Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

I’m spending most of this month traveling around New Zealand, and while I will certainly post more about what my boyfriend and I have done and all of the details (packing list, itinerary, must-sees, etc.), I thought I’d start with the part that most influenced everything else, our Great Walk.

We planned our entire trip around doing one of New Zealand’s famed Great Walks. We didn’t get our first choice (Milford), but we gladly signed up for the Routeburn Track. Outside of booking places to stay, planning for our hike took up most of our pre-trip preparation time. To be honest, we fumbled our way through and learned the hard way that we weren’t quite as prepared as we hoped.

Routeburn Track: The Divide Start

Routeburn Track Itinerary

Day 1 (Nov. 7): Drive to The Divide outside Te Anau. Hike 12km (7.5 miles) to Lake Mackenzie Hut. Sleep at the hut.

Day 2 (Nov. 8): Hike 11.3km (7 miles) to Routeburn Falls Hut. Sleep at the hut and eat as much of our rations as possible.

Day 3 (Nov. 9): Leisurely hike 8.8km (5.5 miles) to the end of the track at the Routeburn Shelter. Drive our thoughtfully relocated rental car on to our hostel in Wanaka before collapsing.

Spoiler Alert: This definitely didn’t happen.

Routeburn Track November Lake Hoden

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

1. The Weather is No Joke

We booked our hut stays in July (4 months before our trip) when weather and the real details of our trip were completely unknown. Our hike was scheduled for early November with two hut stays along the way. We planned for inclement weather that could change on a dime. I had packed thermal tights (meant for running/hiking in the snow), fleece pants, a fleece sweatshirt, a down jacket, a raincoat, two pairs of hiking socks, 1 pair of socks for the huts, a baseball hat, two long-sleeve quick-dry shirts, and two short sleeve quick-dry tops. I figured I would layer up and strip things off as I went. HA.

We were not at all ready to be rained on for hours or to have that rain turn into thick flurries of snow. It rained on us for 4 hours and snowed on us for 2 on the way to Mackenzie Lake. I was in no way prepared to be this drenched. If we would have been able to continue on to the next hut, I would have had to hike all day in wet clothes or risk getting my only dry clothes soaked through. Another pair of clothes would have been essential.

I also desperately wished I had not worn my down jacket while hiking because once it got wet, it was useless. I shivered like crazy and wore my sleeping bag in the hut while being green with envy over other people’s warm, dry coats. I did my best to dry it out in front of the fire and then let it hang overnight, but it was still quite damp the next day.

Routeburn Track Mackenzie Lake Ranger Hut

Lucky for us, it kept snowing and the track was closed between Mackenzie Lake and Routeburn Falls. We were turned back and told to hike back to our car on day 2, which meant hiking for hours in untouched snow (gorgeous) before it started to melt from the trees and leave us just as drenched as the rainstorm.

Lesson: This was the best weather forecast we could find, but it only shows you three days at a time. Plan for the worst case scenario. And if the track may be closed due to snow, assume it will snow or sleet at the lowest elevation too. The weather when you pack your bag will not be the same when you get there.

2. Being in Decent Shape is Not Enough

Ouch. Our poor feet and calves were not prepared for this hike. Training would have made us much more comfortable, and left us with more energy to explore in the days following our hike. We physically could have completed the full hike, but two days of grueling conditions left us immensely thankful to be done.

3. Most Raincoats Are Useless (AKA Rent Real Gear)

I was dry for maybe 3o minutes before my raincoat became more of a wet plastic layer I was wearing for show. After 6 hours, I was drenched all the way through. I really wished I had rented a hardcore raincoat that would have gotten me at least 2 hours of dryness. One of our fellow Routeburn Track hikers had on all of her rain gear and a heavy-duty poncho. She was the happiest, and driest, among us.

