First off, I want to apologize to any readers/followers (I know there aren’t many though) who have been waiting for another post! Life has been busy with a promotion at work, finishing up graduate school and earning my Masters of Arts in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco, and just enjoying life with my friends as they slowly all start to move away from Los Angeles.
I do have some very excited news though (as listed in the title) – I just came back from my first solo travel trip to Iceland and wanted to share everything I loved about it and additionally, everything I struggled with while experience it alone. Pretty much, lots of GoPro pictures to share and some food pictures as well (you can follow my adventures live on Instagram @MonnieTheBruin).
To start off, I really want to clear the air – WOW Airlines is really not as bad as it seems for the price you’re paying! I paid $300 for roundtrip, non-stop airfare from LAX to KEF and paid an additional $50 both ways to get my carry-on baggage on with me. In total, for $400, I can’t really complain! The leg room was generous (in comparison to today’s standards) and despite the lack of Wi-Fi, the convenience of being on a red-eye made it easier to do without entertainment anyways. The return flight was spent on writing this post… HOWEVER, just being in Iceland for a week is not cheap by any means. You definitely will make up the rest of your budget while in the country.
The only options for transportation in Iceland are either rental cars or private buses. I took a private bus (FlyBus through Reykjavik Excursions) to get into town from the airport and paid roughly $36 one-way. They took me to the nearest stop by my Airbnb (sign up with the link for $20 in travel credit) which was just a two block walk. My Airbnb was very reasonably priced at $30 a night (with a discount for a weekly stay) and as described, a 10-minute walk to downtown Reykjavik and a 5-minute walk from the Old Harbour.
My first dinner in Reykjavik was by far my most extravagant and was treated as my birthday dinner to myself. I went to Kopar in the Old Harbour at 6 PM (which is an early dinner time for the Icelandic because it was empty inside). I went with the Kopar Adventure (a 9-course tasting meal) and got myself the Purple Mountain cocktail. Everyone in the restaurant was also served freshly baked Icelandic sourdough with freshly churned butter and an amuse bouche. It was so much food, but so good. At 109,000 krona (approximately $109 dollars), it was pricey but absolutely worth it considering everything that I was served that was on the menu was originally $30+ a la carte. I ended up paying approximately $160 for the whole meal ($109 for the tasting, $25 for the cocktail, and the rest on a tip because service was excellent).
The rest of the food was good but not worth extending this post over. Tip: get a burger (even if you’re thinking, I’m in Iceland, why would I eat a burger?) because it’s so fresh and juicy and they’re almost always served with waffle fries! My favorite place for happy hour beers and a burger was Saeta Svinid, a gastropub on the edge of downtown. Also, please please please go visit Mikeller and Friends and get yourself multiple half pours of every beer because they’re all so worth trying and the staff there are incredible.
Lastly I wanted to touch on the way my anxiety has played into how I travel. As you can imagine, with all of the terrible acts of terrorism in the world, it hasn’t been easy to convince myself it’s okay to go out, much more so alone, to a foreign country. I have always loved to travel but knowing that my parents are worrying makes my heart hurt. While it was rewarding to travel alone and find my independence and really get the time to have introspection into my current life, it’s not for everyone. It makes it hard when you can’t share an experience with someone, or talk over dinner rather than having to stare at your phone. The constant worry that I was going to get lost without any means of figuring out how to get back was annoying. But it was annoying because I knew that I could do it (and have done it before) and yet, my anxiety had me breaking down in a hot, sweaty panic while looking for my rental car location. It’s those small things that take a toll on you and make you wish you had a friend with you to comfort you and help you problem-solve rationally (i.e. Thanks to Gabrielle for helping me through the problem listed below and being there for me on my last day in Iceland).
Related noted: My rental car got damaged by a stupid traveler who didn’t take caution in opening her door in the extreme wind. Then, she and her husband tried to play stupid and wouldn’t give me their car rental info, and pretended to not be able to speak any English at all. So despite knowing four languages, I felt so helpless and only took down their license plate number and noted their car rental company. So… this summer, I will be learning French so no one can play stupid in the rare case that I get into a car accident in an ENGLISH speaking country with a couple that supposedly “can’t speak anything except French.” Be careful with the wind and opening doors, folks! Stupid people costs me $1200 to my car rental company to cover damages and subsequently ruined the last day of my vacation. But whatever, you win some, you lose some.
With much love,