A Crazy Busy Winter in the Arctic // Life Lately

This past Saturday the Viking and I packed up the car and got ready to head off for a quick weekend adventure. Before we could leave town we had a few errands to run so we were getting a later start to our day, and with our later start came some clouds and rain. Not the best weather, no big deal, we decided to stick with the plan and still head out for some exploring.

As we sat in traffic slowly making our way out of the city H and I started talking about how tired we were and what a busy week it had been. Before we had even made our way out of downtown we decided to turn around and head back home.

We were just too tired and burnt out for an adventure.

Life in Iceland

Life has been busy up here in the Arctic. These past few weeks have flown by in a blur and the Viking and I have hardly seen more than a few minutes of each other during the week. With crazy work schedules, Icelandic classes and extra freelance projects it is safe to say the Viking and I were feeling burnt out.

When we started the new year H and I knew January was going to be a crazy busy month for us both. We even made a plan that on Saturday’s we would unplug and do no work at all, a complete day off. These Saturday day offs quickly turned into the day that we could go off on an adventure, something we both really enjoying doing. But sometimes you need to know when to just take a break and do nothing, something that I struggle with.

But on Saturday when we were feeling more exhausted by the idea of an adventure than excited we both knew it was time for a break, from work and adventuring.

Sometimes you just need to spend a weekend doing nothing but relaxing on your couch. And that is exactly what the Viking and I did all weekend. While I love filling my weekends up with exploring Iceland my mind and my body so needed this relaxing weekend. This is one of the first Monday’s in a long time where I feel like I am starting the week refreshed and ready to tackle my to do list. Lazy weekends, they are good for you.

Winter in Iceland

Now that I finally had the time to sit down and think let’s talk about the things that have been happening around my little neck of the tundra lately with some pictures that haven’t made the cut from our latest adventures.

Driving in the snow | Okay not the most exciting life update, but for me this is huge. Last winter I never once attempted to drive and relied on the Viking to carpool me around. This was fine, but it also made me rethink my own social schedule for things that required driving somewhere. For someone that has always been really independent having to rely on H to drive me everywhere was not an ideal situation.

Once the snow melted I forced myself to get behind the wheel and learn the Icelandic rules of the road. Being able to hop in the car and just go whenever I liked gave me such a new feeling of independence, and as silly as it may sound it really helped me feel more settled and in control of my life here in Iceland.

Fast forward to this winter, and the snow came back. I instantly panicked and decided I didn’t even want to try learning how to drive in the snow. Going from being able to drive wherever, go off and meet my friends and do my own thing without H to needed him to drive me around really was a blow. After about two months of this I finally decided I needed to suck it up and learn. It was terrifying at first, but now it is no problem and I am so happy that I can head off on my own adventures again without my chauffeur H.

Winter in IcelandSouth Coast of Iceland in Winter

Icelandic | For two weeks now I have been spending my Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Icelandic class, until 10 pm. Not going to lie, the class time is really not ideal, but I told myself I have to suck it up for these 10 weeks, Icelandic is not going to get into my mind on its own.

Even though I have only been in class for two weeks I have noticed such a huge difference in both my confidence in speaking and my understanding of the language. I can just feel this time around how much I want to learn for me, not because I think I have to learn, and that makes the world of difference.

There have even been some language wins, and even if they are small I want to celebrate them. The other day I had a conversation with a co-worker at the coffee machine where I spoke almost all Icelandic to her. Many of my co-workers speak Icelandic to me ( these co-workers know me and know my understanding level) but I always just respond back in English even if I know how to say the things back in Icelandic. Well not this time, I told myself I had to try and out came Icelandic. I have been trying everyday to just throw in Icelandic words for things I know how to say and can feel my confidence in speaking the language increasing.

I have to give a shout out to my Viking. Never once has he ever pressured me to learn Icelandic, but he has always supported me when I am trying, which means he now gets to spend lots of time helping me with my homework. This usually involves me having him repeat a word over and over while I watch how his mouth moves so I can try and figure out how to say the sounds, homework time is fun at our house:)

Horses in South Iceland I think I should start practicing Icelandic with the Icelandic horses, they would make for some cute study partners:)

Icelandic Horses

Visa Renewal | Speaking of language wins, last week I had to make the dreaded drive down to the immigration office to renew my visa. I told H I wanted to do it myself this time and I practiced a few sentences in Icelandic that I could say to the immigration.

