Iceland – The Non-Icy One

At this point, I feel like it’s normal for me to be about a week late writing my blog posts. For my last post about my trips abroad (I’m really bummed about being done traveling) I’m going to let you in on all the wonders of my three day solo trip to Iceland, as well as my long and drawn out journey back to the States, which was painful to say the least. I think the universe was trying to tell me not to leave. I should have listened. 

May 16

It all started when Katie and I decided to go to Bergen the weekend after school ended. I was glad we went, but I wish we would have been in Moss to hang out with our friends one last time. Then of course our flight was delayed six hours, giving me that evening (May 15) and the half day following to clean my room and the bathroom spotless because our RA Colin is like Gordon Ramsey when it comes to cleaning (shoutout to Henrik for making that comparison). 

Next was the fact that I was just shoving things in my suitcases rather than doing a good packing job and that after I checked out, Katie and I walked through the rain for at least fifteen minutes to the train station with two suitcases, three backpacks, and two bags. My big suitcase’s wheel broke, of course, because nothing can go right when everything is going wrong. 

After we finally got on the train, I felt like I could breath a little easier, but I knew I’d be leaving the very next day and that it would be hectic. 

May 17

I repacked my bags the morning of the 17th, then partook in celebrating Norway’s birthday. We had a brunch celebration at Tess’s house and cheered as a parade put on by an elementary school went by her house.

After that, we were headed into Oslo for the big celebrations. Thankfully we had plenty of hands to carry my luggage, Caleb’s, and Tyler’s. We made it to Oslo Sentral and I stored my luggage there for about an hour while we watched the huge parade. I loved being able to walk around Oslo one last time, and I knew I would miss it.

After I said my final goodbye and headed to the airport, things took a turn again. I was so warm wearing two jackets and when the man at the counter told me I had to pay to check my second suitcase, I had to put a third coat on my body. My feet hurt and my shoulders did as well because I had so much stuff in my backpack. At that point I wrote in my notes “I cannot wait to throw my luggage down at home and never have to pack it up again – that is until Ciara studies abroad.” 

My other note from that day was “I’m on a fully booked flight right now, sitting in a middle seat between to strangers as I leave one of my (two) favorite countries in the world, trying not to bawl my eyes out for the third time today.”

Then I proceeded to actually cry on the plane. I think the two men sitting around me were very uncomfortable.

Once I got to Iceland, things were better. I was back in travel mode, so I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I would never be in Norway again. At first I thought Iceland looked like North Dakota, but then I saw the mountains in the distance. They were magnificent.

I liked Bus Hostel quite a bit. The beds were comfortable and they had big separate bathrooms rather than communal stalls. I ended up making dinner from the free food bin because I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, and I didn’t know where one was around my hostel.

May 18

My first full day in Iceland was by far my favorite. I booked a tour with Extreme Iceland of the southern part of the island, which took me to two waterfalls (Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss), a glacier walk (on Sólheimajökull), and a black sand beach (near Hàlsanefshellir), plus the Reynisdrangar ocean cliffs. It was a spectacular day.

Our tour guide Pauly was really nice. He has a longer more complicated Icelandic name, so he just told us to call him by the shortened one. I got to know a few of the other people on the tour. There were 13 of us and I think half were American.

I learned a lot of fun facts about Iceland on my tour, so instead of typing them all up in separate paragraphs, I will just bullet point them below.

  • If you get lost in an Icelandic forest, all you have to do is stand up. The trees are very short. Iceland used to be covered in trees but there was a mini Ice Age in the Middle Ages that scientists believe took out many of the trees.
  • On our way south we drove past a 1000 year old lava field.
  • Iceland uses their abundance of geothermal energy for lots of productive and practical things – like making banana bread, or heating green houses that produce the bananas.
  • One of their more active volcanoes, Hekla, can now be predicted 30 minutes before it erupts. It has erupted 17 times and has been tracked by scientists the last 4 times. The last eruption was in 2000. News stations all over Iceland were alerting the public that it would go off in 30 minutes and lo and behold, it did.
  • MY FAVORITE FUN FACT: 13% of Icelanders absolutely believe elves (yes, elves) are real, and 35% don’t want to rule out the possibility, so basically half of Iceland believes in elves. My tour guide Pauly defintely believes in them.
  • Elves look like humans in all regards except for one. They only have one nostril.
  • If an elf invites you into their home, you can go in, but you need to leave something of yours outside of their home, otherwise you won’t be able to get back to the human world.

I was trying to be clever with my title of this blog post by saying Iceland isn’t icy, inferring that Greenland is the icy one, but it’s a little contradictory seeing as I went on a glacier walk while in Iceland. The best part of my tour was Sólheimajökull. It was amazing. It’s huge. If you ever get a chance to go on a glacier, do it! You could see with your own eyes how much the glacier has receded in the past ten years. People used to be able to get out of their cars and walk right onto the glacier, but now we have to walk ten minutes to it. I could have spent hours on the ice exploring.

