagigur Volcano, which has been dormant for 4,500 years! We woke up very early (the equivalent to America’s at the break of dawn), caught the bus out there and started our hike. It wasn’t a step hike, it was but it was tiresome because of the snow on the ground.
We walked out to the volcano on a flat expanse of ground, being careful to stick to the path so as to not fall into one of the eight meter or more deep craters in the ground and made it to base camp in about an hour. At base camp we were waited our turn for the trip into the volcano. We went in groups down into the volcano using a German Window Washing machine. It was safer than it sounds. The inside was amazing. Some describe it as emotional while others just wander around in awe.
Being inside a volcano is a little chilling and adventurous at the same time. Part of you wants to continue to hike deeper and deeper and see what you find, while the other half remembers all the movies you have seen where that never turns out well. A volcano hike is something every adventure seeker should do, even if it is a tiny little one, the experience is amazing and indescribable.
Iceland is a country of nature and outdoor adventure. I will most definitely being going back at some point, renting a camper and driving around the island in its entirety seeing everything from the Golden Circle to the Puffins to the whales and more. Iceland made it onto my Top Favorite Countries list. It welcomed us with perfect weather. Sunny and in the 50’s, while still cold by Iceland standards, it was still perfect adventuring in the northern artic weather for us.
We left two days later and continued out adventure onto Stockholm, Sweden…
Adventures to be continued. Go Backstage to see what's good.