In Life: My First Solo Travel Experience

Smith & SonsStory Time

I never get stressed before I fly I have been flying for years and I know what to do, it’s all good. This was not the case right before my first solo trip. I didn’t know where my passport was, I was dealing with a suitcase, weight restrictions and no online check-in and I got very angry.

Before I went my wonderful friend Jess, The Gap Year Guru, told me that problem solving was going to be the thing that made all the difference and if a problem did occur, being by yourself is going to be a much bigger challenge. I nodded and didn’t think much more about it. Don’t worry Jess, your words would come to fruition!

Day 1

As in most cases there was no need to be stressed at all. I got to the airport, sent my case away and got on my plane. Had a row to myself, I got to nap. All fine.

So as I stepped off the plane in Iceland, My laces got caught in my hiking boot eyelets and I fell over and grazed my knee, hilarious, if only I could have a gif of my falling over, it would actually make any situation a million times better. I am laughing thinking about it now but yes, I was in a lot of pain but I got my bag and changed my shoes and everything was fine!

I got picked up by my rental company and I got given my camper. I went to the shops and then I drove all day to the glacial lagoon. Wonderful, productive first day. Hurray!

Day 2

What a glorious morning, I wake up, go to the black sand iceberg beach at sunrise, take some photos, get annoyed by an ignorant german guy who kept standing right in front of me when I was taking photos. Swine! I then go back to the glacial lagoon, spot a seal, take some pictures, go for a walk. I then go back to the beach to take more shots. When I get back to my car to go off on my adventures, I can’t find my phone…I lost my black phone on a black sand beach. Well the profanities that were coming from me at this time was unnatural and I started to cry, then I started to problem solve.

I thought to myself, do I have to drive the 6 hours back to Reykjavik to buy a new phone? Do I go to a petrol station and ask to call home? How am I supposed to navigate anywhere? At this point I realised just how handy the damn things are!

Thankfully after two rounds of retracing my steps, two lovely girls held up my phone, I thank them profusely and I then went to hug an iceberg with happiness. Thank you kind strangers, I would have been lost without you!

Day 3 + 4

So these two days were fine, I drove, I explored, I went for walks, ate hotdogs, grand stuff. Apart from cooking, that really did suck. I can’t cook and I gave up pretty quickly. Also I did have to sleep in a petrol station car park because I was exhausted and the campsite in town was closed. Kind of felt like a tramp but gave up feeling anything once I was watching Firefly snuggled up in my sleeping bag.

Day 5

My final day, I had gone over my miles in the car so I decided to stay in Reykjavik and explore more, walk the entire length and breath of the city centre. I get quite weird on my own in a city, I feel like I should rush through things, I have no idea why I do this. It was getting pretty exhausting trying to find things to do and I had eaten everything I could. I now had to find a petrol station close to the airport that I could sleep in.

Luckily my parents rang me and said that they had booked me a cheap hotel room really close to the airport. I cried with happiness because living out of a van and walking/driving all day is extremely tiring. I drove to the hotel, got lost, had a cry, got into my room and at 7pm I fell asleep. Woke up at half 2 in the morning, watched some YouTube, ate some breakfast and left for the airport. Nothing could stop me…

Oh wait, everything can.

Getting to the airport

You see, I wrote an entire blog post about my rental. It sucked and at this point I hated it, like with a fiery passion!

It was really dark on the roads and the road I needed to take to get to the airport was closed, so I cried, I was driving around trying to find an exit and I go down a dead end.

This is where it gets fun; there was a giant patch of water in the middle of the road, that I didn’t see and of course I drive into it, I quickly get out of it and try to turn around but it’s too late. The wheels sort of lock up and I am in a lane behind a Subway and I can’t turn my wheels. I thought, I am 5km away from the airport, how am I going to get there, am I going to have to abandon the camper, there are no taxis anywhere. I cry more and I am just so done with this camper, it is a piece of shit. Thankfully I get out of this situation. Park at the airport. Run far far away from the camper and go stand in line for a hour to get on my flight. Then home.

