Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

September Books: What I Read This Month (+2 More)

Every month I swear I’m going to write more posts between these book ramblings, and yet each time I sit down to write one I’m reminded that I have yet again only one post sandwiched between them. Unsurprising to anyone, it turns out that writing thousands of words a month for other places (most recently here and here) leaves me with little time or words for myself.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on reading less, and yes, I am coming up with a plan to set aside a few more words for you. Stay tuned.

September Books

Can someone please explain to me how it is already October? I can’t keep up. Somehow I managed to hit my original reading goal for the year – 52 books – at the beginning of this month. So in true perfectionist/chronic over-achiever form, I have of course made it even higher.

My September books are an odd mix of books I took on vacation (definitely not your traditional beach reads) and young adult fiction. As a bonus there are two books I completely forgot to include in my August list.

September Books

Always Happy Hour

I’m actively trying to like short stories. This set left me frustrated with every single character and their complete disregard for their lives. Each and every woman was portrayed as being stuck with no motivation or care to change anything including shitty relationships, joblessness, and no momentum whatsoever. They made Nick Miller look overzealous and ambitious. It was depressing and infuriating.

 

Mosquitoland

Sometimes you need an over-the-top young adult fiction to get lost in. Mosquitoland hit the mark. It was captivating despite some obvious plot points. For the most part it’s easy to get behind Mim and follow her ride from Mississippi to her former home in Northern Ohio. Stepmothers, vomiting, painful divorce, kind strangers, danger – this book had it all. I definitely stayed up too late one night to finish it, if that’s any indication.

 

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir grabs you by the elbow and takes you through her childhood in Tehran. She explains the revolutions, the political riots, the secret Western hideouts, what was in fashion, and most importantly, what it was like to come of age in a country torn apart by war and oppressive regimes.

Persepolis had been on my list for years, but I picked up this month because I have very little understanding of what it’s like for there to be war outside of your doorstep. To have your family imprisoned for fighting for their rights. To have your entire culture and life structure changed right as you start to grasp it. To have to leave your home behind.

I for one need more books like Satrapi’s right now.

 

The Boston Girl

I am unbelievably late to this party. The Boston Girl made its way onto my list in the height of its popularity three years ago… and then languished there. I’m so glad I finally decided to read it. The library just happened to have The Boston Girl available on e-reader when I was on vacation, and it turned out to be a great ‘beach’ read.

After burning myself out on historical fiction in my early teens, I tend to avoid the genre altogether. But this doesn’t feel anything like that. It read like a memoir in the best kind of way. I loved following Addie as she grew up in the early 1990s in Boston. Her desires and dreams felt so relevant, especially since much of the book takes place in Addie’s early teens and twenties. She tells her life story, not unlike How I Met Your Mother, and keeps you engaged until the very end.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Yes, I did read this on vacation. In many ways it was oddly comforting and relaxing. Here was a president who had his shit together and a staff member who in a lot of ways is just like me.

Alyssa Mastromonaco’s look back at her time working for President Obama was much more humorous and insightful than I expected. The book is broken up into the life lessons and qualities that supported her along the way. Although more than anything I was buoyed by the knowledge that Alyssa was a woman who fought her way through and surpassed even her own expectations.

The book feels honest – if a little too self-deprecating. She’s upfront about what didn’t go so well (IBS disturbances and stealing from Buckingham Palace included) and willing to laugh at her own expense. If you like Veep, you’ll enjoy it.

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Mandy from SEVEN years ago put this on her to-read list. In a diligent effort to clear it out, I’ve been slowly making my way through the older items. I think I would have liked it better when I was in high school, but it wasn’t bad as a quick read to get lost in.

Overall Please Ignore Vera Dietz was just odd enough to be interesting, although there were some comments/lines that were borderline racist. A.S. King does a remarkable job at building urgency and ushering you along through the pages.

 

No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Naomi Klein’s latest is so vital and so important (so much so that it’s going to be in a much longer post soon). In the meantime, you should 100 percent read this. It will leave you feeling like you understand what’s going on around the world and give you the tools to stand up and fight back. No is Not Enough is at times depressing (there isn’t much uplifting about the current White House staff and their pasts), but it gave me the power of knowing what to expect and what can be done to stop it. You seriously need to read it.

 

Bonus Books

Somehow I forgot to include two books from last month, so they are getting thrown in here instead.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

Loved it. A young boy scout’s death incidentally kicks off a grand adventure for the 104-year-old woman he was volunteering for and his father who is struggling to make sense of his son and who he himself really is. The One-in-a-Million Boy is heartbreaking, humorous, and just the right amount of hopeful.

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works

I really connected with Dan Harris in Minimalism, but this book did not do it for me. I was dissapointed it. He doesn’t come off well (nor should he), and it didn’t inspire me to start meditating (the whole reason to read it). Not for me.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Zero Waste Bathroom Paper Towel Substitute

I long ago cut out paper towels at home, but I have been plagued by paper towels in public restrooms and offices for years. It’s easy to forget just how many paper towels we use in a day. In the U.S. we use an estimated 13 billion pounds of paper towels per year according to the Paperless Project. That’s a whopping 45 pounds per person. To add insult to the landfill-busting number, paper towels use more energy and create more waste than other drying methods.

Since April I have been working in an office a couple days a week. I bring my own lunch and all of the things I need to eat zero waste all day like a cloth napkin and my own fork, but each trip to the bathroom or kitchen would end with me guiltily drying my hands on the only available option – paper towels.

Paper towel conundrums are not new to me. In college I helped launch an initiative to reduce the amount of paper towels used on campus by encouraging people to use the bare minimum instead of cranking out towels longer than toddlers.

But using a single towel or one crank still felt unnecessary and like a lot of trash. As soon as I started working in the office, my daily/weekly trash at least doubled from paper towels alone. I wash my hands a minimum of 10 times a day (between bathroom trips, snacking, and general cleanliness), which means over the course of the month I was using a minimum of 120 paper towels.

While this is still less than the average (according to an reusable towel manufacturer), I wanted to do better. I needed a zero waste paper towel substitute.

