About having a little faith when traveling (not the religious kind)

As you probably know, since I start many of my blog posts talking about an e-mail I received that inspired the post, I get a lot of e-mails from people that have all kinds of questions about their trip to Iceland. Actually, I made a joke to the boyfriend just last night that when I die my tombstone will probably say: Here lies Auður – she answered e-mails. Sometimes I feel like it’s all that I do.

Although most of the questions I get are about practical matters, like where you can get cranberry juice in Reykjavík or whether it’s better to do whale watching in the morning or the afternoon, I’ve also noticed a certain trend in the questions I get. And that’s the need for control.

The modern traveler is a different species from the travelers of the past. We have more information available than ever before and with Google Maps and all kinds of 360 technology we can basically visit the places we are about to travel in the comfort of our living room before we even embark the plane.

iceland 1

Like a typical Icelander, and just Iceland for that matter, I am full of contrasts when it comes to my travel habits. Because I’m always so busy I rarely get to sit down with a guide book and really plan my trips when I go somewhere. In fact, I’m usually half naked with an empty suitcase about half an hour before I leave for the airport, tweeting about the situation instead of hauling ass. I can make it work though because I’ve traveled enough in my life to know that most things are replaceable and there’s going to be a place at my destination where I can buy a toothbrush if needed or whatever it is that I forgot. As long as I have my passport, my credit card and my phone (and its charger – very important) in a safe place I know I can figure the rest out. Pro tip: I always try to have at least one pair of clean underwear in my carry on just in case my suitcase gets lost somewhere. It has saved me on numerous occasions.

So you could say I’m somewhat carefree when it comes to travel (careless is a word that the boyfriend would probably use about it). But that’s only before the trip. Once I arrive at a new destination on the other hand I turn into this insane person that cannot go anywhere without looking up the exact route, with alternate plans in case of traffic, on google maps and refuses to dine at any restaurant before I look it up on Tripadvisor, Yelp and Google places to see what other people think about it. You only have certain amount of meals on every trip and I don’t want to waste it on stale bread and a food poisoning. So if you would have been a fly on the wall on the family’s recent trip to New York, for example, you would have seen a lot of scenes with a defeated boyfriend and princess sitting on a bench somewhere while I worked my magic with the help of Google. Did I mention I’m a little bit cray cray? new york

Being tech savvy did get us discounted tickets and great seats for the musical the princess most of allwanted to see though. Just saying.

The boyfriend is the exact opposite of me – he’s pretty organized before his trips but once he’s at the destination he’s very happy just to go with the flow and get lost. My current behavior is a far cry from the girl who at 19 decided on a Thursday that she wanted to move to England and was there the following Tuesday with nothing but a 5 pound note from her grandma in her pocket. I didn’t even have the phone number for my future employer who was sending someone to pick me up at the airport or a return ticket. I blame technology for my new travel insanity but thinking about  it I could have thought this move to England through a bit more.

North Iceland (3)

I see from the e-mails I receive that there are a lot of people out there that need to know every single little detail of their visit to Iceland ahead of time. And more often than not these details have to do with weather, whether or not they will be able to see the northern lights at a certain time or what the road conditions will be like. Will they need snow boots or hiking shoes or will platform stilettos with a gold fish swimming in the heel suffice?

The problem with Iceland is though that it’s completely unpredictable. I’ve lived here for almost all of my life, I work in tourism and attempt to answer these questions day in and day out but I cannot give you exact answers. I can tell you about average temperatures, which months have most snowfall on average and such but then we have a snowstorm in July that completely contradicts everything I’ve just told people. Not this year but it has happened. And don’t get me started on the northern lights

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Here’s the thing. If you are going to plan for every little detail of your Iceland adventure you just setting yourself up for disappointment. The restaurant that I recommend to you today might not be there 6 months from now and the weather is ever changing. Iceland and Reykjavík are like these living organisms that are constantly taking different shapes, twists and turns and cannot sit still for a moment. And the only predicable thing about the Icelandic weather is that it’s very unpredictable.

This business with restaurants going out of business is exactly the reason why I don’t write a lot about restaurants on the blog but instead try to give a lot of good information on our Reykjavík walking tours. It’s more actual that way and if I hear something I don’t like about a place I previously recommended I simply stop recommending it.