What I learned:

  1. I am a stress cryer. I don’t mind a good cry to cleanse you of woes but good god I cried a lot! When I was in a tight spot I just started to weep. Damn it tear ducts!
  2. I do things very quickly. When you are with people you saunter places, you stop and chat and take pictures but when you are on your own, there is nothing left to do. I am Speedy Gonzales. In theory I could have driven the entire island in my 5 days but I didn’t know how quickly I could tick stuff off my list.
  3. I don’t need to talk to people. I think some people may have gone insane with the lack of human interaction I found myself in. I think some days I talked to one person. That is ok to me.
  4. Despite all this, I really do want someone or a small group of people who I can travel with. I like being by myself and doing my own thing but I’d like to have the option. I just haven’t found them.
  5. I am very capable. I have always known this but it’s nice to have confirmation. I can book, travel, explore, everything, by myself. Although I do ring home to talk things out, I can do it. It’s a nice feeling.
  6. I have a great relationship with my family. They may drive me mad at times but they get me, I am a product of their madness and it’s always nice to know that I can call and they will listen. Most people see this as a weakness and think that I get home sick because I call them. Thats not the case. It’s because I feel comfortable talking to them, I trust them when I may not be comfortable or trust talking to others.
  7. Taking pictures of yourself is such an ordeal! I know I could have asked people but I don’t like doing that. Also setting up a tripod is annoying. I saw a solo traveller take some photos of herself and I just wanted to give her props for not caring and doing her thing. I am not there yet.
  8. 5 days was a little long for what I had planned. This is something that will always be hit or miss. Maybe I should be the type that doesn’t plan too much and just go off and come back whenever.

Would I solo travel again? Hell yes! I love doing things my way, answering to no one and not worrying what my travel party thinks of me. It’s so refreshing.

Would I drive solo again? Yes! There is nothing better than being independent. I love driving and the freedom it gives. I will happily rent a car all around the globe if I can.

I think if you are like me and are socially capable but just not forward, start small and work your way up. Get comfortable with yourself in solo situations. That does sound strange but what I mean is, I didn’t know I would cry so much, I didn’t know how quickly I would get stuff done. Start small and see what happens, then go on to bigger and better projects.

Or just jump right in, who am I to tell you anything!

If you are taking your first solo trip I wish you all the luck and hope your tear ducts don’t explode like mine!

Happy Travels!

My Thoughts on Things: Food

I don’t really know how to start this post but I suppose I should make myself as clear as possible. I don’t want your opinion. I am sure you are a wonderful person with lots of feelings and opinions on a myriad of different topics but to be quite frank, I just don’t care.

We are constantly surrounded by opinions. Most people look at Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube as a way to show what you are eating, doing, buying etc. In other words, pics or it didn’t happen. The way I see it is that all of the posts we make, are our opinions on what the world has to offer and one thing that is so prevalent is commenting and posting about food.

Veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, raw, raw till 4, pescetarian, high carb, low carb. There are so many ways of eating, the list is endless. Now I have no problem with how people eat, if you want to go vegan, go you, that is great but when you start telling people everyone should be vegan and you are an idiot if you aren’t. That’s when I have a problem.

You have no idea what someones relationship with food is. We know more now than ever, there are so many articles and books and videos about the food industry but sometimes it can get so exhausting and overwhelming. A while back I just broke down because food and weight seemed to be everywhere and I couldn’t just process all the information in my own time.

I want to reiterate, my own time, you may have found the way you want to eat but not everyone is there, give people the information and then shut up. I have a friend, who I do love dearly but she condemns you if you know they information about the food industry and you aren’t vegan and I have said this to her face, that I hate the way she discusses veganism.

I decided I was only going to listen to people who approached their way of eating with informed decisions and the ability to share without shaming. Look at Manda Louise on YouTube, she has inspired me.   

Saying ‘well if everyone just’…

This gets to me, I think it is such an uneducated response. Yes if you live in Australia you can have every fruit and vegetable you could ever want but now compare Australia to Iceland. Iceland cannot grow most fruit and vegetables. They are trying to grow their own with greenhouses but before that there wasn’t an option.

When people say ‘but if everyone in America could just be vegan there would be no problem’ sure, the wealthy parts of America. There are loads of kids in America that go to school hungry because their families can’t afford breakfast.

People need to stop looking at rich California and assuming that everything is great and we should all follow the Cali vegan lifestyle where everyone eats kale and can eat out in vegan restaurants every night. It’s just not real.

Education is what the world needs. Not the education that involves vegans shaming other people, one YouTuber giving one link to Peta’s website or watching the Kardashians eat salads. We need transparency within the food industry with how our food is grown, reared, cultivated and killed. We need mandatory culinary/nutritional education in schools. We need a bottle of water to be cheaper than a can of coke.

