Iceland’s Golden Circle

After two days in Reykjavik, we picked up our lovely SADcar in the city center and hit the road. From Reykjavik it is only about 30-45 minutes to the first stop on the famous Golden Circle route. Because it is so close to Reykjavik the route is super touristy. It allows you to see a sampling of Iceland in a few hours, making it perfect for the European stopovers who only have a day or two. Despite it being crowded, we think it is still worth seeing (just keep moving because an entire beautiful island awaits…).

I could break down exact directions from the city, but this person already does a really good job of it. It is well marked, paved, and a great way to get your legs under you for navigating the rest of your road trip. We decided to work north around the circle because it fit better in our route, but you can easily do the other way around.

Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park, the location where Iceland formed its first Parliament in 930 AD. This is also where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates meet and are slowly moving apart from each other. This creates some pretty cool rifts in the geography.

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Thingvellir

There are also some beautiful waterfalls if you hike a bit further into the park.

Thingvellir Waterfall

Next on the Golden Circle is Haukadalur, a geothermal area with two famous geysers – Geysir and Strokkur. The english word geyser actually originated from Geysir. Geysir is not longer regularly active but Stokkur explodes with HOT water (sometimes on tourists who crowd too close) 100 feet into the air every five to 10 minutes. For those who have seen a geyser, it is pretty much what you’d expect to see (and smell – the sulfur here is very noticeable). Gabi had never seen one erupt and thought it was pretty remarkable.

Geyser selfie

Our best attempt at a selfie stick eruption shot. Fail.

Geyser

The last stop we made was to the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. Out of the countless waterfalls we saw, this one is probably the most famous. It is located on the Hvita river which is fed by the country’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. It plunges over 100 feet into a huge canyon. The weather was a bit rough so I don’t think we saw the full beauty of Gullfoss but Gabi does his best to give you a tour below.

Note: There is a forth stop. Kerid Crater Lake, but we skipped it. It’s the only sight you have to pay entrance to. It is under $5 but we were on our way to a secret hot spring hike (teaser) so we decided to move on.

monkii bars – Our Newest Friends and First Partners

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People that know me well are familiar with my restless nature and with the fact that I tend to be a little OCD when it comes to working out. I really do need my daily exercised-induced dose of endorphin for my own sanity and of those around me.

Embarking on a trip like this presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to working out, as we won’t have regular and affordable access to gyms and yoga studios. Packing a pair of good running shoes (we’ll talk about the gear later) is a must, but I have been puzzled by options for full body workouts.

Lucky for me, some innovative guys had the same issue and took it upon themselves to find a solution – monkiii bars. I first read about them in Outside Magazine (my bible periodical) and was immediately intrigued by their product. Monkii bars promised to deliver a highly portable and ultra light weight (under 1 pound) suspension workout system. I really wish I’ve known about these guys a few years ago when I was spending about 200 days a year traveling for work. I was hoping to get a set for last Christmas but being a small start-up (based in Boulder, CO) dependent on their successful Kickstarter campaign for production they only had pre-orders available at the time. They tend to sell out of inventory as soon as they get a fresh stock of product.

After the holidays monkii bars fell off my radar and I settled for the cheaper option of using medical resistance rubber bands usually used for post surgery rehab workouts. That was until Mich and I were attending the Lyons Outdoor Games shortly before our departure date, as I was certain that they would have an activation/sampling area set-up at the festival. I did not see them at the games, but it made me think about them again. I emailed them about our trip and to see if they wanted to partner up. If their product indeed worked as promised, we’d be the perfect candidates to use it on our trip and write about our experiences on our blog.

To my surprise, a few days after I sent an email (into what I presumed to be a cyber-black hole) I did hear back from one of the founders, David. Our email exchange was followed by a meeting in Boulder which ended by me getting a set of bars to use on our trip. We’re incredibly excited to partner up with a small CO based start-up that is run by a couple guys that are as passionate about the outdoors and working out as we are.

I’ll be posting some of my workouts and reviews as we get into our travel routine, but for now check out my test-session at our campground bathroom in Iceland by the incredible Skogafoss waterfall.

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Iceland Budget Rental Car – SADcars

SADCars

SADcars. Yes, this is the legit name of the rental car agency and you’ll see soon why that is such an accurate name.

As a budget traveler, transportation in Iceland is tricky. Reykjavik is easily explored by walking or taking public transportation, but traveling outside the city for cheap isn’t easy. Joining a tour might seem like an option, but I urge you to reconsider. I wanted to poke my eyes out watching all the people on the tour buses shuttled around like cattle. They all looked incredible unhappy. And probably paid a small fortune to be on those tours.

