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Welcome to my travel website

front-page-imageOn this website you can read about my travels around the world. I have been to more than 50 countries, mostly in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Under the Countries menu you can choose a place to read more about. Currently these are simple notes on the things to do and see in each country, but soon I will be adding brief overviews to each of them as well.

Go to the Travel Tips menu, if you plan on going on an adventure yourself! I have many great suggestions for what to bring or do during your journey. This section will also be expanding in time.

Feel free to look around and ask me any questions you may have using the contact form.

Working on Travel Journals

Alright. After almost 9 years of having “Update Travel Journals” on my to do list, I finally need to start doing this. There will be many memories lost, but I at least have made outlines of every day of traveling so that some day I could go back and fil them in. I will have to create a system.

For when I update an outline into written out form, I will use the inserted expression:
—— Converted from outline form: 2013-5-29 ——

For when I do not remember an item on the outline, I will mark it as such and possibly use a note to explain the things I do remember:
[lost memory] – outline note / note: I remember that such and such happened but nothing more

Hopefully this system can help the reader understand the perspective.

Moving Right Along

Took a lot of data juggling, but finally FINALLY got the trip journal entries posted. Of course, most of them are in outline form, and almost all of the Asia trip hasn’t been posted yet, but I’m working on it, and at least the foundations are there!

Soon after I finish putting up what I have, the next steps will be:

  • Filling in the country information, maybe putting up more photos, and make it useful for other people to use when traveling to those countries
  • Convert trip outlines into full posts
  • Link trips/countries to their journal entries
  • Put up more travel tips

Making Progress

Added a photo of the map I have showing all my trip routes, and also added both a header image to the country pages, as well as linked them to their respective page on my photos website.

I still have to add the European countries, some more tips, and then after that I’ll get to work on posting my travel journal, which is set up in a nice CSV file waiting to be imported.

Finished Basic Site Conversion

Well I’ve transfered over all the messy things, and even chiseled out some looks to the main page (or rather just kind of did a fusion/child-theme of the WordPress Twenty Twelve theme, which I’ve found is a lot easier than writing everything back from scratch.

Anyhow, the travel site has the following things on the to do list:

  • Add links from the country pages to my photo site
  • Add country pages for European countries
  • Start forming a travel blog on this site, fill it in with the outlines (for now)
  • Go back and convert trip outlines to actual written out posts
  • Create and start work on Alaska 2013 travel page
  • Take a photo of the map I keep of everywhere I’ve been in the world
  • Ooooo might be nice to throw featured images as header pieces…

So as you can see, many things to be done. But I also want to get my other sites (Business and Projects) up and running as well. I’ve already gotten my photography site pretty much to where I want it… might be a little too narrow for my tastes actually.

Day 17 – 20th

Woke up early to deposit car
Met really beautiful finnish girl at breakfast
Decision with Jarina about where to go
Tried to go to vestmannajaer with jarina but failed
First to bus station
Got info and dropped off bags
Ate sheeps head
Went to penis museum
Went to tourist info office
Went to harbor building
Came back to bus station
Info that the bus was leaving from a different terminal
Had to take taxi
Just made bus
Bus went 90% of the way there and then turned around
Pizza and vanilla coke

Day 16 – 19th

Woke up, tea
Johanna left
Went to the post office
Expensive stamps!
Bought a banana and peanuts on my way back
Wrote postcards
Updated journal just a little
Had johanna came back and we had traditional waffles
Got back to reykjavik and checked into KEX
Went to dinner with Jarina at Estelle’s place, swiss cheese dinner
Met with siggi afterwards and gave him a ride back

Day 15 – 18th

Woke up and had pizza for breakfast
Drove to snaefellsjokul, but road was bad
Walked for an hour, nothing, turned around and came back
Followed snowmobile tracks
Drove back
Went with johanna to her farmhouse
Pictures of animals
Then to small house out in the countryside
Had a small lunch there
Really cold and windy on our way back
Drove back
Walked around town
Lamb stew, really good
Loaded indiana jones onto her computer

