Halfway Through

Uncategorized

This year, I didn’t really set any resolutions for the new year or for my birthday. Instead, I’m focusing on little mindset changes like reading more and finding joy daily. (I also need to take the LSAT, but that’s a longterm struggle …) The year is flying by and it just occurred to me that we’re (more than) halfway through 2020. This year was kind of lacking in firm plans – I didn’t have any big travel planned, I didn’t have any massive goals that I wanted to hit, I had no plans to move or start a new job. Instead, I was (and am) treating 2020 as a breather before starting to adult more. And by adult more, I am referring to going to law school, saving money, living by myself confidently, etc. So being in the middle of a total mess of a year really hasn’t stopped me from hitting any big goals.

Well, I’ve caught my breath and now I need to set some expectations for myself for the second half of the year:

One: take the LSAT and apply to law school. It’s time; no more procrastinating.

Two: continue reading at the same pace as the beginning of this year. A book or two a month is a baseline goal, but I’ve gotten to the point where four or five books each month is not only appealing, but sustainable for my current routine. (I’ve already smashed my Goodreads challenge out of the park this year, so now it’s time to see if I can double or triple it!)

Three: see the sunshine. Like many folks right now, I’ve spent a lot of time indoors. Without baseball to give me a weekly sunburn and without my daily walks to and from work, I’ve been missing that natural vitamin D. I’m trying to absorb some sunshine so I’m pale as a ghost – lunch breaks include a thirty minute wander outdoors (with sunscreen) and that post-work, pre-LSAT study time includes a nice loop around my building.

Four: stretch everyday. I’ve recently had some tightness in my back that’s probably directly related to me spending all my time on my couch for the last four months, but I’m trying to build the habit of stretching beyond my twice weekly Zoom yoga classes.

Five: write. When life gets a little hectic, the time I used to reflect and write goes down the drain, thoughts linger in my head. To combat this, I’m carrying around a little notebook to write in (even if no one will ever read it) and I’m convincing myself that posting blog posts once a week (ish) will make me feel better. We shall see how that goes…

Basically, what I’m saying is that 2020 has been a bizarre year so far and it’s not looking like it will resolve itself in the next six months. So, I’m asking for the internet’s accountability as I spend the second half of the year taking a breather and pushing myself to do little things that will hopefully be good for me longterm.

The Good and The Bad

Travel

Not every travel experience is great. Sometimes it rains your entire trip or your travel companion sucks or every mode of transportation is delayed. It happens – and when it does you just have to power through and make the most of it.

When I think of some of my favorite and my least favorite travel moments, I am reminded of my trip to London and Edinburgh in the spring of 2016. As one of my many short trips through Europe while I studied in Sweden, the trip included a few days in London, an overnight bus to Scotland, a few days in Edinburgh, an overnight bus back to London, a day in London, and a night in the airport before an early morning flight. As twenty-somethings trying to save money, we thought using our transportation hubs as ways around paying for hostels would be ideal – spoiler alert: it was not.

By the time we took this trip, my friend and I were well seasoned travelers who had learned quickly what was needed and what was not when hopping Ryanair flights around Europe. So fortunately, we only had light backpacks to lug around with us for most of our adventure. The first few days in London were fine, we checked into a hostel that I have no memory of positive or negative, and we explored. (This trip played a huge part in my desire to move to London for grad school a year and half later.)

Then came our trip to Scotland. Due to the travel distance and time restraints, we made a compromise to spend time in Edinburgh and explore the city, rather than spending our time moving from sight to sight. To save money, we chose a night bus, rather than a train or a plane. (We used Rome2Rio to plan our transportation and sometimes it gave us cool routes for cheap and sometimes it failed us.) So, we had an eleven hour bus ride from London to Edinburgh that made quite a few stops on its way up. Unfortunately, as this all occurred at night, we saw nothing outside of the windows. It was freezing and with the frequent stops, the doors opened to let in the outside air regularly. Sleeping wasn’t really an option – and it was eleven hours on a bus. Not ideal.

Then came the great part: seeing Edinburgh. Genuinely one of my favorite cities I’ve visited over the years, Edinburgh is the perfect mixture of old and new. We mostly stuck to the old, because ya know, history, but found ourselves thoroughly entertained. (It was also apparently a very popular place for hen parties – we saw way more bride-to-be sashes than we did kilts…)

We stayed at Castle Rock Hostel, which was one of the best hostel experiences we had, literally within sight of the Edinburgh Castle. We walked everywhere, including on a free walking tour of the key sights. We wandered through Princes Street Gardens and stopped by St. Giles’ Cathedral and Greyfriars Kirkyard (I love a good cemetery), and visited the Scottish National Gallery. We wandered over to the castle, but didn’t go in (though we stumbled upon an exotic car event). We made our way down the Royal Mile to visit the royals at Holyroodhouse.

