“Jesus wept.” (John 11”35)
Famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible.
“Talis wept.” While not as famous, it’s still true.
Iceland was the first time that I wept at the sight of nature. Its indescribable beauty stems from unadulterated and unearthly formations. On some days, it felt like I travelled between three planets in a single day. I distinctly remember going from green plains as far as the eye could see to strikingly tall cliffs of stunning waterfalls, only to later be lost in a sea of white, 2-metre visibility. However, Caity does a brilliant job of capturing the wonder of Iceland in her post “Ice, Water and Reflections”, so I’ll let you read that. My post is all about how to do Iceland on a budget.
Step 1. Pick awesome friends.
There’s no doubt Iceland can be an expensive and harsh environment, especially if you go in Winter. In fact, we had difficulty getting a rental car on time because they were delayed from two clients rolling cars in the previous 2 days. As the proposed primary driver, you can imagine how scared I felt. However, with new friends as supportive and fun as these, my troubles were soon assuaged. We all met whilst on exchange to Canada – two from Australia, 2 from Singapore. When you pick your travel buddies for budget travel, the most important thing is to find people who are willing to rough it. And that we did.
Step 2. Eat bonus.
If you’re going to Iceland for cheap, you’re not going to be that comfortable. This is the country where a standard carton of eggs can cost $9. We found every combination of canned tuna, kidney beans, fried onion and peanut butter there was possible! Usually, we’d just mix them all together in a wrap, and while this may sound disgusting, I so looked forward to this after a day of snow-trudging and horse-petting. Why ‘bonus’? Bonus is the only store you need for all your cheap, carb-filled, preservative-laden calories.
Step 3. Jump fences.
In Iceland (and many Nordic countries) there is a “Freedom to Roam” law. This states that it is every man’s right to access land for recreation and exercise. The terms of this law are relatively loose, so we took full advantage. We slept a night in a cave, one in an open field, and one in an abandoned barn. These are certainly cheap, but not comfortable. Waking up on the concrete floor in -7 degrees to trek back to the car in the snow, then not being able to open the door because my hands were too cold was admittedly not one of the trip’s highlights. [Disclaimer: we never did anything to harm, damage or inconvenience any land or person.]
Step 4. Look around.
The best thing about Iceland is that everywhere you look is stunning. You can pay $40 to go bathe in a tourist-filled, commercial hot spring, or spend $0 to bathe in a natural hot spring in a cave, not to mention where they filmed Game of Thrones. You can pay $300 for a night tour to chase the Northern Lights, or you can camp out for free front row seats to this view:
Iceland is nothing short of magical, there’s no doubting that, but with a restaurant meal here-and-there and a guided tour later, you’re missing your rent for a week. Of these tips, step 1 is certainly most important. When you’re taping heat packs to your feet so you can feel them in the morning, a sleeping bag rave with great friends is what will pull you through. When you’re eating your fifteenth tuna, peanut butter and onion flake sandwich for the week, a karaoke sesh to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is just about the only thing that will lift your spirits. These are the sort of friends you’ll make on exchange. The ones who don’t care about your accent; who get you to go out the night before your test but then wake you up so you don’t miss it; who give you the needed hugs when you’re missing home. You may only know them for 4 months, but if you embrace it, that’s more than enough to lifelong friends in all corners of the globe.