I’m going to start off by discussing Iceland. Only because I feel like it’s one of those places that everyone wants to talk about, but they have nothing to say about it, because honestly, who’s been to Iceland? I have. The most comical thing about going to Iceland was that I purely went for its convenience. I needed to fly from New York City to Paris and I needed to do it cheap- Iceland Air gave me that option in just under $400. Included in this price, was a free stopover for up to 7 days. My friend and I thought, “Iceland? Let’s do this.”
We arrived in Reykjavík at about 6:30 am and stepped into an airport that felt like Ikea on steroids. There were a lot of jumbled letters written on glossy advertisements that made absolutely no sense to me and it took me a moment to realise that these letter configurations were actual words within another language. I’d definitely heard of Icelandic before, but my father had assured me that hardly anyone would speak it and English would certainly be the most used language. My dad was incorrect. People spoke English, but not all that often and when they did, it made them sound very aggressive. Which was quite tragic, because the people of Iceland are more than just friendly. One would think that the 6-degree summers and the salmon-scented air would turn people bitter, but it doesn’t. They all seem overly content with their lifestyle- however, still maintaining the desire to travel- much like us Australians. I suppose being in a country that is quite isolated from many areas of the world enforces a will to learn about new people and places.
When we arrived in the actual city of Reykjavik, our shuttle bus driver gave us a tour of the town en route to our hostel. Not only did he inform us that Iceland has no military and the only thing close to it was the Salvation Army, but he also casually pointed to an average sized house on the corner of the street and said, “That’s where our Prime Minister lives”. We were shocked by how low key everything in this entire country was, particularly the city. I’m going to put it out there; the city of Reykjavik is more of a large village. I come from a small rural town and this felt strangely close to it.
Our accommodation was booked at Reykjavik backpackers, located on one of the main strips, and this was our first hostel experience. Luckily it was a good one. The rooms were extraordinarily clean and the lobby and bar area had an unbeatable atmosphere. There was a restaurant located below the bar, which is where I dined for my first travel meal and consumed the most delicious grilled chicken and corn salad I have ever eaten in my entire life—to this day I still daydream about that meal.
So here’s where the disappointment comes, more so for you than me, because unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of geographical experience to share here—Iceland is very expensive. As our first stop on what was to be a 3-month journey across Europe and the UK, we didn’t have the funds to splurge. The hostel’s lobby tantalized us with brochures of the geothermic pools, located not so nearby, at the minimum cost of 150 euros. With a low budget and no other means of transportation (apart from the extremely overpriced tour) we were forced to stick to the streets of Reykjavík.
With sheer force, we were hit with a stroke of luck; our time there was mostly full of sunshine, as we had come to the end of an “extremely warm summer” (not quite, it was close to freezing). Apart from walking along the lakes edge, peering at the randomly assorted buildings with their stark colours plastered against a dull sky, we made some time and ventured to the National Museum of Iceland. This was, by far, one of the most beautiful and strategically displayed museums I have ever been to. Antique silverware hung by fishing wire in an array of heights from the ceiling portraying a cloud of carved, dull silver. Aside from the attractive display windows, there was a lot of information and readings about the Vikings, the first settlers and general life in Iceland over the years—the museum was set out in chronological order from the very beginning up until how people today survive and spend their time there. Two cups of coffee and a gluten free brownie later and it was a lovely three-hour wander through the museum.
Quentin Tarantino once described his trip to Iceland in an interview with Conan O’Brian as “Supermodels working at McDonald’s”. I’m going to say that I agree with this statement completely—95% of the women that I focused on were outrageously gorgeous. Majority fair skinned (as I’m sure you imagined) with sleek, Scandinavian features and runway-like clothing. In relation to the people of whom I met in Iceland, they all possessed similar qualities; overly friendly, beautiful, and they all gave me the same warm, but frazzled smile, as if to say, “why on earth have you come to Iceland?!”. In fact, one girl actually did say that to me in real words, not just a mere quizzical facial expression—however, she wasn’t so cavalier about her wording.
What was supposed to be a casual and convenient stopover to one of the world’s most desirable travel destinations, turned out to be quite an interesting experience. Learning about new people and cultures is what traveling is all about, right? So while yes, Iceland is extremely expensive (take a look at it’s location, absolutely everything is imported, so there shouldn’t be much of a surprise there), it’s grand beauty and kind-hearted population make up for majority of its downfalls. With a well-planned and funded schedule, I don’t see how you could experience an unhappy trip to Iceland.