4. My Boots Would Bring Me Great Joy

It took me months and painful trips to try on hiking boots before I finally found the right pair. And then the cost almost stopped me at the register. I am so glad I followed through. My hiking boots kept my feet dry and (mostly) warm through 6 hours of rain and 5 hours of stomping through snow/slush. They were even better than I imagined, and I felt fairly secure in my footing given my ankle history. Almost everyone else was desperately trying to dry out their boots and socks at the hut. My feet were so dry I was able to wear my socks for the full two days and give my other dry pair to my boyfriend.

Routeburn Track Lake Mackenzie Hut Bunk

5. The Huts Aren’t Actually Heated

I know, I was upset too. I read that the huts were heated, and that is really far from the truth. Lake Mackenzie had a single wood-burning stove in the kitchen/lounge area. It was maybe large enough to warm a tiny cabin built for 2, not a massive hut built for 60. There were only 10 of us in our hut that night, and we couldn’t all comfortably fit around it. It did zero to heat the bunk area upstairs, which had no heater of its own. With temps below zero that night, our hut was somewhere just above zero (no one’s water froze, but we sure did).

6. Just Pack the Candy

It seemed downright bonkers to me to bring candy on a long hike where I was going to be making unheard of demands on my body. I was wrong, I should have brought the candy. I was fiercely jealous of another woman’s stash. Some gummy bears would have gone a long way to boost moral.

7. More Food

Yes, pack more. Twice as much as you think. We would have been quite hungry on day three if we had been able to make it that far.

Routeburn Track November Spring Snow

Top Routeburn Track Tips:

1. Our car may not have been relocated by TrackHopper, but we were thrilled with their service and I would 100 percent recommend them. They were the first ones to let us know that part of our track was closed (Um… hello DOC… Are you out there?). They assured us that they wouldn’t move our car or charge us unless the closed portion reopened and we were able to hike through.

Our hut-mates were not so lucky. One family was charged for the relocation that didn’t happen and told they would just have to claim it on their trip insurance for a refund. We by far got the better service.

2. Packing our bags for more than three weeks of travel and a three day backcountry hike was not possible. There was no way we could have fit everything we needed into easy to carry bags. Bev’s Tramping Gear Hire saved the day on this one. We picked up our stuff in Te Anau the morning of our first day of hiking. We rented rain pants that kept our legs dry (much unlike our epic failures of jackets), a cooking pot to use in the huts, and sleeping bags. Our car relocation service was going to drop off our rented gear back at Bev’s for us, but we ended up driving back through ourselves given the closure.

3. Most grocery stores around NZ have freeze dried foods and other backpacking food. We brought some from home to try to make things easier with my dietary restrictions, but if you don’t have to worry about that you’ll easily find food here.


Questions? Worried about something weirdly specific (yeah, me too). Let me know!

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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

There’s a (good) reason things have been quiet around here. I spent the last few weeks working like crazy so I could take a full eight days off in stunning Iceland. While I have plenty more to say about our trip (and enough pictures to break the internet), I’m excited to share what I packed.


Because this was my best packing job yet! All of my stuff fit in my 45L backpack, including my bulky hiking boots and my plane snacks. My big down jacket? Oh yeah, that was in there too. Nailed it!

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

I put weeks of thought into what I would bring to Iceland, mostly because the weather was constantly changing leading up to the trip. That didn’t change once we were there either – Iceland’s weather is unpredictable and extremely variable. I highly recommend being prepared for cooler or wetter weather than weeklong forecasts predict for a spring trip.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

I wore every item I brought, except for emergency underwear, a couple pairs of thin socks, a sports bra, and a short-sleeve athletic shirt that would have been used had we hiked another day or two.

Staying for more than eight days? Simply wash every 5-7 days. Most of the guest houses, hostels, and Airbnbs we looked at or stayed in had washers. No need to pack more.



