This trip, my first trip abroad on my own, was such an incredible experience. Time flew by, but by the end I had begun feeling homesick… I kept dreaming about my dog and not seeing him when I woke up made me really sad. Anyways, I kept it low-key on my last day. I went for a little walk, had breakfast at the Waffle Wagon (which, by the way, made the most delicious waffles I’ve ever had) and rummaged through a few local bookshops.
To my absolute heartbreak, Reykjavik’s cutest bookshop, Bókin, was closed. I decided I’d venture into every other bookshop I came across. I found several, and though they didn’t have the charm of a small local bookstore, they did have a fantastic selection of books in a wide variety of languages.
I still can’t believe how proud I am of who I became while on this trip. I rented a car and took a road trip , explored a plane wreck, made new friends, drove a snowmobile on a glacier, grew as a photographer, and faced many of my previously held fears. I think 20 is the perfect age to take your first solo trip abroad, and I will always encourage others to step out of their comfort zone, and into something far greater.
This is one of the main things I came to Iceland for. To document their most celebrated years event. This year Reykjavik hosted its 16th annual Pride Parade. This parade began as a small local event that had about 1500 people in attendance, but has grown to be one of the country’s biggest events with up to 100,000 locals and visitors each year. People come from all over the world to take part in the week of festivities leading up to the parade, and as a guest in their country, I could not have felt more welcomed. I was surrounded by kind-hearted and loving people and am honored that I was there to witness the tremendous pride in Reykjavik.
Thought I’d include this little snippet I took, just because who doesn’t love Abba?
Unsolicited Concluding Thoughts:
Same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland in 2010, and registered partnerships were legalized in 1996. In 2010, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, became the world’s first head of government to enter a same-sex marriage. Iceland is what you might call a progressive, forward-thinking country. Human rights are highly valued, which may be one of the reasons why the country is full of very friendly and kind people, and why their crime rate is so low. Seeing the whole capital city come together for this event was truly beautiful. I did not see one protestor, and I did not see anything worthy of being protested. It got me thinking about the United States, and about the world. The truth is, there will always be people who maintain the belief that LGBTQ+ lifestyles are immoral. And you know what? That’s okay. People are entitled to their own opinions, and I respect people who hold true to their beliefs. These people, however, do not have the right to try to stop others from living their lives in the manner that they see fit. At the very least, we should all be celebrating the fact that every year, more and more countries grant their citizens the basic right to make their own decisions. Just two months ago, the United States took that step, and I am extremely proud that individual liberty is being granted to the people. So if you don’t celebrate homosexuality, celebrate the fact that there are places in this world where homosexuals are being treated like everyone else once and for all. Celebrate your own individual liberty. Celebrate the fact that you can safely live the life you want, and that your friends, family, and neighbors can do the same.
For more information about Iceland’s annual Pride Week and parade, visit their website.
I had heard rumors about Elf School. I had done a little research. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It was, however, an interesting experience. Elves play a major role in Icelandic folklore, and supposedly 50% of Icelanders believe that they exist. The headmaster (a very eccentric retired professor) gave us our textbooks and sat us all down (there were 8 students total). The classroom was full of little figurines depicting mythical creatures such as elves, dwarves, etc. We were then told many stories about elf sightings in iceland, and his theories as to why elves are not regularly seen… “You must be ‘psychic’ to see elves”, he told us. “Women are more psychic than men, gays are more psychic than non-gays, and children are far more psychic than adults”. This went on for about 4 hours. At the end, we got Icelandic pancakes (which are WAY better than American pancakes), ginger ale, and our diplomas. One of the weirdest, and most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
When I decided to go to Iceland, this was the part I was looking forward to most! There is a US Naval plane that crashed on an Icelandic beach near Vik in the 1970′s, and it is now an abandoned wreck. It is really hard to find, and most people don’t even know it’s there. We tried asking a few passersby for directions, and no one knew what we were talking about. A couple hours after we started looking, however, we finally found it.
No one was harmed when the plane made its crash landing onto the beach, but it has remained on the shore where it landed for almost 50 years.
