Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Iceland Diary

{Field Notes from Around the Island}




Book a camper van online. Do absolutely no subsequent planning if you are a Last Minute sort of person/ buy a detailed road map of Iceland and a copy of Hálldor Laxness's Independent People if you are an Organized Planny sort of person.

If you arrive through door number one (ahem), purchase items from door number two at the Reykjavík airport upon landing. Then gasp at how you just blew $50. Get over it. Iceland's expensive. This is why you are sleeping in a van and will subsist mostly on those curiously delicious Icelandic hot dogs and a lot of soup. And you will love it.

Not bragging, but if you won the edible plant identification award every year at nature camp, well then by golly go ahead and eat those wild bilberries. I do not recommend this course of action to most people (see McCandless, Christopher). But boy were they delicious.






Skip the guide book and ask locals for recommendations: hot springs, abandoned turf houses, waterfalls, puffin colonies. If you approach a stranger and say "Good day, Guðrún. Pray where might I ride a pony?" they will, without fail, give you a helpful answer.

[Note to self: for fun new game, try this tactic back to New York.]

We revisit past adventures as we drive: one moment the landscape is northwestern Montana, all glaciers and hardscrabble granite peaks, a herd of horses a dun-colored smudge against the electric green meadows below. Then it's flat, flat, everywhere flat: the grassy steppe of Mongolia. Then mossy outcroppings, salt air, a cacophony of gulls- we're in coastal Maine!- and then it's into the lava fields and igneous cones of another planet entirely. There is no continuity to the landscape here; it is all drama, all punctuation marks. The topography is a string of staccato notes on the bars of a river.






For some people, the idea of happiness is making bad instant soup on a camp stove in the mountains and reading aloud by the light of the midnight sun. For these people, Iceland is the happiest place on earth.

Rule of thumb: The smaller the village, the better the stew.

I buy skeins of undyed wool in all the colors of North Atlantic sheep, colors of North Atlantic rock: quartz, granite, gneiss, hornblende, coal. A rainbow for the colorblind. A knitting project in the passenger seat.

When the adorable punk rocker waitress gives you directions to an abandoned thermal pool deep in the mountains, you GO. You cannot believe things like this exist. How magical the world can be.






No matter how badly you want to blurt out "I TOLD YOU SO" when the van gets stuck in the mud you warned your spouse so lovingly did not look like a good place to pull over, do not say so. Because after trying to dig out in the driving rain for two hours you are then stuck sleeping next to this person in your steeply-inclined camper van for the night. Instead perhaps it is best just to laugh and hug him and say, "well isn't this an adventure!"

Wake up happy! Finally, a place where I can talk openly about elves and fairies!

AND PONIES.






Fog, rain, blinding sunshine, hail, wind that snaps the doors off cars (park into the wind). We happily submit to the whims of the gods; when in doubt, pull over and make camp.

You'd be amazed how much skyr two people can consume over the course of five days.

And how much we wished our otherwise perfect camper van had the dignity of an audio upgrade since the 1990s: friends, we had a TAPE DECK and three unplayable Sigur Rós albums for our entire journey.

However.

There exists in the western peninsula of the great island of Iceland a radio station devoted entirely to the most obscure gems of early Nashville Sound. Which turns out to be a pretty swell soundtrack for the drive. We call this chapter Patsy Cline Was My Copilot Through Middle Earth.






We drive, windows down, awe-struck as the glacial valley unfurls before us. We stop and take in the view, start and sing Patsy Cline. We sip the morning coffee we brewed on our camp stove and let it last, for we have nowhere to rush off to, nowhere to be but in this marvelous little camper van, together, on this marvelous little island.

For once, we don't talk about the future, we don't draw up life plans, we don't enumerate expectations and analyze how to execute them. We just drive.

More to come. Stay tuned. 

141 comments:

  1. Incredible. I want to go to there.

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  2. Absolutely magical. Amazing photos! I've been looking forward to this post :)

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    1. Thanks for all the enthusiasm, everyone!

