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.
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.
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.
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!
Day 2! I woke up at the crack of dawn (well, I guess it wasn’t truly dawn since the sun doesn’t really go away during the summer months, but it was really early) and ventured into Reykjanes, the southern peninsula of Iceland near the capital city of Reykjavik. Reykjanes is known for its active volcanism under its surface, as well as its vast lava fields.
Within the Reykjenes Peninsula, there lies Krýsuvík, one of Iceland’s many geothermal areas. The geothermal activity is very powerful, and the people of Iceland have developed the technology to harness it; most homes and businesses in Iceland are powered by geothermal activity. There are hot springs and geysers all over the place, and it is not uncommon to see large billows of steam in the sky.Oh, and theres that lovely sulfur smell that you can never escape.
A few Kilometers south of lies Grænavatn, or the Green Lake. This lake was created when water came in contact with molten lava, and its green color comes from the high levels of sulfur in the water. This lake is very small, but also very deep, and is considered by geologists to be one of Iceland’s most noteworthy natural phenomena. For centuries there have been claims of seeing strange creatures in the lake, which doesn’t surprise me. Iceland is also home to the mysterious Lagarfljót Worm. Don’t even get me started on lake monsters. I could go on for days.
Near the ocean, there is a small fishing village, called Grindavik. Over the years, numerous wrecks of ships have been cast onto the rocks by the vicious ocean waves. Some of the remaining shipwrecks date back to 100 years ago. The surrounding land is gorgeous and diverse; beautiful green hills, volcanic rock, cold ocean waters… What more could you ask for? Lighthouses? Oh, they actually have that too. This area is strewn with lighthouses that have been built further and further from the shore as the sea began to erode the land.
To the cliffs!
Near Grindavik, there is a giant cliff (the pictures don’t do it justice. It was massive!) that you can climb, and when you get to the top, the view is breathtaking. The Arctic Tern migrate to this area to breed, and these birds are EVERYWHERE. Reykjanes is practically infested with these birds, especially near the water.
Þingvellir National Park
Last but not least, I made a stop at Þingvellir National Park in order to cross a pretty huge item off of my bucket list. This is the place where the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate divide. The continental rift actually continues into the ocean, and you can book a tour that allows you to dive in between the two continents! I’m terrified of the ocean, so this was good enough for me. It’s not every day you get to stand in between two continents!
I decided to end the day with a relaxing walk by the water. The Harpa Music Venue is right behind my apartment, so I headed over in that direction. As the sun started to set, the glass walls caught the light and created these beautiful colors.