Plus, you’re in Iceland! The land, air, and sea is alive and ever changing – shifting glaciers, steaming thermal pools, crashing waterfalls, burning sun, and thundering waves. You want the freedom to explore and ponder as much as you desire. For us, being tied to a tour group would be torture.  “Ok fine”, you say, “rent a car and get on with it.” Well, like everything else in Iceland, car rental prices were a little hard for our tiny budget to swallow.

In came SADcars. After much online research, I found a few articles highlighting SADcars as the cheapest in Iceland. SADcars claims “used cars with experience”. That’s one way to put it. Let me introduce you to our rental – a two door Toyota Yaris with 360,000 kilometers (that’s over 220k miles!).

Our SADcar

Now, we weren’t totally shocked. We heard a few fellow travelers talking about SADcars at our campground in Reykjavik. They both experienced some sort of mechanical issue with the car over their two week rental but agreed they saved enough money it was worth the risk. Gabi and I are always up for an adventure so we figured we’d roll the dice and go for it (and we prepaid so it was too late to change our minds).

Overall, we were super happy with our “experienced” car. We had no mechanical issues, it had good gas mileage, and we didn’t have to worry about every little ding or dent. We would recommend SADcars to fellow travelers like ourselves, who are willing to give up a little comfort in exchange for affordable freedom. But before you run off and prepay for 12 days, here are a few facts you should know.

The car is a beater.

Gorilla Tap to the rescue.

Seriously you guys. Think of the beat up car your neighbor drove when he turned 16. Add a few more dents, some rust, and a shitty stereo and that is your SADcar. But you’re in Iceland. There are gravel roads, wind storms, ice, and sometimes ash. And you know the rental agencies offer (and try to sell) insurance for all those. With SADcars there is no need for additional insurance. The car is so banged up they will never notice a few more dents. This was another money saver and offered piece of mind. Just make sure you have some Gorilla Tape for when something comes unglued…

In car entertainment is limited.

No aux plug, no usb port, no CD player, no cassette deck. For us, road trip = playlist so we came prepared. We had a mini bluetooth speaker, portable chargers, and offline Spotify playlists ready to go. But in my opinion, the Icelandic views provided the best entertainment.

In car entertainment.

Make sure you’re route accommodates an older car.  

Due to our limited time in Iceland, we decided to stick to the heavily trafficked southern circuit. It is packed with sights, very easy to navigate, and has camping in every town. In the summer, this route easily accommodates an old beater with shitty tires. I’ve heard the same can NOT be said for other parts of Iceland. As you move around the island (or towards the interior) towns with services are further apart and roads are more treacherous, many requiring 4×4. We would never have trusted our little SADcar in those conditions. The biggest hazards we came across in the south were sheep. LOTS of sheep.

Sheep crossing

Bottom line, SADcars was a great option for us and could be your solution for budget transportation in Iceland. It ended up costing us under $200 for a four day rental. At least 75% cheaper than what we found through other rental agencies. Just know what you’re getting yourself into and plan your route accordingly.

5 Ways to Keep on Budget in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is not a cheap city. Food, drink, and lodging can add up quickly and there are not many obvious options for budget travelers. However, Gabi and I are penny pinchers and found some pretty easy ways to stay on our very modest budget. Later we’ll dive into the overall budget for our Iceland road trip and how we managed to swing it. For now, here are some tips for visiting the capital city if you’re on a budget.

1) Camp

Camping in Icleand

“You’re camping in ICEland?” would be a standard response to this. However, do a little research and you’ll see Iceland has a robust camping culture and makes it seriously easy, comfortable, and affordable to camp. We stayed at the Reykjavik Campsite which was about a 20 minute walk to downtown. It has hot showers with amazing water pressure, a great kitchen and common area, and free wifi. All this for $12/night. A bunk in a hostel with similar amenities will run you $50-$60 a night. Think of all the puffin tours you could do with that extra money.

2) Cook

Picnicking with handmade sandwiches.

Or eat a lot of hotdogs. While in Reykjavik we did both. Food is expensive and most budget restaurants are not great or easy to find. I’d recommend trying some of the traditional dishes like dried fish, fermented shark, and some sort of lamb (it’s the most common meat). Other than that, cooking (and $3 hotdogs) is the way to go. There are a couple large grocery stores where you can find plenty of items you’ll kind of recognize despite the Icelandic labeling. Find the nearest Bonus, Kronon, or Netto and go at it.

3) Duty Free

Apprehensive about trying this local elixir.