      Lisa, you would positively DIE over all the wool and fiber over there...

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    2. Lily, I must admit my little bird dog ears popped right up at your mention of 'skeins of undyed wool...' Might I request an instagram pic of said marvelous wool???

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  3. i know precisely how much skyr two people can consume over the course of five days.

    welcome to longing for iceland for the rest of your days, my dear. how it tugs! (i will give it your best when we're back there next month.)

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  4. thermal pool AND ponies. looks just beautiful. great photos.

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  5. Lordy, I'm dying to go to Iceland! These are the most beautiful landscapes. I enjoyed following some of your photos on instagram, but seeing them all here together is just awe-inspiring! Sounds like you had an epic trip! xo

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  6. Sweet jesus, Lils, I want your vacation!

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  7. Your photos are breathtaking! Oh how I love adventures...even when they aren't mine.

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  8. lily!! so beautiful and reminds me so much of van-cation through new zealand. photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyhank/sets/72157629230895983/

    on our tape deck: bb king and johnny cash on repeat through middle earth in another hemisphere. xo.

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    Replies
    1. Katie, you trip looks like a DREAM! Thanks for sharing! And love your music choices. It would have been nice to listen to mystical Jónsi on our drive, but I can't complain- blues, country, rockabilly, etc. ended up being pretty fabulous music for the landscape. xo

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  9. I'm going to have you plan (unplan??) my next vacation. This whole post just gives me the feeling of "we need to just GO." No more thinking, planning, stressing...just effing GO. And I love it.

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  10. Je-sus, Stop painting. Write something you get paid for. Stop this blog if you have to, and I'll be sad and have to fill my internet wanderings with somethign else, but it'll be like when Ben Affleck told Matt Damon in the Let's Figure out a Way not to be Consultants or Bankers even though we went to Hahhhhvard movie that he always shows up at the door to Matt's apt thinking this morning he won't be there, and if he isn't, then he'll just go on about his business. Do it.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, m'aam.
      Working on some little rumblings as we speak:)

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    2. Ahhhh! Don't stop painting!

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    3. Thanks for the support, EGH! Painting is my LIFE, don't worry:) Painting is and always will be my priority.

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  11. I have been waiting for this post! Thank you.

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  12. I cant stand this. It is too good.
    That second pic looks like a painting.

    ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

    though this does wonders for the unquenchable wanderlust in me, allowing me to live vicariously yet stoking that fire at the same time. Chickens don't like when their owners have wanderlust, I think.

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  13. Andrew and I were already planning our next Icelandic adventure when we were there last month. And it definitely involved a camper van. While we loved the experience of quaint little guesthouses owned by viking-like people, i think camping adds an ease to the schedule that Iceland demands.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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  14. Oh, gosh! I've been looking at some residencies in Iceland, this might have sealed the deal for me and husboy.

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  15. This sounds unbelievably, undeniably, deliciously amazing. Iceland is now on the bucket list.

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  16. i know i followed along on IG, but holy gods is this magical land ever...magical! i plan on doing exactly this with my bestie (once she's back from korea), because magical lands are meant for adventure + exploration + unexpected, soul-filling beauty. <3

    (ps. MORE PONIES PLS. oh, and floaty glacier bits too.)

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  17. Beautiful. Beyond. Belief. Words, pictures, adventuring spirit. All of it.

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  18. Amazing! Magnificent, magical country, can't wait to see more!

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  19. So freaking gorgeous. Also, on my flight from Boston to Reykjavik, the movie (the only movie) was 1978's "Foul Play," starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. Tape deck.

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  20. Iv'e never had any interest in going to Iceland... until now. Wow.

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  21. umm this song came on my playlist right as i was reading your comment about being able to talk about faeries and elves. i thought it was appropriate! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6oNE2lT8R4&feature=autoplay&list=AL94UKMTqg-9D-mQnajvSakRLKUl6PLppB&playnext=4 also your trip sounds amazing!! i've had a lot of friends go to iceland but their trips were always really touristy. exploration by camper van sounds much better.

