So here we were, in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. I wouldn’t say that me and my travel companions had a very sheltered upbringing compared to many people, but Iceland definitely took any street-wise smugness we had away, and showed us how bratty and reliant on modern day conveniences we actually were. How did we survive? Using a variety of skills including technology, as well as those that technology killed in us. Having said that, the advice below is not for hardcore camping legends, but for simple travel enthusiasts, who may find themselves lost on a roadtrip with a dead smartphone battery or zero signal. If this level of vanilla sounds like you, read on:
- We graduated from the University of YouTube: How to open a beer bottle with a key? How to pump air into tires? How to pump gas into (insert car model)? All of these valuable life lessons we learned from Youtube, as calling dad resulting in him being annoyed we didn’t just YouTube it.
- We pushed ourselves to step out of our comfort zones: Wet rock climbing with my DSLR around my neck was panic attack inducing for me. That meant my friends just walked slower so that I could catch up in my own time. We were all outside our comfort zones at some point in our journey together, and allowing each other to work through our challenges at our own pace was a very important part of this trip.
- We allowed ourselves to stay in our own comfort zones: I am into outfit photography, and I NEEDED to indulge in milky lagoon waters. I got 100% support from my travel buddies. They were into long nature hikes, I hiked along. They were into using public pools, I swam with. They were into liquorice. I drew the line right there. No, no, no. The moral of the story is acceptance even if it means doing something you wouldn’t normally do.
- We got lost: In a place where Google Maps doesn’t work, getting lost is easy. It was refreshing to use visual memory and logic to find our way back. It seems that this part of the brain we stopped utilising since the rise of tech. Where’s the last place you went to sans Google Maps? Retracing steps, remembering familiar terrains and taking risks started feeling natural after a while. It’s shocking that this wasn’t the case originally, that’s how reliant on technology we have become.
- Rewind and re-plan: A whole array of events can jeopardise your original plans, for example getting lost, taking detours, finding out prices had changed etc. This means that being inflexible and set in your ways simply doesn’t work in Iceland, and you’ll be met with a rude awakening. Mother Nature is quite hardcore in the land of ice and fire. This meant that re-planning and rescheduling in a matter of seconds was a must. For example, we went to Myvatn Lagoon and local mineral baths instead of the Blue Lagoon (as it was completely booked up). It was the best reshuffle in the world: We enjoyed three spa sessions instead of one, had we insisted on the Blue Lagoon. We still spent less. By the way, you can find a post on the common misconceptions when it comes to lagoons in Iceland here.
Do you have any tips to add to these? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve learned from YouTube?
Have you always dreamed about visiting Iceland but felt discouraged by the potential cost? I’m with you. It can be an epically expensive adventure, costing more than a Caribbean break. Having said that, I’ve succeeded in not spending an arm and a leg on my adventure, and I’d like to share my tips for a budget-friendly trip to Iceland.
- Three is the key. Booking a room and dividing the cost by two will always be costlier than dividing it by three. We saved a pretty penny by booking rooms for three. Of course, this wouldn’t be ideal if you were planning a romantic getaway with your partner, but for a friends-only trip, this was perfect!
- Book rooms with inclusive breakfast. As we were driving around the island (Hello Ring Road), some of the farms/b&bs we stayed at were in pretty remote locations. Luckily, we booked rooms with inclusive breakfasts, which meant we didn’t have to pay extra for filling our tummies before hitting the road.
- We popped to the supermarket. We stocked up on pot noodles, dry food and snacks which were perfect as lunches and snacks. When in hotel rooms, we decided that we would have modest supermarket-bought dinners for a few days and allow ourselves to splurge on restaurant-bought food during the rest of the journey. It worked out perfectly and we didn’t feel we missed out on anything. Plus, the skyr we bought was delicious!
- Airport booze buying is a thing. As we exited our aircraft and passed passport control, we noticed that all of the locals diverted into a duty-free shop before exiting. This looked suspicious to my eye and how right I was! In Iceland, you can buy alcohol only in state-owned liquor stores known as Vínbúdin and not in supermarkets (if the alcohol content is greater than 2.25%, which, come on, obviously it would be). To save us the faff and the cost of getting to one of those stores, we stocked up on some bottles (1 wine and a beer six pack) in the duty-free store before leaving the airport. Actually, not drinking too much has also saved us money! To be honest, when you are surrounded by a good crowd, alcohol can become redundant.