  • 2 long sleeve cotton t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve technical t-shirts (if you aren’t planning on hiking, sub for any warm base layers)
  • 1 short sleeve shirt
  • 1 technical short sleeve shirt
  • Fleece sweatshirt
  • Swim suit
  • 1 bra
  • 2 sports bras
  • 1 knit sweater
  • Pajamas
  • Rain coat/ wind breaker
  • Down coat


  • Corduroy pants
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 5 pairs of regular socks (I wore 1 pair…)
  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • Fleece sweats (for hiking and lounging)
  • Thick leggings/tights (winter running tights, long underwear, or ski tights)

Shoes/ Accessories

  • Hiking boots
  • Athletic shoes/ warm, comfortable walking shoes
  • Flip flops (especially if you are staying in a hostel or visiting hot springs)
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Beanie/thermal headband
  • Small backpack for hiking or a crossbody bag

My boyfriend and I shared his small backpack while hiking and my crossbody bag everywhere else. I used my medium-sized crossbody bag on the plane for reading material, my journal, passport, snacks, and my water bottle.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

On the Plane

I broke every single rule and packed my hiking boots. I HATE wearing shoes on a plane, and there was no way in hell I was going to spend 20 some odd hours shoved into my hiking boots. Or take them off and put them back on through security. No thanks.

  • Comfortable athletic shoes
  • Cords
  • Fleece
  • Short sleeve shirt
  • Compression socks (for my ankle)
  • Bra

What my daily wear looked like:

long sleeve base layer + fleece + thick socks + warm pants + down jacket (+/- rain coat) = warm, dry, happy traveler

Daily temperatures were anywhere between 14C (around 60 F) and 3-4C (mid to upper 30s) as we traveled along the Ring Road. Reykjavík was quite a bit warmer than the mountains in the north, but wind chill could still drop the temperature quite steeply in the city. Layers made it easy for me to stay comfortable throughout the 30 degree swing.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

lived in my cords and fleece sweatshirt, but we rarely stayed in one place for more than a day and no one could see my sweatshirt under all of my jackets anyway. You could easily bring another pair of pants if wearing the same pair frequently bothers you. I personally didn’t mind, especially since I was mixing it up on the days that we were outside exploring. I hiked in my thick tights (technically winter running tights) with my fleece sweats on top. Wind-resistant hiking pants would also work great.

Yes, I wore two pairs of hiking socks for our entire 8-day trip. It was too cold for my feet to get nasty, so I wore each pair twice before washing and hanging them over the radiator. It worked great.

Zero Waste Gear/ On the Go Eating

It was important to me to make as little waste as possible on our trip, especially because Iceland is a fragile environment that is suddenly experiencing a massive surge in tourism. All of these things also made bringing my own food on the plane a breeze. These were by far our most used items, and I am really glad I brought them.

  • Bamboo cutlery set
  • Cloth napkin
  • 5 handkerchiefs
  • Foldable grocery/tote bag
  • Metal water bottle
  • Insulated metal water bottle
  • 3 metal food containers (packed with food in both directions : ) )

I filled both of my bottles for our flights, and still had to ask for a bit of water on the plane (which they gladly poured straight into my water bottle). The extra bag was perfect for buying groceries, wrangling stuff for a short trip, and hitting the hot springs.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring


  • Sleep mask (hello constant daylight)
  • Ear plugs
  • Bar soap
  • Mini hair brush
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Small container of laundry soap
  • Medications as needed
  • Tooth brush
  • Hand towel
  • Nail clippers/file
  • Hair clip and hair tie
  • (Optional: full-sized towel)


I ended up deciding to not bring a full-sized towel to use at hot springs or where we were staying. Most of our guest houses/ hostels had towels already included in the price, and the rest were relatively inexpensive. We went to one hot spring that didn’t have towel rentals (or an attendant), and we just brought one of our towels from that night’s guest house with us. It would have been difficult for us to get our towels to dry while we were driving the Ring Road, and I really didn’t want to have to worry about them. We paid a bit extra overall, but we always had a warm towel and it really wasn’t that expensive in comparison to Iceland’s prices in general. My small hand towel (below) was used for drying our hands and dishes as needed.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

[This is what happens when you have been up for 24 hours and you realize you haven’t taken a picture of your pack – you take a blurry photo in the airport at midnight on your way home.]

