Making Friends in Iceland

When I worked for the travel app, I would often work from abroad. I would spend my days testing the app and finding new contacts and places that I thought should be added. We had 150 cities to cover, and they always needed updating. So when I found cheap tickets to Iceland in January 2016, it seemed like a great place to spend a week for work.

I enjoyed my time there so much, that I went back a few months later.

This first trip, however, in the sunny month of January (ahem), because the tundra blew snow for miles, indoor activities were advised for rookie tourists. I, however, felt like my winters in Iowa and Norway gave me somewhat of a hard shell exterior, and I enjoyed my time there immensely.

On a day off, I booked a trekking trip with Trek. It was a simple, yet dreamily-described hike, which would ultimately lead to a hot springs that was just the perfect temperature for us to swim in. It sounded so utterly romantic.


Reykjadalur, or “Smokey Valley”, where some hot springs are the perfect temp for a dip.

The weather that day turned out to be…stormy. Winds caused several roads to close that day, but we drove the long way around and started to hike. It went slow. Even though the guide and I were properly dressed and had experience, the rest of the group (bless them), did not. Turning around before we reached our destination, our guide did his best to make it up to us, by, amongst other things, taking us to see this badass hot spring:

Icelandic hot spring

Up to my ears in gear!

Getting back to Reykjavik, it was back to work for me, and I decided to warm up by stopping by a bar where I had done some work with Stein, a respected beer nerd in town. His staff said he wasn’t in, but “hey, sit down and have a beer–have you tried had any Icelandic beer yet?” “Uh, no, I haven’t actually,” I timidly responded, “but maybe I could have just one…” and bought one of their best sellers. We started to chat and our Nordic connection seemed to bond us immediately. Chatty as we got, I suddenly sat there with five little samples of other beers–also from Icelandic breweries. That’s when the three men came in.

Mind you, the bar was not busy that random Tuesday evening. Three guys walk in and see little me, all alone, with about five samplers in front of her talking to two bartenders. I’m sure it looked slightly odd. They nonetheless sat right beside me and asked what I was doing in Iceland, and how was my day? I told them everything about the trek and one of them said, “Hold on a sec; what is your email address? And what are you doing tomorrow?”

I didn’t quite understand why. It turned out, however, that the man was on the board in the company that owned Trek, and to make up for our disappointing day, he surprised me  by booking me on a snorkelling adventure (that I ended up doing in July):

Snorkeling Iceland

The first layer of many for a dry suit…

I’ll never forget that chance encounter from my January trip. It is one of many examples of getting to know locals in unexpected ways. Taking the time to make connections has always, always enhanced my travel experience.  Whenever I feel bashful or shy about approaching people, I always think back to this experience as the ultimate motivator. After all, what do I have to lose?!

The people I met throughout my Icelandic trips were so incredibly friendly, helpful, and obviously quite generous. Definitely — go to Iceland, winter or summer, and you’ll have the time of your life!

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