The Land of Fire and Ice: Memories from Iceland

Skogafoss, Iceland

On August 1st, Chris and I jumped on a redeye flight to Iceland – the first international destination of our big adventure. We flew into the Keflavik airport, picked up our rental car, and set off on our camping road trip around the Ring Road. Iceland has been on our bucket list for a handful of years, so I knew we were in store for some spectacular scenery. Still, there’s no way I could fully anticipate just how big, beautiful, and diverse this island really is – driving around the Ring Road has been an amazing experience and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to visit this place.

I know it’s impossible to remember every single detail from a trip, but since our travel itinerary covers multiple countries, I’m scared it could all turn into one big blur. Already I struggle to look back on day one and remember what we did, saw, and felt. Of course, pictures and video help preserve the big moments, but those smaller, day-to-day experiences get lost so easily! So in tribute to those small moments and in hopes of preserving these memories from our time in Iceland, I feel like a serious memory dump is necessary. If you don’t like lists or are offended by scattered thoughts and run-on sentences, I would recommend that you stop reading now and go look at pretty Iceland pictures on my Instagram instead. :)

My Favorite Memories from Iceland

In the car – I never want to forget about the (countless) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we made on the hood of our car, listening to and falling in love with bands like Jonsi and Junip while bouncing over gravel roads, picking up a hitchhiker couple from France, accidentally taking a two-hour nap in the parking lot of the Geysir our first day here (jetlag, man!). I loved turning off down back roads just because we were curious about where they led and pulling into gas stations along the way because Chris is obsessed with Icelandic hot dogs and is pretty much always hungry.

At the campsite – We (will have) spent all 11 nights in Iceland in a tent—the longest I’ve ever spent camping in my life. What an experience! I never want to forget how comforting the tent has become during this trip, the way it felt to slide down into a freezing sleeping bag wearing six layers, including a scarf, hat, and gloves, and later pulling my beanie down over my eyes because it’s only 4 AM but it’s already bright outside. Meeting fellow campers and hearing about their own experiences in Iceland, standing in line for the camp shower only to get in and realize the water is freezing, or to finally get a hot shower after days without one. Filling up our water bottles with water straight from the campsite kitchen, because tap water in Iceland is gloriously delicious. Venturing out on a back road, coming across the landowners, and getting permission to wild camp on their property for the night. Making pasta for dinner…again. Eating oatmeal for breakfast…again.

In the great outdoors – Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls—so many waterfalls! The way the mist from the waterfalls felt on my already cold face, how my stomach dropped when peering over the top, all the time we spent waiting for the crowds to disperse in order to get the perfect photo. Walking out to a hot spring, swimming in the hot spring, getting caught in a rainstorm on the way back, stopping in the rainstorm to talk with a local about a flower that can be used for tea, tasting the tea using hot spring water. Chasing sunsets, flipping out when I saw my first-ever wild Puffin. Dipping our toes in glacier water, following streams to see where they led, staring at the mountains—just staring and…feeling.

In the city – I love the cities in this country and their colorful wooden buildings! I hope I never forget how exciting it was to drive into and become acquainted with a new city. Looking for the best kaffi (coffee) shop, buying groceries, washing the dirt off our car, people-watching, walking down the sidewalks, grabbing drinks at a local pub, cringing when I saw “horse fillet” on the menu, getting mistaken for a local (whenever Chris wasn’t around), spending 10-20 minutes learning how to pronounce the name of a town and repeating it all day long. 

The horses! – Yes, they get their own point because horses are my jam, and Icelandic horses/ponies are some of the coolest that I’ve met. We pulled over so many times just to stop and say “hi” to a herd of horses and I still can’t get over how friendly they are! I don’t want to forget the way we could walk out to a fence, whistle, and watch as the horses came running over to greet us. The time I was lost in a conversation, but kept getting bumped in the shoulder by a horse who wanted my attention. The way our hands became completely black with dirt after petting ponies, and the way we couldn’t stop laughing every time the horses were scratching their butts on fence posts. And of course, the one chestnut pony who crossed the road to our car and stuck his head in our window to see what we were up to.

We're down to our last few days here in Iceland. We're staying in a big campsite just outside of town and exploring the city by foot (I think we’ve logged 8 miles today already!) Right now, we’re sitting in a hip little Reykjavik coffee shop enjoying the best coffee I’ve had since we landed, surrounded by people speaking various languages and somehow feeling strangely at home.