But our big triumph of the trip involved venturing a little further from our hostel home. We decided to climb Arthur’s Seat. And fortunately, we got good weather for our hike. Unfortunately, it’s a hell of a climb and it was muddy. It was a breath of fresh air.

After such a pleasant time in Scotland, it was time for another eleven hour bus ride (still not fun) and another day in London. Because our flight was early the next morning, we had figured we would skip a hostel and sleep in the airport. Simple, really. Except that meant we had a full day to fill on next to no sleep. Except that meant dragging our bags with us for an entire day after sleeping on a bus. Not great.

To finish a long day of exploring London, we decided to see a show – there was no rush to get to Stansted, so we might as well enjoy our wait. The show was wonderful and we hopped a bus to the airport arriving (unfortunately) after security had closed. So we (and many other like minded travelers) were stuck in the lobby on chairs with individual armrests and a man who paced past the automatic doors every fifteen minutes letting in the cold air. Seemed fitting to round out our trip this way…

We did survive the night and we did get on the plane and we did leave with positive memories (and books written in English bought from the airport bookshop at 3 a.m.!), but we also learned never to take a hostel for granted.

Recent Reads

Uncategorized

I’ve had a bit more time on my hands recently and have filled it with plenty of new stories. I wrote last year about what I read in 2019 and though I read a lot of stories written by female authors, I challenged myself to not only read more this year (my Goodreads challenge for 2020 was to read 24 books) but to read from more diverse sources. At the beginning of June 2020, I had read 32 books.

While I did branch out slightly, in terms of the types of books I’m reading (online serials, audiobooks, graphic novels, physical and e-books), I could definitely continue to do better at diversifying what I’m reading and who I’m reading. The same challenge remains from last year.

Since I’ve reached the half-way point of the year, I have been doing some reflection on what I’ve enjoyed reading so far.

I’ve done some rereads: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (a classic), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (one of my favorite authors), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (a humorous break from more serious reads), and The Stranger by Albert Camus (what I wouldn’t give to be fluent enough to read this in French). I am reminded of my belief that certain books should be read at certain times in your life for them to be powerful and others can be read at any time for them to be impactful beyond words.

I read some books that are highly praised by friends and reviewers: Normal People by Sally Rooney (a worthwhile, yet highly uncomfortably real read), The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (a bit outdated, but still interesting), and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (an author I am very excited to read more from). I’ve also added just as many recommendations to my list as I have read this year.

My most recent reads have been a bit all over the place: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (a murder mystery in a magical school), We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (a timely read and very accessible), and Spring Girls by Karen Katchur (a bit meh).

And then finally, the books I’m currently reading: Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom (a collection that reminds me of my sociology roots) and The Martian by Andy Weir (genuinely making me laugh out loud). As I “flip” back and forth between a story about a man with gallows humor stuck on Mars and a collection of essays about what it means to be a Black woman in America, I find myself enjoying the ability to seek out stories from different perspectives.

So as I continue to borrow books electronically from my local library and continue to support local bookshops, I have a feeling these next six months will be filled with even more stories – who knows? maybe I’ll read twice my goal for the year!

Burnt

Uncategorized
Sunburn, an unfortunate side effect of beautiful summer weather, and I have a long and storied past. Last summer, as I sat there covered in aloe (thank you Nationals baseball for this particular set of burn lines), I figured I would pass on how my super Irish skin and I handle sunburns.
Hydrate or die: my solution to most things is to drink some water. After a full day in the sun, your body needs refreshment. And when my skin is in need of nourishment, my insides will appreciate hydration as well.
Lather up early and frequently: the second I think I might have a burn, I cover myself in lotion. I’ve had burn lines show up a day or two later so I do not trust my skin to give me timely warning on a sunburn. I step in the door, shower off any grime and cover myself in lotion or aloe or whatever is available. And I reapply constantly – when I wake up, on lunch, as soon as I’m home again, and once or twice more before bed.
Mix it up: everyone’s skin is different and I find that my skin loves lotion but isn’t too keen on aloe long term. I also vary my lotions because sporadically one will burn or will not do the trick or I’ll hate the smell, but then the next time around it might be the perfect blend. It’s always an adventure to find the perfect combo for my skin. (Pro tip: stick your aloe in the fridge. It’ll feel even better)
Loose fitting clothes: based on past mistakes, avoiding tight fighting clothes is key to surviving a burn. This is the perfect time to ditch bra straps and leggings and opt for flowing dresses and linen shirts. Keep the air flowing and the clothes away from the skin.
Lastly, pack sunscreen next time. I’ve built the habit of wearing a moisturizer with sunscreen everyday but carrying sunscreen in your purse or car makes it a thousand times easier to remember to apply. And then reapply throughout the day. Bring a hat or an umbrella and stay in the shade.

