With a week and a half left of this Iceland adventure, I thought it would be smart to record some of the thoughts I’ve had about this trip before it’s too late and I’m back in the chaotic day-to-day grind of Mumbai life and the memories begin to fade.
If you’ve been following my blog lately you might have been curious about what it’s really like backpacking around Iceland as a single woman in July and on a budget. The following are some of the realizations I’ve had along the way, not just about the logistical journey but also about the personal one …
There are challenges every day. Some might think that backpacking across Iceland is a holiday. In actuality it requires hard work and courage to make it work, especially as a single woman. From figuring out where to find transportation to being vigilant and protective of my belongings, there’s always something to think about, and to think ahead about. Plus, doing it alone means not having that extra brain to help navigate, be an extra set of hands while setting
up a tent in the rain, share the load, make recommendations, or reassure.
Vanity dissipates. When I left Reykjavik without bothering to apply makeup, I felt insecure.
Each time I looked in the mirror I would (now I’m going to be honest here) feel unattractive and exposed. Slowly, over the past two weeks, I’ve realized that my insecurity has faded and now when I see my face in the mirror, instead of judging myself against what society deems as beautiful, I see new beauty in the way the elements have left their mark on my face.
A minority traveller. It seems that single women don’t really do this Iceland thing. All around me I see tourists and backpackers (yes, there is a difference) in pairs or groups, with the only singles being men. Couples, there are a plenty, and groups of young adults looking for adventure, but no single women. Where are the rest of me? I have wondered.
Thorsmork National Park
Solo hiking is free therapy. I have fallen in love with hiking. Not only does it offer grand rewards like discovering hidden waterfalls, walking into baby ptarmigan flying practice, and reaching high peaks with views of volcanoes, streams and glaciers, but (when doing it solo) it is time to just think, to process, to reflect, make plans, draw conclusions, all while feeling the rush of endorphins.
A tent can feel like a home very quickly. Every night since Reykjavik I have slept in my tent. I have loved this experience for many reasons. For one thing, like a turtle, I carry my home on my back and can set up my shelter wherever I decide, and that kind of freedom is exciting. Second, my MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent is super easy to set up, even as a single person, and it’s lightweight (only 1.6kg), which means it doesn’t weigh me down when this turtle moves from one campsite to another. Last, living out of a tent costs significantly less than the next least expensive accommodation option. A camping pass costs between $12 and $19 a night. Let’s just say when adding it all up over a four and a half week period, I’m saving $3,485! Unbelievable right? Have I got you reconsidering your next trip yet?
Hitchhiking feels safe (but it’s still scary). When I first mentioned this concept to others, the wide eyes said it all. Apparently, hitchhiking is part of Icelandic culture and being known as one of the safest countries in the world means hitchhiking as a woman is an option. Nevertheless, I am still a ‘fish out of water’ when it comes to actually sticking my thumb out.
Simplicity heals. From the incredible landscape to the sleepy towns, Iceland keeps it real. There are no billboards or chains (except the occasional Subway) or loud noise, just the sound of the wind, trickling of glacial streams, gushing of the waterfalls, and cawing of the sea birds. I am surrounded by simple nature at it’s best, devoid of the distractions that occupy my time and
energy. So in this healing environment, with each breath and step forward, I feel invigorated and comforted by what simply just … is.
Cup-a-Soup is the ideal meal. I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential to keep my load as light as possible while on the move, which means choosing to buy food that weighs little and packs well. Anything in jars or containers just adds pounds to an already full pack, so I’ve discovered the ease of instant soup. I know it’s not the most nutritious meal but for this temporary journey, and in this cold environment, adding hot water to that powder after a long day of hiking is just the ticket.
Moments can last as long as I want. Travelling alone can have its downsides but it also
Not an easy shot to get when travelling solo!
means I can stop and linger when and wherever I want without worrying that I’m impinging on another’s plans or preferences. I can soak for two hours in natural hot springs, adjust my settings on my camera to get a perfect shot of an usual flower, or plant my butt on a rock, close
my eyes and just breathe.
Self-timer is my friend. One big con of travelling solo is never getting great travel photos of myself. To get around this problem, I have learned to prop my camera and utilize the self-timer setting. This is not as easy as it seems. I have to make sure the camera is in focus, the aperture and shutter speed are good to go, and there aren’t any dangerous obstacles in my way (I learned this the hard way). To get the jumping shots, now that’s just my secret talent 😉