Zero Waste Bathroom Towel Substitute: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

On the Go Paper Towel Substitutes

1. A Small Hand Towel

For a while I had small hand towels that could be clipped to a bag or a drawer to dry. After more than a year working from home, I let them go. They are a great size, and feel more like a regular towel than some of the other options (and I miss them a little bit).

You can also cut a sad looking towel into smaller pieces to take with you. This would work best if the towel is thin, or it will be bulky to carry and dry slowly.

2. Old T-Shirt

Much like an old towel, an old t-shirt can be cut into little hand towels.

3. Camp Towel

A small, quick-drying towel is also a great option. I decided not to go this route because I didn’t want to buy something new, but you might score a good one used. A larger microfiber or quick-dry towel could also be cut into smaller sizes.

Zero Waste Paper Towel Substitute for Hand Drying: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

4. Reusable Baby Wipes / Handkerchiefs

This is the option I ended up going with. Each day I grab two handkerchiefs off the stack. Half of our handkerchiefs are reusable baby wipes that I bought online, and the other half is handmade tissue-sized handkerchiefs. I honestly can’t tell the difference. Both are absorbent, the same size and thickness, and they work great for nose-blowing or hand drying.

5. Air Dry or Use a Dryer

If it’s available and you don’t have a reusable option, a hand drier is a great alternative to paper towels. Just be mindful of how long you spend with the dryer turned on, and try to use jet air dryers over the old-school hot air dryers to save energy and avoid extra bacteria growth.

How I Avoid Paper Towels

I’m still not in a place where I’m proud of my zero waste solutions. I don’t like drawing extra attention to myself, so my handkerchief solution works great as an incognito alternative. I tuck it into my back pocket, waist band, or a strap before leaving my desk.

So far I’ve dried my hands in front of people, and clearly haven’t taken a paper towel first, but no one has said anything. It definitely helps that my handkerchiefs are close in color to a bleached paper towel. I’m starting to get more bold with it. I used to try to time my drying to when other people weren’t paying attention, but these days I just whip it out and move on with my life.

When I get back to my desk I drape my handkerchief over a handle. If I’m out I keep it in a outside mesh pocket in my backpack so it can dry. No backpack? I typically just choose to air dry with a few good shakes over the sink first instead of shoving a wet towel into my bag to fester.

But Isn’t This Unsanitary?

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend this method for a surgeon before they clock in, using a reusable cloth or a jet air dryer is perfectly hygienic. It’s important to let your towel dry and use a new small towel daily. If you’re really worried about it, you could also bring a small stack of the reusable baby wipes or handkerchiefs and use them a few times before moving on to next.

When I’m really worried about the cleanliness of my towel (like before I want a quick snack at the end of the day), I don’t beat myself up over using a single paper towel or shaking my hands off until they’re dry.

Every little bit saved counts. It’s not about perfection, but about consistently making choices that reduce waste, save resources (and money), and feel empowering. Each paper towel I refuse to use is one less that paper companies can use to justify cutting down old growth forests and dumping bleach into our waterways. Every small rebellion and bit of resistance matters.

August Books: What I Read This Month

When I sat down to write this post I was pretty sure I hadn’t read much in August. Between completing a massive 15,300 word project and trying to catch up on all of my other projects/work, August was sadly spent with tired eyes and working Saturdays.

And yet read I did. My two hour commute to Oakland twice a week has been keeping me on track. It’s looking like I will actually finish my goal for 52 books sometime in October at this rate.

My August books kept on the same path as previous months. There are three books about the lives of daring women and the way the world treats them in return. And two easy reads intended to soothe the mind after all of its heavy lifting lately.

August Books

August Books – Treading Lightly Book Recommendations

The Rules Do Not Apply

Prior to putting this book on my list I had heard Ariel Levy on the Longform Podcast, which is to say that I knew what I was getting into before I started in. But I still wasn’t really prepared for the gut-wrenching twists that come one after another.

The Rules Do Not Apply highlights the indignity of life, the unfairness of the world, and the power and resilience we have to make our lives into something anyways.

 

Sex Object

Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism was my first taste of feminist text. I read it my freshman year of college and became even more incensed about the injustices in the world (which is saying something since I had already gone through my ‘seethe in the dark listening to metal’ phase).

I thought her latest book, Sex Object, would be similarly research-based. Instead it was a horrifying look into how (mostly) men had treated her throughout her life. It was eye-opening and just as incendiary as Full Frontal Feminism, but it also left me with a deep gratitude that I have for the most part been left alone and allowed to move around the world unbothered. (Note to self, never move to NYC.)

 

I Can’t Make This Up

Apparently I am a sucker for books by comedians or memoirs that are billed as humorous (see Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jessi KleinJim GaffiganTyler Oakley). And yet I never learn. Outside of Fey’s Bossypants, I find the genre to be over-hyped and uninteresting.

I picked up Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up with optimism. He didn’t write the book himself (which isn’t unusual for a celebrity), but it felt like I was being held an arms distance away being told a version of his life that he wanted to share. Between the book and his most recent comedy special, I am a lot less interested in his comedy and his work in general. He comes across as selfish, and his relationship to his children an the women in his life are problematic to say the least.

Bottom line. I didn’t laugh, and it’s not worth reading.

 

Once and For All

Every summer in high school and much of college I would read a Sarah Dessen book (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were heavy favorites). I brought the tradition back this summer with Once and For All. It was cheesy, mostly predictable, and not as good as some of her other books. But that didn’t stop me from putting off work for most of a day to finish it.

And to be fair, that’s what I love most about her books – they suck you in and make it easy to forget about everything else for a few hours.

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

This book really riled me up. It made me want to be louder, more demanding. It was just the fuel I needed to remind me why it’s important to put my words behind what I believe, stand up for other people, and be the nasty, unruly woman I know I am.

While it featured women I already look up to like Serena Williams, it also gave me a better appreciation for so many others that I’ve never really given any thought or attention to (sorry Nicki Minaj).

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is way better than any cup of coffee.

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: July Books

Summer reading is in full swing! While I certainly don’t stop reading at any point during the year, there’s something special about settling in with a good book on a warm night or indulging in a little more fiction or fun than normal.

My July books are more heavily fiction and soul books than normal. They’re the kind that take you somewhere else, invite you to look out of a strangers eyes, or leave you so wrapped up that you can’t seem to fully come back to your own life when you shut the cover. My books this month left me feeling wonderfully full and yet somehow hungry for more.