We finally arrived in Vik, and honestly, there really wasn’t much to see. The main reason I went was to see Vik Church, which the town is known for, but the only road that could take us there was closed for construction… So I saw it from beneath the hill it sits on, and that was that.
Shot on the side of the road
During our drive through Vik, Teresa and I found a little road on the side of the freeway, which we thought might be a good place to take some photos. When we got out of the car we saw that there were a bunch of wild rams there, and even a small waterfall. The lovely Teresa was willing to pose for the weird melancholy shoot I had envisioned, and these are a few of my favorites.
Sadly, much like Gob Bluth, I made a huge mistake. I took off my favorite, most expensive shoes to change into my walking shoes, and I forgot them in that field. I would have gone back for them, but I was already back in Reykjavik by the time I noticed they were missing, and I’m sure they had already been devoured by the rams by then. Which reminds me, if you haven’t seen Rams(2015), you definitely should. It’s a beautiful and melancholy (how fitting!) Icelandic Indie film, and as of 2016, it is on Netflix.
The day started out with me going to pick up my rental car and meeting up with my Icelandic friend Teresa. After we had picked up the car, we grabbed a quick snack and then headed out on the road towards Vik, a small town about three hours away. The whole way there, everything was gorgeous (including us, of course)!
About halfway to Vik, we stopped to see this waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.
Okay. If I had to choose one place that truly captures the full essence of Iceland, it would be Dyrhólaey. I could see so many natural wonders surrounding me. The beautiful and mysterious basalt columns of Reynisfjall Mountain to the East. The black sand beach to the South. The iconic Dyrhólaey cliffs to the West. Mýrdalsjökull glacier to the North. Absolutely breathtaking.
Dyrhólaey Cemetery and Church
We accidentally stumbled upon this cute little church with a cemetery, and, because I’m obsessed with cemeteries, we spent some time there. I did quite a bit of research on it, and though I did find a few other people who had found it, they all seemed to have mistaken it for Vik Church, which is located a few kilometers away… So I’m going to call it the Dyrhólaey Cemetery and Church.
After nearly a week of pretty touristy adventures, I decided it was time to slow down and catch some of the local beat.
First of all, I needed groceries. Particularly Lucky Charms.
Okay so with the most tedious task taken care of, I had all day to roam around aimlessly, and I found some cool stuff!
While I was looking around, I found the CUTEST little cafe/bar!
I still had one really fun activity planned for the day, but I needed some food first. Luckily I found an Italian-owned pizza place. They put cream cheese on the pizza, AND IT WAS AMAZING!! Who thought of that!?! Also, it just proves my theory that cream cheese makes everything better.
I was awoken in the morning by some very loud truck noises coming from outside my window… When I looked outside I saw that they were actually painting the street for Reykjavik’s annual Pride parade which would be happening later in the week. The rest of the day I really didn’t do much! I was still adjusting to the time change, so I spent most of the day just relaxing and running a few errands. Once the streets got dark, however, I headed out for some street photography fun. I set up my tripod in a few different spots, and just waited for something to happen. And then, this moment unfolded before me.
What I learned today about shooting in the streets at night is that it is easier to go unnoticed, not only because it’s dark, but also because most people are too buzzed to notice you. Luckily, Reykjavik is a very safe town (Iceland is supposedly the #1 safest country in the world), so as long as you are aware of your surroundings, shooting here is fun and totally worth it! I’m definitely going to shoot some more night stuff while I’m here.
Ahhh, yes. The Blue Lagoon. This geothermal spa is basically the Eiffel Tower of Iceland- this is what people come here for. This spa, which was actually created on accident, has become such a popular attraction, not only because it is beautiful, but also because this warm water has soothing and healing properties! People come from all over the world to soak in the murky water, and leave with silky smooth skin! Jars of warm earthy clay are situated all over the lagoon, for face masks! The bottom is covered in black sand, and some weirdly smooth rocks that feel more like Venetian glass than part of the natural landscape.
The only downside to this place is that you have to shower naked with a million other naked people, most of them elderly and overweight… I’m an art major- I see nudity a hundred times a day and it doesn’t usually phase me, but I saw some things that can never be unseen here. That being said, if you can just close your eyes until you get through the showers, it’s totally worth the experience!