Basically, everyone is on their own path, if you have information, share it round but don’t get angry if the people around you don’t want to know, talk about how you eat and share delicious food, because sooner or later people may cut down their consumption, make sure they are using locally grown food, trying to get as natural products as possible, use alternatives where they can.

I hope this makes sense, it’s been on my mind so long that sometimes it can come out like the rapids. Thanks for reading beans!

In Airlines: A Guide to WOW Air

WOW air is relatively new airline. Established in 2011, it is a low cost airline that connects Iceland with Europe and the USA. In June 2015 the connection between Iceland and Ireland was established and I am very thankful it did.PhoebeGill150915010

Before WOW air the only way people travelling from Ireland could get to Iceland was catching a flight to London or Copenhagen and then on to Reykjavik. It was annoying having to go an hour or two further afield when Iceland is straight above Ireland.

Firstly:

They brought in Online Check in! Woo, thanks WOW Air! 

Baggage:

One carry on at 5kg (Free). You can buy two extra kilograms online if you wish.

One check in bag at 20kg (Best paid for online as it is cheaper) The rates for extra kilograms are really expensive once you reach the airport so make sure you have everything in order. Here are all of the extra fees and charges. 

From Dublin:

You will be flying from Terminal 1. This information is not on booking confirmation so just take note. When you are flying with WOW air, it is pretty simple. You check the board in departures for where WOW air’s check in desk is located, both times I have been, it has been row 9. You check on the screen above the desk what country you are flying to and you stand in line. Simple.

In busy Summer months, this queue will be crazy busy (Now that they have online check in it will be a bit quicker). At any time of the year make sure you allow yourself plenty of time. Two to three hours. With the addition of a very busy Dublin security and the walk to the gate (Or the walk to Siberia as I like to call it) you need plenty of time!

From Keflavik:

In Keflavik it is a little different. When you arrive in departures there will be a wow section with lots of desks. On one side is the flights to main land Europe and on the other side are the flights to Dublin and London. So you are lumped in all together and just because there are lots of desks doesn’t mean they are open. No no. There has been two people on the Dublin/London side, both times I have flown with them. This is not enough people at all for the amount of passengers. And this is 4:30am!

Again I would be in Keflavik about two to three hours before your flight as once you check in you have to go through security, which has slowed down even more with the addition of a new tray dispenser system they have installed. Then once you get through security, you have to go through passport control and then you have to walk to the last gate in Keflavik airport. So two hours minimum!

When On Board:

On board, you have to pay for all of the food and drinks. I don’t think there are any complimentary items at all. They have a selection of food and Icelandic snacks, they also have duty free if you feel like buying something.

Flight Time:

The flight is around the two hour mark. A really easy flight to take and the flight path is almost all over the sea. There may be some turbulence, so just be aware of that before you fly.

I will definitely be flying WOW air again! Although a slower process and a little stressful to figure out how much your baggage weighs, it is worth it!

If you have any questions about WOW air leave them below and I will gladly reply! 

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: 6 New Things

I have mentioned before that there were certain things that I missed out on the last two times I was in Iceland so I had to go back and do them. These are the 6 things I found on my final trip to Iceland this year.

KeriðPhoebeGill1509181259

Along the Golden Circle route along road 52, there is this amazing attraction. Now if you go on a bus tour it’s likely they will drive by this but I needed to go see it, you see I don’t like when my list isn’t complete! So when I had the opportunity to drive to this place myself I jumped at the chance. PhoebeGill1509181359There is a small car park at the crater and you have to pay to see it. It’s $3, €2 or 300 kr. So really cheap! I think it is well worth it to maintain this amazing site. You get an information leaflet when you pay so I wont spoil all of the wonderful information it gives you.

Öxarárfoss in ÞingvellirPhoebeGill1509181307

I had constantly seen pictures of the waterfall in Þingvellir and because I only had a half an hour when I was on the bus tours I couldn’t wander off and explore this are properly. So again when I had the chance I spent hours wandering around Þingvellir and I am so glad I did. The waterfall is beautiful and peaceful. It’s really amazing.

Walking Between Two ContinentsPhoebeGill1509181230

Again because there was no time to explore Þingvellir when I went on the tours I decided to do something that I had wanted to do for a long long time. I decided to ignore everything else and go for a walk. I passed by all the crowds and walked through a fissure in the earth. No one else was walking this path, it’s not a new path many people have done this walk but it felt like I was the only one who knew about it. Thousands of people were in this area during my time at Þingvellir but I didn’t see one other person on my walk. It was wonderful, peaceful and beautiful.