July Books

July Books 2017: What I Read This Month

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

This short novela made me cry. Fredrik Backman, the author of A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and Beartown (below), never meant to publish it. He wrote And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer as a way to work through his own thoughts and feelings, which is probably why it’s such a powerful piece.

The story is about a grandfather and his grandson as they both try to understand what’s happening to the grandfather’s memory. The boy and his grandfather sit in a square that is slowly shrinking and taking familiar objects and views along with it. As someone who has had multiple family members struggle with memory loss and dementia, I couldn’t get enough of the compassion and love that came along with the inevitable frustration and fear. I for one am glad Backman decided to let this one out into the world.

 

Leaving Time

Years ago I gave up on Jodi Picoult. Her books always followed the same formula: dramatic happening, hunt for the truth, court case, followed by a final twist at the end. I was bored.

She has been slowly moving away from that basic outline, but even so her last few books didn’t really grab me. Leaving Time had been on my to-read list for years, and I decided to finally give it a go. Either it was going in my read pile or it was coming off – no more languishing.

Leaving Time surprised me. I loved that the elephants played such a big role, and I was thoroughly pleased that I never saw the twist coming. The book follows Jenna, a young teen, as she searches for her missing mom. The characters are all deeply flawed, and it only makes you more attached. This book reminded me of why I fell so hard for My Sister’s Keeper and Lone Wolf.

 

Larger Than Life

This novela was hidden at the end Leaving Time, and it gave a bit more background to Jenna’s mom’s life studying elephants in Africa. It was good, but it wouldn’t be as interesting if you haven’t just read the full novel.

 

Beartown

I tore Beartown to shreds. The opening pages foretell of two teenagers in the forest with a gun, and I could not help but sprint to the end to find out who is out there and if anyone would come out of the trees alive.

Set in a ‘hockey town,’ Beartown made my heart ache for a place unlike I’d ever lived in or really visited. This book made my palms sweat and my heart race. It felt more like watching a thriller than reading a book. I hate to say it, but Fredrik Backman is becoming an even better writer (and I already loved his work). I’m ready for the next one to hit the shelves.

 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Roxane Gay pulls you into her body and lets you feel the weight of her skin, the stares that follow her everywhere, and the physical exhaustion of carrying around her armor and her experiences. This book left me feeling blessed and privileged that I have never fought my body or struggled with it. I have always been able to look it in the eye and be at relative peace.

Hunger was a look into a life completely different from my own in so many ways. Her honest discussion of her weight and the baggage that comes with it was intense and exhausting. I would like to think that this book gave me a greater capacity for compassion for people whose lives and bodies are so different than my own, and to some extent that’s true. But it also gave me a great sadness that so many people struggle with their self-image and have not found joy in some of the things that bring me the most happiness.

 

Milk and Honey

milk and honey was my first poetry book of the year… and probably my first since it was required reading in school. I can’t believe it took me so long to pick up Rupi Kaur’s collection. Each poem hit me right at the core and left me feeling comforted and hungry for more. I can’t wait for her new collection to come out. I’m seriously considering buying my own copy so I can read it over and over again. It has by far been my highest rated book of the year.

 

Thrill Me

When I was growing up Penn & Teller had a TV show that took you behind the scenes and showed you how some of the most mind-boggling magic tricks were done. Thrill Me was the big unveiling for some of my favorite books. Benjamin Percy breaks down the tenets of a great story and pulls scenes and tidbits from famous books and movies to make his points.

Thrill Me is meant to be a book about craft. It’s intended to inspire you to improve your writing, but more than anything it made me appreciate the books I read and see the true effort that goes into the magic on the page. This book is great for anyone who loves behind the scenes peaks or ‘how it’s done’ pieces. And Percy’s writing and essay structure pull you in just as much as the books he demystifies. Book nerds like myself will love it.

 

The House on Mango Street

Would you judge me if I told you that this book had been on my to-read list since high school? I don’t know how it got on there, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. Although to be honest, I enjoyed Sandra Cisneros’ description of her first apartment and what it meant to her to have the physical and mental space to write even more than the story itself. The novel is made up of quick stories, and the pacing kept me completely hooked. I ended up reading the entire book over the course of my commute to and from Oakland.

 

Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook

I had high hopes for this one, but it turns out my boyfriend and I don’t really waste that much food. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook covers the basics like meal planning, smart shopping, and freezing before something has time to go bad. It  also offers tools to help you figure out where your food waste is coming from and help you avoid it.

Overall I enjoyed the facts about food waste and the impact it has on food security, the environment, and spending. I wish it had talked more about creative ways to use things like kale stems and used coffee grounds. To be fair, we already compost what little we can’t use and we very rarely throw out food that went bad in our fridge. I’d recommend this book if you feel like you are struggling with food going bad or you want a few tips on how to make your kitchen more food-efficient. Otherwise it’s not really anything new.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Q2 Ins and Outs

The past three months have had a lot more things going in and out than the first quarter of the year. We’re both facing aging clothes that we’ve had since college… or before in some cases. Quite a few things also unexpectedly broke or disappeared from our lives without warning.

Out:

Donated:

Dress (too small and haven’t reached for it in well over a year)
Plastic spatula
Knit blazer (didn’t love it, haven’t worn it in over a year)
Old plastic Brita filter pitcher (I’ve been using a plain charcoal stick instead)
Broken colander that came with our place
Fleece sweatshirt
Matt’s replacement shoe laces that didn’t match
Matt’s old running shorts
Yoga mat towel (Gifted years ago. I used it twice as a travel towel, but I’m ready to upgrade to a real travel towel that will work for the beach and showering instead of just being something to sit on and awkwardly dry with it.)

Recycled

2 broken computer chargers (mine and his)
1 broken electronic toothbrush
1 broken sleep tracker that was sent to me for a story… and then refused to take back

Stolen

My beloved bike
Helmet
Lock
Pump
Patch kit
Reversible pedals
Water bottle cage

In:

Used Trek Lexa 2

Me

1 pair of underwear
A gifted computer charger that saved the day month
Fleece sweatshirt
A used bike (more on that soon)

Matt

2 pairs of underwear
1 pair of running shorts
Free pair of socks (the sock hater loves them)
A Nintendo Switch (very kindly shared)

Both

Ins and Outs: Dyson V8

Stainless steel spatula (mine from college, had been stored at my parent’s house)
A new stainless steel colander that doesn’t slice open your fingers every time you reach into it.
Vacuum: Our beloved first joint purchase.

