Sunday, July 20, 2014

Iceland // Riding Icelandic Horses

Adam and I had the incredible opportunity to ride Icelandic horses on our second day in Iceland. Adam had never been on a horse before, so he was understandably a little nervous at first, but he figured it out quickly and we had so much fun.

Icelandic horses have two extra gaits which make them unique among other breeds. One of their gaits is said to be so smooth, you can drink a pint of beer as you ride and not spill a single drop. We learned that if an Icelandic horse is taken out of the country, it isn't allowed to return due to their immune systems, so if a disease were to enter the country, the breed would be in grave danger.

Since there are no dangerous animals in Iceland, the horses have no natural predators which probably explains why they're all so well behaved and aren't easily spooked like other horses tend to be. While they're small in size (standing roughly 52 to 56 inches high), the people of Iceland never refer to them as ponies. Icelandic horses are beautiful, fascinating creatures and I really enjoyed spending time with them.

Even though the weather wasn't great and we were soaked and freezing practically the entire time, it was still the highlight of our trip for me. We rode through a forest where I had to duck a few times to avoid hitting tree branches, and I held on tight as we went up and over steep hills in the rain. We galloped alongside steaming hot springs in a beautiful valley that smelled of fresh sulfur (mmm, rotten eggs) and near the end of our journey, we crossed a flowing creek full of slippery rocks and rushing water that the horses all sauntered through with grace and ease.

After we said goodbye to our sweet horses, we headed back to Reykjavik and found the perfect lunch spot where we devoured warm noodles and blabbed on to each other about how amazing our day had been. I spent the remainder of the afternoon fantasizing about owning a horse or maybe moving to Iceland someday just to work on a ranch like the one at Eldhestar. Wouldn't that be lovely? 

Ah, yes... A girl can dream, can't she? :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Iceland // Geysers and Hot Springs

Adam and I are big fans of Airbnb. It's a lot of fun getting to meet new people when we travel and it's definitely an added bonus that while we're making these fun new connections, we're also paying way less for a room than we would be paying at a hotel.

That being said, for a few days we stayed with a family we found on Airbnb in Hafnarfjörður, a town just south of Reykjavik. The owners were nice and welcoming and even left fresh milk, granola, cereal, juice, and fruit for us to eat in the morning. Our room was itty bitty (roughly the size of a walk-in closet) and we shared a bathroom with another couple staying in the room down the hall. The only slightly unfortunate situation was the fact that we could hear someone puking upstairs for a little over an hour while we were trying to get to sleep, and there seemed to be a handful of cat fights happening just outside our window on and off for most of the night. Minor mishaps in the grand scheme of things... Plus we only paid $27 a night to sleep there, so hey, no complaints here!

On our last free day in Iceland, we headed to "Around Iceland," a tourist information center in downtown Reykjavik and picked up a rental car. (The people there are super friendly by the way, so if you have plans to visit Iceland and need help with anything, don't hesitate to wander in there!) We drove from Reykjavik over to the geysers and hot springs to the east, and then traveled back south to Grindavik where we stayed a night at the Blue Lagoon. We stopped along the way to photograph the awesome scenery and adorable sheep standing near the road in almost every yard we passed.

The colors of the hot springs and geysers were beautiful! The weather wasn't great, but that's Iceland for you. :) We were soaked from head to toe by the time we got back to the car, but it was worth it. I'm so happy we took that time to explore more of the country.

I have a million other photos to share, so I'll try to not slack any longer on posting those!
Promise. (Gah, I'm the worst!)

Friday, June 27, 2014

ONA Camera Bag Giveaway

Hello friends out there in the blogosphere. I have a great giveaway to share with you today organized by Elizabeth of Oak & Oats. I partnered with a sweet group of ladies to give our readers the opportunity to win an ONA Camera bag and strap (up to a $450 value!!). Ooooooh, ahhhh... These bags look amazing and I'm so happy to be a part of this giveaway. If you'd like to enter, just follow the directions below. :) Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Road Trip Essentials with RelayRides

Hello friends! I do have plans to post the rest of my Iceland photos, I promise, but today I'm here to talk about road tripping with RelayRides. I was contacted to create a road trip essentials post, and I just couldn't resist. I've taken many, many road trips over the years so when it comes to traveling by car for hours or even days on end, I know what to pack to make the journey an enjoyable one!

