Pics or It Didn’t Happen

Travel

I was very fortunate as a child in that my parents took my family on many an adventure. In between trips to visit family in Indiana, upstate New York, and West Virginia, they dragged my brother and I from coast to coast. This started when I was very young and can’t remember much about some of these earlier adventures. My mother however refuses to let me complain because she has photographic proof that I had an adventurous childhood. As an adult (though I struggle to admit I’m old enough to fit that category), I’ve re-added some of those places to my list of places to explore. Yes, I have photographic evidence of my toddler self in these places, but it’s not quite the same as an adult memory.

First up on my list is one that is relatively close: Chincoteague Island. As a child, my mother and I spent a day on the beach here and the ocean tried to claim me. Fortunately, a kind lady was able to grab me before the waves pulled me too far from our spot on the sand. I have no memory of this, but the story remains in the family history book. I’d like to revisit this beach (though I will try to avoid being swept out to sea). This is on our list that reappears each summer of places we want to take a day trip and just haven’t managed to quite yet.

Next up is San Francisco. Allegedly, I’ve been to the Bay Area and I’ve heard all sorts of things about that part of California, but have no memory of any time spent there. After seeing friends visit over the last few years, I figured I would like to see for myself whether or not it’s a place I’d enjoy.

Let me paint a picture: imagine tree lined roads curving through the wilderness with bison blocking your path and pull offs for gorgeous waterfalls. And imagine you want to take a video of said waterfalls but the audio of your video is just a Nintendo soundtrack. That would be most of the footage from our family trip to Yellowstone. Sorry, mom! While I remember this trip more than others mentioned, there is so much to see and do in Yellowstone that it seems unfair to not include it on this list.

Another family trip was to Montreal. (See photographic proof above.) Now my memories of this trip include being stung by a bee on the back of the neck outside a McDonalds with a menu in French and forcing my mom to spend way too long waiting for me to get my hair wrapped like all of my friends did each summer. Unfortunately neither of these memories are particularly about the city, which I would like to revisit (perhaps once I brush up on my French).

Some of the places that might have a place on this list have already been revisited, including London and Luray Caverns. And I’m sure I’ll post this and my parents will both say “Well, what about….” and they’ll be right. But for now, I’ll stick with this list as my starting point.

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….)