As I waited my turn I kept saying those sentences over and over, I am not going to lie I was so nervous I really just wanted to rely on English like I always do.

But I walked up there, said my practiced sentences and I have never had a better experience at the immigration! I am not kidding, by the end the woman wanted to hear my whole life story and put a rush order on my card so that I could be sure to have it before I went abroad next month. Amazing!

South Coast of Iceland in Winter

Scotland Recommendations??? | Okay enough talk about all these wins for me, lets talk travel. You guys always give me the best ideas when it comes to travel tips so I am coming to you again.

The Viking and I are going to Scotland this May, and while this is still a few months away we are currently trying to plan out our itinerary. We are planning on spending four days driving around the highlands and are working on figuring out the best path to fit in all the stops we want to see and what are the best places to stay overnight. If you have been to Scotland and have any tips, must see places or things you loved I would love to hear about them in the comments!

South of Iceland in WinterSouth Coast Iceland in winter

Pescetarian Month | When it comes to diets the Viking and I are on the opposite side of the spectrum, he is your typical meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I have been known to play around with a vegan diet. I am always trying to add more vegeterirain dinners to our weekly meal plan in attempts to convince the Viking that we don’t need to buy meat anymore. So far this has been somewhat successful, but this moth we have a big win.

For the month of February (because it is the shortest month of the year) H decided to met me half way for a pescetarian month. I am loving making new recipes and after the lentil burgers I made over the weekend I might have my Viking convinced that we don’t need to have meat in our lives all the time. We are only one week in so we will see how this continues. Any fish or vegetarian recipes you love? Let me know in the comments!

South of Iceland in Winter

While I have had a lot of wins lately one thing is pretty certain after our past few adventures, I still have some work to do when it comes to walking in the snow.

South of Iceland in Winter

I look super confident here, but a few seconds later…

South of Iceland in Winter

And one second later… I fell, and then rolled, and was covered in snow.

South of Iceland in Winter

I am just here to provide entertainment for my Viking. He turns around for one minute and then turns back to find me laughing so hard rolling around on the ground. I like to keep thing alive in the relationship, I mean what is sexier than helping get snow out of my clothes am I right?!

As my Dad would say, there is your newsy letter for the day. While nothing on here is monumental I am trying to be better about recognizing the small accomplishments and I encourage you all to do the same! Celebrating any kind of success is important, and it really helps me stay motivated to keep working hard.

And with that I am off to tackle that long to do list of mine for the week. Happy Monday!

Question of the Day?
Have you been to Scotland? Any recommendations? What is a win in your life lately?

An Autumn Walk Through Prague

Prague

As I sit here watching the harsh Icelandic wind blow the snow around like a tornado I can’t help but dream of a trip somewhere warm and sunny.

Why oh why did the Viking and I not plan a winter beach escape?!

Since I don’t yet have that luxury of just packing a bag and heading off on a last minute adventure I am attempting to cure my sun need by looking through pictures from warmer days, which is basically the same thing right???

Okay not really, all that this has accomplished is it has made me want to go on an adventure abroad even more! Soon this will be happening, be patient Kaelene.

One thing I can do right now, take you all on an adventure with me back to warmer days from this past September when I joined 40 other Icelanders in Prague.

Prague, Czech Republic

It is no secret that Prague is known for being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. With a castle looking over the city from above, a beautiful river running through the middle and charming colorful houses lining the streets this city more than holds up to its reputation.

The Viking and I spent as much time as we could roaming the streets in Prague with no real plan other than to just see where we would end up. This plan took us to some beautiful parks, the most amazing library, and had us stumbling onto a few festivals that required a wine pitstop.

Oh to be back in Prague.

Lets all pretend we are strolling the charming streets of Prague with a trdelník in one hand and a camera in the other…

Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicThis purple door, this made my door obsessed self oh so happy!

Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicWhen researching for our trip to Prague I discovered this beautiful library and knew we had to visit. If you are in Prague be sure to check out the Klementinum library, you have to see this library in person to fully appreciate its beauty!

Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicDuring our time in Prague a group of us did a running tour. This was such a fun way to explore the city and see some great views, and perfect for me as I was in the middle of marathon training at the time, double win!

Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech Republic

I don’t know about you all but I am the type of traveler that after I leave a place my appreciation for its beauty and charm just continues to grow. And after going through our Prague pictures I feel so lucky that I had the chance to visit such a gorgeous place.