Five Favorite Things: Finding Joy

Five Favorites

On January 1, 2020, I wrote little notes to myself, reflecting on the night I had and looking forward to the next year. I didn’t really write any resolutions, but I did challenge myself to spend this year finding joy. This year has not been easy for anyone, but finding little spots of joy has helped tremendously. So here are my five favorite things that sparked joy in my life recently.

Music. I’ve rediscovered Spotify playlists recently. As I’m working from home and not bothering anyone else, I can put on tunes and take a dance break between data entry or a FaceTime with a friend. My favorite joyful Spotify playlists right now are Feelin’ Good, the Cleaning Kit playlist, and Songs to Sing in the Shower.

YouTube. I’ve found it really difficult to laugh recently – it just doesn’t seem right. But I give myself a reprieve sometimes and it makes me feel a little better. One of the ways I do that is by watching YouTube blooper reels. Many shows post their blooper reels on YouTube (or fans put them up for everyone’s enjoyment) and I often times find them funnier than the show itself. Can 10 out of 10 recommend. Another bonus of YouTube is a British show called Taskmaster, which has been uploading an episode each week.

Plants. My love for my plant roommates is not new. They’re a core part of my adult life and seeing them grow genuinely makes me happy. At last count, I had fourteen individual plants living with me, soaking up sun, and giving me structure. Once a week or so, I spend time watering them, checking for dead leaves, and making sure they are happy. And it brings me joy.

Reading. This year in general, I’ve reached for books more frequently than in the past. Perhaps because I don’t have academic reading in the way or maybe because I’ve been spending so much time staring at a computer screen, but the ability to spend an afternoon with my nose in a paperback has been really calming. Recent reads include We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Normal People, and Things You Save in a Fire. (If you are searching for new reading material, check your local library for an Overdrive or online rental account or buy from local bookstores through Bookshop.org.)

Yoga. Sitting all day has wrecked havoc on my back. But my weekly yoga class has moved to Zoom. While I’m not a huge fan of Zoom classes, doing yoga twice a week has made my back a lot happier and given me a reason to put on a sports bra (the only type of bra I’m even considering wearing right now) and get a tiny bit sweaty. Though I may get frustrated with my class, I genuinely feel better when I get up afterwards. (If you’re interested in yoga, YouTube is a good place to start.)

Basically, it’s little things everywhere. Where are you finding joy right now?

Read and Watch: “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”

Read and Watch

I often find myself in conversations with friends about adaptations of books that didn’t quite translate well to film. The overarching theme seems to be that the book is always better. And in many ways, the original source should seem more authentic than an adaptation. But sometimes films are able to capture things that take too long to write, or an adjustment was made that speaks to the truth of what the book’s narrator may have been hiding from the reader. Both film and literature bring their strengths and with adaptations, we can see those strengths and their corresponding weaknesses.

I recently read a book and then watched the film adaptation and had feelings. And since I have this platform to share things I am thinking about, I thought I would spend the time to compare the two, the good and the bad. My most recent read was We Have Always in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Spoilers ahead – warning that what comes next may be a spoiler for the film or the book and I cannot be held responsible for it ruining your experience of either story.

I read the book first. Shirley Jackson captures the underlying haunting sensation of a small town scared of some of its inhabitants and the fear settles in everything she describes. (If you’re not keen on taking on a whole book, read The Lottery for a sample of her style.) The narrator, Merricat, is both a child and an adult (which she established herself), but she clearly lives in her own world. The internal thoughts she shares are naive while also deadly. She tells a story about change that she believes threatens her and her family, or what’s left of it. You get a sense she will do anything to protect what is hers. Jackson’s storytelling is chilling through its subtlety – you, as the reader, know not to trust Merricat, but can’t help but want to protect her from the things she fears like the villagers and her cousin. You want answers, but Jackson keeps them from you – both to preserve Merricat’s innocence and to protect your willingness to support this family. Nothing is explicit, but you understand nonetheless. The story lives you to imagine what happened and fill in your gaps, which makes the “reveal” kind of dull, because you already solved it.