- Splitwise. Get this app if you are travelling with friends as it will help you be on top of the spend. You’ll quickly know if you can allow yourself to splurge, or what days to slow down with the spending. It also takes the awkward out of the money-split-talk.
For a week in Iceland, with car hire, flights, hotels, supermarket food, restaurants, some alcohol, most of the fun activities Iceland has to offer, we’ve spent roughly £380 per person, which is a price closer to a week away in Spain rather than the Caribbean. This calculation excludes goodies and souvenirs we bought for ourselves and our loved ones. We travelled in May, in the beginning of Icelandic summer (read, not really summer, still definitely winter).
In part two, I will talk about the five things myself and my travel mates learned being left to our own devices in the Icelandic wilderness. Well, sorta.
For a few years, I have been keeping my eye on the Chateau de Gudanes. It was bought by people who left everything to start a new life in the Provence, South of France. The house, or what was left of it at the time, was a ruin. The Waters family started slowly restoring it – and blogging about it. I remember spending hours just looking at the imagery of what once was beautiful architecture, and still finding it absolutely hypnotic. I was definitely hooked.
I dreamed of visiting the Provence for a very long time – in my head it was where I could definitely wear ridiculously floaty dresses without being judged. And the dream came true. Inspired by the architecture around me as well as a selection of antique shops, I looked like I belonged in the Provence, like I was always meant to be there. If you are keen to catch the Provence bug, it’s worth checking out these Instagram accounts, as I think they best portray that beautiful antique French aesthetic. I can only describe it as looking at a fallen angel, a decaying gargoyle, a broken heart that has not given up on love.
- Chateau de Gudanes – This account makes me want to laugh, cry, gaze, stare, look – I am consistently mesmerised. I wish one day I am able to visit and experience this grand house. I feel if my soul was a building, it would be the Chateau de Gudanes.
- Jamie Beck – This amazingly talented photographer left the concrete jungle for the Provence. By doing so she has been gifting us with incredible content ever since. It’s like looking at paintings in the Louvre, but instead you are just comfortably glancing at your phone, and not queuing to see the Mona Lisa.
- Sharon Santoni – Have you ever had this feeling when you look at something and it makes your heart bloom? That’s what I feel when I look at this account. It’s all about Sharon’s French country home, so living vicariously through her blog and Instagram brings me joy.
- Vicki Archer – interior inspo all day every day.
- French Larkspur – When I have this overwhelming urge to go to a flea market or antique fair but I am stuck at the office/no fairs around, I just look at this account, and immediately feel that my thirst for snapping an antique find has been quenched. At least for a little while.
Do you follow any Instagram accounts that give you Provence nostalgia?
You can take the girl out of Eastern Europe, but you can’t take the Eastern Europe out of the girl. As someone who has lived in London for more than 10 years, I realised that there’s a ton of things that may seem weird about me… because they are total Eastern European superstitions!
What Are Some Typical Eastern European Things About Me?
- Whistling indoors. I physically cannot bear someone doing so. In Eastern European culture this is considered vulgar, and the saying goes that “you will whistle your funds away”. I am almost shivering even thinking about it. Stahp.
- Even number of flowers. While florists in London wouldn’t give two thoughts about even or uneven numbers of flowers in their beautiful arrangements, give an even number to an Eastern European and they will accuse you of wishing them death. This is because it is customary to bring a bouquet with an even number of flowers to a funeral, uneven to any other occasion.
- Describing someone else’s spot, bruise, cold sore etc while gesturing and showing it on yourself. Never ever show it on yourself as in Eastern European culture it may mean that you are next to get it!
- Sitting down in silence before travelling. This is something my parents taught me to do. It’s just a tradition of sitting down in silence for a minute or half before embarking on a long journey, even if you are late; the taxi driver will get it back home; but it’s not an excuse to be late here in London.
- Empty bottles on the floor. Not in my house! Don’t ask and don’t do it.
- Birthday greetings before the actual date. Who knows if we actually live to the date? I mean, anything can happen! Always greet an Eastern European on the day of their birthday or after; never before.
There are many more of these Eastern European superstitions, for example sitting on cold surfaces or at the corner of a table, or looking into a broken mirror – but luckily those haven’t been cemented in my brain.
If you are an expat, what are typical things that you do that are not customary in the country you reside?