30* Days of Yoga

*ish

For the month of March, I set a challenge for myself to do yoga every day, aiming for 30 practices total (giving myself a rest day halfway through). I mostly completed my goal, practicing on 27 out of 31 days. So, I took a few days off but if there’s anything I’ve learned from yoga, it’s to be forgiving to myself when I’m not perfect. In order to fit 30-75 minutes of yoga into my daily routine, I eliminated my usual cardio workouts from my week, instead focusing on getting on my mat.

This was the perfect challenge for me at this time; I’ve been wanting to expand my practice and increase strength and flexibility while also maintaining my daily meditation habit. I mostly went to power vinyasa studio classes which run 60-75 minutes long. On the days I practiced from home, I used the Cody App which I like for the variety of classes. As a former roller derby skater and Crossfitter, yoga is a big change of pace for me. In the last few years, I’ve been leaning towards the more slow and deliberate pace of yoga and Pilates, mostly because of the limitations I have in my knee after my injury 7 years ago and subsequent surgery. I can’t do All The Squats anymore, which makes me sad. But with yoga, I’ve found a way to increase my strength that doesn’t also make me constantly fear injury. And spoiler alert–I’ve gotten pretty damn strong and I kinda even love side planks now.

prayer twist, Wonder Woman-style

A few takeaways about the 30-day challenge:

  • I made SO much more dirty laundry. Most of the studio classes I go to are in a 93-degree heated room, and by the end I’m so sweaty my fingers are pruning. Obviously, this results in a ton of drenched leggings, tank tops, and yoga towels.  #laundryeverydamnday
  • I went to the doctor for my annual physical, and I was nearly an inch taller than I was last year! That’s what daily stretching will do for your spine and overall posture.
  • Blocking out time on my calendar helped me prioritize fitting the daily practice into my crazy schedule. Much like with my vision board, seeing it on my list of to-do’s for the day was the key to sticking with it.
  • My body awareness has become more heightened. I notice all the tiny differences in flexibility on my left side vs. my right, my strengths (quads and hammies) and tightness (my lower back has zero desire to bend but I’m slowly making gains but will likely hate camel pose forever).
  • Taking a selfie in a yoga pose using a 10-second iPhone timer is the greatest challenge of all. Everything on Instagram is a lie. It takes a village to get that perfect image you just scrolled past of a social media influencer in perfect Eka Pada Galavasana in front of a waterfall in Belize.

Now that my self-imposed challenge is over, I’m adding cardio back into my routine a few times a week, but I plan to keep yoga as my main form of exercise on most days.

lizard pose with quad stretch

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Wearing My Traveling Pants: Las Vegas and New Orleans

In the early months of 2018, I planned weekend trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans within 3 weeks of each other. If you are thinking to yourself, this sounds like the best idea ever, you are correct. Traveling as much as possible is on my 2018 vision board (see last post!), and though visiting these two cities in particular did nothing to forward my healthy-eating-and-living-related goals, they were super fun trips and #NORAGRETS. Each trip had a particular in mind–a journey, a quest, a DESTINATION:

Las Vegas
The trip’s main quest was to see Magic Mike Live. Believe me when I tell you that it’s not what you think it’s going to be–it’s one of the most entertaining shows I’ve seen in recent memory. You can read the full review over at Heauxs Magazine.  I lived in Las Vegas the year I turned 21, so it’s a city near and dear to my heart, full of fuzzy memories, bad decisions, and fantastic stories. This past trip is no exception.  Plus, I got to ride a mechanical bull which is my fave thing in this world (shout-out to my former Urban Rodeo League team, the Buckle Bunnies).

Vegas highlights via foto:

Art-O-Mat – local art vending machine

Year of the Dog

Neon Boneyard


New Orleans
The New Orleans quest involved taking an overnight train from Chicago to Louisiana and singing a whole lot of karaoke. I’d never traveled in a sleeper car or eaten in a dining car before; it was very White Christmas (but with no snow and lots of beer) and I loved it. I’d been to New Orleans once before and was eager to revisit it. We hit two karaoke bars (Cat’s Meow and Kajuns Pub), toured an historic cemetery, and ate a ton of amazing food. In Airbnb adventures, I now know what it sounds like when someone drops a 5-lb wad of Mardi Gras beads into a steel drum.