 

Overall we made quite a few more purchases in the last quarter than normal, but they were all things we had been thinking about for a while. Okay, the bike and the new computer charger definitely weren’t on my list, but we had been talking about buying a small vacuum since we moved in together… last year.

But everything is heavily used, and we definitely made room before taking them home.

What I Read This Month: June Books

My June books are full of quick picks and epic slogs. Regardless, I’m fully back on my reading habit. My numbers this month are shamelessly filled with a couple of tiny books, but the ideas they presented and the topics they covered were heavy and brain-intensive.

June Books

What I Read This Month: June Books

Hope in the Dark

I requested Hope in the Dark from my local library the day after inauguration –as did just about every other human in the Bay Area. It wasn’t easy to get my hands on this puppy. Hope in the Dark didn’t quite uplift me as much as I had hoped, but it was still a much needed reminder to see the whole picture, pick up our protest signs, and keep fighting for what’s right.

It also gave me a bit of a history lesson into events that happened when I couldn’t read and was oblivious to the world around me.

 

The Gene

Ug. This book took me well over a month of near daily reading to slog through. If you’ve read more than one of these posts you know that’s highly unusual for me. The Gene is a monster of a book with nearly 600 pages.

The jacket promised a woven tale of science and personal stories, but instead it was mostly science with random tidbits about people that are mentioned once and forgotten. I couldn’t get into it.

It just didn’t live up to the hype for me. The worst part? After all of that time reading I only vaguely understand genes better. I also remember very little of the history of the discovery. Unless you are a major science reader or are particularly enraptured by genes, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

 

Hidden Figures

There was something special about reading Hidden Figures on the plane home from Iceland (and then on the train once I was back to work). I mistakenly expected the book to be a bit more cinematic (more scene building, more time spent with one or two characters from a more personal vantage point), but I still really enjoyed it. The history is incredible, and I loved reading about the men and women I had never heard about before.

Next up, the movie!

 

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It

Prepare to have rage course through your veins so fiercely that your chest hurts and your palms sweat. Prepare to launch yourself aggressively into discussions about sexual assault and rape cases currently in the news. Prepare to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and determined to create change.

Asking for It left me feeling like my chest was on fire. I wanted to reform the legal system, fundraise to have every rape kit tested, and do whatever else it took to prevent sexual assault in the first place and have it properly handled when it did occur.

This book should be a must read for anyone who doesn’t think rape culture exists – and for everyone else who sees rape culture and its insidious effects every day. I want it to be required reading for all politicians, police officers, and emergency department personal. It should be sent to every man/woman/robot who forwards emails to women warning them about the dangers of wearing their hair in pony tails or walking through parking lots.

Please, just read it.

 

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

This book scared the shit out of me. It gave me cold sweats and made my heart pound against my chest. On Tyranny opened my eyes to what’s really at stake. Whether or not you believe the current president is intentionally marching us toward a tyrannical government, Yale University History Professor Timothy Snyder provides a clear view of the past and an eyes-wide-open state of our world today.

On Tyranny hit me so hard that I wrote down the core messages in my journal so I can refresh my will to resist and enliven myself to do something about the things that make me angry and restrict rights.

You could easily read this in one sitting, but I found it best to read it a couple of lessons at a time.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

For some reason I thought this book would be dumbed down and make it easy to understand the workings of the universe. I was wrong.

I struggle with understanding the micro-scale and the absolutely massive macro-scale of the universe. My boyfriend, who likes time/space, really enjoyed the book however. If chemistry and physics make you warm and fuzzy, this is the book for you.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

After languishing for years on my to-read shelf, I finally picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The forward of the edition I found did a complete disservice to the book. It left me thinking the book was going to be boring and a lot like Pride and Prejudice (one of my least favorite books).

I can’t really explain why, but I got wrapped up in this book. I would read it during my two hour journey to Oakland and want to read it the entire trip back too. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those classics that is actually worth reading.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland

Traveling to Iceland is an unforgettable experience, but you want the land to forget you were there. It’s difficult to leave no trace when traveling in a country where everything is shipped in and most goods are heavily packaged. Add to that a unprecedented influx of travelers and you have a recipe for serious environmental damage.

There is a lot of discussion right now about the growing popularity of traveling to Iceland and whether or not it’s ethical to visit. Visitors have a lot of responsibility to leave the island as pristine as possible while supporting a sustainable travel business for the locals.

There are plenty of ways to make your stay more ethical and sustainable.

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Waterfall

How to Travel Sustainably and Ethically in Iceland

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Reusable Containers

1. Pack Reusables

I packed:

  • Bamboo cutlery set
  • Cloth napkin
  • 5 handkerchiefs
  • Foldable grocery/tote bag
  • Metal water bottle
  • Insulated metal water bottle
  • 3 metal food containers

These items made it easy for me to pick up food from a restaurant to eat on the go or take home leftovers without creating waste. I also filled my containers with food for my flights and skipped the expensive airplane/airport food. At one point we filled one of our stainless steel containers with handmade gelato!

You definitely don’t have to be shy about using your own containers here. People in Iceland were honestly thrilled to see our reusable containers and they would go out of their way to fill them (usually with more food than we would have had in one of their own containers). When we got gelato from Joylato in Reykjavik the kind woman who made our treats asked to take a picture of us holding our container just because it ‘made her heart happy.’

 

2. Pack Food for Your Flight

The trash created by food in the airports or on the airplane is staggering. Airline passengers created 5.7 million tons of waste in 2016 alone. That’s the same as throwing away 300 empty container ships each year. All trash created on international flights is promptly incinerated when you land which means that all of the chemicals in the plastic and other materials are released into the air. The rest from the airports or when you land is also a huge problem.

On both of our flights I was able to avoid throwing anything away by packing snacks/meals in reusable containers, bringing (almost) enough water for a long-haul flight, and not bringing anything with me that would need to be thrown away (wrappers, receipts, etc.).

