On an unusually warm night in June, I was scrolling through Facebook when an AD stood out to me. In big bold letters it read,“Round trip to Iceland…” and the rest was history. Feeling completely uninspired at the time, I checked my calendar, and booked a trip. I told very few people that I would be going, asking here and there if anyone wanted to join, but secretly feeling relieved when no one was able to.
I wanted to … no … I needed to take a take a trip that was just for me. A trip where I could do as much or as little as I wanted to without feeling guilty.
I also needed a reminder to myself that I can spend time alone and have an awesome time. While some of you are probably thinking “you’re alone 90% of the week,” (and you’re absolutely right I am), there is something about being forced to be alone that’s different than wanting to be alone.
So, I booked this trip and then started researching.
While I did a great amount of research, I didn’t have much of a plan when I arrived (mistake #1). I had a round trip plane ticket, a hostel booked (mistake #2), and a ticket to the blue lagoon. Prior to arriving I was really conflicted on whether or not I wanted to drive the Island or take tours.
All of the research I did said definitely drive … but at your own risk. The weather is unpredictable and can change really fast, so of course that deterred me (alone, with no cell service, and in a country with only 325,000 people??)
a little a lot from renting a car (mistake #3).
I arrived on a Thursday morning to a lot of rain and really strong winds. It was the perfect day to spend exploring Reykjavik.
Friday, I decided to do a tour of the South Shore and see Jökulsárlón – Glacier Lagoon. This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! This area may look familar to some, because James Bond’s ‘Die Another Day’ and ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ were both filmed here.
While it was a LONG ways away, and I spent a lot of time on a bus, the views were incredible and we stopped at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. This waterfall is amazing because you can actually walk behind it. There are also two other waterfalls in the same area. In true Daniella fashion, walking back from behind the waterfall, I slipped and cut my hand all up. It was pretty bloody but I showed it off like a badge of honor. Even now, over two weeks later, I have pretty ugly scabs to go a long with my story.
We had perfect weather on this day and my one regret ? Not having driven there myself so that I could stop whenever I wanted to! So Saturday, I rented a car, and I attempted to drive the Island.
While I had a full agenda Saturday, my plans were thwarted when after driving for three hours I stopped to ask for directions … only to find out I drove three hours in the wrong direction! The realization that I wasn’t going to see everything on my list left me devastated (many many tears), but after having a moment, I was comforted by the fact that all this meant was that a trip back to Iceland was in the cards for me. Oh, and the drive was nothing short of breathtaking.
On my last day, I headed to the Blue Lagoon (mistake #4). The Blue Lagoon is just as expected, absolutely beautiful. With a comfort ticket, that I booked a few months before arriving, I received a towel, my first drink free at the bar, and an algae mask. Yes, there is a bar in the pool. For 15 more Euros you can upgrade and receive a robe and slippers. My advice:
- Save the 15 euros. I brought Old Navy flip flops (that I bought for $1.00) and the towels/robes/shoes all get hung in the same area when you go into the water. It was really easy to find my yellow flip flops when I was leaving and when I got out of the water I wrapped the towel around me, showered, and changed. I never really needed the towel – let alone a robe!
- Go early in the morning! I arrived around 9:00 AM and there were not many people there. The later it got in the day the more people arrived and the brighter it got outside. The sun reflecting off the blue water is blinding!
When I go back to Iceland (because I know I will) I will have a better idea of how to avoid, in what my mind, were four major mistakes:
Mistake #1: While I am not much of a planner, my lack of plans for my time in Iceland contributed to me missing out on some of the sites that I really wanted to see.
Mistake #2: Due to the fact that I had already booked a hostel, which I could not cancel without losing all of my money, I had to drive back to the hostel at the end of everyday or book new hostels and lose my money (semi-frugal here …). Next time I will book hostels/hotels on the designated path ensuring I don’t need to spend too much time driving between sites and Reykjavik.
Mistake #3: I was worried about driving FOR NO REASON!
Mistake #4: I was so so tired when I landed at 6:00 AM on Thursday. A short five hour flight barely gave me enough time to sleep and hotel check in was not until 2:00 PM. A relaxing morning at the Blue Lagoon would have been ideal. This would have given me all day Sunday to explore other areas of Iceland.
Although I had poor weather Thursday and the hiccup that was Saturday – I spent four days in the most beautiful country all alone. While I am extroverted, I recharge by being alone, and after months on the road for work it was so nice to travel and not have to say much outside of “hello,”please,” and “thank you.” Surprise, Surprise, sometimes I have nothing to say. I woke up when I wanted to, ate what I wanted to, and explored as much or as little as I wanted to. I spent a lot of time reflecting, and most importantly, I spent my alone time trying to find where this place of intense loneliness I’ve been feeling is coming from and trying to manage my stress.
Unlike the scars on my hand from my fall, which are very visible, loneliness is hard to see and hard to explain. How do I make sense of loneliness when I am constantly surrounded by the best family and friends? In my mind, I feel the experiences that are shaping my life, that are making me the person I am today, are isolating me.
Before anyone feels sorry for me, this is a good type of isolation. I only know how to speak in depth about the places I’ve seen and the experience I’ve had along the way. This world that I’ve discovered has made me hungry for more. Always more.
I won’t say Iceland solved all of my problems, but I will say that being alone and the fact that I had the most amazing time being along, was really good for my soul. And today, at this point in my life, I’m only looking to do things that make me happy.
Life is one mistake after another after another and not everything will always go as smoothly as we hope it will and that’s okay. Maybe sharing my experience will help others prepare for their future solo trips – whether they be to Iceland or elsewhere!