Feast your eyeballs on these NoLa pics:

I made a lot of “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” references for you fellow theater nerds

a surly local

tour of St. Louis Cemetery

omg we ate so much delicious food

Furreals, if I could visit both these cities every year until the day I die, I’d be so happy (but only during the winter because I can’t handle extreme hot weather, I’m basically a Stark).  Both cities are all about celebrating in the moment and indulging every whim. The kale salad in the fridge at home can wait for me.

March Goals

A few weeks into January, I spent a Sunday afternoon with a group of friends making vision boards. I’d never made one before, but in the decade or so, I’ve developed a tendency to overbook my life to the point where I lose track of some of the goals I want to attain. Making a vision board has helped me to focus on the handful of goals that are most important to me, helping me to prioritize my precious free time. It also gives me the excellent excuse: “Can’t do it; it’s not on my vision board.”

the bottom one says Cook, I swear

So far, I’m doing good! I’ve traveled to Las Vegas and New Orleans. I’ve meditated every day except 6 total (hungover Vegas flight, every day in New Orleans because sharing a shotgun apartment with 7 people, while super fun, is not v. Zen). I’m changing some of the other goals around a bit as various projects evolve, but you get the idea.

In terms of health and fitness goals,  I have a workout regimen that’s attainable and doesn’t totally dominate my free time. I run on my elliptical machine 2-3 times a week for 45 minutes while blaring pop favorites of yesterday and today. Then twice a week, I go to a power vinyasa class. I’ve never had a body that is naturally skinny, but I put on muscle quickly and I surprise people with my strength (usually during impromptu drunken arm wrestling challenges). With my crazy strong hamstrings and quads, I like to say that I have the lower body of a  male cartoon centaur. In terms of nutrition, I’ve slowly been improving my eating habits over recent years and working a lot more leafy greens and veggies into my regular diet. My biggest downfall is still sugar (gimme all the gimmick flavored Oreos pleez). This past January, I did a sweets-free month (still ate some fruits, opted for plain yogurt and added my own fresh toppings, ate regular bread but no pastries or donuts, no chocolate or candy, etc.) and it had a big impact on how I felt. It was also surprisingly easy for me to accomplish since I knew that there was an end date in sight. Sure enough, come February 1st, it all went out the window, and as of this morning I’ve eaten a slice of leftover cake with my morning coffee for 4 days straight.

So, back to the vision board! Starting tomorrow morning, March 1st, I’m setting two health challenges for myself:

  1. I’ve wanted to up my yoga practice for a while now, so I’m going to shoot for 30 days of yoga, at least 15 minutes to an hour a day. I want to see how it improves my flexibility, strength, and overall outlook.
  2. I’m cutting out sweet treats again, but with the allowance of 1 per week (that’s a single donut, cookie, or slice of cake. Or 1 sleeve. of Oreos because I make my own rules). The goal here is to better set a habit where I’m eliminating most sugar from my diet but keeping it attainable–I can still enjoy a piece of cake at a party or treat myself to a milkshake, just in better moderation.

I am better about adhering to goals once I’ve made them public, so to the handful of people who may end up reading this, thanks for keeping me accountable. High five!

 

Hey, 2018, Hey

2017, amirite?? Yes, the events of the world made me cry and have massive anxiety, but there was also a feeling of collective resilience that began to build slowly over twelve tumultuous months. Looking at brand spanking new 2018 laying before us, I feel pretty good. Maybe this is just me choosing to take an optimistic viewpoint, but I’m feeling rullll hopeful.  Like, Princess-Leia-at-the-end-of-Rogue-One Level of Hope. On this first day of a new year, we are all Mariah Carey, ready to put last year’s stumbles behind us and start anew, triumphant, and bedazzled. Plus, the Year of the Dog starts in a month and dogs always make everything better.

This year, I’ll be thinking a lot of a line from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

My resolutions for 2018:

  • Continue building on what I started/accomplished in 2017. Yoga and meditation became a part of my regular routine, and have had a big impact on me. I aim to increase my yoga practice and meditate as close to daily as possible.
  • Last year, I made a goal of carving out 3 hours/week for writing. On average, I usually hit this goal and then some, so I’m aiming for 6 hours/week, hopefully falling somewhere closer to the higher end between 3-6 on a regular basis. As with last year, I will be kind to myself when Life takes over and letting myself have little vacations when needed.
  • Keep improving my nutrition habits, starting with a sugary treats cleanse in January. At this point in my life, I know how much better I feel when I’m eating well and getting lots of fresh veggies and healthy protein in my diet. Make the time to grocery shop and meal prep so I don’t have to fall back on fast, processed food in a pinch.
  • Consume art. Read whenever I can. Watch films thoughtfully without looking at my phone. Support artists. Create.
  • Continue to travel as much as I can. Swim in as many lakes as possible. Watch the sun rise. Watch it set. Immerse myself in nature whenever possible.

