A Chaotic Two Weeks In Iceland

Aubre and I flew out of the MSP Airport shortly after 10:00pm on Tuesday, August 28th on direct flight to Iceland with less slightly of a “plan” than I was… we’ll say accustom to.

The second hardest part about living this kind of nomadic lifestyle is finding places to stay. For those of you who don’t know, Aubre and I usually find people to host us on our travels to cut down on our expenses. It can be very time consuming and exhausting work to find these magical places.

The hardest part about living this kind of nomadic lifestyle is dealing with the sense of dread that that haunts you, looming over your shoulder like an vengeful spirit, incessantly reminding you that if you don’t find a place to stay soon, you’ll be huddled on a street corner wearing every article of clothing you own just to lessen the bite of the ruthless Icelandic wind.

Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, but when you don’t have another host lined up and time is running short it does become very difficult to focus on anything else.

All that being said, we landed safely in Iceland with our first 3 nights and last 3 nights covered. There was, however, that daunting middle week where we had idea where we would be staying.

We met our first host, Edda, at a coffee shop called Bismut near central Reykjavik. The coffee, like most things in Iceland, was rather expensive, but it was the best coffee I’ve had since I left Italy. Edda showed us her apartment where we’d be staying the next couple days, and encouraged us to take a nap while she went back to work (we’d been up for well over 24 hours at that point).

Edda! (Picture stolen from facebook.)

After a quick nap, Edda took us to Nautholsvik beach. It has golden sand (imported from portugal) and a geothermal heated hot tub next to a lagoon. The hot tub itself felt pretty amazing, but the true joy for me was swimming in the lagoon! It was insanely cold! My body immediately went into a kind of shock that I had to work through mentally, but after “adjusting” (or becoming so numb you don’t feel it) it just felt incredibly revitalizing. It was by far one of the wildest experiences of my life! I tried swimming past the lagoon into the still colder ocean, but I could tell immediately that my body couldn’t handle temps that low! Apparently lifeguards pull out tourists all the time who fall into hypothermia.

Sitting in the hot tub! (Photo stolen from Aubre’s video!)

In the lagoon! (Photo stolen from Aubre’s video!)

During our stay at Edda’s, Aubre and I sent out message after message to hopeful future hosts while jaunting around town, exploring various sites that Reykjavik had to offer.

“Look” what I found!

Am I trying to take this troll’s sword, or is he trying to take mine?

 

Me and my Viking friend!

More Viking friends!

My big Viking friend!

Icelandicat!

We found Rainbow Road!

What’s that over yonder? It’s Hallgrímskirkja!

This is Hallgrímskirkja! It took 40 years to build!

And here’s Leifr Ericsson! If you think Columbus discovered North America, try again! Here’s your man!

Leifr likes Hallgrímskirkja! Or is protecting it? Or something.

As impressive inside as out!

Here’s the Harpa concert hall!

Woah? What’s going on here?

We showed up at the Harpa just in time to see a bunch of classics roll in for a meet!

There were some pretty rockin’ cars to see!

Check out this HUGE map of Iceland we found!

The Sun Voyager, a sculpture by Jón Gunnar.

On a separate, more nature oriented day we set off to get a good view of the town from a museum/restaurant/observatory called Perlan, and to explore a nearby park in search of a waterfall and a house of bunnies!

The Perlan sits atop a hill overlooking Reykjavik!

The magnificent Perlan as seen from its own observation deck!

Check out this amazing (and windy) view of Reykjavik! Can you spot the Hallgrímskirkja?

View of Reykjavik from Perlan’s observation deck.

Elliðaárdalur is a nature park within greater Reykjavik. What’s around the riverbend?

We found a waterfall!

Aubre and the waterfall!

Chillin amidst a waterfall!

The greatest part of this incredible moment was sharing it with you!

Our evenings were often spent chatting away with Edda, who was a good listener, but a better storyteller. She was very patient with all our questions about Icelandic history and culture.

Our time with Edda was going by entirely too quickly, and we still had not found our next host. By happenstance, Edda had received a call from a friend of hers who was willing to host us on her farm for a week in southern Iceland. Aubre and I eagerly accepted the invitation to stay with Guðný Halla, on her dairy farm, happy to have found a host at last! 

As it always does, the moment came to bid Edda farewell. It was a very bittersweet moment. Edda was strong and sporadic as the Icelandic wind, and warm as the sun breaking past the clouds. That is not an easy human to find, and even more difficult one to leave. Best wishes Edda! We miss you!

Aubre and I packed up our things, and began hitchhiking our way to Hvolsvöllur, a small town in the south end of Iceland. This was my first time hitchhiking, and I had very little idea of what to expect. Aubre assured me it’s a much more common thing in Iceland than in the states.

Would you have picked us up?

Free ride! (Part of the way.)

We made the 2.5 hour drive in probably about 3 hours with the help of three (separate) incredibly helpful and friendly Icelanders. The second posed this question to us: “Who is America’s hero, a man of the people, someone everyone looked up to?” His answer was Neil Armstrong. What do you guys think?

We arrived safely in Hvolsvöllur where Guðný Halla’s husband picked us up and brought us to the farm. The farm itself was very beautiful.

View from the farm of Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010.

