My Iceland Story: In Three Parts, Abridged
In which Iceland first officially hits my radar.
The year: 1995
The place: Germany
The occasion: My high school graduation
The story: We rarely had visitors when we lived in the U.S., and none whenever we lived abroad. However, it was important to my Grandmother to come to my graduation, so she flew abroad for the first time to see me walk across the stage. My aunt and cousin came with her.
It was a big deal in the best way for my father. He got to show his family Europe. We spent a weekend in Paris. We took the ferry across the English Channel, viewed the Dover Cliffs from the water, and I got to experience my first trip to London.
What I remember most about this trip though? I remember that my family had flown from Orlando to Luxembourg City (and back) via Reykjavik, Iceland.
Iceland what a COOL sounding place. And Reykjavik. So many vowels.
In which I get all excited, for nothing.
The year: 1998
The place: Orlando, FL
The occasion: Driving in my car
The story: I’m one to immediately switch radio stations when either a commercial comes on or I’ve already heard my favorite part of a song.
But for some reason I didn’t this time.
And a commercial for Southwest airlines came on the air. “$198.00 round trip tickets to Iceland.”
When I got to my college campus, I headed to the Student Union and the new travel agency that had opened up. I sat in front of the guy I’ve seen when I walked past their windows, but never ventured to walk inside and asked him.
Me: I’d like more information about the $198 tickets to Iceland.
Him: Sorry, there are no $198 tickets to Iceland.
Me: But, the radio?
Him: No. Tickets to Reykjavik are… and I don’t know because my mind went blank and I fainted… just kidding, I don’t remember. But, it was a lot more than $198.
In which I learn the truth about a past mistake.
The year: 1999
The place: Orlando, FL
The occasion: I’m now a travel agent at the agency that couldn’t find me $198 round trip tickets to Iceland! I’m sitting on the other side of the desk, and a customer sits in front of me.
Customer: Hey, I heard on the radio that Southwest has a deal to Iceland for $198.
Me: Hmm… Southwest doesn’t fly to Reykjavik, they really only fly domestic.
Customer: But the radio says it.
Me: Hmm… yeah, I remember hearing that one time, too. Except that makes no sense because Southwest doesn’t fly to Iceland, they fly to places like Nashville and Islip. ISLIP! I didn’t, I mean, you didn’t hear Iceland. You heard ISLIP. In Long Island. And look – Southwest has round trip deals to ISLIP for $198.
Customer: Ummm… that’s ok, I just want to go to Iceland.
Me: Me, too, man. Me, too.
And 20 years later, I’m going to ICELAND!
And I’m so excited.
In the past 20 years, Iceland’s popularity has exploded. I know it’ll likely only get more popular, so this seems like a good time for our family to go.
So, now I’m going to shift the focus of this blog post from my history of wanting to go to Iceland, to how I’m getting our family prepared to do a trip to Iceland.
Why this Iceland prep is important to me
First, what it’s not
Our Iceland trip prep is also not a fully sorted itinerary. It may seem like that’s what my goal is. But, nope. Other than a few things we may have to reserve in advance because they’re crowded – I’m winging it, kinda. I think it’s important to have a very flexible plan. Especially when traveling with kids. And especially in a country with crazy weather patterns that could easily make us have to change our plans anyway.
Side note: I do have a bit of a plan that I can share here as we get closer. Aside from EVERYTHING else great about Iceland, they also have a strong book culture – which I will get into more details with soon.
For the purpose of this post, it is also not a list of the items I physically need for the trip. I’ll prepare things for the trip, but probably won’t share it here.
Side note, it’s cold in Iceland and we will probably need a sweatshirt and a blanket. So, maybe it’s a good time for my kids to model some of our new merch?
So, what am I talking about?
Traveling with context
The more we know about where we’re traveling, the more we can take enjoy what we see. Not that it’s not enjoyable if we don’t know anything about a place, just that it has a chance to be more enjoyable.
The Mona Lisa without its history is just an old painting. The graffiti on the streets of Athens that give the city a dangerous feel turns out to not be this negative thing when explained by our driver. It’s a communication tool. Or, at least part of it is.
But in these contexts things look different.
And valuing our time
Our trip to Iceland, unfortunately, will be shorter than I want it to be.
Which isn’t saying much. I lived in Germany for eight years of my life and still feel like I could travel there another eight years.
And Iceland is expensive. I want to spend our time and our money doing things we know we’ll enjoy. But, Iceland isn’t a place my 6 and 8 year old learn about in school. It’s not a place I know too much about and I think I’m a person who tends to like learning about places.
So, we’re prepping for our trip by reading books about Iceland + more.
Lucky for me, I have a website that helps me find books… this one. 😉
The other part of the value equation
One of the things parents who travel with their kids hear often is, why do this if they aren’t going to remember it?
I don’t agree with this assumption. They don’t remember what we had for dinner last night, but I fed them.
However, I do feel that we can help them remember a little more about it by helping them learn a little more about it. It’s kind of my three part travel memory builder.
Learn about it before you go + Keep a journal while you’re there + Document it when you’re back = Something will stick longer
Since I think this is so valuable, I thought I’d share what I’m doing with you. Maybe you can use some of these ideas prepping for your next trip.
How we’re preparing for our trip
Have fun with books, of course
We have guidebooks for adults and books for kids around the house.
I gave my kids some post-it notes and a pen and told them to go through our guidebook and mark things that interest them.
We have about 50 post it notes with words like “cute” next to the puffins and “awesome” next to the Northern Lights and “wow” next to some geysers.
We went to the library and checked out a book for them. I went with this one by Scholastic. We read a little bit from it every night and the kids are into it. It’s actually shocking to me because I thought they would be bored, but the combination of the post-it note favorites and knowing we’re traveling there and their general interest in non-fiction books and they are INTO IT.
We will be acquiring more books from the library and Amazon as we get closer. I’ll probably get some books about Icelandic Mythology, maybe this one which is available on Kindle Unlimited. But I’m also going to use the things they were interested in from our post-it challenge and the Scholastic book to figure out what to read about next.
There are also some books about Iceland on our Global Bookshelf and more will be added.
Incorporat what we can, when we can
Talk about it
Since I know from the post-its that they like puffins, northern lights, and geysers, we talk about them a lot. Puffins are now one of our family’s favorite animals.
Point it out in the media
They point out
Search for it
If you aren’t a screen-free family, take to the screens. We do searches on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu to see if there are any Iceland stories. And there are a lot.
Eat the food
Skyr, or Icelandic style yogurt, has been available at my local grocery store for years. It’s one of the first foods mentioned in the scholastic book, so it’s also one of the first foods I packed in their lunchbox after booking our flights.
How’s it working so far?
While we do have a lot of notice for this trip to do all the things, it’s not always going to be this way. However, based on my kid’s enthusiasm, so far I think it’s working. We’re about a week or two into making Iceland the center of our random talks. My daughter mentioned she wants to go to college in Iceland. She’s six and who even thinks that way at that age? Well, a six year old who has been hearing about Iceland nonstop for the past week, that’s who.
So this is where we are now. As we get closer I’ll find more resources. If I figure out anything cool, I’ll share it here. Before we go I’ll prepare some kind of journaling plan. You can read about my past summer’s travel journal plan here. And then when we get back, I’ll figure out how to wrap it all up nicely so it has a better chance of being part of our family’s story instead of something that’s just forgotten because it’s over.