Standing Behind SelandjafossPhoebeGill150917033

South Iceland is an amazing part of Iceland, there are lots of people on this route so people free shots may be difficult but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Sometimes taking pictures isn’t important, sometimes you just need to be in the moment. Thats how I felt when I was sitting on the moss covered wall behind Selandjafoss. I didn’t bring my big camera, I only had my phone, I didn’t care if I got an amazing shot or the best angle. Standing behind that waterfall is amazing, everyone else thought it was amazing, everyone was polite and smiling and letting people take pictures. For a few minutes everyone was in agreement, standing behind a waterfall was humbling and wonderful.

Found A Hidden FossPhoebeGill150917023

Very close to Selandjafoss there is a hidden waterfall, except it’s not really that hidden, there is a campsite in front of it and its got tourists coming to it all the time. It’s not a secret to tourists or the Icelandic people but it’s as if the earth wants to keep it a secret. You are definitely going to need your waterproofs if you want to see it but it is a lot of fun going into the rock to see this hidden gem. Although I could get a good picture of this with my GoPro it was still beautiful to see.

Going Down The Road Less TravelledPhoebeGill1509161072

I was trying to find a somewhere, that I will have to go back to because I didn’t have a 4×4 car, but as I was driving around I went down a road and found this beautiful waterfall. All I could imagine was camping here and paddling in the water. (Except I would probably get frost bite, I mean Iceland may look like a Hawaiian setting but it doesn’t have the weather) What I loved is that I didn’t see this waterfall in a guide book, I didn’t hear about it on the internet, I don’t even know where it is. So my beans, find it, come upon it naturally and enjoy it.

There is so much more to see in Iceland and I am very happy I get to see more coasts, more roads, more attractions and more hidden gems. Iceland is always somewhere you can go back to. I love it there. Knowing me, I will be back sometime soon but for now I am very happy.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: A Taste of The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

PhoebeGill150917120If there is one thing I wanted this time round in Iceland, it was to go further, to push outside of where I have been and to explore more. Going west was something that I really wanted to do. There was one sight in particular that I was desperate to see and I have to say, it was utterly stunning.PhoebeGill150917049The  Snæfellsnes Peninsula is like Co. Kerry on crack. It has got that luscious green colour with mountains and stunning beauty but it’s also something out of Lord of the Rings. You go from normal green mountains, to red soiled peaks, to moss covered lava fields that looks like the perfect Orc dwelling. You go from towering mountains to beautiful small towns and then you get to the most incredible postcard view.PhoebeGill150917713I pulled up to the most beautiful view and I got my camera gear ready. I then walked to the site with the fog rolling in and turned around to see the most iconic mountain in the  Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Kirkjufell.PhoebeGill150917013Keep in mind this is just off the road. You don’t have to trek to see it, there is a car park. If you get the chance. Go. It is beautiful. It is so close to Reykjavik, so easy to get to, the drive is amazing. I am already missing it. I will be back.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: 3 Spots on the South Coastline

Being able to explore the South Coast of Iceland is a wonderful experience. The scenery along the ring road is stunning and there are so many stops along the way. I definitely recommend you pull off and explore these beautiful spots.

Black Sand Beach In VíkPhoebeGill150916718

There is a small residential area just behind this beach, for my Irish readers, it reminded me of the area around Brittas Bay, Wicklow. It’s a quiet beach full of couples, holing hands, having a walk. I loved walking to the big cliffs at the end of the beach and looking at all the nesting birds soar above.

Reynisfjara

PhoebeGill150916908PhoebeGill150916685*Be careful at this spot! Tourists have been swept away and have died from the current. Don’t be foolish and read the signs. This area is wonderful. A beautiful beach to watch a sunset and go for a walk. This amazing basalt rock formation looks like it was man made, it is that beautiful. Like the giants causeway these amazing formations are stunning, along with the caves and the sea stacks this area is steeped in natural beauty!

DyrhólaeyPhoebeGill150916613

PhoebeGill150916508This cliff top site has some amazing views. Take the time to actually explore this area. I didn’t and I do regret it, I will just have to go back! There is lots to see and places to walk but be careful as this area doesn’t have many barriers are there are lots of people climbing precarious looking routes!

Definitely check out these spots and I am sure there are more hidden and secluded areas along the South for you to explore. If you know of any leave them in the comments! 

Happy Travels!