Travel, it really is just the best!

Happy Friday everyone:)

Question of the Day?
Have you been to Prague? What is the most beautiful city you have visited?

New Year, New Reading Goal

Life in Iceland

Can we just take a minute to appreciate this sunrise! The sun may take its time arriving during the winter but when it does it certainly knows how to make an entrance!

Okay, on to today’s post.

Last year I set myself the goal of reading 50 books. The purpose behind this goal was to get me back into the habit of reading, something that I have always enjoyed but somewhere down the road stopped making time for. With 50 books to read I made sure to make reading a priority in my life, and not to long into my goal I found myself sneaking in reading a few pages whenever I could, my love for reading was back!

After reaching my goal in December I kept my reading mojo going all through the Christmas holiday, where I read five books in two weeks, it was pretty wonderful! Since then life has gotten busier, and most evenings my book is now being replaced with my Icelandic studies, but I am set on keeping reading a big part of my life in 2016.

To help make sure I keeping reading a priority (and choose my book over hours of reality tv) I have set myself another reading goal of 50 books for this year. I am keeping it at 50 books as I think more than that would be really pushing it with my current schedule (aka I am trying to tackle Icelandic this year).

With the first month of the year down I am off to a good start with my reading goal and have read some great books lately, a huge improvement from my past few months of book fails.

Here is a recap of what I have been reading lately.

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The Thinking Woman’s Guide To Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker – ★★

A heartbroken PhD student, Nora, wanders off during a friends wedding weekend and ends up going through a portal to another world. This world is full of magic but what starts off as a happy ending for Nora turns into a fairytale gone wrong and she must learn magic to save herself. Recommend to those who loved the All Souls Trilogy, which I did, I thought for sure I would love this book. Wrong. Nothing really happened and the magical side of the story was actually really boring. I kept reading it hoping for something to happen, but this story just fell flat for me.

The Stranger by Harlan Coben – ★★★★

Finally my so so book streak has been broken, I could not put this one down. I love a good suspenseful story and this one did not disappoint! The ending caught me completely off guard, in a good way, and I enjoyed every page of this book. If you enjoy a good mystery add this to your reading list!

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – ★★★★

I am a huge fan of Liane Moriarty and have loved all of her books that I have read. They are the perfect mix of humor, mystery and real life issues, once I start one of her books I can never put them down. “Liane Moriarty once again combines sharp wit, lovable and eccentric characters, and a page-turning story for an unforgettable” Seriously the perfect way to describe her books, if you haven’t read one of Liane Moriarty’s books yet add it this to your winter reading list.

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – ★★★★

Another winning book. The best way to describe this book is The Hunger Games meets The Selection series. If you were of fan of either series check out this book. The story was really well written and the ending had some twists I didn’t see coming which has me counting down the days until the second book in the series is released later this month!

10% Happier by Dan Harris – ★★★

Dan Harris is a Nightline anchor who embarks on his own journey into the world of spirituality and self-help. As someone who finds the world of spirituality intriguing, but at the same time a bit hard to get into, I found this story so interesting. The author is completely honest about his experiences and at times had me laughing at the thoughts he had when he was attempting to mediate. This book wasn’t life changing for me as I have heard others say but it was a very interesting read.

The Dinner by Herman Koch – ★★★

Called the “ European Gone Girl” by the The Wall Street Journal this was the book my bookclub read for January. I really enjoyed the first half of this book, the story was unfolding and you were able to piece information together to try and figure out the mystery. But the second half lost me. I don’t mind a book that ends with an unclear ending so you can come to your own conclusions, but this book left so many things up in the air that I really wanted cleared up. It was a great book to read for bookclub though, we had lots to discuss!

Paris Letters by Janice Macleod – ★★★★

This book was added to my list after I saw it posted on World of Wanderlust. A story about a woman who has had enough of the corporate world and sets a goal of saving enough money to travel Europe for two years this book is perfect for anyone who dreams of traveling! While I really enjoyed this aspect of the book my favorite part of the story was her love story with her French man. Some of the things she wrote about her relationship and especially about learning a new language completely hit home for me.

Fingers crossed my good book streak continues! Currently I am reading All the Light We Cannot See for my bookclub, and am loving it, no wonder it has such great reviews! Any great books you have read lately that I should add to my list?? Let me know in the comments below!