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  22. Never have I imagined being interested in visiting Iceland...until now. Now I'm drooling and trying to live vicariously through your photos!

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  23. This is such a charming essay, and the photos are beautiful! Can't wait to see more.

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  24. I am drooling! I want to go! I'm going to have to re-read this a few times just to savor the photography.

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  25. I can't get enough of these pictures. I'm pretty sure I favorited every single one you tweeted.

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  26. This is amazing! I like the way you travel!

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  27. Magic. Seriously, Lady, you have a way with words (and a camera lens). Gives me goosebumps. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

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  28. oh so lovely! what an adventure. your images are pretty. very.

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  29. Thank you for taking us on your Icelandic adventure! It is now being added to my very long list of places to go. Oh and I have a hubby that fancies himself an edible wild plant connisieur ( sp? ) and though I trust him implicitly, I always make him try the berries himself first. ;-)

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  30. Holy magical. I want to go!! On this exact trip, specifically.

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  31. Green with envy over here. My mom lived in Iceland for a bit as a kid and she's always wanted to go back, and inflicted me with the same longing. Love everything about this series, even more than the Instagram photos! Isn't it funny how the Scandinavians love their country music? My dad is always streaming Norwegian radio from his hometown, and half of what they play is country. Super weird when the song is done by a local band and they still manage to get a twang in Norwegian.

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  32. i went to iceland in june (i think i commented that before...) ... ohhh this post makes my heart swell! i miss it so much! i have never felt so at home in a foreign place.

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  33. omg, epic post! Halifax has round trip flights to Iceland for 600 dollars during the fall and winter, I am going! gorgeous pictures, can't wait to see more of them!

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  35. (The above comment was mine, but I signed in as my youngest, because I forgot to switch user!)

    A magical world indeed, and really because you make it so!
    And by the way, have you seen Hockney's watercolors from Iceland?
    I have loved them for some time , and they have made me want to travel there too. I guess now I have additional inspiration!
    More you say?

    XX

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  36. hey this place is amazing... & the thermal pool wow...what an adventure.....

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  37. This is very beautiful. Thank you!

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  38. Riveting. Both the writing and the pictures.

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  39. Maybe I hate Iceland a little less right now.

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    1. You still haven't forgiven her for that volcano??

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  40. Yall have taken me to some lovely places ... but this one by far is my favorite..stunning in both word and pictures...thank you

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  41. as usual your pictures are breathtaking!! :o

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  42. What an amazing post, and your writing is so magical. I've been wanting to go to Iceland for a long time and your photos and descriptions just sealed the deal. man oh man. xx

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  43. This is gorgeous and inspiring. Someday perhaps I'll get there and bathe in the solitude and quiet. Funny, you named two of my favorite types of music...early Nashville and Sigur Ros (this has become a "type" of music to me since Jonsi certainly took their sound to a whole new level). I'm not really sure how these two types of music come together, but it sounds like Iceland is a place where seeming opposites are juxtaposed together in unlikely ways...

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  44. So beautiful Lily! I love your adventures and fabulous posts!

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  45. Speaking of KCRW... Their sweepstakes of all sweepstakes is a trip to Iceland for the Airwaves Festival. They should just start directing people to this post as a reason to donate to them.

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  46. Uhm...There's MORE? You never cease to blow my mind lady. In a good way of course :) And p.s.? Gonna need a copy of that gray speckled beauty with the killer bangs STAT. Just tell me where to send my order please!!!

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  47. Elves and fairies indeed. (You can always talk openly of them, can't you?)

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  48. This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. I am inspired. :)

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  49. I think you got me hooked on going to Iceland someday. Yeah, definitely.

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  50. So incredible! What kind of camera do you use?

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  51. i hope you brought jonsi's (unplayable) solo album too. sooooo good.

