Category: Motivation

MotivationTravel

The Land Of Fire And Ice – Part 2

“Excuse me, ma’am? Can you point me in the right direction for the campsite?”

“Það er á þennan hátt og snúið til hægri við ljósin, farðu lengra lengra og þú sérð það á hægri hönd

“Oh, uh, great. Okay, thank you for your help!”

The Icelandic language is something else. I suppose it isn’t much different than trying to understand any foreign language, but I couldn’t grasp it no matter how hard I tried. I found the campsite, so I figure the above translates roughly into “it’s up this way and turn right at the light, go a little further and you will see it on your right hand side”.

I ended up driving my first day for almost 6 hours. I left Reykjavik and headed west, obviously stopping for a number of pictures which increased my travel time dramatically. That was to be expected, though.

iceland horses, the land of fire and ice

After navigating my way through lava fields, dirt roads where the speed limit is 80km/h (basically all paved roads in Iceland are a 90km/h limit, and all of the unpaved dirt roads were 80km/h – I still can’t fathom why or how anyone would go that fast on these roads) and a little bit of rain, I finally made it to Stykkishólmur around 6pm. Set up at the campsite and wandered into town to see what it was all about.

Stykkishólmur, the land of fire and ice

Stykkishólmur is a town on the west coast of Iceland, on the northern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Its location serves as the base for the ferry that connects it with the Westfjords. I had thoughts of taking the ferry, but ultimately decided against it.

This was my first night ‘camping’ in Iceland. In other words, I had a sleeping bag and air mattress and slept in the car. I had grand plans for my outdoor experience in the land of fire and ice. You know, fold down the back seats, lay out the mattress and sleeping bag and sleep as comfortably as one could in the Icelandic wilderness. What I didn’t account for was the two back seats not folding down flat. There was a good 5 inches of height difference from the seats being folded down and into the trunk area.

Shit.

It wasn’t the greatest nights sleep, but I’ve definitely had worse.

I got up early and had plans of heading to Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords. I entered the closest destination the GPS could find to it and headed out. I was not prepared for what came next.

Following the GPS’ guidance, it took me out of Stykkishólmur and onto Road 54, a dirt road that was give or take 42km long. Well, yeah, the speed limit was 80km/h, but not only was it pouring rain, the drive was almost directly along the coast. Remember in Part 1 when I briefly described how narrow and unforgiving driving in Iceland was? I don’t think I got above 50km/h. Partly because I was anxious as hell, but also partly (mostly) because its a damn dirt road with pot holes everywhere. And still, I got passed by a half-dozen other vehicles. Crazy.

Iceland, The land of fire and ice

I made it out alive after a solid hour and a half of driving and spent the next few hours navigating the beginning of the Westfjords towards Dynjandi.

You know, I mapped out my route before I left, but cripes, it did me no good. There was no way to account for how often I would stop, slow down or turn around to snap some pictures and take in the scenery. With 4 hours left to go (after 4 hours of driving already) I ultimately made the call to re-route myself towards Hólmavík.

As amazing as that waterfall was going to be I knew that I was going to pay an arm and leg on gas. I also knew that there were going to ample sights and other waterfalls to make up for missing it along the way. Its not the biggest or most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but it is supposedly (and pictures prove it) the most beautiful.

I got to Hólmavík late afternoon and found the campsite. Did a little hike and wandered through town. Hólmavík is the home to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, and not much else. I didn’t actually take it in but I read up on a few things and it seemed pretty cool, just wasn’t in the budget. From what I read, if you are a huge fan of folklore then you should check it out.

Did I mention Iceland was expensive?

One of the best decisions I made for my trip to the land of fire and ice was to invest in a mobile wifi hotspot from Trawire. This allowed me to not only feel an ease of comfort in case I got lost or god forbid something happened to my car in the absolute middle of nowhere, but it also allowed me to stay on the grid and experience things like this:

cardiff devils, the land of fire and ice

My brother plays hockey for the Cardiff Devils, so with some time to kill I caught the game from a pretty damn cool vantage point.

After my second night camping I still hadn’t figured out the best way to sleep in the car. Laying diagonally across the folded down back seats, stretching one leg out over the driver side, hanging my feet out the window and any other possible sleeping formation I could think of. Damn was it ever uncomfortable.

The next morning I headed back towards the Ring Road and onto Akureyri, the capital of the north. Man, every time I say that I think of Game of Thrones. The wild thing is that Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland with a staggering population of 16,000 people.

Throughout Iceland all of the points of interest are very well marked. Well, as well as they can be. Typically a white sign with red lettering and the ‘Point of Interest’ symbol. I had seen pictures of the Hvítserkur Rock Formation and had a general sense of where it was, so when I saw the sign (I saw the sign) I made a quick louis onto yet another dirt road.

But thats the thing, having a general sense of where things are in Iceland by looking at a map is nothing compared to what it actually takes to get there. Still, the time it takes to get to some of these sights is well worth the detour. The best part about it was coming across a group of Icelandic horses right up against the fence, almost begging for attention. So I gave it to them.

