Monday, August 24, 2015

10 Best Travel Moments in Iceland

Looking back on my two week trip to Iceland with Rachael, there were so many incredible moments. I decided to pick my top ten and share them here.  It was hard to choose, believe me! Iceland is one of the most stunning places that I have ever visited in terms of natural beauty. In some ways, it reminded me of New Zealand's South Island. Without further ado, here is my list!

1)  Soaking in the natural hot springs at the Secret Lagoon. Of course you have probably heard of the Blue Lagoon, which is one of the top attractions in Iceland. While we did go to the Blue Lagoon and liked it, both Rachael and I much preferred the Secret Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is touristy, expensive, and crowded while the Secret Lagoon is smaller and in my opinion, more relaxing. The Secret Lagoon is located in Fludir which is not far from stops on The Golden Circle tour. It was a convenient place to go for us since we had just spent the day taking in the sights on this popular day trip. At the Secret Lagoon, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time. Before we knew it, there was no one left but our group and a few other stray couples. It was a great way to get in some hydrotherapy and unwind!

2) Making friends with Icelandic horses. On our road trip, we decided to stop and pet some of the horses we saw in passing, and Rachael and I also spent a half-day going horseback riding through the lava fields. The company we went through is called Ishestar, and it's easy to go while staying in Reykjavik. We were considered beginners and had no problems, and everyone was divided into one of two groups so that the advanced riders could go faster.

Icelandic horses are known to be rather friendly and are exceptional because they know other gaits besides the traditional ones like walk, trot, canter/gallop. This is a very pure breed because no other horses are brought into Iceland. Once Icelandic horses are exported, they are not allowed to ever come back into the country in order to prevent diseases. Icelandic horses are generally considered to be small and sturdy, but we were warned by our Icelandic guides to never confuse them for ponies! We were also told that Icelandic horses are special because a rider's body can easily move with the horse, which allows for a smoother ride.

3) Exploring Reykjavik. Besides the first three nights of our trip, we stayed in Reykjavik the whole time. Although we went on many daily excursions, we still took the time to explore this quirky city. While in Reykjavik, we spent a night out on the town, ate at plenty of tasty restaurants like Le Bistro and Laundromat Cafe for brunch, tried several coffeehouses, went shopping for some souvenirs, toured Harpa Concert Hall, went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja (aka "The Big Church") for some stellar views of the city, explored the harbor, went to Nautholsvik geothermal beach, and took a free walking tour of the city. We did leave the city frequently, but I liked having Reykjavik as our "home base."

4) Admiring waterfalls. Don't tell TLC, but a big portion of our trip was spent chasing waterfalls. Even though we made it a point to see some of the top waterfalls in Iceland, many of the ones we saw just happened to be ones we passed by randomly on our road trip! My personal favorite is the majestic Hraunfossar, which translates to Lava Waterfall.

Beautiful waterfalls like the one pictured below are common sights in the southern part of Iceland.

Other waterfalls we visited included: Oxararfoss in Pingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, Skogafoss, Svartifoss, Barnafoss, and Bjarnarfoss, to name a few more. Seeing these waterfalls was one of my travel experiences of all time--maybe it's because my middle name is Lynne, which means waterfall. :)

5) Learning about Icelandic culture. Our road trip was great, but I learned the most from my Reykjavik Excursions guide when I went to Snaefellsness Peninsula and to Langjokull Glacier, which I hope to write more detailed posts on later. Lolly from the free walking tour in Reykjavik also taught me about traditional Icelandic food (sheep testicles fermented in milk, anyone?), history, and politics. Kaelene had some insight about Iceland since she has lived in Iceland for more than 22 months now. For example, did you know that gender equality is a big deal in Iceland? Kaelene informed us that in primary schools, boys are encouraged to talk about their feelings and play with typical "girl" toys like dolls while girls are given "boy" toys.

One of the stops on our Free Walking Tour: The Parliament Building where the Prime Minister resides

6) Going inside a volcano- We went on the Inside the Volcano tour and got to go down into the magma chamber of Thrihnukagigur, a volcano that last erupted 4,000 years ago. While visiting other places, you might get to hike up a volcano or go into one of the craters, but going this deep into a volcano can only be done at Thrihnukagigur. We took a specially designed, open air elevator down 120 meters and got to stay and explore the magma chamber for about 35 minutes. The colors were just incredible!

7) Taking in the scenery at Gjain. I have to thank Kaelene for blogging about this lush valley because otherwise we would have missed it. It is not well known, but well worth the trip. Actually, part of the reason why Gjain is so remarkable is because there aren't many tourists there. When we were hiking around, a group was just leaving and we were the only ones there!! That meant we got private views of waterfalls and the gorgeous surroundings.  Four out of four of us said that Gjain was one of our favorite stops in Iceland.

8) Heading out to Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. I have never seen anything quite like these icebergs that have broken off from a larger glacier. Our friend that went with us compared them to mint chocolate chip ice cream. If you look closely at this wonderful setting, you might even be able to catch a glimpse of a seal or two. 

9) Walking on the black sand beach at Vik at sunset. After a long day, our group headed to the picturesque town of Vik to wind down for the evening. We were tired from our trip, but had a hearty meal and then we meandered down to the beach for an evening stroll on the beach, which was just what we needed. Not only was the sky beautiful, but the basalt columns added to this amazing setting. 

10) Touring Snaefellsnes Peninsula- Known as a miniature version of the whole country, Snaefellsness did not disappoint! We visited a volcanic crater as well as the black sand beach with wreckage from the ship Epine-Grimbsy. Additionally, we admired waterfalls and the small villages along the way. The best part was taking a hike along rugged coastline and seeing the lava cliffs between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. 

