In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Iceland?

One little fantasy of mine would be to be a travel writer. Basically, I want to go on trips and share my experiences with people. I don't think this dream will ever really come true. My gifts lie elsewhere. I like my job and my life. My writing would have to improve quite a bit. All good reasons that this can remain a hobby and not my most desired future.

However, every time we travel, or I read the travel section in the newspaper, I think how great it would be to be sent around the world to write about my experiences on the road and in the air.

My mother has already started on this. Her blog started because she was sending us these long emails with detailed descriptions about her travels for work. Eventually, she decided that it would be better to create a blog where we could all read her adventures at once. That's how I Wonder as I Wander was born.

So, I'm going to try my hand at this. The next few posts are going to be about our trip. I'll include recommendations. I'll tell you where we went and try to include links, if possible. Richard took some amazing photos, so I'll use those to try to show what Iceland is like, and why I think that you should go there.

The first post that I'll put up there addresses the question that I was asked first when I told people that I was taking a trip to Iceland. "Why Iceland?" I don't think that most people know anything about Iceland. I've heard from folks that only Eskimos live there. I've heard that it is frozen all year long. Both of these are untrue.

Richard and I, and also my family, have been wanting to take a trip for a while. At one time, it was going to be a family trip to Norway and Sweden. The birth of my new niece (NAOMI!!! Did you see her photos earlier? She's fabulous!) put a halt on that trip. We want to go as a whole family, and it didn't seem practical to travel with a newborn. We had also discussed India and Thailand. In fact, we had researched Thailand for a while, until news came out about the riots and civil unrest that is happening with the government. That put a hold on that trip.

Iceland really came up when I was reading an article about the global financial crisis. Iceland got very big into banking and has suffered perhaps the worst collapse in the world (much worse than in the US). Because of the financial crisis, the prices that once made this country prohibitively expensive was a lot more reasonable. Iceland was a lot like the other Scandinavian countries...expensive. But the collapse brought prices down to a level that made the country more attractive for people like me (not loaded with money).

We combined the low prices with the fact that Iceland is a natural wonder. The land is formed because two tectonic plates in the Atlantic ocean, the North American and European plates, are diverging (pulling away from one another). Iceland is being pulled apart from the middle and getting longer by the year.

The country also has an abundance of waterfalls, geysers, and glaciers. At one time, when we were reading about the glaciers and waterfalls, we wondered if this would be similar to Alaska. We went to Alaska as a family in 2007, and liked it. One friend who went there told me that it is not like Alaksa, but it feels more like Mars. The country is covered with volcanic rock that is black and jagged and just litters the landscape. There are hardly any trees to speak of. People tend to make a lot of art out of the rocks.

So, we went because the price was right, and the more we heard about it, the more interested we were getting. However, here is the other part. This is probably the more important part:

We (I) wanted to go to Iceland, precisely because it was a destination that people didn't think about. I'm not interested in a pre-packaged tour that let's me off the bus long enough to snap a photo of the most famous monument and head on to the next place. We wanted to go somewhere that would make people wonder what's in this strange land.

I'm a fan of Rick Steves, and I like his philosophy on travel. He tells you that you need to get away from the beaten path to really discover a country. I feel that the same has to do with your choice of a destination. Of course, you want to see the major cities and countries. London and Paris are beautiful. However, you need to get to those places that are just off your radar. That's why we chose Iceland. It was somewhere that really stretched us.

A few other fun facts about Iceland:
  • Because of the economic crisis, they have elected a new governement, which includes a Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is a lesbian. She is the first openly gay head of state in the world.
  • Iceland is the only country in the world that alphabetizes people by first name (like in the phone book). Everyone has a first name, but the last name is the father's name with -son or -dottir on the end. You are names as the son or daughter of your father.
  • The hot springs make great public swimming pools. I'll say more on this later.
  • We went in June, which means that there are 21 hours of day light. I wondered if that would be a problem, but we loved it. This photo was taken out our guest house window at about midnight.

That's all I'll say now. My next post will talk about getting to Iceland.


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