Happy New Year! ❤

 

Maine Diaries: Living that #VanLife

Saturday, September 16

Kurt and I, plus our dog River, packed up our Chevy Astrovan for a week-long road trip to Maine. We spent 12 hours on the road, ending up in the Finger Lakes National Forest in New York to spend our first night in the van. The sky had already grown dark as we reached the campground, and since the only available site was a walk-in, we ended up sleeping in the parking lot. It was a warm night, 80 degrees and sticky. We pulled down our window shades and slept on top of our sleeping bags with the roof fan cranking.

River ready to go

Sunday, September 17

We got on the road early. I entered two new states for the first time–Vermont! (where I ate a turkey sandwich with cranberries and stuffing on it) New Hampshire! (where I bought a box of wine), and then, finally, we crossed the bridge into Maine while passing through a misty rain. We traveled down dark roads lined by forests, and I told Kurt to slow down (“You’re gonna Stephen-King someone!”).  We pulled into Bradbury Mountain State Park just before nightfall, and enjoyed the quiet solitude of nature and “got away from it all” by watching the Packer game on the iPad using the campground wifi.

entering Maine

Monday, September 18

Now that we had reached Maine, we could spend less time driving and more time wandering and exploring various coastal towns. Our first stop was in Boothbay, where we found a restaurant on the water with dog-friendly outdoor seating. I had my first Maine lobster roll with a Bloody Mary. After lunch, we walked through town and checked out a few stores; every single one allowed dogs inside, so Maine is definitely a dog-friend travel destination. That night, we stayed at Camden Hills State Park in a secluded site at the end of the loop, far from any neighbors. The sky was misty with intermittent drizzling rain, creating an otherworldly backdrop of trees that could pass for Dagobah. We cooked burgers on our camp stove and tucked into our box of wine. When I walked to the restrooms near the main road,  the forest was still and quiet, with no sign of any other humans. I held my breath as I darted back to our site, expecting to see Pennywise lurking just beyond the reach of the beam of light coming from my headlamp.

#vanlife

Tuesday, September 19

We drove from Camden to Acadia National Park, stopping in Bucksport to buy groceries and check out John Buck’s Memorial in an old local cemetery. Legend has it that Colonel Buck had sentenced a witch to death by burning at the stake, and after his own passing, a black mark in the shape of a woman’s leg appeared on his monument. When we arrived in Acadia National Park, we stopped near Thunder Hole to see our first views of the ocean. A thick fog hung in the air, obscuring most of our view but creating an autumnal ambiance. We took a drive to the quiet side to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, and when the skies cleared, I had to quote The Little Mermaid– “A fine strong wind and a following sea; King Triton must be in a friendly-type mood.” We settled in at the Blackwoods Campground where a steady rain kept us inside the van most of the night. We stretched out on the unfolded bench-turned-bed, and I read my book (Pet Sematary) while drinking boxed wine from our camping cups. River curled up on her doggie bed on the shag rug, sleeping peacefully while I read about pets being resurrected and coming back “not quite right.”

no one was forced to be in this photo. nope.

Wednesday, September 20

We spent the morning in Bar Harbor, eating breakfast in the dog-friendly patio area of That Way Cafe. As the sky cleared up, we drove back into the park for an easy first hike, going 3.2 miles around Jordan Pond and getting a nice view of North and South Bubble Mountains. The first half of the trail was an easy dirt path, but coming around the other side of the pond (which is actually a 150-feet-deep lake), the trail traveled over large rocks and boulders, and included a series of planks lifted off the ground to protect vegetation. River scrambled easily over the rocks but it was a little tricky to keep her on the planks when she would rather jump onto the forest floor.  That night, we drove back to Bar Harbor (we did lots of back-and-forth between the town and the campground since it was only 6 miles away) and had a lobster dinner–my first! River snoozed under the table as I learned how crack the shell and slurp out all the inner buttery goodness. She *might* have been given a little sample so she could brag about it upon her return to the dog park back home.