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  52. This is SO good! You just gave me tingles!! And your last line is pitch perfect!

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  53. I've been thinking of going to see Iceland post-university with a friend and this just about made me whip out my credit card for a ticket.

    I'm such a super-organized person but your post makes me want to go off without any plan and discover things as they come.

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  54. more, more, more please! iceland is my mecca

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  55. I loved Iceland when I visited last year. This is making me want to go back again!

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  56. Wow. Wow. Wow. This is the best blog post I have read from anyone in AGES. Thank you so much for sharing. This seems like a perfect adventure. So lovely.

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  57. we had to put our plans of exactly this kind of trip this month on hold as we had a surprise visit from some NZ friends. so i am loving seeing some of iceland through your photos and now making new plans to do it next year in the summer instead. looking forward to reading more of your adventuring.

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  58. Lilly, I really believe you should get your posts together in book. I WOULD BUY IT. just remember to put a certain Corgi on the cover. Best post ever, dear.
    Just so you know, if I'll ever go officially broke is just because I'l have bought an iPhone I can't afford, and If I'll ever do so is just to follow you on instagram and see your pictures...

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  59. so insanely beautiful. in love with the first photography, and still gushing over the rest.

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  60. OH MY GOD. I just ate this post up with a huge travel-lusty adventure spoon. one of the best blog posts I've read in a while.
    and I can't believe there's MORE?!?

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  61. Wow! How beautiful! I have always wanted to go to Iceland.

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  62. woah! never thought about iceland, never. now i might reconsider it. your photos and text are wonderful!

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  63. I've wanted to go forever, and the independence you gain in the campervan sounds ideal. I'd want to do it just like you did...it seems absolutely perfect.

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  64. LIL, I WANT TO CRY.

    ponies and pools.

    this is so beyond epic. what an incredible adventure.

    so happy for you and this experience! xo

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  65. Popping in from Amanda at Habit of Being and WOW these pictures are stunning! I so want to go to Iceland someday!!!

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  66. Ahhh these make me home sick, my beautiful Iceland xx

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  67. Sigh. If only it wasn't so freakin' far from Australia.

    Beautiful pics.

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  68. Iceland is all the craze as of late! Love your images from the trip and boy, oh boy, would I love to go. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  69. Lily, I thoroughly enjoyed your beautiful images and witty commentary...oh how I wish I'd read this before I saw you last weekend.

    Off to peruse your archives...have a great week!

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  70. ponies! i want to go to there. ♥
    so badly, that we looked up flights for december, the next time we can possibly go on vacation, and are seriously considering it, even with the baby, even though the daylight hours will be greatly diminished.
    then again, how will we cram all this beauty into four or five hours of sunlight? maybe it'll have to wait until next august.
    anyway, loved seeing these photos on instagram, and they look even more beautiful blown up here.

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  71. Chills all over... both from your lovely writing AND the stunning images captured. I especially love this: "For once, we don't talk about the future, we don't draw up life plans, we don't enumerate expectations and analyze how to execute them. We just drive." Just really perfect.

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  72. How wonderfully lovely! I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Iceland! x

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  73. This is AMAZING! I've always wanted to visit Iceland and now it is a must! Such gorgeous landscapes! And I love the phrase "a rainbow for the colorblind."

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  74. Dear adventure lady,

    Can I please come on the next adventure with you and your husband? I can sleep in a bag outside the van.

    -Captain Zanzibar

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  75. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing, I now want to visit this country badly :)

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  76. This is amazing - your photographs are STUNNING! Just bumped Iceland up my list of must-visit places

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  77. Great timing! My husband and I are going to Iceland next week! Can you provide any details (like nearby city) for that abandoned thermal pool??

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  78. Looks like the absolute perfect trip. Iceland's always been at the top of my list of places I'd love to visit and even more-so now! :)

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  79. We're heading to Iceland for Christmas. Love your images!!!

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  80. Where did you rent your van? I love Iceland, I am so excited to go back next spring!!!! This post is great!