Icleand has a 50% tax on beer, wine, and liquor and it can only be purchased at state run liquor stores known as vinbudin. They are hard to find and have restrictive hours. The one we found was open two hours a day, five days a week. Drinking at bars and restaurants is also expensive. We paid about $7 for the cheapest bottle of beer while enjoying the Reykjavik Runtur. The only way for a true budget traveler to stay on budget in Iceland is to either 1) not drink alcohol (but what fun would that be?) or 2) BYOB from the Keflavik Airport Duty Free. They practically beg you to shop at the Duty Free, funneling you through before you can pick up your luggage. We saw locals picking up truckloads of booze on their way back into Iceland. We opted for a six pack of Gull and the local schnapps, Brennivin, more fondly known as Black Death, all for about $20 USD.

4) Drink the Water

Clean, delicious water.

Iceland has some of the cleanest water in the world and it’s delicious. We saw so many people buying bottled water. It boggled my mind why they wouldn’t indulge in the delicious and free tap water. Ditch the bottled water and drink it straight from the facet. Your wallet, and the planet, will thank you.

5) Don’t Rent a Car for Reykjavik

Gabi planning out our walking tour.

If you planned a couple days in Reykjavik on either side of an Iceland road trip I’m sure you’re renting a car. Instead of renting or returning to the Keflavik Airport, consider picking up or dropping off from Reykjavik city center. With rental cars costing $70-$150 a day, you can save a lot of dough this way. When we landed in Iceland, we took a shuttle into the city for about $18/person. We then spent two days in the capital without a car, which is totally doable. We walked a ton but that’s the best way to see the city in my opinion. On the third day, we picked up our car in Reykjavik and a few days later we returned it to Keflavik on the way to the airport. The one way rental fee was about $15 total so we saved a couple hundred dropping the two city days.

Buh Bye ‘merica

Today we landed in the first of many countries! We flew out of Denver on Thursday and woke up in Iceland early Friday morning. (Well, Gabi woke up. I never went to sleep. Apparently over the counter sleeping pills do nothing for me.) It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that we’ll be hoping around like this for the next year. I still wonder how we pulled this off.

We’re staying at the Reykjavik Campsite just on the outer edge of downtown Reykjavik. We checked in around 9 AM, setup our camp, and passed out. I woke up a few hours later to loud techno/pop music. Turns out there is a huge volleyball tournament right next to the hostel. I guess in Iceland they blare music between each serve so we were hearing a snippet of every pop song from the last 10 years every few seconds.

The crazy thing about this tournament is that Gabi has a close friend from college in town for it. She lives in Hawaii but is a college volleyball recruiter and is here to scout players. Our first night on the road and we’re already finding old friends! Hopefully we can meet her tonight.

Time to go explore Reykjavik and try their world famous hotdogs. I have a feeling we’ll be eating a few while we’re here. More on Reykjavik and Iceland in our next post.

Aloha!

Buh bye 'merica

Buh bye ‘merica

The Next 12 Months

I’ve never spent so much time and energy preparing for a trip that is only five percent booked. Part of the beauty of devoting the next year to traveling is that we can fly by the seat of our pants. We can explore what excites us and discover the unexpected. Below is a rough outline of where we hope to be when. We’ll see what time, money, interest, and wanderlust allows!

Of course, we want to meet friends (old and new!) and family wherever possible. If your travel overlaps our travel please let us know so we can meet up! Or send us a note so we can plan a trip together. We can wait to see some of you on the road!

Europe

06.04.15 – 07.31.15 : Iceland, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, and a smattering of other European countries

Africa

08.01.15 – 09.30.15 : Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa

Asia

10.01.15 – 12.01.15 : Nepal (TBD as of now) and india

12.02.15 – 12.25.15 : Sri Lanka

12.26.16 – 05.15.16 : Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Indonesia)

Oceania

05.16.16 – ??? : Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific Islands

If Not Now, Then When?

if not now then when

Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia ©Gabor Boczonadi

This is a question we’ve asked ourself countless times. Until August 30th of last year, our answer was “after the wedding”. Our wedding was always our fork in the road.

“Let’s just get through the wedding and we’ll take a look at it.”

Once the wedding was over, we had no more excuses. We’d saved the money, had a flexible lease, and had the support of our families. It became clear that “now” needed to be the answer.

We’re so happy to announce that as of May 20th, we will be vagabonds. We have quit our jobs, sold our stuff, and will be living out of backpacks.

We will spend June and July in Europe. Camping in Iceland, a family wedding in Hungary, outdoor adventures with Anyu (Gabi’s mom) in Austria, and meeting friends in Croatia. Budapest will be our home base, spending as much time as we can with Gab’s family. Following that, the majority of the next year will be spent in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific.

So yeah. Big news! We decided to start the blog to help us document our journey, connect with friends and family worldwide, meet like-minded strangers, and maybe help others along the way. We’ll be publishing our itinerary in the coming weeks in the hopes some of you will join us along the route.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far – our families, friends, bosses, coworkers, REI staffers (we’ve spent a lot of time there…), and all the strangers who have offered us encouragement. We can’t wait to get started!