Queen of Trades; Travel and Photography- Category [Travel/Stories/Tips]

I don't know if any of you have seen the Northern Lights. If you have then you might understand what I am talking about. If not then that is ok, this will help you understand what the Northern Lights look like if you ever want to see them. 

Before I went to Iceland I had read that I might see the Northern lights since I am going during a time when they will be transitioning to winter. The temperatures drop into the 30's and under and if the conditions are right then you might get a chance to see the Northern Lights. Of course, there are a lot of factors that play into this. you have to have a clear sky, the temperature has to be down and of course, you have to have incredible patience to see them. The Northern Lights don't just come out when the sun goes down and dance all night long. They come and they go as they please and it can take all night if necessary for them to appear. So if you are one of those people who go to bed at 9 p.m and just refuse to stay awake well...then you won't see the lights. 

I got very lucky on this trip. The Northern lights were one of those things that I really wanted to see. Its been on my bucket list forever and I really was hoping I would see them but if it didn't happens I knew that I would be disappointed but it would be ok. If I didn't see them then it wasn't fate. 

On my second day here in Iceland I was star chasing. The sky was open and as I was driving to a remote location somewhere In Iceland I noticed this white cloud in the sky. For half an hour I kept wondering what it was. It looked like it was a cloud and I couldn't tell if I should stop or if I should keep going and ignore it. I thought maybe it was the clouds about to cover my stars. I was worried and after a while, I realized that I literally drove into clouds. I could no longer see the sky. So with some determination, I turned around and drove back. When I could see the sky again I pulled over, got my gear out and sat in the shivering cold aiming the camera at the sky. It was around twenty degrees and the wind was making it worse. In five minutes I felt like an icicle. 

I was packing up to leave and head to a campsite when I turned around and froze. Right behind me, I saw this cloud moving. It was the one I stared at for half an hour. With interest and uncertainty, I pointed my camera at it, adjusted it a bit and clicked the button. The image came out with green. 

It was the Northern Lights. 


I stared in disbelief. I was staring at them the whole time. I was literally following them and I had no idea. It wasn't even clear to me that they looked like that. It was a white, fog, like a substance that was hanging in the sky and dancing around ever so slowly. With new inspiration, I took some extra shots (despite the cold) and just stared at them for as long as I could. I saw the Northern Lights. They weren't bright to the eye but they were still very cool to look at. 


The next night

The next night I made my way to this campground and I was starving. When I arrived I was unsure if the campground was even open because when I got there there was this log in the way. I tried to move it but the log was too big and too heavy to move on my own. So sadly I pulled off to the side and decided to cook some food before I made my way to a different campsite back towards the town nearby. I really thought it was closed. As I was cooking this car pulls up behind me and this elderly man steps out. 

He asks me if I was looking to camp at the campsite. When I told him yes and that I thought it was closed he explained that he had to move the campground because tourists were saying it was "too touristy"  and with a smile he pointed to me where the campground was moved to. We chatted as I gave him my card and paid for the night. Apparently, this gentleman came over to Iceland 13 years ago to check out the country and he had told himself that he was only going to stay here for a year. 

He ended up buying a house and moving here. He's been a citizen ever since. 

I was amazed and as we chatted he then pointed out that there were some free hot tubs down the street that was literally on the water. I thanked him kindly, finished cooking my food and we parted ways. I did enjoy the hot tub that night. I was exhausted, sore and I just wanted some peace and quiet. Since it was a frigid thirty degrees outside the hot tub was so satisfying that I literally melted into it. It was like home.  For two hours I sat and listened to my music and enjoyed the cold vs the hot. I never wanted to leave but knew I had to. When I did I made a decision to go ahead and chase some stars since I was already out and the sky was clear. 


After a quick shower near the hot tub, I got in the car and drove a little aways from the town. I got out and started shooting. Quickly I noticed that there was a bright light in my photos. The camera was having trouble focusing. So I turned the camera to the left and shot some more shots. The photos turned out bright green. I was seeing them, again. As I was shooting I realized that the location I was in was not the best so with urgency I packed up and drove a little bit more aways. Once I got to a satisfying spot I got out, walked into this guy's property (sorry dude, I just wanted to get some good shots) and shot away. Right before my eyes, I could see the lights dancing and they were such a bright brilliant green. It was so surreal and at that moment I understood why people chase the lights. 

It's difficult to describe them. I believe in spiritual existence and even if the northern lights are explained by science all of that went out the door when I saw them so bright and green in front of me. I was like another being up in the sky. It was like I was seeing everything and anything with my own eyes. It wasn't god-like in any way but just very spiritual. It was like staring at a soul or the inside of the universe. It was beautiful, it was moving, it was everything and more. I didn't want to leave. I sat for as long as I could and took as many shots as I could. But eventually, I had to go because I was freezing and it was already past midnight by the time I got to get these photos. So sadly I packed up and a sad goodbye to this brillance I just witnessed. 