les poissons les poissons

Thursday, September 21

In the morning, we had breakfast at the campsite–eggs scrambled with hamburger and hashbrowns, and instant coffee. After, we packed up a daypack with water, snacks, and dog bowls, put River’s little doggo backpack on her, and set out from Blackwoods to the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail.  Roundtrip from our campground to the summit of the tallest mountain on the U.S. eastern seaboard, the hike is roughly 9 miles total over 1,500 feet of elevation gain–a nice, moderate day hike with nothing too crazy thrown at us. At the beginning of the trail, we wound through forest, hopping over tree routes, then started a gradual climb over rocks and boulders. River acted like she was half mountain goat, gamely jumping up rocks with a big doggo grin. As an acrophobic, the south ridge of Cadillac is my kind of mountain—no steep drop-offs that make my heart pound in fear, just gentle slopes where, even if I tripped and fell, I’d slide to a safe and easy stop instead of plummeting to my death. Once we climbed over the tree line, the views were incredible, giving us an 180-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean. When we reached the summit, we entered a swarm of tourist who either drove to the top or arrived by tour bus. We bought blueberry soda and ice cream bars in the gift shop and sat on a bench, resting our feet and refueling with sugar. My past knee injuries make descents tougher than ascents, so I was a little nervous about the return trip over the rockier parts of the trail, but we got back to camp without incident. River was equally adept hopping down giant rocks as she was going up. Once we got back to camp, we made a stop at the coin-operated showers down the road to wash up, and then had a final meal in Bar Harbor while River snoozed under the table, dreaming of adventure. That night at camp, through the windows of the van, we could hear the crash of the ocean, the waves dictated by the moon.

mountain goat doggo

Friday, September 22

I always get a little sad whenever we leave a National Park. Even when I’m eager for strong wifi, strong running water, and strong coffee, a part of me still wishes we were sleeping in the forest like little woodland creatures. We made a quick stop at the visitors center at the park entrance to get a sticker for the van, and got back on the road towards Portland. On the return trip, we took a small detour through Bangor, in small part so we could drive past Stephen King’s house. It was obvious when we found it; besides the handful of other tourists who had stopped to take a picture of his wrought-iron gate designed to look like a spider web, a large red balloon hovered just above the fence in homage to IT. We stopped to take a quick photo and walk River on the parkway; as we stood outside, we saw a car pull into the driveway and it was obviously Stephen King himself! So that was cool, though at that point we felt like obvious gawkers so we quickly got back into the van and on our way. In Portland, we had booked an Airbnb for two nights in town. We checked in, napped and cleaned up a bit, then went out for a night of dinner and drinking with a local friend, David (and Drinker with a Writing Problem!) who showed us around to some fun bars including the Thirsty Pig and the Great Lost Bear. We had plenty of good local beers and one impressive platter of nachos before we stumbled home and slept in a real bed for the first time in a week.

camping hair don’t care

Saturday, September 23

We slept in at the Airbnb, with no sounds of camping neighbors packing up cars in the early a.m.  For brunch, we checked out a recommendation from our friend, Hot Suppa, and I had one of my top-five-all-time-favorite Bloody Marys. It was a perfectly sunny, surprisingly warm afternoon, so we took River to the beach and played fetch in the water. We wrapped up the day by having some flights at Shipyard Brewing (their Pumpkinhead is an especially good pumpkin beer), dinner at Liquid Riot, and a few nightcap beers on the back porch of our Airbnb.

boat crazy!

Sunday, Sept. 24 – Monday, Sept. 25

We got an early start for our drive home, leaving the Airbnb at 7 a.m., flying through Maine and New Hampshire, then making a quick lunch stop in Massachusetts. Another state first for me! A friend of mine and I once tried to define what counts as having been to a state–my personal rule is that layovers don’t count unless you leave the airport, and driving through counts as long as you stop at some point and your feet hit the ground. We reached Cleveland around 7 p.m., where we spent the night with our good friend Becky at her house and hung out with her adorable son, dogs, and foster cat. On Monday, we drove the final stretch back to Chicago and it was pretty uneventful except for one magical moment. The backstory: in 2009, I drove to New York City with my sister to help her make a cross-country move. We left Chicago in a rental car packed to the brim at around midnight. By the time we reached Ohio, we were cracked out on coffee and energy drinks, and made a rest stop at a gas station. We were both shocked and delighted to find a very random poster of Romeo + Juliet-era Leonardo DiCaprio mounted on the wall in the women’s restroom. Because we were so tired, the memory of it seemed surreal, like perhaps our dreams were incepted by the same Tiger Beat editor. Years passed; I’ve made the Chicago-to-East-Coast drive multiple times since, and never came across that poster again….UNTIL NOW. When I walked into the women’s restroom and locked eyes with Leo’s baby blues, I died. I had stumbled across the same mirage in the desert, that magical Brigadoon.  I texted my sister immediately and her reaction was as expected: “OMG!!!!!!!!” I asked Kurt if there was a matching Claire Danes-as-Juliet poster in the men’s room, but he said no. Must’ve been sold separately.

