"Iceland is such a beautiful place. Being from New Zealand, I was of the biased opinion that no country could come close to rivalling my home in beauty. But I must say that Iceland is that country."
When I think back on my more memorable travel experiences, they usually involve some level of personal challenge whether it’s culturally, socially or ‘other’. A leadership conference in Vietnam, my first big O.E. traveling Europe and an intensive French language exchange in New Caledonia are some examples that spring to mind.
A couple of months ago, I spent a week traveling around Iceland and making what I realise now, are some of my most treasured travel memories. An Australian friend who I met on my aforementioned O.E. told me that she was planning a trip to Iceland in September and asked if I wanted to come. Umm… yes please!
The initial phase of research involved feeling very overwhelmed about how we were going to get around and the route we were going to take. Thankfully there were many helpful travel blogs (bless them), which suggested we hire a car, pointed out the best places to stay and recommended eating petrol station hot dogs since food everywhere else was so expensive.
The thought of driving all 1,332 kilometres around the circumference of Iceland on the right-hand side of the road was a daunting one. Luckily I was traveling with two level-headed friends and we were able to split up the driving, not to mention the cost of petrol... The trickiest part was getting the hang of driving in the left-hand driver’s seat. I lost count of how many times I mistakenly clutched my left leg with the intention of putting on the handbrake. Very awkward.
Iceland is such a beautiful place. Being from New Zealand, I was of the biased opinion that no country could come close to rivalling my home in beauty. But I must say that Iceland is that country. The sheer variety of stunning landscapes was incredible. In just a few days we saw five waterfalls, natural hot springs, a massive glacier, black sand beaches, a lagoon filled with icebergs and lava fields covered in soft, springy moss. Not to mention the shell of abandoned plane which had to make an emergency landing on one of the black sand beaches.
I know a lot of people go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. We weren’t particularly hopeful because it wasn’t the ‘high season’ and the weather forecast was looking cloudy. We were least expecting to see them in Reykjavik where the city’s light pollution tends to add an extra layer of invisibility. However on our first night in Reykjavik, we had just bought ourselves lobster rolls from a food truck on the streets. It was raining, so we were huddling together under a small canopy eating our hugely expensive take-away dinner. I saw a girl pointing to the sky, took a look and there they were. A glimmer of green and pink pulsing lights seen through a break in the clouds. It was a pretty special moment.
I’m not sure if I will ever go back to Iceland. It’s a magical place a bit like Disneyland and I’m afraid that if I go back, it won’t be quite the same. For now I’m just happy reminiscing about the land of waterfalls and rainbows.
Claire Choe is a New Zealander living in London. By day, she works in charity advertising on a canal-boat-turned-office on Regent's Canal. In her spare time, she heads up the ever-entertaining (and mouth-watering) Garlic Bread Club and sets out on adventures with the ultimate travel companion, Travel Chicken.