May 19

The next day I went into Reykjavik. It’s the smallest capital city in the world apparently, and it’s also probably the cutest (according to me at least). I had a good breakfast in a cafe, there was fresh fruit, and then went on a walking tour. My guide was great. His name was Johanus and he was very funny, clever, and tall. I think I learned more fun facts about Iceland than about any other country I visited. In the future I think I will try to have a walking tour of each place I go to. I feel much more connected to Iceland because of everything I learned.

  • For example, they don’t put the flag up often in Iceland. It’s used for rare occasions.
  • Their flag’s colors are blue for the mountains from afar, red for the volcanoes, and white for the glaciers. How neat is that?
  • They have a “tree of the year” competition to encourage growing trees. Johanus made sure to point out two trees in Reykjavik that have won.
  • The name Reykjavik means smokey bay.
  • Icelandic people really care for their puffins and they don’t like to eat them, so if you’re ever in Iceland don’t eat that at a restaurant.
  • They started building a concert hall, Harpa, before the financial crisis, and when the crisis happened they wanted to keep half finished as an ugly memorial to show how stupid they were. Icelanders aren’t afraid of calling themselves out on their own mistakes.
  • There are only about 600 policemen in the whole country.
  • At their high security prison, inmates are allowed to play soccer. Sometimes they kick the ball over the fence and one of the inmates will climb the fence, get the ball, and climb back over into prison.
  • Cool gender equality in Parliament – 30/63
  • Speaking of Parliament, there is no guard outside the Parliament Building, nor outside the Prime Minister’s building. Iceland is regarded as the most peaceful nation in the world and even when people steal things, like someone stealing from the Parliament Building, they return whatever it is later with an apology note.

I spent a lot of time in Reykjavik just going in and out of shops. The weather was wonderful. I ended up walking eight miles that day and my feet were exhausted, but it was all worth it. Being able to live abroad for five months and being to be able to travel and experience such unique and cool places is a blessing I’ll never forget.

May 20

Well, Phoebe reading her ticket wrong, take two. This time wasn’t nearly as bad as what happened in Scotland, but it did make me panic. My ride to Blue Lagoon said departure was at 7am, but that I needed to be outside my hostel 30 minutes prior. I did not see the second part. Thankfully another Reykjavik Excursions Bus came to my hostel and the driver was kind enough to take me to their depot where the other driver was waiting for me.

I went to the Blue Lagoon and relaxed in the water for about three hours. The water was such a cool color of blue and they even had silica mud masks. I needed those three hours, but then I was getting pretty restless and I decided to get ready and head for the airport. I wanted to make sure everything was in order before I boarded my plane for my seven hour flight to Minneapolis.

I sat in the airport for about three hours. In that time, large groups of Americans crowded around me. I felt kind of weird. I kept forgetting that all I would hear from now on would be in English, that my ads on Instagram and Spotify would change from Norwegian to English, and all my currency would be the US dollar rather than Kroner or Euro. I had gotten so used to these new things that being around what I have grown up with was odd.

The flight back to the States was okay. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I looked out the window a lot as Greenland passed below us. The boy next to me spread his legs out super far and fell asleep, so I didn’t get to go to the bathroom on the flight. When we finally landed and got into the airport, I realized I only an hour and a half to get my bags, get through customs, take a bus to Terminal One, drop my bags off, and go through security again. Thankfully, I made it with 30 minutes to spare. Then I made it back to Lincoln, Nebraska. I sort of wanted to cry on the plane because I was finally home (well, two hours to go), but I was not as emotionally unstable as when I left Norway.

When I walked past security, my boyfriend Jared was waiting for me. It was so unreal to see him again and I couldn’t stop hugging him. We drove back to Kearney and talked the whole time. I didn’t care that I had been awake for 24 hours, I was too excited to sleep.  When we pulled into my driveway my sister Ciara came running out of the house. I guess she had been waiting up for me for at least an hour. I was trying to surprise her, but my mom gave it away (thanks Mom). After that, I passed out.

May 21

My first day back was Ciara’s graduation from high school. It was great seeing everyone again and hearing about what they had been doing the past five months. Thankfully I will be home for the summer, so I can catch up with people. HIT ME UP IF YOU WANT TO HANG OUT OKAY?

This isn’t the last blog post I will have. Throughout the summer I’ll post some things with travel tips and what I noticed looking back on the last five months. In the next few weeks I will be posting about how I am feeling now that I am back in the States for good. Reverse culture shock here I come!

As always, thanks for reading.

Phoebe x

 

 

 

 

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