Leo 4-eva

Anyways, a few hours later, we finally reached home. Maine’s lovely and you should check it out.

Summer Updates

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. This summer has been a whirlwind of activity and I’m working on a couple of different things, so I’m playing catch-up with this post.

What I’ve been doing lately:

Every summer, I try to jump into as many natural bodies of water as possible. Pools are fine, but give me a Midwestern lake or river over a water-filled concrete hole any day. I spent a weekend with my family in Long Beach, Indiana, where I whiled away an afternoon bobbing along the surface of Lake Michigan, letting my toes drag over the sand. On another trip to the Chain O’Lakes in north-central Wisconsin, storms threatened to cut down on my swimming time and lent to a lazy day of pub-hopping and indoor board games. But one afternoon, the sky cleared up and the sun came out so we hopped aboard the pontoon boat, and even though it was only in the mid-60’s, I jumped in the lake. There’s something about swimming in a deep body of water where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, and you float along thinking of what kind of primal creatures might be swirling in the depths beneath your feet. My brother and I were the only ones in the water while the rest of my family stayed on the boat, and I paddled along as sunlight glinted off the surface of the lake and through the thick green trees, and it was heaven. These are the kind of days I dream about in late January when the icy winds howl around our cozy little house.

In the spring, I decided to give up on a novel that I had been working on. I was about 45 pages in, and the idea of my premise was no longer drawing me to the page. At the same time, I realized that a short story I recently started had enough teeth to sustain the length of a novel. Wah-wah-waahhhh. I abandoned my earlier project to a Google Drive folder of cast-off ideas, and now I’m humming along on my new premise, starting from scratch. I still have my first novel-length manuscript from 2014 sitting in a file, and the process of working on it taught me so much about my own creative process. I don’t look at bulk amounts of cast-off pages as a waste of time at all; they’re practice towards what will someday be a complete piece that I’ll be (hopefully) proud to share. Some projects tell you when they’re ready.

On the interwebs, I’ve been writing some other fun things:

  • Game of Thrones recaps for Heauxs, a pop culture site. Seriously, check them out–there’s tons of reviews and think pieces and travelogues written by some hilarious, intelligent, and incredibly talented people. Writing these weekly recaps is fulfilling all of my 2007-era Television-without-Pity dreams.
  • I performed a piece about ancestry and identity at Miss Spoken in July, and shared it over at Drinkers with Writing Problems.

Let’s see, what else… In pop culture, besides Game of Thrones, I’ve been obsessing over Twin Peaks: the Return, and catching up on Outlander. The former makes me want to revisit the Pacific Northwest, and the latter has me researching camping in Scotland. And speaking of camping, Kurt and I are going on a fall road trip to Acadia National Park, so I’ll be posting some new travel blogs in the near future. Send any Maine recommendations my way. We also have a canoeing trip coming up as well as a visit to the Ozarks, so I have a few more chances to jump into a lake before the end of the summer. I suggest you do the same.

Iceland Diaries: Homeward Bound, Final Thoughts

Sunday, Feb. 19

The morning was spent packing our bags and cleaning up the Airbnb. We finished exactly at checkout time, 11 a.m., then made the 10-minute walk with our bags to the bus terminal, where we had 40 minutes or so to kill before our Flybus departed. As I was sitting and enjoying my coffee, one of my friends pointed out a girl walking through the station to me: “She’s got the same bag as you.” Sure enough, she also had a bright blue Deuter pack. I noticed her briefly before turning back to my phone and coffee. When we eventually boarded the Flybus, it was packed, with every last seat taken.

At the airport, we climbed off the bus and went to pick up our bags. We were near the back so most of the passengers had already grabbed their belongings. Kurt got his bag and pointed at the blue Deuter bag left in the cargo hold. As I picked it up, I spotted two Nalgenes tucked into the front pockets. I didn’t have two Nalgenes. My heart leapt into my throat and I froze in panic. “Wait, this isn’t my bag!”