 

3. Refuse Plastic Water Bottles

Every flight tried to get us to take a small plastic water bottle on the way in. We simply said ‘no thank you’ and drank out of our bottles that we filled in the airport. We used our bottles throughout our entire trip exclusively. The tap water in Iceland is the best I’ve ever tasted.

 

4. Choose Sustainable Housing

Not everywhere you stay is going to be perfectly zero waste or sustainable, but picking places that highlight what they are doing or put effort into reducing the impact of your stay is doable. Our first hostel, Vík Hostel, had composting, chickens that ate scraps and provided food for breakfast, signs about saving water, recycling, and cleaned only with safe, non-toxic cleaners.

 

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Whale Watching

5. Support Local-Owned Business

Travel has been a major boost for Iceland’s economy. Help keep your money in Iceland by seeking out lodging, restaurants, tours, and stores that are locally owned. Most websites of smaller locations will tell you about the owners, and you can always ask. You’ll likely have a better experience too by choosing someone who really knows the area and genuinely cares about your stay.

 

6. Choose Unpackaged When You Can

Most food is shipped in from other countries. It’s a cold island mostly composed of volcanic rock – you can’t grow a whole lot here. We did our best to eat local foods when we could, but it certainly wasn’t easy or widespread.

Grocery stores are mostly shelves upon shelves of packaged foods. Even the ‘fresh’ fruits and vegetables come in plastic packaging. Do your best to find unpackaged foods when you can, and opt for recyclable glass containers when they’re available. There are bakeries in Reykjavik where you can get fresh bread and pastries, but overall bulk foods are hard to find.

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Moss Covered Rocks

7. Request No Receipt

We mostly paid with cash (except our whale watching tour and our lodging). For the most part you have to sign a receipt when you pay with a card. When we used cash most places didn’t print a receipt if we didn’t want one.

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Save Water - Glaciers

8. Save Water

Many parts of the island use geothermal energy to heat the water which saves a lot of electricity/natural gas. Even though water is abundant and quite likely less energy-intensive than your water at home, do your best to conserve water. The water you are letting run down the drain came from a pristine glacier or snow melt. It may have taken hundreds of years to melt off and end up in the pipes. Be a good steward and use as little as you can.

 

9. Bring Your Own Toiletries

I’m not sure if anywhere we stayed provided small toiletries or not. Regardless, we brought our own from home to save on plastic bottles. My boyfriend brought his favorite shampoo bar and I packed all of my stuff as is. My shampoo and conditioner were the only things I had to put into something smaller.

 

10. Rent the Smallest, Most Efficient Car You Can

Since we were traveling in the late spring we chose a small compact car that got pretty good gas mileage. This is a bit more challenging in the winter, but there are still plenty of 4-wheel drive options that aren’t massive gas-guzzlers. The efficiency of your car is especially important if you plan on doing a great deal of driving like we did.

Sustainable, Ethical Travel in Iceland: Sustainable Tours

11. Book Sustainable Tours

Book tours that are sustainable or upfront about how they are working to protect the environment. Not only do you reduce your impact, but you also support a green, sustainable economy. Help the locals protect their environment and still get the full sight-seeing or exploring experience by choosing sustainable tours.

Our whale watching tour was the only tour we booked. We originally booked North Sailing’s carbon neutral whale watching tour (sailboat), but it was unfortunately out of commission the day of our tour and we ended up on their diesel ship.

 

12. Skip Paper Towels

Most public restrooms had hand dryers instead of paper towels. When both were available I chose the dryer to save on the paper and the energy required to ship them all the way to Iceland. [Iceland also has one of the best renewable energy programs in the world.] In hostels/guesthouses I used the provided towels or my own. You can easily slip a small towel or a handkerchief into your pocket for a reusable drying option while you are out as well.

 

13. Eat Local Foods

Iceland is known around the world for its success with sustainable fishing. This site breaks down which fish are sustainably fished so you can order without worry. Many restaurants also serve locally raised lamb.

 

14. But Not All of Them

While local, whale and puffin are mostly eaten by tourists. Both species are struggling, and they are especially challenged by the environmental and physical changes of having such a large influx of tourists. Do not eat whale or puffin.

 

15. Stay On The Trails

Stay on marked trails at all times. While it seems like a great idea to wander for that epic photo, your steps can dislodge moss and other vegetation that have spent years just trying to root. Iceland, despite it’s wild nature and robust land, is in fact a fragile environment. Treat it as such. Also, don’t tag lesser-known areas on your social media posts. It seems cruel to not share the exact details of your impressive find, but many places are not advertised or widely-shared for a reason. Help limit the amount of people who are going into fragile areas.

 

More Resources:

Want to travel zero waste? This guide from Zero Waste Guy for Iceland is great!

More general zero waste travel tips (and gorgeous pictures).

 

More about our trip:

You can see everything I packed and check out everywhere we went on our trip around the Ring Road.

5-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

We spent 8 days in Iceland in the middle of May, including 5 days traveling the Ring Road (Highway One). While you can certainly do the Ring Road more slowly, I wouldn’t try to do it in fewer days. The road isn’t that long, but slow speed limits and unpredictable weather mean you may not get to explore very much if you try to do it faster. At 5 days we had plenty of time to explore, but we also did have two days with six hours in the car.

I’ve included our 5-day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary for those who are curious as well as what we did during the rest of stay. This post is packed with information, but hang in there – there are also pictures!

Day 1: San Francisco to Reykjavík to Vik

Since it’s hard to decide when day and night happen while traveling, this is going to be my full day. We got up early and went to the gym before our flight. I swam to relax and try to make friends with my body before being shoved on a plane seat for nine hours.

We flew from San Francisco to Seattle with a short layover to stretch our legs. From there we took a 4:30 p.m. PDT flight to Reykjavík. I had the best intentions for this flight. I bought an embarrassing sleep mask and I was prepared to do everything I could to sleep on the plane. But most of our plane wanted to hang out and make friends.

