Pre-WORLD TRIP Wednesday #10&11


It’s dark, a little chilly and late, after 2 AM. “Man, it was 10 PM just a couple of minutes ago”, I whisper to myself. Sue had fallen asleep hours earlier but I’m still wide eyed looking at the spouting geysers, glacier covered mountains and steamy Blue Lagoon of Reykjavik, virtually that is. I have spent hours on the net looking at lodging, points of interest, bus tours, bike rentals and even a couple of Iceland SCUBA diving packages.  Each adventure sounds great and the number seems limitless. How do I decide on which activities to do, have a memorable experience and stay on budget? Then suddenly a question pops into my sleep deprived brain, “What is the point to your travels?”

Sharing a beer with the locals - equal to 2 semesters of sociology

Sharing a beer with the locals – a blend of anthropology, sociology and organic chemistry. I’ll take it over watching a documentary of the region any day.

Today it’s popular to run, bike or travel for “a cause”. In fact it seems nearly impossible to run a marathon or join a bike ride without being part of some corporate fund raiser. Please don’t misinterpret my comments here. I have worked with, donated to and run for many causes and thanks to many peoples efforts I am still happily married to a breast cancer survivor. But I am also a believer in running, biking and traveling for the simple and pure experience of the activity itself. I find it refreshing to come across an adventurers website sans donation requests or pay pal button and I see their undertaking as no less noble than those tied to fund raising for worthy causes.

I love passing through small towns, especially on a bicycle

I love passing through small towns, especially on a bicycle

So what is the point of my travels? Although I like meeting new challenges that’s not the primary reason I travel. The primary reason is to gain a better understanding of people and places that is not fully attainable through reading books or watching videos. When you walk or bike through an unfamiliar town you get a feeling for how the people spend their day and relate to outsiders. You learn what, when and where they eat and observe how they interact with family and friends. You get to know the people, not the stereotype projected by the media. Through conversation, sharing meals and laughing together, you transform foreign people and places from just words and pixels to relationships and places you’ve “experienced”. The time you spent there will not qualify you as an expert but if a picture is worth a thousand words, a visit, conversation and a meal is worth a few times that.

A typical day at work

Just another day at the office

By knowing the reason for my travels I can better determine how to use my time and money. SCUBA diving in a lava tube sounds pretty cool and I would certainly like to experience that but I don’t want to do that on my first visit to Iceland. If the purpose of this trip is to gain a better understanding of the country and people of Iceland my time and money would be better spent on a bicycle tour of Reykjavik led by a local. By taking a bike tour I hope to gain a better understanding of daily life in Reykjavik, learn how bicycles fit into their society, get a feel for the  local humor  and a few leads on where to eat.

Playing with the locals is a great way to get a feeling for the people even if you don't speak the same language

Playing with the locals is a great way to get a feeling for the people even if you don’t speak the same language

Taking a bike ride around Reykjavik or a bus tour of the Golden Circle won’t qualify me for the X-Games and traveling simply for the experience may not be as noble to some as traveling for fund raising but my less extreme, untethered travel style is in keeping with my primary reason for wandering – to better understand the world. Having answered the question, “What is the point to your travels?”, I can now go to sleep and when I begin my google search tomorrow it will be easier due to having a finer focus and better understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish. Sweet dreams and happy travels.

Categories: Biking, Hiking, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Well-spoken, Tom. That’s smart to ask yourself what your priorities are. Love your blog…. Val

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Please, more about your Iceland trip. I’ll be going there in late May.

    • Hi Mike,

      I’m spending a week in Iceland covering the last few days of May and first few days of June so I’m trying to figure out where to stay and what to do. How about yourself?

      • We may meet. I (and my SO and two more) are flying in on May 28th and leaving on June 5th. One day in Reykjavik, then on to Hotel Hekla. Where I’ll be there for 3 nights then meet up with the group on their return from an easterly trip.

        I plan on spending my time going to Thingvella, Geysir, Gulfoss, etc for some great photo ops.

      • Mike,

        There is a good chance that we’ll cross paths in Iceland. I’m arriving the 29th and flying out the 5th also. I haven’t worked out the details of my stay but I’ll be Reykjavik for at least a couple of days, do the Golden circle, getting in some biking and hiking and with any luck taking a few interesting photographs. Do you have any suggestions or must see sites based on your research?


        “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

      • Tom,
        One site you might enjoy is live webcams around Iceland. Those that are online are live, I’ve noticed hikers in Thinvillir – hiking.

      • Mike,

        Thanks a lot. I look forward to checking it out.

  3. These are the places on my Must See list

    * Thingvella
    * Gullfoss
    * Haifoss
    * The geysers at Geysir.
    * The crater lake at Kerith.
    * Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss
    * seeing Hekla farily close, not just from a distance on Route 1
    * The bridge over the rift between the North Amreican Plate and the EurAsian Plate.

    I’ll be out wioth my camera and GPS with two destinations, Good photos and, since I’m a geocacher, I’ll be looking for caches too. I’ll be in Reykjavik for one day, then for 3 at Hotel Hekla in Selfoss, it’s relatively close to the everything on the top of the top of the list. The bidge is on the western end of the Reykjane peninsula – south of Keflavik. The SO and her sister are wanting to go to the Blue Lagoon, and thinking of relaxing there after the flight on the first day.

  4. Those are excellent and refreshing points you make, Tom. I agree with you. I actually don’t do those kind of things for a cause \. I don’t know why. Even when I used to run 10Ks, I did it for the fun of running through different areas because you get to see the areas up close as your plodding along a trail. I just like the feel of air going in and out of my lungs, muscles getting warm, and I like daydreaming while I am running, skiing, or walking. For travel, I like to wander about and talk to the people I encounter. Even if there’s a language barrier, we always manage to communicate, if with just a smile. Those interactions are the memories that stick, more than the sights and activities. I never thought about it all until I read this post!

  5. Fantastic post! I am curious about the world and it’s really as simple as that. I think Americans would be less provincial, if they went abroad more. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

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