The film, on the other hand, directed by Stacie Passon, lacks the subtlety of the book. From the beginning, you see each of the characters as caricatures – exactly as Merricat describes them. The uncle is fine, just a little off; the cousin is horrible; the sister is perfect, but lost. What was suggested to be a child’s perspective is shown as the truth. What was haunting (because you couldn’t prove it wrong) sits in front of you, with a “creepy” soundtrack. Because the characters are exactly as they were described, it’s hard to believe that any of it is quite right. The film simplified that which was complicated in the book – everything is exactly as it seems.

What really irks me about the film is that it justifies the men’s actions on screen – the man in town who hates the family irrationally in the book becomes a scorned lover, the cousin who may or may not just be there for their money is a brat and physically aggressive. It just didn’t fit with Merricat’s innocent understanding of the world outside of her home, her castle. She didn’t like them because of what they could do, not what they actually do. Men are frightening in the book because of their potential to take away what Merricat treasures most – her sister and her home. When your fears are demonstrated, you lose that creepy feeling that something could go wrong, which is what the book hinges on. The film was missing that underlying sensation that this family is always one step away from the worst case scenerio.

Overall, I enjoyed both, don’t get me wrong. And both individually left me feeling dull and haunted. But in this particular case, the book was the better storyteller, because it didn’t tell me everything.

Embassy Row

Hometown, Travel, Uncategorized

Perhaps you’ve been wandering down a street in DC and you see a foreign nation’s flag hanging on a beautiful building and you wondered “what’s that doing there?”. One of my personal favorite things about growing up in the DC area is the diversity of the folks who live here: from the locals with generations of native Washingtonian heritage to the recent immigrants here for work or school, to the small towners who came to the city to work for the government or an NGO. DC draws in people from literally all over the world. One of the places this is so apparent is a stretch of road known as Embassy Row.

Massachusetts Avenue is one of the diagonal roads that cuts across DC, bringing traffic from the more suburban areas into the heart of the city. One section of this road is heavily populated by embassies, the home of foreign nations, big and small, in the U.S. The basic start of Embassy Row is the Naval Observatory, home to the Vice President. As the road continues southeast, it is lined with embassies through Sheridan Circle and Dupont Circle, unofficially ending somewhere before Scott Circle. (The most interesting collection tends to stretch between Dupont Circle and the Naval Observatory.)

You can take tours of the area if you’re interested, but it’s also just a nice place for a wander. I will warn you – not every embassy is located on Embassy Row. For instance, the Swedish and Icelandic Embassies are located in Georgetown in the House of Sweden on the waterfront. Additionally, ambassador’s residences and other diplomatic buildings are spread throughout the city. That being said, a good majority of the 170+ embassies in DC are located on Embassy Row and you can’t walk this stretch of Mass Ave without hearing a different language or two, or seeing diplomatic plates line the streets, or if you’re unlucky, being stuck behind a motorcade.

One of many events that typically happen throughout the year is Passport DC, an opportunity for embassies to open their doors and share their nation’s culture. Many of these events won’t be happening as usual this year, but that just means folks outside of DC can experience them (without the crowds). For instance, most of the European Union nations open their embassy’s doors for visitors during the EU Open House Day in May. Instead, the effort to shine a light on the diplomatic missions has been moved online to HomeWithEU, taking place on Saturday May 9, 2020.

If you’re interested in visiting a particular embassy the next time you’re in DC, check their social media pages for open house dates or for links to join their mailing lists for events.

Bonnaroo 2019: A Photo Diary

photo diary, Travel

In June 2017, I made my first trip to the Farm in Manchester, Tennessee. I was volunteering at Bonnaroo, a music festival that brings in names from U2 to Chance the Rapper to Joseph. Because I was volunteering, I arrived early, had free entrance to the festival, had showers (also free!) dedicated to volunteers, and met incredible people, all while jamming to some of my favorite bands.

I returned to the Farm in June 2019, volunteering again and brought a disposable camera along with me. I figured in honor of summer rolling around soon, I would share my Bonnaroo experience through photos:

Asset0028
Everyone who visits Bonnaroo is greeted by C’roo members at Tollbooths. Tollbooth volunteers camp separate and this is the marker we use to find our way home each night.