People didn’t seem to realize (or care) that we were landing at 6:45 a.m. Iceland time and staying up for at least 14 hours after. Some even had other flights to catch into Europe. The older gentleman next to us watched movies for seven hours while the ladies behind us made friends with just about everyone on the plane. Needless to say little to no sleep happened. It didn’t help that we landed when I would normally be heading off to bed at home.

Breakfast in Reykjavík

After picking up our rental car (which was the saddest rental I’ve ever seen, but it was cheap), we headed to the city for breakfast which is about 40 minutes from the airport. We cleaned our plates and caffeine-filled cups at Grai Kotturinn (Gray Cat). The food was expensive, but the prices were completely in line with the rest of the city. Bookcases line the walls and soft lighting made it feel especially cozy. The restaurant only has seven tables, but we were able to walk right in and sit down (although it was early on a Tuesday morning). Definitely get the pancakes and the stewed tomatoes (not meant to be eaten together). Our guidebook claimed the restaurant is frequented by Björk, but alas… we had no idea what she looks like.

Drive to Vik

We grabbed groceries from a small store before we set off on the first leg of the Ring Road. We were definitely tired by this point and feeling the jet lag coming on, but my boyfriend felt fine driving. (Ironically this is the only day I wouldn’t fall asleep in the car.)

The ride from Reykjavík to Vik kept us completely awake. My boyfriend had been to Iceland before in the winter, so it was fun to hear about how different the landscape looked. The further we got from the city the more waterfalls we saw and the greener it got. We frequently stopped along the way to stretch our legs and see the sites. And each time we did the cold breeze woke us right up.

DIY Waterfall Tour: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss

We pulled over at Seljalandsfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls on the island. The view was gorgeous. It wasn’t very crowded when we got there so we were able to walk and explore pretty much on our own. There were a couple of people walking behind the waterfall, but when we saw how soaked they came out we declined to follow. The wind was already strong and it was only in the 40’s when we were there. If you want to explore behind the waterfall (which sounds amazing) you really need head to toe rain gear and a warm car to retreat to.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

From there we drove a little while longer before a large waterfall appeared up ahead to our left. We impulsively decided to pull over, and I’m really glad we did. Despite the tour buses in the parking lot, Skógafoss wasn’t overrun with people. We took the stairs up the side of the water fall, which is an absolute must. There is a viewing platform at the top that overlooks the waterfall and the grasslands that spread all the way to the ocean.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Skógafoss Waterfall

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Skógafoss Waterfall

Since being outside in the sun and moving made us feel normal and not at all like we’d been awake for more than 24 hours, we decided to keep going and see where the trail along the river went. It wasn’t the most exciting hike ever, but it’s worth hiking at least a little further to see the river cut through the hillside.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Skógafoss Hike

Finally Sleep

I cannot put into words how excited I was to finally sleep. When we got to our guesthouse, Vik Hostel, all I wanted to do was go to bed. Instead we made dinner and marveled at the sunlight that was still pouring in. At 9:30 p.m. I couldn’t take it anymore. I put on my sweet eye mask and went to bed completely oblivious to the sunlight outside.

Day 2: Vik to Höfn

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)

Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)

After our included breakfast we hit the ground running with a trip to Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach). There was only one other couple at the beach so it felt like we’d somehow traveled to another planet. The basalt column cliffs are mind-boggling, both up close and from further down the beach. We were incredibly lucky that it was low-tide so we were able to see the cliffs and even explore inside a small alcove/cave. Even so, we didn’t stay long. The wind had really picked up and it was starting to rain so we only walked around for 15-20 minutes before heading back to the guesthouse to checkout.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach) Rocks

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)

Along the Ring Road / Highway One

This drive was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The scenery is unbelievable. We stopped at multiple pullouts along the way, but I wish I had taken more photos of the landscape. You drive past active volcanoes, massive glaciers, and sweeping landscapes of moss-covered lava rocks. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Highway One - South

While we were in Iceland there were baby sheep everywhere. They made the ride even more enjoyable, and I couldn’t stop talking about how cute they were, especially when they tried to run.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Highway One - South Lookout

Jökulsárlón

Our first major stop for the day was Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon). You could easily spend the whole day here – and a whole month’s salary. Tours aren’t cheap, but you can take an amphibious tour straight into the lagoon alongside building-sized pieces of ice. There are also ice walking/ glacier tours and even glacier cave tours in the winter. We stuck to exploring on our own and didn’t leave disappointed.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon)

Definitely follow the ice down to the beach. While the glacier itself and the massive chunks of it in the surreal milky blue water is impressive, you don’t want to miss the bright blue ice bouncing around in the waves and resting on the black sand beach. It was a bit crowded, but overall we were still able to explore without feeling like we were in one massive tourist trap. If you go to the water, go to the beach that’s on the same side as the little tourist center at the lagoon. There were substantially more glacier pieces on that side and much more space to spread out. Just follow the path along the edge of the river under the bridge to the beach.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon)

And this probably goes without saying, but dress warm. It’s definitely cold here. Even colder than some of the nearby surrounding areas.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Beach

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Beach

Finish the Drive to Höfn

We got to Höfn and settled into our room at Guesthouse Dyngja, my favorite guesthouse of the trip. As the first group to arrive for the day, I’m convinced we got the best room. We had harbor views and a completely remodeled room. The place was cozy and the owner was really friendly and easy going.

Hoffell Hot Pots

Once we were settled we snuck off to a nearby hot spring, the Hoffell Hot Pots. I had been browsing online for things to do in the area while we waited to check in and happened to stumble on the hot pots. It ended up being one my absolute favorite parts of the trip.

The hot pots are located at the end of a gravel road. They’re surrounded by Icelandic horse pastures and have views of the mountains. There are five pots in total, each a different temperature. There’s also a little building with a toilet and changing areas for men and women. (Note, the building is not heated, and the outdoor shower that you should 100 percent use before getting in to keep the pools clean was barely warm when we were there.)

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hot Springs - Hoffell Hot Pots Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hot Springs - Hoffell Hot Pots View Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hot Springs - Hoffell Hot Pots

I could have spent all day soaking here. There are no attendants (it’s donation based) and it was relatively empty. For the most part there were less than four other people in the area while we soaked. We were able to find a pool that was the right temperature for both of us, and a light rain kept us cool while we relaxed.

