I’ve always sought authentic travel experiences. The idea of flying halfway across the world just to spend all my time at the most photographed locations on the planet has never made any sense to me, not when unique stories and unexpected turns of events were out there to be discovered.
My earliest travel experiences come from my teenage years, when I attended Adventures Cross Country, a company that organizes groups of teens on adventure-focused trips for weeks at a time. The summer of my 13th year was spent (begrudgingly at first) hiking through the backcountry of British Columbia, and it was there that my travel preferences, and my sense of self, began to develop.
For four weeks I learned to go without the comforts of the modern world, trading them in for the sort of skills that helped build a better me. I learned how to raise a tent in the rain after hiking for 10 hours, and the most efficient ways to pack one month of my life into a backpack. I learned to read the clouds, to recognize how to keep beehives in the ground from exploding, and on one occasion, how to prepare an emergency evacuation when you’re a 3 day hike from civilization. These skills taught me not only how to survive in the wilderness, but how to depend on myself for everyday survival, and the lessons that come when one is humbled by nature.
Point being, in traveling as an adult I’ve looked to replicate those experiences. So when I went to Iceland last year, I avoided most of the well-known tourist hot spots, like the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle.
This time around, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and as you can imagine I ended up having a wildly different experience than I anticipated.
Stepping off the plane and into the warm, healing waters of the Blue Lagoon was an immensely relaxing way to deal with jet lag and the stress of international travel. Though expensive, the spot was in no way overrun with fannypacked tourists. In fact, I would consider my visit there to be a highlight of all my time spent in Iceland.
Yesterday, our Icelandic friend and host/guide (pictured above on the right) drove us to see the highlights of the Golden Circle, including Iceland’s famous geyser (Geysir)…
Both sites were absolutely breathtaking and showed off the majesty of Iceland’s unique landscape. And since the sun doesn’t go down, our late night visit ensured that crowds were nowhere to be found.
While I won’t concede my preference for authentic cultural experiences, I will admit that top tourist attractions have their place in the world of travel.
I chose not to illustrate the fruits of my admission, but a decoration from my current Reykjavík Airbnb instead.