Bottom Line

Iceland’s weather changes rapidly year-round. It’s especially important to pack lots of layers in spring. If you plan on hiking or doing the Ring Road, definitely bring clothes that would keep you warm in snow just in case. You may not need them, but they will be priceless if you do (speaking of price, EVERYTHING in Iceland is expensive. This is not the place you want to be buying an emergency jacket). We also particularly enjoyed our extra-warm clothes on our whale watching tour.

Packing cubes are clutch, and highly consider bringing a backpacking backpack if you plan to go outside of Reykjavík. We carried our packs up muddy hillsides, down long gravel roads, and up many flights of stairs to get to our bed for the night.

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas


Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.


Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.


Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.


Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.



Or dog sitting as it may be.


Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.


Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.



Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.


Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.


Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.


No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)


Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.

A Long Weekend in Portland

Portland has been on my list for a while, and when a trip to New Zealand was no longer possible after my ankle surgery, it seemed like a great time to go. My boyfriend and I spent a long weekend in Portland last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather was quintessential fall – clouds and a slight chill in the air. It hardly rained while we were there. I left feeling ready for the holiday season (but not ready for Christmas decorations or music. It’s too soon people! Give Thanksgiving a chance!).

To be clear, this is less of a direct ‘you have to go here!’ and more of a list of the things we did and enjoyed on our long weekend in Portland. We were only able to explore Southwest Portland around the Pearl District. I know there are amazing things in the rest of Portland and outside of the city.

Also, despite spending three days in Portland, I only have four pictures to show for the trip. This is partly to blame on my inability to ever remember to take a photo, but also a conscious decision. It was important to me to really see the city and be present. While we used a phone for directions or restaurant advice, for the most part we didn’t use our phones outside of the hotel room.

highly recommend trying this. Instead of taking photos I journaled daily about all of the things we did and ate so I can look back and remember what we did/saw/experienced.

Long Weekend in Portland - Case Study Coffee SW Portland Mocha



The downside of only having a long weekend in Portland is all of the food we weren’t able to eat. Our first dinner in the city was my favorite restaurant meal from the past few years. So good!

We went to the city without any plans (other than a place to stay and a general idea of how to get to our hotel), and we spent our entire time blissfully planning out our day based on where we wanted to eat. My kind of vacation.

Here’s what we ate:


Cheryl’s On 12th

Not my favorite. Our flight landed during lunch and it took us a couple hours to get off the plane and to our hotel. I had been dreaming about eating for hours by the time we got into Portland proper, so I wasn’t super picky with our first meal. I just wanted something hot and fast. Cheryl’s was a minute walk from the hotel.

The vegetarian fried rice was alright, but I left dissapointed. I saw something about complementary beignets on Yelp and was under the impression that they came with every meal. Totally not true, totally my misunderstanding. Also, turns out I’m not a fan of “cheesy” hash browns sprinkled with a sprinkling.



I honestly would have eaten here for every meal. This was our first dinner in Portland, and we got so lucky. We found Imperial on Yelp that afternoon and ended up being able to snag a spot at their dinner service.

The restaurant was packed! They squeezed us in at their chef’s counter facing their open wood fire cooking area. It was hot and the kitchen was busy. It was like watching the Food Network while eating dinner, but way more satisfying. I loved watching the kitchen and seeing what everyone was ordering.

For dinner I had a killer kale salad that puts all tough, boring kale salads to shame. It had a citrusy goat cheese dressing that didn’t taste anything like goat cheese. The salad was topped with sunflower seed brittle (mmm, sugar) and shaved winter veggies. I paired the salad with a coal roasted sweet potato that I slathered in butter and their pepita salsa. It was flavorful, comforting, and filling.

This is killing me. I want to eat it all again.