But does this mean that you don’t plan at all? No, you need to plan accommodation and tours and such in advance because the demand for these things sometimes exceed the supply. But you cannot control everything! You can’t tell me in one sentence that you want to visit Iceland in the winter but the next that you don’t want it to be too cold or there being to much snow. Sure sometimes we get winters where there’s no snow (OK, I’m not sure that’s true but maybe less than usual) and then other years we get an unexpected snowstorm in April that shuts down the city. Just try to let go a little and be OK with the fact that you can’t plan everything and if something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would it doesn’t mean the trip is ruined. When one door closes a window opens and all that.

Have a little faith. And bring layers. Lots of layers.

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6 thoughts on “About having a little faith when traveling (not the religious kind)”

  1. darcy says:

    This post is dead on correct. We came last winter with lots of plans but an open mind to what we could do. We changed our plans daily but luckily had 6 days to move things around due to the weather. We didn’t do some things we wanted to when we came for our holiday, but did other things which we had not considered. Yet another well-though-out post, and ideas which are invaluable to people visiting. Well done and keep inspiring people to visit!

  2. Bert Sirkin says:

    Sometimes; some places, you can’t “go with the flow”. I’m leaving later this week for Iceland. Many interesting sites in Iceland require reservations well in advance – your walking tour, Blue Lagoon, Jökulsárlón boat tour, Ingólfshöfði, etc. (all of which I’ve already reserved and paid). It may be possible to do these activities “on the fly”, but if we want some level of assurance, we have to plan for them.

    Normally you can purchase anything you need while traveling to most places, but it’s less certain when traveling outside of the larger cities in Iceland.

    Iceland is the hardest trip we’ve ever planned – we’re packing much more than normal for the weather variations. That requires more planning as well. It’s not easy getting warm weather clothing in the summer (on-line buying is wonderful!).

    Your blog has been a critical element in helping plan this trip and your advice of “…you can’t plan everything and if something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would,,,” is very good. When traveling, you have to expect the unexpected.

    Thanks for such a great resource!

  3. Suzann says:

    Auður, your blog is the reason we will be heading to Iceland this Sunday! I’ve always wanted to visit but, never thought it was “doable” . I happen to teeter between crazy-phanatical planner and go-with-the-flow when it comes to planning. Once I got the “Iceland” bug in my head, I discovered your blog while frantically tapping and Googling away on my iPad, and never looked back. I tend do overthink, overplan, and then stress out a week or so before (meanwhile, my hubby totally goes with the flow and just trusts my mad, over-controlling planning skills….hahaha). Once I get past my over my stress and overzealous planning, I settled into our “loose itinerary”. I’ve listed all the points of interest we’d like to visit by grouping them according to area (Snaefellsness peninsula, Vik area, Reykjanes area, Thingvellar) and then list how many miles/km and time (in approximation) it takes to get to each area/point of interest. That way, we can relax and plan according to weather, mood, or whatever. ? However, we do have our reservation for our car (thanks to your Budget site), the Blue Lagoon, and, of course, your tour on Monday morning. ?
    We are beyond excited…..thank you for all of your knowledge and useful info.

  4. Cat says:

    I love this advice. I’m gathering info on Iceland, as I feel a trip coming up in 2017!

  5. Kate says:

    Spot on. In November we will be coming to Iceland for our 5th trip in 4 years. I have planned them all myself ; I know the only control I have in Iceland is to book my flights, my auto, my accommodations….and to buy a SIM card. I leave everything else to time and space and have never been happier than when we travel in Iceland. If it weren’t for Iceland’s incredibly strict VISA regulations we would be living there, by now. I adore your blog; it is the only one I recommend when I give my Iceland “mini-lectures” to friends and colleagues! So valuable, cheeky, and smart.

  6. Rebecca Collins says:

    Terrific article. Planning is always good but have enough flexibility to enjoy things that come up instead of thinking they will ruin the experience. We came in March 2016 (were on you walking tour) and had an amazing trip. Did some tours, met great people (you especially) ate and drank and really enjoyed our Iceland experience. Came back in November and it was colder, no surprise. Rented a car and came to understand how quickly road and weather conditions change. Opted to stay in town the next day instead of driving. Going with the flow resulted in a great day of food, beer, people, a great film and a jazz band with new friends. Agree, relax, have faith an live a little. Takk Audur. Your tour introduced us to your fantastic city and opened the door to a beautiful country.

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