Is there anything on this list that you would like to do? Have you ever been to Iceland? If you have, what would be on your list?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reading Into My Psychic Reading

Have you ever gone to get your tarot cards read by a self-professed psychic? My friend and I were in Salem, Massachusetts; we thought we would do it "just for fun." The only thing is that my reading turned into something that stressed (and is still continuing to stress) me out when I think about it sometimes. Then, the other half of the time I will just laugh at this and dismiss it as not true at all. 

The psychic started off by introducing herself and asking my age. Then I pulled a bunch of Tarot cards from the deck, and she told me some information about myself that was accurate.

"You're really good with balancing money." My mom always says that one of my sisters blows all her money, the other one is frugal, and I am the perfect balance. I would agree with know, except for when I pay $40 for a 20 minute psychic reading. Wow, good one, psychic! One point for you. 

"Are you in a relationship?" When I told her no, she did not let it go and kept pushing because I had pulled the death card which she said meant death of a relationship. I told her that my last relationship of five and a half years did not have an official end date, but that we hadn't seen each other in over a year and hadn't texted since February. I also mentioned to her that I was going to China, and she said the card meant that once I go to China it will be like this relationship is truly over because it will be like me taking the next step that I need to take to move on with my life.

"You have a lot of guilt over your last relationship, but it's not your fault." That is also true, but I think anyone who talks to me for more than two seconds on this topic could pick up on that. Even when I know someone is not right for me, I just hope that they will be the one to break up with me. Major character flaw alert... Break ups aren't easy, but I really struggle with dumping people because I feel way too anxious and terrible for "breaking someone else's heart," even though the alternative is us being together with at least one of us being unhappy, which is probably far worse. I tend to stay in relationships longer than I should. 

The psychic asked me about my astrological sign and also which sign my ex was. When I told her I was an Aries and he was a Leo, I started by saying that I knew Aries/Leo were supposed to be good matches based on every astrology site/book I've ever looked at. She told me that it can be a good match if the Aries talks the Leo up and gives the other person lots of compliments and reassurance, but when the Aries does not do that, it won't be a good relationship. She then said that Leos like to stay at home, but Aries like to go out and have adventures so that is another difference that can cause problems. What she said did describe my last relationship, but of course she knows I'm adventurous because I told her I was going to China! 

"You try too hard to please others, but you need to think about what you want and do it. Don't let other people decide for you." This is kind of an ambiguous comment, but I took it to mean that I tried working "a traditional job" in my home country, and was hoping to "settle down." This is what others wanted for me, and I decided to try it out, but wasn't very successful. (Don't you love how I mold these statements into something that fits my situation?)

"The very first Tarot card you drew was the World, which means that China will be very good for you and that there will be many opportunities. This card means that someone is ready to move on and start something new, so it's telling that this is the first one you picked." Really, I couldn't think of a card that would better represent where I am in my life right now.

So far so good, right? Well, here's the part that I didn't like so much...

"I don't see any kids in your future. Sorry."  I guess I must have seem startled because she said, "Well, let me double check by looking at your palm." After looking at my palm, she said, "I just don't see it. Sorry again." Yes, I'm not stupid, and I know that I'm 34 and single so there is a chance that this will be true, but I guess I just didn't expect to hear this in the shop. You know like in the sense that if a so-called psychic "sees" that you will get hit by a car, then she will leave that out as to not upset you? I expected the same courtesy. Of course this prompted me to Google things like "palmistry" and "children lines" and upon examining my own palm for awhile, about the only thing I wanted to do with my palm was to hit myself in the forehead with it for even Googling that in the first place.  

I don't even know for sure if kids will be right for me, but I want to be open to the possibility. I felt kind of like Carrie in Sex and the City when she realizes that Aleksandr Petrovsky might not be the one because being with him would mean the decision to never have kids would be made for her.  I don't just want to be told no, never. Hmmm...clearly, I should just run out and have a baby to prove my psychic wrong. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, then she said, "You won't ever get married or have a husband." At that point I must have looked distraught, because I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to find someone that I loved enough to be my husband one day. After all, isn't love what practically all humans basically strive to find in their lifetime? She did add, "At age 37 you will find a life partner. He might not live with you, though." Is it just me or does that sound like a gay BFF? ;) Not very encouraging! 

Okay, I don't totally believe in this stuff.  Again, I just thought it was going to be light-hearted and amusing...not full of information I did not want to hear because at my age I already sometimes worry about those things. Even though it wouldn't be the end of the world if I was single/childless forever, there's beauty in the unknown!

The friend who I was with told me not to freak out and that it was a bunch of malarkey, but she did admit that if she was told that she would never get married or have kids that she would also be concerned. I really do not think that the psychics in the shop we visited go around telling people that they will have no marriage/kids on a regular basis because otherwise they'd probably have bad reviews on Trip Advisor, and this shop has hundreds of five star reviews.

Obviously what I want to do now is go to the Savannah psychic my friend knows about and go for a reading so that hopefully she can contradict what the other psychic has told me! HA! This is very tempting, but in another sense, I know that I'm being completely ridiculous.

At the end of the day, do I KNOW what she said is true? No, of course not. Did she say some things that were upsetting?  Yes, but should I waste my time worrying about these "predictions" or should I be living my life #theadventurousway (had to promote our wonderful Instagram hashtag!) and making my own fate? I think I'll take the latter.

Have you ever gone to a psychic and not liked what you were told?