Tip: If you want a camping spot close to Centeroo, leave your car behind. No car camping is right in front of the main entrance!

The Bonnaroo Arch marks the main entrance into Centeroo – the main venue for the festival. The Arch was a long-standing monument to festivals past, but unfortunately wasn’t in great shape and was replaced in 2019.

Bonnaroo is a colorful place filled with colorful characters. From the Ferris Wheel to the giant disco ball in the sky to the Christmas barn that doubles as a late-night house party, the Farm has it all.

Last year’s shows included the Lumineers, Hozier, Illenium, Griz, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Cardi B, Post Malone, and way too much Phish.

Asset0016
The Farm hosted its first Pride Parade that finished at Kacey Musgrave’s set.

Because it is summer in Tennessee, it’s hot. The Grove is the only real shade you can find. Each year, they string up hammocks, put up interesting art installations, and have soft music playing.

Nothing quite beats the setting sun on the Farm…

Asset0020
As you wait in line to go under the Arch, there’s a tradition of high fiving everyone you pass.
Asset0003
And just like that it’s time to go home…

See you on the Farm!

Spring Cleaning

Uncategorized

The weather has started to get nice, flowers are blooming, and it is the perfect time for a nice spring clean. My mom jokes that she only has two cleaning modes: spring clean and nothing. I’m somewhere on the other end of the scale – weekly baby steps. Spring cleaning may be overwhelming for some of us, but it genuinely makes me so happy to have a cleaner space and it can truly make a difference on your mental health. (Plus I’m always finding things tucked away in weird places to distract and entertain myself).

My first stop for the seasonal clean was my closet. The first days of warm weather had me shedding the heavy sweaters and reaching for much more spring- and summer-appropriate clothing. I rotate my closet with the seasons – it allows for my clothes to get loved more when appropriate and it keeps my studio apartment closet from bursting at the seams. I spent a few hours looking through my closet and my dresser, picking out what I would deem “winter clothes”. I pulled them all out (confirmed that nothing needed a loving wash) and piled them to the side. I also pulled out things that could be worn year-round but that I needed a break from (the idea being that upon seeing them again in six months, I’d be more excited and less likely to buy more clothing).

After my winter wardrobe was pulled out, I packed half away in a spare gym bag and left the rest on some spare selves. I could immediately switch over to my summer clothes, but it wasn’t quite time yet. So I’ve waited about a month and worn what was there. I have yet to be desperate for a piece of clothing that I’ve had to run out and buy something, but I also have reached for dresses or shirts that were hidden behind other clothes.

Now that it is warm here, I’ll be pulling down my summer clothes, hanging them, and using the bag they’re currently stored in to finally put away my winter clothes for good. I might spend a few weeks with my summer clothes completely separate to continue enjoying my transitional closet or I might mix it all together. We shall see how I’m feeling.

After my closet, I moved to a very easy step for me: shoes. I tucked away my winter boots (just the thought of them make my feet sweat right now) and pulled out my sandals and flats that don’t get as much love in the winter. Winter jackets and scarfs were tucked away as well. With all of this complete, I can genuinely look at my closet and answer the question of whether anything is missing. (For the sake of my wallet, the answer is going to have to be a “no”.)

Next up, I’m looking at the piles of paper that I’ve somehow accumulated. Some of it is mail that never got sorted or magazines that I meant to read. Either way, it’s getting tackled. I pulled my recycling bin over, put on some good tunes, and got to work. Most of it could be tossed once I gave myself permission to not read that thing or that I wasn’t going to shop at that store. Unfortunately, no forgotten money in an old birthday card this time around, but I’m sure the pile will start again and I’ll have to take on the challenge in a few months.

I’m also adding my kitchen cabinets to my list this year. I looked through my food when I moved a few months ago, but I just want to double check nothing has gone bad while I wasn’t looking. As a picky eater, I know what I will and won’t use, so anything that won’t be consumed by me will be donated to either my parents’ pantry or a local food pantry, and anything gross gets tossed out.

Once I’ve got the organizational stuff out of the way, it’s time for the classic clean. I sweep regularly and wipe down my horizontal surfaces on a regular basis, but it’s never a deep clean. So out comes the broom and the Lysol wipes and the dust rag. Kitchen, bathroom, closets, and the “bedroom” and “living space” I have in my studio all get cleaned with their specific cleaning lists.

