Day 14 and 15 have purposely been ‘blip’ days in the sense that we haven’t done an awful lot, except sleep (in a real life bed!) and begin to prepare for and think about Toronto.
We’ve chosen to do 9 months of travel, but two weeks is all you need for a transformational trip, should you be willing to experience it fully. In no way am I suggesting that we were the perfect travellers, because we learnt very quickly that we’re far from it, but we had high expectations of Iceland and were not let down one bit. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that are attached towards to this place, so I apologise in advance for the wall of text, though you must be used to my writing by now. I’ll try and use headings or something.
I’m writing this very cautiously as I’m aware that sweeping, generalised statements aren’t always a good idea and you could never try to sum up a whole group of people. However, I’ve noticed a couple of things about the culture here, and have tried to be as observant as I could. The people here appear to take very good care of each other. I can only imagine what several months without decent sunlight may do to someone, and doubled up with the remote nature of most of Iceland, I can imagine there was a little necessity for this. The joy for us is that this seems to spill into the way we are treated as tourists. When another camper tried to pay for his shower, I overheard the owner reply “you’ve paid in honesty, so put your money away”. When asking for closing times at the nearest swimming pool, a shop owner decided that he wasn’t sure, so he proceeded to Google the number of the building and ask them for me. When we arrived at the airport, we hadn’t bought the correct bus tickets, but the woman behind the desk took one look at our backpacks and said “it looks like your luggage is heavy, so no extra charge”. When Dan bought himself and I much needed cups of tea, the bartender waved his hand away before Dan could pay in full. I really could go on here, but I think I’ve made my point. Displays of generosity and kindness happen left, right and centre here and I hope this never changes.
Even before arriving, I was incredibly curious about the effect of tourism here because, at times, the tourists can outweigh the locals. Yes, tourism brings money, but in countless cases it’s been at a high cost. The few times I managed to ask Icelandic people how they felt about it, their answers were graciously positive, saying that they enjoy the interest they’ve been receiving. One campsite owner did reveal that they had seen a group of campers leave human waste behind after they left. Apparently it was far from in the middle of nowhere as well; in fact, it was right next to a very reasonably priced campsite. If you can afford the plane ticket to Iceland, then you can afford to stay in their campsites, which mostly cost very little. If you have the thought capacity to book a holiday in Iceland, then you should have the thought capacity to realise that no one wants to step in your shit. When speaking to Ben, the French man from day six, he seemed very sure of the idea that tourism in Iceland was going to have a very negative effect on the culture, with Icelandic people being so generous and tourists continually taking advantage. I hope that he was catastophizing here, but there was enough solid evidence to give his claim some weight. On the most part though, we found it a joy to be mixing with people from all over Europe and America, so I think there will always be enough good tourists to outweigh the bad.
“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.”. It’s true. You are spoilt rotten by the natural sights here and its impossible for them not to have an affect on you. I’d be lying if I said I spent every hour completely absorbed by them, as other thoughts creep in and steal your consciousness for a while, but they always brought a sense of comfort, even in the wind and the rain. The wildlife were more curious than afraid of you, and sometimes they ruled the roost. One chap I’d like to make a shout out to is this one:
This was not a human changing room – this was a sheep shelter!
But in all seriousness, Iceland provides you with the daylight, beauty and space to heal should you need it. It’s powerful!
Not sure why I decided to end on a practical one, but hey ho. Iceland is an expensive country, but it does not have to be expensive to visit! I cannot emphasise enough that the best things about Iceland are, in most cases, possible to experience for free as long as you have feet and shoes. We have estimated that we have spent about £750 each for two weeks here, including flights. Consider that we spent this amount during a time when the pound has fallen, and that we have not attempted to be the most frugal travellers, by eating out several times and buying too much food at the grocery store. The biggest impact on your budget in most places will always be accommodation. We had some rough nights camping, but it mostly proved to be a joy, and with a camping card, you’re onto a winner!
Before I finish, I want to acknowledge one last observation. You know how pigs supposedly have 30 minute orgasms? Bonus is one of the leading supermarkets in Iceland and is almost unbeatable for price, and seems to have honoured this fact by drawing a cartoon of a pig in this state and using it as their logo.