Cancelled Plans, Broken Collarbones, And One Ridiculously Cheap Flight Later...
How A Chat With A Stranger On A Boat In Greece Led To My Life-Changing Solo Road Trip Around Iceland.
Fair warning: This is a story, and I know people don't care about stories anymore, but I promise there's a moral at the end.
My friend broke her collarbone one week into our month-long trip to Greece.
After braving every hospital in Athens, she abruptly had to fly back to Canada.
I found myself alone at the Athens airport, resolved to carry out the rest of our plans on my own.
You know when you park your car, but aren't emotionally or mentally ready to get out and face the world yet?
I Didn't Mean To Take A Solo Trip
I sat down in the airport for about 3 hours, breathing in and out, and trying to prepare myself for my first solo trip into which I had been unexpectedly thrust.
By this point, I had decided that "backpacking" in the traditional sense was not for me (I'm a huge fan of being comfortable, and any friend of mine knows to get me fuzzy blankets for Christmas and that I sleep with 15 pillows on my bed - backpacking, for me, is uncomfortable), so I checked into the way-too-expensive Sofitel Hotel at the airport for the night.
This was the first nice shower I had had in over a week, and the bed was oh-so-freaking comfortable. They even served me my own, personal-sized french press in the morning (not an affiliate, it was just super fancy and fun)!
The next day I fought my way through Athens, through the crowds of confused soon-to-be ferry passengers, and onto what I hoped was the right boat headed for Santorini, where I spent five beautiful, uneventful, expensive days. More on that here in my brutally honest guide to sunset in Santorini.
Isn't it great how easy it is to meet people and make friends when you're travelling? On my way back to Athens, I met a guy named Michael who told me his plans to go to Switzerland and Iceland. As he walked me to my hotel, we exchanged Facebook information, talked about how exciting Iceland would be, and gave some stray dogs my leftover Santorini sandwiches (again, more on that later).
That night, as mosquitos bit my face and I listened to my hotel's "hourly rates" taking effect, I did some for-the-heck-of-it flight searches. Amongst the $1000+ flights to Iceland from anywhere, I found one. One day, from Paris to Iceland, five days from that night for $200.
"In terms of, like, instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin." - John Mulaney
Thankfully, we hadn't planned out Greece that much.
We knew which islands we wanted to visit, but only booked a few places in advance, so cancelling plans was easy, but money was definitely lost on this decision.
I had five days to get across Greece, up Italy, and into Paris for my crazy cheap flight into Reykjavik (more on that later, too).
I had always wanted to go to Iceland (solely based on pictures I had seen on Pinterest, probably), but I knew nothing about it and had made no plans or reservations, and had done no research.
Michael (from earlier, remember?) was leaving as I was arriving. A Godsend, he helped me rent a car and gave me his guidebook. I ripped this map from it and used it to get around and pick a few things to see and do during my eight days there. It now hangs in my room at my mom's house (see the thumb tacks).
Throwing caution to the wind is something I have always done, love to do, and will continue to do. Going to Iceland was reckless, financially and otherwise. I lost money on hotels I had already paid for in Greece, I almost missed my chance for a rental car with no reservation, and I had a backpack full of Mediterranean Island friendly clothes.
I stayed the first night in an Airbnb in Reykjavik, where I bought some leggings and a sweatshirt, a blanket, and a car charger for my phone. My Airbnb host gave me an angora pyjama set which saved me from freezing on those nights I slept in the car (most nights). And off I went!
Half the time my phone was dead due to a faulty car charger (curses!), I honked at sheep in the road, and got a proposal from a whale watching boat captain. I ate bizarre burgers, drank crappy coffee, and had to pee with sheep watching. I got vertigo at the bird cliffs, said "holy shit" in front of a child when a humpback breached, and had to stop and ask some sheep for directions once or twice.
This was my first solo trip, and it happened accidentally. It was a learning experience, an epic coming of age trip, and I did it all wrong. I am glad, however, that I experienced Iceland my way. I didn't do the Blue Lagoon, I didn't spend much time in Reykjavik, I didn't try the rotten shark meat.
My solo trip to Iceland was the most solitary I have ever been, and I loved every second of it. I stood at the edge of the world by myself and appreciated every little thing that had happened, from expensive cancelled plans, to Tre's broken collarbone (sorry, Tre), to hating Athens (sorry, Athens), and to opening up to a stranger on a boring ferry-ride.
My travel tips for Iceland? Just go.
The moral of the story? Embrace the unexpected, never over-plan, and make the most out of your friends' broken bones. Oh, and take a lot of pictures...
Share your own unexpected, spur of the moment, reckless, any other synonym travel experiences with us in the comments or on one of our social pages! We want to hear all about it.
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