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  81. oh yes! i also spent most of this august driving around iceland (except with hyundai+hostels). your post made my neck ache from nodding in agreement. i especially miss the skyr. and i'm bummed i missed that secret hotpot--where?!? anyway next time i will either hitchhike/camp/hostel because driving+gas was insanely $$$ or go during IcelandAirwaves festival and be able to catch some northern lights! one note, you failed to mention the raging nightlife in reykjavik! or are you being hush-hush about it because what happens in iceland...............!

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  82. I was in Iceland this summer, it was just amazing ;-)

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  83. Amazing. I found you via cup of Jo....and plan to stick around. I love what is going on her in this neck of the internets. Peace.

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  84. GASP! This is exactly the kind of trip I'd love to take. Can't wait to read more.

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  85. hello! this is my first visit to your blog and i can only say that your photos have captivated me. your trip to iceland.. magical. my husband and i traveled the u.s. last year in a vintage airstream we restored and have been renovating a bungalow the majority of this year, but oh what wanderlust i have now reading this post. and your writing is so on point. cannot wait to read further into your blog.
    xo, tiffany

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  86. Great pictures of my favorite country in the world..been there 7 times, and many more to come...Thanks a lot...

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  87. same as Anonymous above - Beautiful photographs of my very favourite country. Thanks so much.

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  88. These images are stunning. They're inspiring me to plan a trip.

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  89. Never realized iceland is this beautiful.

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  90. Just dreamy. Iceland has been on the list for a long time, but you have made me itch for it!

    Thank you for sharing :)

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  91. What an amazing trip! This is now on my bucket list. Tonight I saw the Icelandic movie, The Deep, Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, screened at my local film festival. It was a really amazing film- based on a true and unbelievable story. I thought you might enjoy it as you must feel a connection to Iceland! http://www.sbs.com.au/films/movie-news/897429/iceland-s-the-deep-surfaces-in-the-race-for-an-oscar-oscars-2013-iceland

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  92. Amazing. Your writing is just as awe-inspiring as these photos.

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  93. Thank you for the inspiration, photos and anecdotes :) I'm going to Iceland tomorrow and I'm sooo excited about this adventure!

    Ciao

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  94. How can I say? It is so beautiful and peaceful.

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  96. Iceland has so much to offer for the photographer. Love taking pics there. I justfound a new photo book from Iceland with more great pics. It's called "Two in one" where the photographer Sverrir Björnsson takes two pics of the same view, one in the winter and one in the summer. Amazing book. You can see a few of the pics here: http://twoinone.is/

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  97. We went to Iceland last summer and now I'm wondering why on earth we too didn't rent a camper van. We were traveling with an 18 month old so maybe that played into our logic but next time, we are camping.

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  98. My boyfriend and I are planning a visit to Iceland this June. Reading this has gotten me excited to tears. I can't wait to experience this beautiful place and have memories of my own of it. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  99. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  100. WOW! How beautiful is this ! really this place is very good and enjoy here for summer vacation.Thank you for gave valuable information.

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  101. I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive me and it is very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

    4WD Iceland

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  112. i love Iceland its a beautiful country and perfect destination for vacations. the pictures are so stunning and text is also written very beautifully.Last time I visited Iceland in 2012, and hired a car from Car Hire Iceland Official Site and made our trip worth in memory.

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  113. Where did you shower? I'm going and renting a Camper Van and this is the question I can't seem to get answered.

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    Replies
    1. WHO said you shower on a camper van trip?! Just kidding. We went to a few hot springs along the way, and always showered before and after in the spas. Have a wonderful trip!

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  114. just read this Lily! I love your description of the wools! Iceland is a big dream, hoping to make it a layover en route to India!! Thanks for your beautiful writing!! Im going to share this on my blog xo

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  115. Amazing, O my god what a such place. Breath taking place. I am enjoying your pictures and posting. thank you so much dear blogposter.

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