(I took this photo last year around this time as I made my three day trek from Wisconsin to Washington.)

Here's my official "Road Trip Essentials" list:

1. Music! You need great music when you're on the open road. There's nothing better than driving with the windows down in a new place as you scope out the scenery and sing along to your favorite tunes. It's also good to keep in mind that you should have an upbeat playlist for night driving so you don't fall asleep! Though it's always good to stop and rest if you need it, it's important to have music that keeps you awake and alert if you prefer to drive all through the night.

2. Snacks! One of my favorite things about road trips is being able to load up on goodies at each gas/bathroom stop, guilt-free. Road trips are the perfect excuse to eat M&M's, Diet Coke, and potato chips for nine hours straight... Just make sure you don't get a stomach ache because there's nothing worse than having tummy troubles on the road! Aside from the feel-good junk food, some other must-haves for me include plenty of bottled water, gum, pretzels, and gatorade. Junk food is always good, but to keep your stomach happy, eating things like peanuts or trail mix and flushing your system with water as you travel is never a bad way to go.

3. Games! If you're traveling with friends or family, it's fun to have a few games handy. Travel Scrabble has always been my go-to, but there are plenty of other games I enjoy that don't require a board, like the ABC game, which is something I like to think I made up on my own, but I probably didn't... Adam and I play this a lot on road trips. All you do is pick a category, like types of animals for example, and you go back and forth thinking of an animal that starts with each letter of the alphabet. If I start, I might choose "antelope" for A, then it's Adam's turn and he might choose "bear" for B, and so on. It's fun and sometimes really challenging depending on the category you choose. It's a great time waster! There's also the old license plate game, where you try to find a plate for each state, and Road Trip Bingo which is something I played all the time with my cousins as a kid. I'm sure there are a ton of road trip games you can download for smart phones, too.
(Another shot from our trip to Seattle last summer.)

4. Pillows! If you have extra room in the vehicle, you won't regret packing a pillow. It's also a great idea to have a blanket or pajamas so you aren't trying to get cozy in jeans or other uncomfortable clothing you might be wearing. Personally, I always wear yoga pants when I travel. I just can't stand wearing jeans after a certain amount of time in the car!

5. Camera! I can't imagine traveling without my camera. I know not everyone needs to capture and share things the way I do, but I think one of the best parts of traveling is being able to keep those new and exciting memories alive year after year with the great photos you took while traveling.
(A photo of Adam from our road trip through the Southwest a few months ago.)

Other helpful tips: Check out this trip calculator. It helps you figure out approximately how much you'll need to spend on gas for your road trip depending on the make and model of your car and the distance you plan to travel. It even tells you where the cheapest gas is located!

(Adam and me, car camping in Squamish, BC.) 

Don't forget to pack a car charger for your phone, GPS, or other electronics! It's also wise to pack tissue, toilet paper, and a towel or two. Getting a tune-up on your car would be a smart idea, and be sure to pack extra quarts of oil just in case, as well as a spare tire and the necessary tools to change a flat. Bring a paper map, too. Technology is great, but I've learned you can't always trust it to get you out of a bind when you're in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service.
  (A photo of me reading "Wild" in a sailboat from our road trip to Port Angeles last year.)

Other odds and ends include Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, band-aids, Benadryl, extra contact solution if you wear contacts, sunglasses, sunscreen, a flashlight, a garbage bag or two, a notebook, a pen, books, and personal ID cards just in case.
  (I saw this beauty in Canada last summer. Swoon!)

I've always dreamed of owning something like a Kombi and taking it through the country, living totally carefree for a while. I even have an "RV Dreams" board on Pinterest. How fun would it be to totally redecorate the inside of one of those and live wherever the wind takes you? Ah, maybe someday...

That's a far off fantasy of course, so in the mean time, it's nice to know there are companies like RelayRides who want to make renting a car and getting you out on the open road as hassle free as possible. I hope you've enjoyed my list! Is there anything I missed that you would add to your "Road Trip Essentials" list?