Maybe Don’t Research Your Next Travel Destination?
I did practically no planning for my trip until the day before I left. And it ended up being pretty
I did practically no planning for my trip until the day before I left. And it ended up being pretty great because of it.
There were several reasons why I didn’t plan.
Honestly, I went to Iceland because it was the cheapest way to fly from Raleigh to Nairobi — and I figured that if I was passing through, I might as well see the place. It’s become a bit of a cliche destination and can feel like that bestseller that everyone and their cousin is reading that will “change your life!”
You get so tired of people blabbing on about how incredible it is that it only induces an eye roll and a deep determination to never crack open its cover.
This may have contributed to my lack of research. I was genuinely tired of hearing about Iceland and assumed I knew enough about it from social media alone.
But also, the months leading up to my departure date had been crazy. I had visited family and friends, attended two weddings in totally different parts of the U.S., and went on a road trip from Washington State to North Carolina.
I’d been having a fantastic time, but my introvertedness was being severely starved and this solo getaway was a perfect way to cap off an incredible summer. And because I would only have to worry about myself, I felt very little pressure to have all my ducks in a row. So two days after my brother’s wedding and the day before I flew out, I haphazardly Googled “things to do in Iceland.”
Exception: I did book my Airbnbs a few months before I left. As much fun as winging it can be, I’m still a planner at heart. I knew I wanted to at least make sure I would have a roof over my head.
So I got on the plane with very little knowledge about my destination and a blur of Instagram posts floating in the back of my mind. Nothing specific, nothing concrete, just a vague idea of a beautiful place.
What happened sort of surprised me.
Well, to be more accurate, everything surprised me. Like, everything. Because I didn’t know any of the details of what Iceland had to offer, I was constantly caught off guard by how epically beautiful everything was.
EVERYTHING. Even with all the photos I had seen, I clearly had not fully digested any of it and, (cliche alert) the photos just do not capture the actual beauty of being there in person.
Based on where I had booked my lodging, I ended up having about a day and a half in Reykjavik, a day driving across the north coast, and a day driving across the south coast.
The time in Reykjavik was spent mostly wandering around aimlessly, making food in my Airbnb because of my tight budget and how expensive everything is. I did look up a few things to do but didn’t have much of an agenda. I would leave the house on foot with a fully-charged phone and a peanut-butter sandwich and just walk.
The other days were spent driving. I love a good road trip, so I spent my time listening to podcasts, gawking at the amazing views, trying not to get in a car accident while I gawked, finding safe places to pull over so I could really take in the beauty, and stopping in random towns to watch World Cup games.
Around each corner was a completely different view from the previous one. From rolling green hills to floating icebergs to grey pebbly beaches to steep sandy cliffs jutting out of the dark blue sea. And because I had zero expectations, it all felt like a bonus.
Exception: There are some disadvantages, I guess.
For example, several of the classic destinations, like Blue Lagoon, have to be booked months in advance, so I was out of luck when it came to seeing some of the more popular places. (But popular usually equals crowded, so maybe I’m okay with missing out?) I was also told about a few incredible must-see spots. And I thought I went to them — they were incredible.
But then, after the fact, I saw a photo of the actual place and realized that the waterfall I visited was not, in fact, THE waterfall.
Other than its reputation for beauty, I knew very little about exactly what to expect in Iceland. I may have missed out on some of the big-ticket items, but I was also pleasantly surprised by literally everything I saw, only to find out later that “everyone knows there are crazy icebergs right around the corner from lush green fields in Iceland.”
Well, I didn’t. And it made it that much more exciting.
Originally published on medium.