As you can see, I had a blast with these guys. They’re such beautiful, friendly and stunning animals. And they loved apples.

25 minutes down the unpaved road later I came to the rock formation. It was not a comforting climb down to the beach, but it was worth it.

Hvítserkur Rock Formation, the land of ice and fire

The rest of the drive to Akureyri was incredible. Landscapes that I couldn’t have even imagined and that pictures just don’t do justice to. I have to give credit to the brave souls who either drive a tour bus or rented a large RV, because some of the inclines and turns are so damn intimidating in an SUV or smaller car that I cant even comprehend driving Iceland in a large vehicle.

It had been cloudy and rainy my first few nights so I hadn’t seen the northern lights yet, which was one of the, no, actually, the top thing on my list of what I wanted to experience in Iceland. I landed in Akureyri around dinner time, filled up with gas and headed for the campsite, which I specifically chose because it was outside the city with the best chances of an unobstructed view of the northern lights.

Akureyri, the land of ice and fire

Each morning I basically mapped out where I was going to go that day and the best campsites to stay at, and I found this place about 20 minutes outside of Akureyri called Systragil Campsite. Super cool, off-the-beaten-path camping area. The ironic thing, being in the land of fire and ice and that Akureyri is only 100km from the Arctic Circle, is that this was the warmest temperature I experienced in Iceland in my 12 days there. A solid 17 degrees.

the land of ice and fire

The outlook for the northern lights was promising, with a forecast for clear skies and an active aurora. Iceland has a great weather website (it is much needed because the weather can change so drastically, so quickly) that also shows the forecast for how active the aurora will be each night.

They are much, much more stubborn than I expected. It was this night that I realized they were playing hard to get.

Keep your eye out for Part 3.

G

Missed Part 1? Check it out here: The Land Of Fire And Ice Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MotivationTravel

The Land Of Fire And Ice – Part 1

Iceland. The land of fire and ice.

This moniker definitely painted a picture that delivered an unforgettable experience.

After (what seemed to be) a quick flight from Toronto I landed in Reykjavik around 6am local time. Grabbed my bags and hopped on the bus for a 45 minute journey through one of the most foreign, baron and otherworldly landscapes I had ever experienced. Albeit I was half awake and it was early morning.

And that was just the beginning.

The Land Of Fire And Ice

Like most travel days, the day was kind of a wash trying to adjust to the time change and collect myself after not sleeping for 24 hours. After getting the bus to drop me off in Hlemmur Square around 7:30am I majestically made my way to the hostel. I say majestically because I probably looked like a zombie wading his way through the yet-to-wake city centre.

Of course, arriving that early in the morning left me with a good 4-5 hours to kill before actually being able to check-in to my room. Luckily, like most hostels, they have a bag drop, so I didn’t have to lug around my carefully packed backpack and all my gadgets.

I always struggle my first day of hopping time zones, doing my best to allow my body to adjust in some way or another in order to function for the day. I also make a conscious point to not nap at all the first day. From past experience the only thing that does is make it harder to adjust. My suggestion, if you’re asking, is to suck it up and battle through it until at least the early evening. Your body will have an easier time recognizing the time and need to lay that head down on a pillow. You’ll find yourself combating jet leg faster.

I gathered myself the best I could and spent the day exploring Reykjavik. What a cool city. With a population of just over 200,000 people it wasn’t too difficult to do most of the main, and popular, attractions within that first day.

The Land Of Fire And Ice

The hostel was in a perfect, central spot for exploring. I wandered down to the waterfront and snapped a few pictures of the boats in the harbour, meandered down Laugavegur street, which is the main shopping area, and took the elevator up to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church for an incredible panoramic view of the city. (Above)

The Land Of Fire And Ice

I had heard a few rumblings that Icelandic hot dogs were some of the best in the world. And I hadn’t eaten a thing. So naturally I found the first hot dog stand my eyes could see.

I really don’t know if it was just the specific stand I went to or not, but, as you can tell from the picture, it didn’t taste much better than it looks. Mediocre bun with a simple tube steak, onions and their special sauce, which is like a gravy mayonnaise. Part of it could have had to do with the lack of appetite from being jet legged. But lets just say I didn’t get another one the rest of the trip.

After relaxing the first night at the hostel and chatting with a few other worldly travellers, I got up early the next day and made the walk to the car rental shop, about 15 minutes away.

See, to see the land of fire and ice in its most natural, I wanted to experience everything it had to offer. So I rented an SUV from Iceland 4×4 that acted as my moveable home for the following 10 days.

By 9:30am I was outfitted in a nice 2016 Suzuki Vitara, on the way to pick up my sleeping bag and air mattress from Gangleri Outfitters and then onto Bonus, the discount grocery store in Iceland.

The Land Of Fire And Ice

Iceland is expensive. Not surprisingly, though, as a country with a total population of some 300,000 people. And its also smack-dab in the middle of the ocean. Yet Bonus provided a fantastic selection of just what I needed to survive for 10 days in the Icelandic wilderness – instant noodles, mac and cheese and lamb sandwiches. Why lamb? Because it was the cheapest… and apparently plentiful.

