August 5-6, 2017. I started off my solo adventure (and first international trip in 9 years) with a destination I've been thinking about for quite some time. Iceland. Initially it started as a stopover on my way to Scotland, but the closer I got to leaving for my trip, the more excited (and a little freaked out) I got for my trip. Escaping the horrid heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, with temperatures in the high 90's and up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit .... I was ecstatic to arrive at the Keflavik airport at 7 AM and see clouds, mist and temperatures in the 50's!!!
Turns out quite a few people I know have been to Iceland, so I had several good recommendations for my time there. I decided to rent a car, a stick shift (which I haven't driven in 11 years, but I was awesome when I did....) and do most of my own exploring. I arrived at 7 AM after an overnight flight from Portland. I desperately needed coffee and something to eat so I stopped at a cool juice & coffee bar in the Keflavik airport called Joe & the Juice before I picked up my rental car. It's a pretty hip place, very busy in the small airport. Luckily, everyone seemed to speak English (the menu was in English and Icelandic) as I was very tired. I ordered a juice and espresso, and was flabbergasted when my total came out to about $14 (us currency). I was warned that everything was expensive here.... but I was still caught off guard! In their defense, the juice was amazing and completely fresh from raw ingredients. Next I picked up my rental car, getting all the insurance I needed, GPS and most importantly, my own portable WiFi! Then I headed out to the parking lot, keys in hand to find my little white VW Polo.
This is when the déjà vu set in with a bit of a panic. Just like the first time I went to Italy to study abroad when I was 21, not knowing a soul. I was so excited for the experience, yet when I got to my Italian apartment, realized I didn't know a soul there, I had this momentary feeling of "what have I done?? I'm alone in a foreign country...." It only took 2 hours to get over the panic that first time in Italy. I've lived abroad again since then and am very comfortable with travel, just out of practice. I sat in my little car for probably 20 minutes calming myself down, reminding myself how excited I was for this trip, and that this is how I grow. Putting myself in situations that are outside my comfort zone and learning to deal makes me stronger. I set up my GPS and made a game plan for my day. It wasn't even 8 AM yet and I couldn't check into my AirB&B until 3 PM..... I had forgotten to make a reservation at the Blue Lagoon so that relaxing idea was out. I decided to head towards my apartment and find a cafe to have some breakfast at while I made more plans. This is the first time I've traveled internationally with a smart phone... and it's awesome! Being able to look up reviews for everything while out and about was very helpful, as was having a WiFi hub in my purse. It was a Sunday and the earliest opening cafe I could find didn't open until 10. Now, to see how well I could remember how to drive stick!
I had some time, so I went ahead and drove by my accommodation so I knew where it was, then headed to the cafe. It rained a little off and on while I drove, which I was elated about. I hadn't seen rain in about 3 months in Portland. I was already loving Iceland. So different, quaint little towns, not being able to read any signs.... so thankful for the GPS!! I arrived at the cafe around 9:30 and hung out until they opened at 10. I went in and browsed the menu. Their breakfast food sounded fantastic!!! I made my order, but when I tried to pay, their new credit card machine wouldn't take ANY of my cards. I was told by many people that Iceland is a cashless society.... so I had no intention of getting any. Apparently the problem was with my American cards and the baristas were stumped. So... I just had to leave. Bummed and hungry I went in search of another one. I happened to drive I passed an Ikea and figured, "hey! I know that place, that'll be an easy pit stop". Alas they were closed. I found out later that not only was it a Sunday, but it was some sort of workers holiday, so many businesses were closed. I decided to stop this hit & miss searching and headed to Reykjavik where there would surely be places open.
I parked on a main street near a cute little lake/pond and headed into town. I did some research on my phone to find a cafe that was close and well rated. I found one, ordered a tea and yogurt parfait. After this I just decided to walk around Reykjavik until it was time to head to my AirB&B. It was a very grey day, but didn't rain while I was walking around. The colors seemed so different from home. It might be partially the super grey day, but everything looked cool, not many warm colors. The architecture had a distinct style: cold and Nordic, and I loved it.
After a bit of wandering around, the exhaustion hit me. I'd been up for nearly 24 hours. 7 hour time difference from home. I stopped at the grocery store for some supplies so I wouldn't have to leave my accommodation again today. Nothing sounded good (I blamed how tired I was) so I got some Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), bananas, coffee, chocolate and salami. (Don't judge on my coffee choice.... I just grabbed something, not knowing if my apartment had a coffee maker.) My Air B&B was super cute, as expected. Hosted by a very sweet family, nestled in a residential area I had my own apartment attached to their house. Just a 10 minute drive from Reykjavik, this little studio apartment was the perfect home base for me.