We went to three hot springs on our trip (more on the others below) and this was my favorite by far. It was so relaxing to sit outside in the quiet and watch the horses graze.

Day 3: Höfn to Mývatn

This was a loooong drive. It took us around six hours to get from Höfn to the Mývatn area. The beginning of the drive is some of the best scenery in Iceland with drop off cliffs and rolling green hills. Things start to get a little less picturesque as the drive continues. Part of the drive is on maintained gravel roads, which slowed us down quite a bit in our little compact Skoda. The end of the drive took us up through snow-covered (though melting) mountains with clear roads. Once we popped out of the snow fields it felt like we had been dropped off on Mars. The wind was intense and the smell of sulfur was everywhere.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Northeast Highway 1 Mountains

Hverir

We pulled off along the road and froze at the Hverarond Geothermal Area. The bubbling mud pits looked like something out of a science fiction movie. The mud around the mud pits was also impressive. We declined to lose a shoe in it and instead covered our noses and peered out from solid ground.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverarond Geothermal Area Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverarond Geothermal Area

The smell here was absolutely overwhelming. We kept thinking we got out of the wind and then it would rapidly change and blow it straight back into our faces. It smells intensely of rotting eggs and some other smell that both of our bodies instantly reacted to as a bad sign. Couple that with the biting wind and sub 40 degree temperatures and we didn’t last long here.

Myvatn Nature Baths

There’s always that one place that you see in a photo and think ‘I absolutely have to go there.’ This was it for me.

We knew we wanted to skip the Blue Lagoon (too crowded for our liking), but we still wanted to soak in some milky blue waters. Myvatn Nature Baths is essentially the Blue Lagoon of the north. It’s also man-made and it uses natural spring water that has been pumped through their geothermal power plant. I promise, it doesn’t feel anything like sitting in power plant runoff, although I guess that’s technically what it is.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Myvatn Nature Baths

Like all of the hot springs in Iceland, you have to completely shower sans-swimsuit before entering the pools. In this case you had to shower in not-quite-hot-enough water and then walk a good 50 feet dripping wet to get into the pool. Did I mention it was in the mid 30s? It took everything I had to get myself into the pool without freaking out. I cannot imagine how people do this in the dead of winter. No thank you.

The baths have two main pools and one concrete hot pot. We spent most of our time in the hotter of the two large pools, although I was crowded around the pump where the hot water comes in because it wasn’t quite warm enough for my liking. I also wore a thermal headband to keep my ears warm, and I strongly recommend keeping your head dry to help you stay warm. Especially because you have to walk all the way back to the showers outside. We also brought a water bottle, which nearly no one else did. I was really glad we had it, although they did serve beer and other beverages. (Buy a beer or beverage ticket when you pay for admission and then they will serve you from the warmth of the hot springs when you’re ready. You do often have to get out to find the attendant and to order and grab your drink, however.)

We cooked ourselves the best we could in the very popular hot pot on the deck of the baths before braving the walk back to the showers. In all we probably spent 1.5-2 hours relaxing in baths. It was worth the money, but the more secluded hot springs had kind of ruined the experience for me.

Dimmuborgir Guesthouse

Our room for the night was a small cabin right by Lake Myvatn. The view was gorgeous, but I was more excited to have a private bathroom and some serious black-out curtains (technically metal ‘curtains’ that roll down and completely block the light). We slept great here and overall enjoyed our stay. The kitchen wasn’t as well stocked as we had hoped. I was also dissapointed because we never got to meet the two dogs who live at the guesthouse year round. That said it was a clean, relaxing place.

Day 4: Mývatn to Akureyri

Icland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverfjall

Hverfjall

Before heading out to Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland, we hiked up Hverfjall, a massive exploded volcano that lurked over the area we stayed in. We had no plans to visit it (and really didn’t know it was there at all) until we were driving to our guesthouse. After reading a bit more about it there was no way we were going to just drive by it again.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverfjall Crater Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverfjall Views Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Hverfjall Crater

The hike to the top of the crater is about 1km. It’s a bit of a butt workout, but the entire hike isn’t overly challenging. The rocks are on the looser side so I would recommend hiking boots. Once we got to the top we had some extra time so we decided to hike around the lip of the crater. In all it was about a 2.75 mile hike, and we had a blast (too soon?).

Whale Watching in Húsavík

When we first started planning our trip to Iceland we knew we wanted to go whale watching. Húsavík’s reputation for whale watching is actually what made us decide to drive the Ring Road. It was well worth it.

We started our day in Húsavík at Gamli Baukur, a delicious restaurant right on the harbor. This was one of the few places I was able to get a vegetarian, gluten-free lunch on the entire island, and it was also one of the best meals we had.

Once fueled up we hopped on our boat for our tour with North Sailing. We had originally booked their carbon neutral sail boat tour, but unfortunately the boat was out for maintenance and we were on one of their regular (noisy) diesel engine boats.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Husavik Whale Watching

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Husavik Whale Watching North Sailing

We saw a large pod of dolphins and multiple humpback whales on our three hour tour. The views from the boat were incredible, and our ride was pretty smooth (although that didn’t stop one woman from feeding the fish). My phone told me I was out of space minutes after we left the harbor, so I don’t have any pictures of the dolphins or whales.

But my boyfriend has a couple.

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Whale Watching

If I were to do it again I would keep my phone in my pocket just the same. We saw so much more than the people who were desperately trying to take pictures. I highly recommend putting your camera away for at least part of it and taking it all in.

Akureyri Backpackers hostel

Post-whale watching we headed off to the largest city in the north, Akureyri. We spent the night at Akureyri Backpacks hostel and really enjoyed it. The room was clean and the bathrooms were nice. The eating area downstairs was a great place to hang out and grab a meal or drink. We spent most of our (short) time there in the shared kitchen.

Day 5: Akureyri to Reykjavík

This was a long drive. We drove six hours or so along a not too glamorous stretch of land that looks a lot like you would see in California’s Central Valley to make it from one ‘big city’ to the next.

About an hour outside of Reykjavík we stopped for lunch at The Settlement Center. I originally had misgivings about the place, but oh man was it tasty. They had delicious gluten-free bread. And gluten-filled bread. After days of stale gluten-free snacks and sad oatmeal for breakfast, I thought I might melt to the floor when the server brought me whipped butter sprinkled with lava salt to spread on my loot. If I could have fit that in my pocket, I would have. I most definitely pocketed my leftover gluten-free bread and did a little happy dance every time I nibbled off some.