I start in a corner and work my way out and around, telling myself to finish one task at a time. I give myself dance breaks and breathers as I go. But once a task is started, it can’t be left for another day – not allowed. Pulling the couch out from the wall or really dusting the bookshelf are part of the satisfying parts and when I’m done, I’m always very grateful that I only do big cleans once a season – it’s exhausting work!

I’ve got other little tasks on my to-do list each season. This list includes repotting and propagating some of my plant babies, finally hanging some decorations that I haven’t gotten around to since moving in, and clearing out duplicate photos on my phone. I’m sure while I do my tidying something else will come up and when I’m finally finished with this list, it’ll be time to start another one for summer. But I’ll worry about that it’s too humid to do anything else.

Iceland

Travel

I’m a big fan of Scandinavian style murder shows – the slow burn, the dramatic locations. I recently watched the last episode of the first season of The Valhalla Murders on Netflix. The drama takes place in Iceland (and is shot entirely in Icelandic with English subtitles) and to my surprise, I was able to recognize a couple of shooting locations used in the show from my travels in Iceland.

My time is Iceland is usually spent in the middle of Keflavík Airport running from one flight to another. I use Icelandair for flying to Europe and back – I find their flight times convenient and they’re the nicest people about avoiding problems with layovers and delays. Keflavík is also one of the most efficiently run airports that I’ve experienced and it’s always neat and orderly. In case you didn’t know, Icelandair has a program for stopovers that allows you to extend your time in Iceland by a few days to explore the country on your way to your final destination. I’ve had the opportunity to use this program twice now (and spoiler! – it’s worth it!)

My first time exploring Iceland was with my parents in the summer of 2016. We utilized the stopover on our way back from Sweden. My parents came to visit as I finished my time studying abroad near Stockholm and we spent a few days in June exploring Scandinavia. We stayed in Reykjavík and branched out from there. My second time utilizing Icelandair’s stopover program, my mother, my grandmother, and I explored on the way back from London in August of 2018. Both times, despite knowing our plan to stay in Iceland, we didn’t pre-schedule anything, choosing inside to pop into tourist information storefronts in Reykjavík on the day of/day before. If you’re staying in town, it is super easy to wander down the main street and pop into one of the information stores that line the street. They’re usually really nice and really knowledgable.

Any of the tours will take you to amazing locations. I’d personally recommend anything along the Golden Circle, especially if it includes Gullfoss. It’s also worth visiting Geysir for a mini Yellowstone experience. Reynisfjara, Skógafoss, and Thingvellir National Park are also wonderful spots to visit.

You really can’t go wrong, but my biggest piece of advice is to leave Reykjavík. Don’t get me wrong – Reykjavík is a lovely little town (and yes I did have to Google how to spell it…). But the beauty of Reykjavík is beyond the borders of this little town. An afternoon could be spend wandering the shore of the bay (there’s a little nice little path that’ll lead you to Sun Voyager). You can also go for a walk through the cute little houses, seeking out the murals on some of the walls, maybe even making your way up to the iconic church on the hill, Hallgrímskirkja. Heck, you could even enjoy a meal at Hlemmur Mathöll, a wonderful little food hall (can 10/10 recommend grabbing breakfast from Brauð & Co), or grab some fries from Reykjavík Chips (I’d recommend trying out one of their different sauces in addition to your classic ketchup). But there’s so much more to explore beyond Reykjavík!

You really cannot go wrong. The people are extremely friendly (and very used to tourists at this point) and even on the gloomiest, rainiest days the country is magical. That being said, my two trips to the country took place in the summer when the days are long and you have nicer weather to explore.

One common concern I’ve heard from friends and family is that everyone has been to Iceland and everything is a tourist trap – to which I say, and? Iceland is just as gorgeous as the Instagrams you’ve seen or the blog posts you’ve read. Yes, the sites are busy, but they’re also grand enough that if you aren’t there at the same time as a tourist bus, you can’t miss them. And there’s a reason they’re so popular – the country is freaking beautiful.

My arguably most controversial opinion is that I really enjoy the Blue Lagoon. Is it super busy? Yes. Is it the lushest thing I’ve ever done? Also yes. Fight me. 10/10 would recommend.

(I also feel I should note that despite my love of Scandinavian crime shows, Scandinavia is a safe place to travel and Iceland is relatively crimeless. In case you were worried….)