Day 13 – 16th

Went to find plane
Seljalandfoss was frozen and walked behind it
Stopped outside route 221
Jumped over river
Found the plane
Long walk back
Just made it back to see skogafoss in sunlight with rainbow
ISO set high
Drove back
Stopped at selfoss to use wifi
Made it back and went out to meet Santiago and Link
Went hunting for borealis
No luck
Went to Dillon to see Rakel
Hung out with Santiago
Walked around downtown
Saw fight
Got sandwich
Came back

Day 4 – 7th

Woke up at 5:45 to go pick up Christine
Car stuck in snow, had to dig out
Drive to airport, wrong turn
Airport, waited
Christine arrived
Parking ticket, also consulted car rental place about car, chose not to add her as an extra driver
Drove to hostel, packed bags and checked out
Walked around Reykjavik, showing Christine the various places
Got hot dogs from weird stand
Bought postcards
Explored church for 3rd time
Headed back
Drove to Siggi’s place
Met with Siggi
Locked outside while he took a shower
Finally got in, put our stuff down
Chatted with Siggi about various things over tea
Headed out to the Blue Lagoon
Drove all the way there but when we got there we were told the water was cold, so we had to come back another day
Drove to downtown talking about relationships and stuff
Went to Tapas place again, C had the same icelandic feast and i had the fish soup (not too bad)
After we drove back to Siggi’s and took a nap
C remained napping while i got up and read and drank tea and updated journal
Siggi’s cousin was there listening to some really strange music… Like ominous religious chanting… Creepy

I think we were so tired we just stayed in bed

Day 3 – 6th

It was a fairly restless night because the group of Asian girls that had joined the room all had to get up in the morning, except it seemed that no one knew when they had to get up. Their cell phone alarms kept on going off time and time again. This one phone went off at least 8 times, and very loudly too. Finally in the small hours of the morning they all noisily got up and left.

Anyhow, later when it felt like my normal time of waking up I saw that there was snow everywhere outside, and decided to sleep in. After I couldn’t sleep in any longer, I got up and made myself some toast, tea, and stripped a banana. This was clearly a snow day, and the decision was made to spend a significant amount of time inside.

I got to know Daniel a bit more, and we hung out chatting. Eventually upon feeling a bit of cabin fever we decided to go out to get some “near beer” at the 1107 store. Apparently the only store that sells alcohol in Iceland is the government run shop, which was downtown. We figured we could try the lighter beer at the grocery story, which was about 2% and pretty nasty. In the world of liquids, I think only milk should ever be 2%. We started walking to the downtown area to find this booze store, and after buying some gloves and wandering around we couldn’t find anything. We ended up just strolling around and getting these cheap ham sandwiches – samloka – in a deli. Daniel had to piss pretty bad, but instead of walking into a store and asking to use the restroom he decided to piss in a small parking lot off the main street, and apparently a woman passed by him and expressed displeasure in his actions.

Came back and relaxed at the hostel. I read a bit more, and after I was tired of reading I found where the liquor store was, woke Daniel up from a snooze, and we made a run to the store (this time in his car). Upon arriving there we realized exactly what people meant by liquor being expensive in Iceland. They meant that liquor is expensive in Iceland. Daniel didn’t have the funds for that kind of luxury, but I decided it was worth investing in so I picked up three beers. We stopped by Bonus on the way back to pick up ramen, some toffee lollipops that lasted almost the whole month, and some lamb hearts. That last item was something we came across in the meat section, and found it to be very affordable. I related the story of how Warren once served us “mystery meat” that – surprise! – was heart. I remembered it being good, and Daniel was up to experiencing something new, which possibly might have been with it being a dull snow day, so we purchased it.

Back at the hostel I read some more and made myself a ramen dinner. A bit afterwards Daniel was ready to cook the hearts, but we didn’t know exactly how. We decided on boiling two, and frying one on a skillet. Daniel was pretty resourceful with the limited spices at the hostel, and through some magic we ended up with some actually very delicious lamb heart. And the beers were good too, which I ended up sharing with Daniel as appreciation for his cooking skills.