Moments like these are why I travel and even if the rest of the trip went sour (it didn't but if it did) jsut seeing the Northern Lights made it worth it. It made the trip complete just seeing them. 



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When I travel I usually am pretty prepared. I have all the necessary equipment, I always have a medical kit somewhere, extra shoes, plastic bags, Etc. For four years I have been on and off the road and with those four years comes knowledge and experience. Of course, that is in a place that I know pretty well and it is in a country that has 24/7 coffee shops and gas stations every half mile or so (if you're in the right places). When it comes to international travel, that is a whole other ball game and one that I have a lot to learn. 

Iceland has taught me that I am not great at preparing for long-distance trips and that I really need to get my act together when it comes to vacations such as these. 

So here are some things that I was not prepared for and learned on this trip. 

One: Always bring a towel, even if you think you won't need it or if you think that the company you rented through will supply you with one. Bring one. It doesn't matter how you fit it in your bag, just bring it. It will help in the long run. 

Two: Bring a second pair of shoes, it could even be a pair of slippers. Something to put over your feet so you can go into stores and restaurants while your other pair of shoes dry after a long, wet, and muddy hike. 

Three: Make sure to always have a source of light (preferably not your phone) just in case if your phone does die while you are out in the middle of the woods or on a hike of some kind and you end up stranded in the dark for whatever reason. 

Four: Make sure to have more than one kind of credit card. I never thought I would need more than one but this trip has shown that yes, yes I do need to have more than one because not everywhere takes one type of card. 

Five: Bring a pen. Seriously, it helps. It's weird to think that we need to have writing utensils with us but I have found myself needing one, or two, or three when I go places. Having extras is never a bad thing. 

Six: Bring a small amoung of Band-Aids. I have gotten injured on this trip a few times and it would have been nice to have sometimes to put over them but due to not wanting to spend the extra cash I just put up with it and did my best with the injuries. Luckily there was no infection and they are healing nicely. 

Seven: Your patience. In Iceland, my patience has been tested more than once and its usually been with the people. There have been few natives that I have met that I have been able to communicate with well and then there are others that I have had trouble communicating with. Just paying for a campground can really test your patience and you find yourself repeating something you just said three or four times because they didn't fully catch what you said the first time. 

Of course, those are small things but having those would have saved me quite a bit of trouble while being in Iceland and for my next international trip I will do my best to be more prepared. 


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It's getting around that time. The time when I will be heading back to the United States. I have about four days left. I do have plans for those four days but they are mild compared to what I have done on this journey. Really I am more excited to just relax and take it easy before I make my journey home. I love driving and I love seeing new things but for the time being, I Just want to sit still, sit back and take the rest of my journey in. Luckily it seems that the weather will stay clear for the rest of the time I am here and hopefully, it will even stay that way until I am on the plane heading home. 

I can't wait for regular showers, regular running schedule, work, money, and my own bed. Of course, it may seem weird to be excited about these things but Iceland has been a lot. Not in a bad way necessarily but in a way that you just need a break from. Not only that but it is slightly more expensive here then I like and the people here are a hit or miss when it comes to being friendly. 

If I ever come back it will be for a shorter period of time and probably with a more defined agenda then this trip. Iceland has been cool but it's not somewhere I would stay for much longer then I plan.

On my list, I plan to go to the climbing gym that they have in town, enjoy the blue lagoon, and of course get my tattoo. I have at least one day that I will just walk around and get the last bit of souviners that I want to get before I leave. 

Cheers to the next few days of checking out the town before I leave for home. 

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So, I may or may not have dunked my lense a second time. Yes, a second time. If you have followed me for a while then you might remember the tragedy that happened at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. If not then click here to go read all about what happened.  Trust me, its quite the story and it might make you shake your head if you are a lover of your DSLR like I am. Well, this time was slightly different and not as scary but still a huge bummer. 

There are these columns that I was trying to go see. I did some research before I went and people said that the hike was dangerous but beautiful. You were basically walking on the side of a canyon and you could do two different things. You could, one, follow the trail that was put out for you or two, you could follow the farmer's fence line all the way till you see the columns from the top of the canyon. I chose to go ahead and follow the trail that this farmer had put out. I thought, hey it might be easier than following some fence line. 

I learned real quick that I was completely wrong. 