I also snagged a couple of bites of their buttery, flakey, didn’t-leave-a-single-crumb Parker House Rolls and their house made fettuccine with yam, kabocha squash, brussels sprout leaves, chanterelles, and pepitas. (Do note that the menu changes daily and none of these may be on the menu if you visit).

Imperial had fantastic gluten free and vegetarian options, and they clearly marked everything on their menu. Yes, you should definitely go.


The Daily Feast

The Daily Feast is small and cozy with a nice mix of classic and healthy options. Our breakfast was solid, although I’m still craving their oatmeal. I made a last minute decision to go with fried eggs and hash browns instead, and I’m still not sure if it was the right call.


Food Carts

I’ve never seen so many food carts in one city. The grilled cheese was calling me, but since I can’t really eat that I went for juicy vegetable tacos. According to Yelp, there are a ton of food carts definitely worth trying.


Oven and Shaker

After multiple meals of stuffing our faces, it seemed like it was time for some vegetables. We headed to Oven and Shaker for a glass of red wine and a salad… and pizza. Unfortunately the pizza wasn’t gluten free, but I made up for it with rosemary-parmesan fried chickpeas. Yummy! They were almost as satisfying as fries.

Unfortunately my salad was disappointing – super salty and otherwise bland. Rumor has it the pizza was good.


Byways Cafe

A table of locals brought their own hot sauce and shared it. This place felt far from touristy. Byways serves classic breakfast and lunch food. It felt like a diner without the shitty menu and soggy potatoes. It’s worth the wait.


Pine Street Market

I panicked that there wouldn’t be anything for me to eat at the market and picked up a salad at a local salad chain on the way. Major regrets. I got to choose what was in my salad, but it was so under-dressed that it was a crime. Nothing will make you feel like a cow quite like eating a dry kale salad. Yum.

I had major ramen envy. And the glutenous pita bread was like tasty pillows for your mouth.

Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that I had a mind-numbingly delicious, non-dairy strawberry soft serve. Oh man it was good. I also got the best of both worlds with a few bites of their vanilla soft serve covered in their homemade hard-shell chocolate sauce. (*insert homer noises here*) I’ll eat a dry kale salad every day if you give me a cup of soft serve from Wizbangbar. (Don’t click on that unless you are going to go there or you’ll end up depressed with a top-notch soft-serve craving. Trust me, it just happened to me.)



It’s a tough call between Imperial and Bamboo. This was my first time ordering sushi at a restaurant (hey, tempura is amazing). While I enjoyed the sushi, it was the rest of the meal that I really loved.

Their twist on a French 75 is possibly even better than the classic. I wanted to sip on one all night despite the fact that half a glass in I was feeling it. 

I’m still craving the sweet and sour cauliflower. I can’t tell you the last time I had sweet and sour. There was no frightening red sauce anywhere to be seen, and the flavor was impeccable. Deep, acidic, lightly sweet – I could have eaten them all night.

Also, major bonus points for being incredibly sustainable.


Final Breakfast

Our last breakfast was so bad I’m not going to include it. My steel cut oats were watery and tasted strongly of soap. This is why I ended up eating leftover sushi at the airport at 9 a.m. The restaurant we went to had okay reviews online, but it was the only place open on the way to the light rail station. It turns out most places aren’t open at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. Life lessons.



Case Study Coffee

You cannot go to Portland and not get coffee… or maybe you can. I might have done it.

Case Study Coffee’s homemade chai tea was spicy and creamy without being painfully sweet. I could happily drink it daily. I’m heavily considering emailing them for the recipe.

The space was perfect for hanging out and slowly sipping a hot drink. We went here twice (I got regular tea the second time), and both times we spent at least an hour writing and reading. The staff was ridiculously, genuinely nice and easy-going, and the space was both gorgeous and comfortable.

I’m so jealous this coffee shop isn’t in my neighborhood.