We retired to the room and chilled for a bit. I chatted a little with Maggie over iMessage, which works via wifi.

Also at this time I was really getting nervous about Christine. I still hadn’t heard from her, and supposedly she was getting into Iceland the morning after that night. I messaged her facebook, her email, even tried iMessage. I decided I would just show up at the airport when her flight supposedly got in, and cross my fingers. But then right as I was about to go to sleep I FINALLY got a message back from her confirming that everything was on schedule and she would be showing up on time, possibly even a little late because the plane was delayed. Went to sleep, eager to enjoy a better night of sleep.

Day 2 – 5th

Luckily for me I was in a 10 person dorm room all by myself. I think they were expecting a large group of people to come in, but probably because of the storm they were delayed. So it was me and the storm, and I heard the wind blowing pretty hard the entire night. I wasn’t so sure it was a storm since it was my first night in Iceland, and maybe that’s just how it always was there, but no I was told later it was a pretty violent and bad one compared to their usual weather.

In the morning I got up to meet with Jacamo at 7, but he wasn’t there. I also found out that nothing in the world is open until 10 o’clock in Iceland. So I went back to sleep and got up at 9. This time I actually did run into Jacamo. We went to the nearby small 24 hour market, 1107, to get breakfast – vanilla skyr, aplesin+maltextract, and I think some peanuts. After chowing down on that back at the hostel we went out to walk around the town. Again, it was freezing cold and windy. First saw the viking ship monument, which is somewhat iconic. Then went to Bonus, one of the other main supermarket chains around the country, and I picked up a $5 beanie. It helped a lot. Went back to the church and this time went up the tower. It was a good view of the city, and you kind of got a sense of how small the downtown area was, but it was also very windy and we didn’t stay up there very long.

Made our way down to the Duck Pond, where we witnessed ducks and swans somehow surviving in freezing cold water. I don’t know how they managed to do it. We decided to take a break and headed into a small bakery, and I picked up an Icelandic twisted donut called a Kleina. Meh, it was okay, and I probably would have liked it a lot more if I grew up eating it.

Went back to the hostel since Jacamo had to leave for some volunteer project he was part of. I relaxed a bit, and then decided there was plenty of more time in the day for exploration so I headed out with the car.

I first went to the far western edge of Reykjavik where there was a lighthouse. I parked in the small lot and began walking to the lighthouse, but quickly realized that the path to the small piece of land actually was half-frozen, half-mud, half-submerged under the tide. A larger car drove up to where I was and found the same thing to turned around. I walked down a small path just a little while to investigate some strange wood structure and then retreated to the car.

Oh yeah, it was right then when I learned how to put the car correctly into Drive. Felt a bit stupid, and lucky that I hadn’t ruined the car.

The next stop was to the Krysivik National Park, which was down near the airport. So after about 30 minutes of driving I took an exit onto a small road, which then turned into a dirt road. I was surprised with the sudden change in road and had to make a quick stop while I assessed if the car would be able to drive over it. Having rented a 2 wheel car, I wanted to be really sure I didn’t get stuck in the dirt or snow. More on that later, but at this point I felt like the car would make it and I wouldn’t damage anything if I went slow.

I drove down through the national park, admiring the mountains and rock formations. There was a big lake too, and I stopped to take a few pictures here and there. After a bit I saw a tourist stop for a geothermal hot spring spot, Seltun. There was the really strong smell of sulfur everywhere, but it wasn’t bad enough to gag. Of course I was so excited to start my first hiking experience in Iceland that I decided to go all the way up to this far away steam vent on the top of this steep mountain. It took a while to walk up, and the wind was bitter cold, but I made it! Couldn’t see too much because of the steam, but the most interesting part was how the steam was freezing on the strange rocks around the area. Took a few photos and headed back down. I was really freezing so about halfway down I had to take shelter for just a little while by some rocks.