First, I spent an hour walking around in this field trying to find where these damn markers were. In Iceland they use sticks and depending on where you want to go you had to follow the appropriate color to your destination. The first one you had to follow to go see this amazing waterfall was red. So I followed the red ones. Yet the red sticks were so far apart that you just had to guess which way was the right way. There were no arrows on the sticks to point you in the right direction. It was all luck. To make matters worse there were trails everywhere. I mean, everywhere. You would take one path and it would randomly fork off left or right and you just had to guess. For an entire hour, I was going in circles. I took off my shoes and socks to cross a stream (twice!), I climbed up the side of this river (literally climbed in my regular shoes, not a safe thing to do), and I even went to the edge of a cliff to try and see where I was going. 

After all that circling I finally saw where I was supposed to go. Unhappy and cursing I crossed the river, sucked it up and kept going. On the reviews, it said that the hike wasn't very long and it even had a picture of a waterfall that was the halfway point to the columns. At least I Had a visual guide. That was nice...for the most part. 

As I hiked down this path I came across the big waterfall. This is where the red sticks ended, of course, I had no idea because I can't read Icelandic so when I reached this waterfall, I thought, Oh, this is a nice view and took some photos. Then I trudged onward. Now, unaware that the sticks changed color to green I just basically frolicked through the brush on the side of the canyon. I got a half a mile and I saw a marker that was green. With great effort, I made my way to the marker and started on that trail. 

Now, let me say this. The trail was muddy, not well marked, and just plain dangerous. Beautiful, but like they said, dangerous. You could literally fall to your death if you didn't pay attention. So I took my time. After about an hour of making my way on the side of the canyon, I came to the supposed halfway point. I refilled my water bottle, took a second to take in the view and kept going. During this hike, I had my camera around my neck adn everything else in my bag for safety. I wasn't going to take a risk but to save time I kept the camera out so I wasn't stopping every few feet to get it out. 

Here comes my mistake. 

I get to this waterfall and it is raging. I'm looking for a clear path and the only one I see is to literally go straight into the water and just go for it. But me being me and not wanting to get my feet soaked and freezing attempted to cross the river by crossing rocks. Again, wrong move. I carefully started making my and as I was moving my foot two things happened. 

One: My entire bottom half of my body went into the river. 

Two: my camera swung around from my shoulder and the lens went in face first. Freaking out and quickly getting out of the river I took my camera apart and checked the physical camera. Turns out the physical camera was fine. The lense on the other hand...was covered in water. So taking off my secondary jacket I covered the lens, sighed and put it in my bag. Here we go again. 

Let's just say that I didnt see the columns and by the time I did turn around it was getting dark and I Had to find my way through the canyon side with my phone flashlight and my wits. I was freezing, upset and my luck was down. 

When I got to a campsite that night I had an idea though. I took my little portable heater and I took my lense and used it to dry it out overnight and by some miracle, I saved the lens a second time. So yes it still works and yes it is all good now but that day...was not a good day for me.

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One of the cool things about Iceland is that wherever you go there is always something to look at. It doesn't matter if its from a hike or if it's from the side of the road. The terrain is quite beautiful and it honestly makes sense why a lot of people love it here. There is so much to do and I have decided that if I come back that I will spend only a week's time here before heading home. I might even do a trip in the summer. Tickets aren't that expensive and the camper wasn't too bad when it came to renting. Of course, I Don't know if I would get this specific camper again because it doesn't really have everything that I would like to have. 

For instance, it doesn't have a fridge, all it has is a little ice chest and of course when you have an ice chest you need ice. Now get this....Iceland doesn't have bags of ice. I really do mean that. You dont have ice that you can just purchase. I was amazed at that and kind of thrown off by the lack of ice. I would have thought they would have some for me to get but nope, not a lick...anywhere. I'm not sure if it's just because they don't sell a lot of it or if it's inconvenient to carry but whatever the case, now I know to get a camper that has a working fridge. Luckily I haven't gotten food poisoning (I like to eat a lot of meat-based meals) but that is probably because it's so cold that it keeps the food at a good temperature where it doesn't go bad. 


I might also just explore one region instead of doing a big loop around. Maybe just do the eastern part of the country and spend a few days at a campground instead of hopping from one to the other. It's cool to drive around and see everything but it is a lot when you're trying to see as much as you can. I have about six days left before I head home and the next day, I will be back in the main town where I will be chilling and taking the time to relax. There are some cool waterfalls near the area and a few hikes that would be neat to do. Of course, I'm still upset about yesterday's hike and my feet are super sore and tired but since I am taking a chill day today I might do one more before I get on that flight back home. 

There is so much to do here and even though Iceland has put me through the ringer I might come back with someone so that they can see it for the first time and have someone with them that has some knowledge of the area. It also helps that the flights are pretty cheap. That makes getting to and from Iceland a pretty easy trip. 


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