“You better find her fast!” Kurt said, snapping out of my shock. Wearing the stranger’s backpack, I sprinted inside the airport and scanned the crowd for my pack. Finally, I spotted her in line at the WOW Airline counter, just about to check in. I ran over and tapped her on the shoulder, saying breathlessly “I think you’ve my bag.” She looked at my pack and hers.

“Oh my God! I am so, so sorry. Wow, that would have been terrible!” she said. We traded backpacks back.

“No worries! I’m just glad I found you!” I said. My heartbeat began to slow back down as I made my way back to my friends, relieved. If my friend hadn’t pointed out the duplicate bag back at the bus terminal, I might not have looked as closely when I picked up the bag and wouldn’t have realized until we got back home.

view of Greenland from our plane

Major bag crisis averted. We checked in, did some final shopping, got some food, and made our way to the gate. It was the beginning of the end of our smooth, uneventful journey back to Chicago. I stayed awake for the return flight, and took advantage of IcelandAir’s movie selection. After considering Frozen, I stuck with the Arctic theme and watched The Golden Compass, followed by the musical Chicago to bring it on home. I was sad that our amazing vacation was over, but was eager to get home and be reunited with our dog and two cats.

A few closing thoughts on our trip: Iceland is a stunningly beautiful country. The people are friendly. It’s expensive as hell, but an easy trip to make (only a 6-hour flight from Chicago, no language barrier, etc.). The country has a population of 323,000 and tourism is on the rise, with an estimated 1.5 visitors in 2016. That same year also saw the first time that American tourists outnumbered Icelandic residents. The people of Iceland were nothing but hospitable to us during our trip, and have talked of the economic growth and job boom due to the surge in tourism. But on the other hand, there’s the common complaint that Iceland is turning into ‘Disneyland’ for American tourists. Another local talked to us about the rising cost of food and nightlife; prices increase because tourists will pay it, but it is pushing out the locals who are finding it harder to go out to dinner that often. And then there’s always the issue of tourists who behave poorly (thankfully we didn’t witness any of this, except for a table full of British women who dine-and-ditched at a restaurant in Hella). Hearing and seeing these things is a bummer because it is a fantastic destination and I’d hate to see it change too much. I can’t imagine the solitude of the southern coast overrun by a rash of brand new hotels popping up and down the beach to accommodate the masses.

All that being said, I’m definitely glad we went, and I would still encourage others to visit. It was like living in a beautiful storybook illustration for a week. Here’s a few tips I’ll share:

  • Don’t be scared off of traveling during the winter; the crowds will be smaller and there’s still so much to do and see! But you will need to maximize the daylight hours so schedule your days smartly, or plan for a longer trip in order to pack everything in.
  • Don’t get your hopes up too much about seeing the Northern Lights, especially if you only have a week or less. You need a combination of the right conditions (a moderate or strong Aurora forecast and a clear night sky). It’s a matter of luck.
  • If you’re planning to drink, load up on booze at the Duty Free store at the airport as soon as you land in Iceland. It’s time to revisit the pregaming days of your twenties, because drinks at bars and restaurants are $$$.
  • Get out of the city. Reykjavík is a fun place to visit and you’ll surely enjoy the restaurants and bars, but at the end of the day, it’s a small town and you’ll get the feel for it quickly. Rent a car or book a seat on a tour bus and drive out of town for as much of your trip as possible to view the stunning sights and geographical wonders.
  • If you rent a vehicle, don’t mess around and get the gravel insurance.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle. All of the tap water is safe to drink and tastes great (just let the tap run for a minute if the hot water has been on recently, and the sulfur smell will disappear).
  • You can use credit cards everywhere, so don’t worry about converting USD into ISK. I didn’t touch cash once for our entire trip, and used my credit card for everything from taxis to beers to a single cup of coffee. And don’t look at your credit card bill until you get home; you’ll have more fun that way.
  • We turned off our cellular data on our phones and got by easily just using wifi, as it’s found in pretty much every hotel, restaurant, tour bus, bus terminal, horse farm, you name it.
  • Hang onto your shopping receipts because you can get VAT (value added taxes) refunds when purchasing goods for 6,000 ISK or more.
  • Bring your own towels and flip flops to the swimming pools to save some money (or in case they don’t have any). Consider a waterproof phone case or electronics bag if you want to take a lot of photos at the pool or in Blue Lagoon.
  • Wear layers and make sure the top ones are waterproof, especially on days when you’re hiking around waterfalls.
  • Don’t be afraid of Harpa; she’s a good horse. Rub her neck just under her mane; she loves it.

Skál!