The best part? The country basically acts as a natural spring for fresh water. My entire 12 days I only purchased two 2L bottles of water (so I had something to fill) and filled them at each campsite. I actually stopped at a few waterfalls and rivers and filled up straight from the free-flow. It was incredible – perfectly tasting, fresh and clean water. Naturally.

Once I was finally (sort of) situated with what I needed for at least the next few days, I plugged a random destination on the Snæfellsnes peninsula into the GPS and hit the road.

Even with all of the research I had done prior to my trip, nothing – and I mean nothing – could have prepared me enough for driving in Iceland. If you’ve ever driven or been to the UK, you know how a lot of the country roads are quite tight, with stone walls on each side? Well, the roads in Iceland are similar, but instead of stone walls along the sides, they drop off. Some only a few feet, some hundreds, with little to no barricades. Not that they’d help anyway.

The Land Of Fire And Ice

Part of my problem is that I can be quite spacey. I love landscapes and I love to take pictures, and I love to look, so I had to consciously remind myself (on a very regular basis) to focus on driving. Greg, you can stop in a minute. Keep your damn hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road.

You take your eyes off the road for a split-second and, well, I’m sure you can imagine.

Still, what came next and what I experienced over the next 10 days was one of the most incredible and otherworldly experiences I have ever had.

Keep your eye out for Part 2.

G

MotivationTravel

Live The Life You Want To Live

I struggled to start this blog post. It was meant to be done and ready to publish over a month ago.

Yet, here I am, somewhere over the Atlantic on WOW Air Flight 214 from Toronto to Keflavik. The plane is asleep, with most people hunkered down below the dimly lit purple lights, except for the two little children sitting behind me, having an absolute field day sticking M&M’s inside their mothers mouth while she tries to sleep. Kids, not a care in the world.

If you have ever flown with WOW, you know there is no in-flight entertainment (1st world problems). So I did the next best thing: cracked open the laptop, went back in time and watched Almost Famous.

This movie, if you’ve ever seen it (if you haven’t, whats wrong with you? Its a classic!), holds such a strong comparison to what it is I want from not only this journey I’m on, but life itself. A semi-autobiographical film about new, unknown experiences and chasing your dreams. Taking a leap of faith and having the reward be something you could have never imagined, taking you places you could have never envisioned.

No, I’m not going to hop on a bus and tour cross-country with Stillwater. But I am going to hop in a 4×4 and tour Iceland for 12 days. That I am most definitely going to do.

I got a working visa for the UK a few years ago and spent roughly 6 months travelling and working abroad. Long story short, I ran into a few speed bumps late in my trip: I couldn’t find a job in London, I didn’t have a place to live and I was slowly running out of money. Back to Canada it was to re-evaluate.

That was my first taste of what travelling can bring you. Experiencing different cultures and worldly points of view. Opening yourself up to the unknown and embracing it as it comes. There were some overwhelming moments throughout those 6 months, but looking back on it those moments are what made me appreciate the freedom and incredible opportunities travel can bring.

I’ve always felt that things have never really worked out in my favour. I went through an extremely difficult battle with depression where I completely lost my way. I lost friendships and relationships, but most of all, I lost myself. For a long time I really didn’t know who I was or what I was doing, going through the motions of life day after day with no positive outlook or drive to become something better. After a few years things started to get better and my outlook on life started to blossom. Yet, I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.

I battled, I definitely battled, and boy am I ever glad I did.

Why? Because I am off on a 6 week trip to Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Amsterdam. Life is far too short to not do more of the things that make you happy and excited to be apart of this world. It has so much to offer. And even with all the crappy things going on globally, the world we live in is utterly beautiful. Believe that.

I wanted to see Iceland and volcanoes and glaciers and waterfalls. I wanted to see the Coliseum in Rome where gladiators once fought. I wanted to see Vatican City. I wanted to stand up paddleboard through the Old City of Dubrovnik. I wanted to stare at Dante’s Inferno in Florence. I wanted to ride a scooter along the Dalmation Coast. I wanted to stand in Zeus’ Temple in Olympia. I wanted to watch the sun set in Santorini. I wanted to tour the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

So I’m doing it. I’m doing all of those things. And more. Because why wouldn’t I?

We sit around and hope and wish and wait for things to happen. We daydream about our bucket lists and what we want to put on them. We scroll through Instagram liking photos from around the world and think, “wow, I would LOVE to go there, but work/life/relationships/commitments wont allow me to do it… Maybe in a few years”.

But that’s the thing. More often than not, that’s all it is – daydreaming. We have one world and one life, and what we decide to do with those two things isn’t up to anyone other than ourselves. These beautiful places in our world wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want us to experience them.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting tons of content for you. From revisiting some of my past trips to letting you follow along with my next ones. I ran into a few technical difficulties, and 12 days in the Icelandic wilderness didn’t allow for too much access to a power source and internet connection. So bear with me.

There’s going to be lots of awesome stuff, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

G

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