Strolled around the other hot springs, trying to linger by the warm steam so I could warm up. The place really wasn’t incredibly satisfying, but I felt it was worth heading out there instead of staying inside.

For the way back I decided to go the long way, going south first, and then west towards the airport, around the peninsula area and back to Reykjavik. This was a really relaxing drive but I didn’t see too much out of the ordinary, just a lot of rocky landscape. Made my way back to the hostel.

I went out to Bonus again to buy some deli meat, 2 bananas, an apple, mango skyr, bread, and raspberry tea. That raspberry tea lasted me most of the trip, and was really nice to have. Back at the hostel I used the kitchen to make myself a lunch/dinner out of the bread and salami. I sat around talking to an Australian named Louise. Cute girl, and made herself a huge amount of pasta while i drank a lot of tea. After i was satisfied I went downstairs and chilled, and I believe this was also the day I started to read Heart of Darkness. Not exactly the best choice of book for Iceland, but I enjoyed it.

I was also getting a little concerned about Christine’s arrival, since I hadn’t heard from her at all. I wasn’t sure if she was still confirmed to arrive, or what the situation was. Anyhow, I kept it at the back of my mind. Met with Daniel, this sort of strange but nice guy who seemed to live the squatter lifestyle. Hung out, had mango skyr with chopped apple for dinner, and then listened to music at hostel. One great thing about the KEX Hostel was they had live music very often, and usually it was a jazzy band.

After a long day I went to a well deserved sleep.

Day 1 – 3rd and 4th

Alright, it’s time to write up my journal about the things that happened in Iceland. Quickly, before it all disappears from my brain.

It all started with the plane from San Francisco to Denver. Which as I recall was in the afternoon and there were no issues getting to the gate. That first leg was fairly uneventful. In Denver I had quite a layover. It was something like 4 hours. I went to a magazine shop and flipped through some photography magazines that were low on the shelf. Left the store, and found a place to sit and read a bit of my camera manual. I went to check my boarding pass, just to remember which time we were boarding, and wait a second- it was gone! So I searched through things but then figured it must have fallen out of one of my pockets, as things often do. Went back to the store and there was my boarding pass on the front counter. Alright. First adventure of the trip was over. I treated myself to a very nice steak and mashed potatoes before heading to the gate. Finished reading the camera manual and had a short conversation with a journalist who was interested in which camera I was learning about.

On the plane I met a true Icelander! He was young, but for half of the trip I thought he was in his late 20s. Turns out he was 19. And I couldn’t figure out if the little obnoxious boy next to him was his brother or his son… Anyhow, we had the typical America-is-pretty-weird conversation, and talked about various things. He gave me some suggestions for things to eat or see, and I gave him my business card (He never contacted me, but I kind of expected that). Anyhow, got very little sleep, and watched Prometheus, which I didn’t like. Arrived in Iceland at about 6 in the morning.

I made my way through immigration, and then because the customs officer – a very good looking girl – had nothing better to do she decided to scan my bag. I kind of wish she had found something suspicious so I could have chatted her up, but actually I was pretty tired and out of it so that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea.

Tired and sore, I found the Budget car rental office and sorted out the car rental details. Of course because I was renting it earlier than I said I would, it added a day onto the rental (it works on a 24 hour basis). But the guy was very friendly and even gave me a list of radio stations to try out. I was in that mood I get in when I lack sleep, but despite that I was very hungry (no food on the plane) so I grabbed a bagel and a coffee. This was the first time I got a glimpse of how expensive Iceland was, but I sort of expected that. I think it was almost $10 just for a bagel and coffee…