This is on the list so no one yells at me. We shamelessly went to the one in the airport. I heard that their drip is good, although I can’t taste anything for the next week after scalding myself on their chai latte (made with actual tea! Hallelujah!).

I think it was good? I’ll let you know my ultimate decision when the nickel-sized heat blister on the roof of my mouth finally heals. Seriously.


Things to Do:

There are so many things to do in Portland and it can be difficult to fit them all, especially if you are only visiting for a long weekend.

We didn’t really sight see or do any outdoor adventures. We were honestly lucky I was able to walk around at all. (We’ve been home for days and my ankle/feet are still punishing me for the amount of walking and standing we did.) For the most part we tried to keep each trip under .5 mile of walking, and we walked everywhere.


Powell’s Books

I 100 percent picked our neighborhood and our hotel based on its proximity to Powell’s. Our hotel room looked out on the sign for the famous bookstore. This was the only thing I wanted to do in Portland.

This place is stuffed with millions of books, and it felt like just as many people. Our first 15 minutes in the store were completely overwhelming. I almost asked to leave. But once we got out of the main entrance area and into the actual shelves the crowds thinned out and I was only overwhelmed by the amount of books.

Long Weekend in Portland - Powell's Books

The multiple floors were crammed with high shelves and more books than I have ever seen in one place. Powell’s is easily a book lover’s dream, although I had trouble figuring out their categories and as someone with decision problems, it was anxiety-inducing.

If I were to go again and I wanted to buy a book, I would go in with a few titles in mind and look them up on their handy computers. It would be a much more relaxing experience than trying to see every title in their literature and memoir section.


Ground Kontrol Arcade

This was my first time to an arcade that wasn’t attached to a pizza parlor. We went during the day before the bar was open so it was a nice mix of adults and kids. About half of the space is full of pinball machines and the rest is classic (and a couple new) arcade games. True to form, Tetris was my favorite.



A lot. Eating was our main activity. You should also definitely consider going to breweries if you visit. I’ve heard good things.



We took the light rail to and from the airport and walked everywhere else. It was great! Although I didn’t love clomping around Portland in the boot. Maybe don’t go until you are fully recovered from ankle surgery. It might make things easier.



We originally looked into staying at an Airbnb, but there were so few listings left that we decided to go for a hotel in a great area for the same price.

Long Weekend in Portland - Ace Hotel Portland

The Ace Hotel felt a bit like staying at your hipster friend’s house. The decor is minimal but stylish. The design is somehow old school and modern. There are weird quirks (the glass shower enclosure was in the room proper. Highly entertaining.) and touches of home. Also, there may be scents of pot wafting through the halls and a live band in the lobby.

Long Weekend in Portland - Ace Hotel Portland

Overall we really enjoyed our stay. The Ace is in a great location, the staff was incredibly friendly, and the room made a good home base for an easily tired traveler. The bed and the pillows were not as comfortable as I had hoped and I wish the room had been darker, but I’m spoiled at home. The sleeping comfort is on par with most hotels I’ve stayed in.


Have you ever been to Portland? Where did you go?

Women of the Road: Is #Vanlife Really Instagram Perfect?

It all started with following a couple people on Instagram. Then I found the #vanlife hashtag and it was all over. I was obsessed.

For months I played with the idea of interviewing people about what it’s really like to live and travel in a van for weeks or months at a time. Is it really as great as it seems? Does it look anything like it does on Instagram? I had so many questions.

While holed up in bed with a casted ankle, I finally got to speak to incredible women who have traveled in ways I have only dreamed about. Their solo trips around the U.S. and New Zealand were incredible. And if anything, it only made me more obsessed. Their stories were refreshing and honest and left me just as captivated as before.

Is #vanlife really Instagram Perfect? Mandy Ferreira for Misadventures October 2016

This story begged to be written for months, and I just couldn’t help myself from sharing it. The story is now live on Misadventures!

