By TULA CXO and Co-Founder, Cody Galloway
WE SURVIVED! We went to Iceland and camped in a van with our 5 and 7 year old for almost two weeks and... it was AMAZING.
I wrote a blog post the week before I left about how I was preparing (mostly mentally) for the trip. Here is how it actually went...
Iceland is a dream country....the landscape is incredibly magical. Photos simply don't do it justice. There are miles and miles of beautiful volcanic rocks covered in thick neon green moss, misty waterfalls, turquoise crystal clear waters, dramatic coastlines, and a whole lot of space... it was exactly what I needed... and more so what we all needed.
Sure, the 'must see' spots (the popularly photographed waterfalls or coastlines) had a lot of visitors, but you could almost always no matter where you were find solace and peace to take it all in. My favorite places or moments were honestly just random places we decided to pull off to explore because they were just so darn beautiful. I loved just driving while listening to music just watching the landscape change before my eyes. From hot springs to glaciers, waterfall hikes and black sand beaches...it was almost surreal how captivating it was. As we were planning- I was pretty bummed about not tackling the ring road (the full ring around the country of Iceland) but ultimately I really appreciated our slower pace (not being tied to driving more than a couple hours a day to get to the next camp site). We took our time...we had a few places or hikes each day that were planned out, but we also had plenty of time most days to pull off to see that random wild horse or cave or stop for a snack of a coffee. It was just the right pace for us ... this trip.
The van was tight...it took probably two days to adjust to the space (or lack there of)- and my husband and I walked away saying IF we ever decided on a much longer trip (involving travel/staying in a van) we'd definitely do things differently. Everything would need to have a place (a very thoughtful, deliberate place) and I would invest in some cozy bedding too.
What went well:
What didn't go well:
The people in Iceland were very nice, and it was incredibly clean. A local told me they have just 12 inmates in their ONE jail? We felt incredibly safe.
In summary, all of that alone would have made it a once in a lifetime experience- but as I reflect on the trip I think what I wasn't really anticipating and what surprised me the most was watching my kids explore, appreciate the experience and become best friends all over again. They have always got along fairly well (with the occasional sibling spat)- but it was so cool to see them entertain themselves and each other for hours and hours on end. They searched for lost treasure, and found pretty rocks, they played make believe, made up songs, ran around and truly came home a whole lot closer and way more content and happy just being with our little family and having just each other to play with. Who knows how long that will stick but for now...I will take it and I hope that at least one of them will remember the experience....because I know I will never forget it.
A FEW ICELAND TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS BELOW:
Food: Restaurants are real expensive but we thought the food there was yummy. We bought and cooked most of our food from the local grocery stores. There are also a lot of food trucks at the bigger sites (waterfalls, diamond beach etc.) that were all delicious! Lobster soup FTW! Almost all gas stations and rest stops have pastries, sandwiches etc.
Must go to Black Crust Pizza in Vik.... So good. My kids were Obsessed with the cheesy breadsticks. Also cute little coffee shop - school beans cafe (school bus coffee shop in Vik) served up the best latte of the trip. :)
Cash: Some of the public toilets are paid (usually 200KR) so that's really the only reason to have cash....most everywhere else took cards (make sure to have pin for gas stations)
Tickets: Make sure you book tickets for Blue Lagoon far in advance. If you don't get the time you want you can check every day as tickets get released. I changed our tickets twice. :) We ate at the Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon and while very $$$$ it was delicious. Also places like the Lava Show require advance tickets.