Once in Reykjavík proper we explored the neighborhood around our Airbnb and picked up some food at the famous Bonus grocery store.

Day 6: Reykjavík

Our morning started at Reykjavík Coffee Roasters. We heard about all of the great coffee in the city, but we honestly only went here. It was too good to risk going somewhere else. We spent the day walking around the city and eating every bit we could. We went back to the Gray Cat for lunch after looking at countless menus and finding ourselves a bit stranded with the lack vegetarian friendly brunch options that were being served instead of lunch (it was a Sunday).

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Reykjavik Sunset

[This is the sunset at 11:15 at night. It never really got fully dark while we were there, but the sun did dip below the horizon for a couple of hours at night.]

Later that night after a home cooked meal we headed out to Joylato for dessert. They do made-to-order ice cream that they make in mixers with liquid nitrogen. From your ice cream base (I went with coconut milk) down to your toppings, you get to create your perfect treat. Yum.

Day 7: Reykjavík / Golden Circle

It breaks my heart a bit that this is the most many people will see of Iceland. While the golden circle is worth seeing, it’s not even close to the most interesting or stunning sites in the country. If you are doing the Ring Road and don’t have time to visit the Golden Circle, don’t sweat it.

The entire Golden Circle is crowded. Even with a relatively early start we were parking along roads outside of the main parking areas and waiting for large tour groups to move so we could see. This is not an alone in nature experience.

Pingvellir Tectonic Plates

Our guidebooks made this seem absolutely majestic, and the science behind what is tearing Iceland in two is fascinating. However, when we got to the tectonic plates we didn’t know it. It was less visually impressive than I anticipated.

Iceland Pingvellir National Park Tectonic Plates

Iceland Pingvellir National Park Tectonic Plates River

This path goes right over the rift created by plates… I wasn’t a huge fan of that. We didn’t explore the area much, but if you have time it seems worth hiking around a bit.

Geysir

This is no Yellowstone – you don’t have to elbow your way through hoards of people only to stand around for over an hour… waiting. At Geysir there are multiple geysers (actually the origin of the name). The catch is that only one of the errupts with regularity. The others only erupt after volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. Thankfully only the one went off while were there.

The main geyser, Stokkur, goes off frequently, sometimes as close together as five minutes. We saw at least three eruptions while we were in the area, one a little too close for comfort for me. I’m pretty sure you can hear me in many tourist’s videos of the eruption panicking that we were about to get drenched and potentially scalded. Needless to say we did not. However, do take note to stay upwind or you will get an unfortunate shower.

There are loads of restaurants and a legitimate shopping mall inside of the Geysir Center, but we brought food from Gló in our own containers and picnicked in the car instead.

Gullfoss

Iceland’s most famous waterfall does not disappoint. Definitely hike down and check out the falls from the top of the canyon.

Reykjavík

After our long day we headed to The Laundromat Café for dinner. The diner is cute and the food was surprisingly good. Stick to water or beer here – mixed drinks were not worth it. We sat at the bar and watched multiple bartenders fail to make the drinks on their menu (ours included). And yes, there are actual washing machines/dryers downstairs so feel free to bring your dirty clothes. There’s also a kids play area in the laundromat area.

Day 8: Reykjavík to San Francisco

Laugardalslaug

Since swimming before our flight had worked so well the first time, we decided to do it again. We headed to Laugardalslaug, the massive indoor/outdoor pool complex in Reykjavík. The water is all spring fed and geothermically heated, and you have to shower off completely before getting in because they do not chemically treat the water. Attendants in the bathroom ensure that you wash thoroughly without your suit before you get in (and they take this job very seriously).

I swam for about 30 minutes before soaking in their numerous hot pots along the pool deck. (A note to other swimmers. You need goggles here since the untreated water will burn your eyes. Also, when I was there swimming in the ‘fast lane’ I was the only one doing flip turns and the only one actually moving quickly.) Once we were thoroughly warm we headed to their 4-5 story high water slide. I think my boyfriend would have been happy playing on the slide all day.

Take note: This is the most popular pool in Iceland, and Icelanders love their pools. Try to go at an off time if you can.

Reykjavík Coffee Roasters

We stopped by the coffee shop one last time to fuel up for our long day ahead of us. We also had time to sit back and read for a little while which was lovely.

Laundromat

Yes, we went back to The Laundromat Café for lunch, although to be fair I technically ate breakfast foods.

On our way to the airport we picked up more takeout from Gló for me to eat on the plane since it’s often difficult for me to find vegetarian/gluten-free food in airports.

Airport

The airport can get crowded, and flights back to the U.S. from Icelandair have passport control on the way to the gates. We made the mistake of relaxing in the main part of the airport until 20 minutes or so before our flight was set to board. If the line had been much longer at passport control we would have been late for our flight.

General Things to Know

Grocery stores close early, really early. We had a very sad cobbled together dinner one night because the grocery store closed at 6 p.m. On a Wednesday.

There are speed cameras inside the tunnels and along the roads near some of the cities/towns. Our rental car company also warned us about unmarked police cars that will ticket you for speeding. In general, there’s too much to see anyway so you might as well go slow. We didn’t have any trouble with people simply going around us.

If you have a special diet (like vegetarian or gluten-free for instance) bring snacks from home and be prepared to make most of your meals.

Cooking will save you money. A lot of money, but food is expensive. Everywhere. No exceptions. Even a trip to the grocery store is substantially more expensive than you might expect, and nearly everything is packaged or frozen.

Iceland is a popular destination, but we didn’t have much trouble with crowds. Nothing was really crowded like Yosemite or other popular places in the U.S. The Golden Circle and the shopping district of Reykjavík were the most crowded places we went, but they fluctuated greatly. Stay off long-haul tour buses if you want to skip the crowds.

Much of the Ring Road is inaccessible in the winter and a 4-wheel drive car is necessary for other parts of the year. We were completely fine in our tiny non-4-wheel drive car in the middle of May since there was no snow on the roads while we were visiting.