Went out to the car, which was a small adventure because it was freezing cold and extremely windy outside. Within a few steps I realized I had horribly misjudged the climate of the country, and I had definitely packed the wrong hat. Made my way to the car, and as the wise traveler I am I took photos of the outside of the car. Got in and warmed up, examining the map and trying to figure out how I would get to the KEX hostel. Drove to the parking lot exit, put my voucher ticket in, and then it came out AND BLEW AWAY! So crazy me, I backed up, re-parked, and tried to find the ticket. Then realized that the entire parking lot was littered with blown away parking vouchers, all frozen over slightly covered with ice. So I ran back inside and got another ticket, and went back to the ticket machine. This time I put the ticket in, and then it came out, and the bar didn’t rise. So I did it again. And again. And it didn’t work! So I pressed the help-me button, and waited. And waited. Pressed it a few more times. Waited. FINALLY after maybe 15 minutes a guy came on asking what was the matter and I told him it didn’t work! So the bar was raised and I finally got out of the airport.

Which was fine because it delayed me enough to have a nice sunrise as I rode the 30 minutes into Reykjavik, admiring the rocks and snow and natural beauty in the dawn light, while trying to figure out the appropriate speed. Actually it turns out that the first two days that I had the rental car, I had accidentally been putting the car into a semi-manual setting where it used the lowest gear until it revved up to dangerous levels and then switched. I thought it was acting a bit strange until I finally found out that to put it into regular Drive you just pull the stick down, and not push it left into manual mode.

Alright. What a loquacious start to this journal.

Drove to the hostel, and to my happy surprise I learned I could not check in until 2 pm! Which mean I was stuck in the lobby, gross feeling, probably gross smelling, and not able to sleep.

So I waited around. I decided I would try to take a small walk around the city and holy popsicles, it was cold. Yes, the temperature was negative, but that wasn’t the problem. Wind was the problem. Iceland is an extremely windy country. Which is probably because there are no trees, and the coastal areas are pretty flat.

My first encounter was bittersweet. I really enjoyed the feeling of being somewhere new, discovering little things here and there, seeing things in a different language. Different architecture. But I froze my butt walking around. I’m resilient, so I walked up to the church, peeked in, and then decided that was enough and went back to the hostel for some coffee and a bit of planning. Then I picked out a nice spot on one of the couches and proceeded to sleep a few hours. Finally got up right around 2 to check into my room and slept a few more hours.

I can’t remember what time I got up, but I felt a whole lot better and took a shower. Oh the hot water was amazing. And there was no guilt in using the hot water! Because Iceland is made of hot water. That was nice, and then went to the reception to ask about dinner places and found a British guy also asking about dinner, so asked to join him. George, a horn player, was a pretty cool guy and we went to a tapas place downtown. They had this “Iceland Feast” deal where you could try 7 various Icelandic foods, including puffin, whale, and skyr. Except it was a little pricey. Had a nice time and came back. Talked with George and an Italian named Jiacomo until I was too tired to exist any more, and retired to sleep.

Before sleeping I wrote an email to Maggie (if I don’t remember who she was, she was this really beautiful girl that I adored, but because of med school she eventually didn’t have time to develop anything after the trip):

Dearest Margaret,
It has been a long journey, and my bones ache, my brain is a bit broken, and my eyes have felt better days. But i’m happy, I made it and Iceland is proving to be wonderful. It’s cold, colder than Hoth in winter, but there are no Tantans. The wind is violent, the seas are choppy, and the clouds are gloomy, but the faces of these people seem to indicate otherwise. As cold as my ears may get, the warmth of the people I’ve met seem to make everything else not matter.

I had a really expensive dinner. It was Tapas, and I got this sampler of many basic Icelandic foods. Ate puffin, shark, whale, ling (?), sea trout, mini lobster, and this cheesecake-like dessert that was so good. I would hate to find out that if i paid less for the meal, those dishes wouldnt have tasted as good.

Made some friends already, George the horn player from the UK, and Jacamo the Italian. Spent a lot of time talking about my travels to Jacamo and he seemed to indicate that I changed his life by showing how passionate I was about it…

I really like your new profile photo. You’re gorgeous.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes! I probably won’t be emailing you everyday but I had some time and a little energy before sleeping today to send one :)