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

We spent a whirlwind day in Yellowstone on our trip to Wyoming this summer. While that’s really not a lot of time, especially when you sit down in front of a guidebook or map about Yellowstone and factor in drive time to and from the park, we got to see just about everything we wanted to.

What to see if you only have one day in Yellowstone National Park

Since we were staying just outside of Teton National Park, we entered Yellowstone through Teton via the south entrance. The drive there was gorgeous, and well worth the time in the car.

1. Old Faithful

We somehow missed the signs (there had to be signs… right?) for West Thumb – our intended first stop. Instead we ended up going to see Old Faithful first.

I had heard mixed reviews about the geyser, but I really couldn’t imagine going to Yellowstone and not seeing it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful

I felt like a brat – Old Faithful did not live up to my expectations. You only see pictures or short video clips of it shooting into the air with force and stamina. In real life it spent maybe 10 seconds at its full height and the rest of the time half as high if that. It also took forever to get enough steam. There were a lot of false starts and disappointments. It didn’t help that we were parking during an eruption and thus had to wait 90 minutes or so to see it.

2. Area around Old Faithful

While we waited to see the geyser, we walked around the pools and crazy landscape around it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Boiling Thermal Pool

The experience was surreal, and way better than Old Faithful if you ask me.  I’ve never seen a landscape like it. The pools of boiling water were like something out of a dark-magic movie.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

3. Gibbon Falls

We just happened to pull over because the area looked beautiful and there was a turnout. I’m so glad we didn’t miss these falls. They aren’t the most impressive of the (many) falls in the park, but they were a nice little stretch break and a great view.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

If you visit, you’ll likely be just as impressed looking at the valley below the falls.

4. Canyon Village Upper and Lower Falls

I was impressed from the lookout at the top. I was even more impressed from halfway down the cliffside.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Lower Falls

We took Uncle Tom’s Trail down to the lookout along the canyon. The trail featured many flights of stairs after zig zagging a bit on a regular trail. (We also saw a deer who could not care less that we were all standing there. S/he really held up traffic while lazily eating in the middle of the path.)

The stairs were a bit frightening. I’m not huge on heights, and I particularly didn’t like that you could see straight down into the depth of the canyon below through the metal stairs. They were also wobbly in places or had (small) holes in others. The stairs cling to the side of the canyon in a not so comforting fashion, and they had a tendency to move a bit as people waked on them. Add in the huffing and puffing from climbing stairs at elevation, and I was thankful to get back on solid ground.

Despite the scare, they are 100 percent worth the views at the bottom (and along the way if you aren’t freaking out and staring at the hand rail calculating if it will really save you). Bonus, you get in a good workout before hopping back in the car.

5. Yellowstone Lake

To be fair, we just drove around the edge of it on our way home, but this expansive lake was incredible. It’s the largest high elevation lake in North America. With 141 miles of shoreline, it felt like it went forever. It blew my mind that the lake is frozen for nearly half the year. I can’t imagine what it takes to freeze a lake that’s roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide.

I’ve spent my fair share of time around Lake Tahoe, and this lake didn’t stop impressing me. It went on for miles and miles. Stunning.

So much more

There is plenty more to see, but if you only have one day in the Yellowstone National Park, this southern loop will give you a good start. There are plenty of places to pull over along it to see jaw-dropping views and wildlife (between the two parks we saw bison, elk, a wolf, lots of adorable chipmunks, squirrels, unidentified birds, and cute dogs traveling with humans). We got to the park a little before lunch and left around five or so.

One Day Yellowstone National Park

One Day Yellowstone National Park – Chipmunk

After a day of exploring (and what does start to feel like too long in the car), we were spent.

Helpful Tips

There are water bottle filling stations at just about every tourist information station.

The food sold at Old Faithful did not look appealing – I’m very thankful I brought my own lunch.

We stayed with other people in well-populated areas and didn’t have to worry about bears. If you do want to hike around and have a little more space to yourself, it’s a good idea to bring bear spray and take the snacks out of your bag.