View from the farm: those are actually islands off the south coast of Iceland.

The farm at night.

View from the farm of Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010.

It was filled with Icelandic horses, dogs, chickens, a couple of sheep, a cat named Garfield, and of course, cows. We helped out with various tasks around the farm throughout our stay. Aubre helped more often with milking the cows, while I took care of some of the messier work. Who am I kidding, Aubre did just as much of the messy work as I did! And let me tell you, it was messy! Pile of Poo on Microsoft

Icelandic horse!

Icelandic horses!

Staring contest.

Happy horse!

The cows! (more staring…)

MOOO!

Aubre and Garfield!

For the first time in our travels together we got some good home cooking, and it was ever so appreciated! Top highlights of the week at the farm are as follows:

One night Aubre and I got a spectacular view of Aurora Borealis! It was freaking magical! (Sorry no pics)

Aubre and I spent a night out doors in a hot tub under the stars, during which I saw 4 shooting stars! (Aubre only saw 1. Don’t mention it to her, it’s kind of a sore subject.) (Also no pics)

We saw the brightest freaking double rainbow ever!

Okay, so the second rainbow didn’t turn out in the picture so well, but you can check out Aubre’s video for a better shot of it!

Guðný Halla gave us use of her car for a half day, and we went and explored some old caves, a waterfall, and a beach with black sand!

On the way to the caves!

Some interesting Info about the caves.

Just chillin’ by some ancient irish cave. No biggie.

Aubre in filming mode!

Aubre’s in the cave, and I’m checking out the sunroof!

A glance inside the cave! That tunnel got too small for comfort very quickly!

Ancient runes on the wall!

The waterfall! (Seljalandsfoss)

About to go behind the waterfall!

Behind the waterfall! it was intense!

Behind the waterfall! It was so intense!

Waterfall selfie? Not easy.

Black sand beach!

Black sand beach!

Black sand, rocks, waves, and wind!

We could see these islands from the farm!

After our week long stay, Guðný Halla drove us back to town where we hitch hiked back toward Reykjavik. This time, we got lucky and the coolest Icelander picked us up! He was such a joy to chat with! (Sorry cool Icelandic dude, I don’t remember your name!) Our second driver didn’t seem to want to say more than 2 words in 10 minutes, so I let him. He did, however, and by complete happenstance, drop us off exactly where we needed to be to meet our next host! That’s crazy.

Heida, our next host, welcomed us into her beautiful apartment with equal parts kindness and curiosity. She told us she has been thinking about doing something similar to what we are doing, and had many questions for us. We stayed up late into the night chatting away about life and travel. During our stay, Heida cooked us a delicious breakfast and helped us figure out local busses and how to get back to the airport when the time came. Aubre and I spent much of our time there contacting potential future hosts, and working on sharing our stories with all you lovely people.

We did get out once to go on a wonderful walking tour of Reykjavik. Our guide was very fun and educational. There’s so much about Iceland I never knew! For instance, they didn’t gain their independence until 1944! Before that they were a colony of Denmark. It was actually only because of WWII chaos that allowed them to break free of Denmark. There. That’s your history lesson for the day.

You wouldn’t believe the chaos Aubre and I went through to make our flight. We had a 9:50am flight out of KEF Airport, and planned on hopping a 6:30am city bus that would get us there at 8:00am with plenty of time to spare. Of course, the bus stop was a 60 minute walk away (according to Google). We do a lot of walking to cut down on expenses! We left Heida’s around 5:00am, and basically force-marched our way there just to stay on schedule! Google apparently thinks that everybody walks at a joggers pace (it also probably doesn’t take into account that we’re carrying 65 lbs of combined gear and walking uphill), so after 75 grueling minutes we arrived (huffing and puffing) to a bus stop that didn’t exist because that part of the road was under construction! We watched in agony and horror as the bus we needed drove right on by us!

I’m going to be honest, I pretty much surrendered any thought of us making our flight that very moment, but Aubre picked up the shattered pieces of defeat and pieced together a new plan! She made some quick info-gathering calls, and put us on a new 30 minute march to catch a different (more expensive, but at this point that didn’t matter) bus that would get us to the airport by 8:30am. Oh, did I mention that we had just walked 8 hours through Reykjavik the day before this? Well, we did. We were entirely exhausted and sore to our bones when we finally made it to the (EXISTING) station and boarded the bus!

PHEW!

And with that, we made it to the airport, and boarded our flight! Goodbye Iceland! Thank you for the fond memories, and thank you so much for being the first stop on our great new adventure!

I’ll say, there was a lot of chaos over those two weeks (3 hosts in 2 weeks vs the usual 1 per month plan), but there were also quiet moments of reflection and appreciation. A special thank you to all the wonderful and amazing people who host us throughout our travels! If it wasn’t for people like you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do! Thank you so much!

You can actually find this moment in Aubre’s video! (From her perspective)

If you’re interested in watching Aubre’s videos about our Iceland visit, check them out at www.nekonoland.com!
Make sure you subscribe to her youtube channel to get notifications about new videos! (And while you’re at it, subscribe to my blog for exciting new updates!)

 

Thank you for sharing this exciting (albeit chaotic) two weeks in Iceland with me! This was just the beginning of our great new adventures around the world! #WaterfallKiss

 

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