I was asked by the Women of IT (a professional group in my company to empower women) to write an article about my trip to Iceland. Aimee Sweitzer, my friend and coworker, wrote this intro to my article about my adventure:
How does taking an international solo trip sound to you?
Some of us may find the idea daunting, or even lonely. There is a sense of comfort in traveling with someone else; sharing the experience, a companion to keep you company.
Then there are those that say traveling solo can be empowering and it can provide you with a sense of freedom, not beholden to anyone but yourself. Or as Lori Guerzini describes it when she took her first solo trip – Total Bliss!
So I urge you to take a moment to read through Lori’s adventure in Iceland – find out why Iceland, how she handled her fear of caves and the excitement of walking over frozen landscapes…
Why did you choose to travel alone on a photo tour of Iceland?
When I was 7, my Aunt gave me a personalized book that had me helping Santa on a mission. At the end of the book, I flew up to the North Pole and was mesmerized by the colorful dancing lights on the horizon. Santa told me that it was called the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Ever since then I have always wanted to see them in person. When I first started looking for a place to go to see them, Iceland and Finland kept popping up on my social media feeds. A resort in Finland had glass igloos in the middle of nowhere, but Iceland with its dramatic landscapes was easier to get to. So Iceland won.
Growing up, my family always took road trips because my mom hated to fly. It drove me nuts because I was itching to see the world beyond a car window. Besides the fact that I hated spending the whole day in the car with my brother. The second I turned 18, I booked a European trip that specialized in my age group. Something like 9 countries in 13 days. My friends at the time were not interested in coming with me, plus they didn’t want to spend the money with college expenses looming. Their idea of a vacation was spending time at the Jersey Shore
So I took off on my own. It was scary at first, but it ended up being one of the best things I ever did in my life. On the tour I found that I could either hang out with my new travel companions, or go off on my own. I could do whatever I wanted without compromising. Total bliss!!
I have always been an artist. As a teenager I was really into painting and photography, but then life got in the way. Photography was an expensive hobby at the time, so I dropped it. Years later with the invention of Instagram, I started becoming interested in it again. Following professional landscape photographers really ignited my passion for travel. Some of their shots were spectacular! Not only did I want to go there, but I wanted to learn how to create photos like that. The techniques they used went way beyond my iPhones’ capabilities. That’s when I decided that I would combine my wanderlust and artistic nature by signing up for a photography tour of Iceland.
Fears and Ice Caves
I knew that we would be visiting Ice Caves on the tour, but I had no idea what that really entailed. When our guide told us the night before, that it would be a 2 hour hike to/from the caves, 2 hours inside the caves, and that we would have no access to toilets, well I was a little concerned. Holy crap what did I get myself into??? That morning we loaded all our gear and set off for the glacier on this huge off road truck. I mean the tires were as tall as me. The drive was treacherous and there were a few times I thought the truck would tip over.
When we got there our guide said “Today is your lucky day! It is so cold that the lake froze over and the ice is 5cm thick. We will walk across the lake and that will cut down our hiking time to about 45 min.” Only 5cm he says… umm is that thick enough to hold us? Crossing the lake wasn’t too bad, but it was creepy to hear the crampons crunching the ice. We were told that we had to follow our guide in single file and to step in the same footsteps that he made as we hiked up the glacier. No wandering off the path or we could be goners.
The hike up was challenging with hurricane force winds and blowing snow. Not to mention that our guide walked really fast. There were a few times where we had to stop and lean our backs into the wind. Half of me was frozen, the other half was sweating, I could barely breathe, and the tight helmet wasn’t helping. The only saving grace was that it was really sunny. The view of the glacier lagoon from the top was pretty awe inspiring, but I was too anxious to stop and take a picture. When we finally stopped, I saw a hole in the ground with a rope hanging from a spike. The guide told us that we had to hold on to the rope and repel 60ft down into the cave. You’ve got to be kidding me!
Fear… What fear?
The look of fear on all our faces was priceless. After all, it’s not like you can just turn around and go back on your own. This might be a good time to tell you that I have a fear of caves. Take a deep breath, put one foot behind the other, and hold on to the rope Lori. Once I got down with all my camera gear I was so relieved. The caves were magical and I managed to get a few good shots with our tour guide as my subject. Then it dawned on me…. How am I going to get backup?
Crampons and strong legs that’s how. When we got back to the hotel that night, my Fitbit registered over 22,000 steps. I was physically and mentally exhausted, but also exhilarated because I faced my fear.
Oh and it turns out that camera & iPhone batteries don’t like extreme cold. The first day of the tour, my camera and iPhone completely died early in the day. And of course, the one thing I forgot to bring were portable battery packs. At first I was frustrated, but then I thought, wandering around Iceland is better than being in my cubicle. So I decided to make the most of the situation by just staying in the present and taking in all the natural beauty surrounding me. After the tour was over, one of my new mates said that he wished he had spent more time enjoying the moment instead of searching for his next shot. Sometimes we get so caught up in looking at the world through our devices that we forget to enjoy the natural wonder of it all.
On the last day, a full rainbow came out as I was relaxing in the Blue Lagoon and of course I didn’t have my camera.