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If reading blogs is more your thing I have a wonderful blogger to introduce you to today! Meet Christina from Route Bliss , a lifelong Texan who takes some gorgeous photography and is always off on some adventure. Along with her beautiful pictures she has some great travel tips that all travelers should read!

Unlocking_Kiki_0379

When did you decide to start blogging / what inspired you to start blogging?

I’ve actually been blogging somewhere on the web since early 2001! I can’t really say what inspired me to initially start blogging, but the part of it where I started sharing images/travels was due to penpalling, it was an easy way to tell my penpals around the globe about where I’d been. Until I started my photography business, it was mostly personal ramblings that are pretty much gone from the web, thank goodness! Since 2007, I’ve been blogging either my portrait client work or my travels; I split the two up into separate websites about two and a half years ago and started focusing on my travel and personal photography work on Route Bliss.

What does your perfect weekend look like??

Sleeping in! I work 7 – 4 during the week, so I’m up and out of the house by 6 am thanks to a 40+ minute commute.

On a long weekend, I’d find a destination to either day trip to or make a quick weekend out of around the eastern half of Texas … or dart up to Little Rock to visit my best friend.

You traveled all over the USA and visited several National Parks too! What is one destination you would love to revisit?

Oh geez, that’s a tough decision! I’m not sure I can choose just one! From pre-2015 travels, I’d have to say Yellowstone. We barely saw half of the park (the eastern half) and missed out on one of the falls due to a jumper + wasn’t able to see Old Faithful erupt.

From last year, I want to go back to Yosemite. We’d planned two days in the park, but due to exhaustion, we spent day two exploring the nearby national forest instead of venturing further into the park. I still want to see the Tuolumne Meadows and Hetchy Hetch Reservoir areas (+ Mariposa Grove that closed for restoration 10-ish days before we arrived).

Any big travel plans for 2016?

Right now, my major travel plan is visiting Albuquerque during the annual balloon fiesta … gotta nail down reservations soon! I’m also planning a weekend trip to New Braunfels, Texas and one to Little Rock, Arkansas. I have some tentative plans for August, but its all up in the air at the moment (waiting on a friend’s plans + making sure I have the money and ability to take off work first). I also want to work in another national park if possible since 2016 is the centennial of the NPS and there’s some big celebrations going on throughout the year as well as in late August.

You take some stunning pictures of your travels. Any photography tips for us newbies out there?

Thanks :) The key is practice, lots of it. Get to know your camera; read the manual and find out what all those fancy features are/how to use them. Don’t be afraid to screw up when you have the ability to reshoot (at home, not while traveling). And if you’re unsure of your settings and aren’t able to take the time to get ‘the shot’ for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong with shooting in auto/program mode to capture the moment.

Before you go what are three of your favorite posts that you think everyone needs to read?

Getting Started as a Hobbyist Photography

Planning for and Saving Money While on the Road

10 Steps to Vehicle Readiness {RB Roadtripping}

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And now you have lots of new reading material to keep you busy while we wait for summer to arrive!

Question of the Day?
What are you reading this month?

An Ode to the Icelandic Waterfalls

Skogafoss, Iceland

I just love waterfalls.

There is something about waterfalls that immediately has me in awe. The sound of the water crashing down, the way the sun glistens off the water, and the fact that this is just all pure nature, I find it so incredible!

It is safe to say that I am completely in love with waterfalls, and lucky for me Iceland is covered in them!

Skogafaoss, Iceland

This past weekend the Viking and I visited four waterfalls.

Four waterfalls that were equally gorgeous, yet unique in their own way.

And, all of these waterfalls, they are less than a two hour drive from my house!

Life in Iceland, it is pretty great.

Waterfalls South of Iceland

H and I have made it our mission to make the most of the beautiful winter weather we have been having lately and re-visit some of our favorite spots to capture them in their winter coat. You never know when this winter weather will turn on us and we will be stuck inside for months like last winter so no sunny day goes to waste.

With sunshine on the forecast (thank you Iceland weather gods for all the sunshine lately!) the Viking and I woke up early Saturday morning, packed up the car with snacks and camera gear, and headed off to visit the waterfalls of the south of Iceland.

We took this sunrise as a sign that we were about to have a beautiful day exploring.

Winter Sunrise in Iceland

Bonus, these amazing sunrises are happening before 10am, summer is in the air:)

After falling all over again for a snow covered Bruarfoss I knew that we had to return to my favorite waterfalls in the south of Iceland, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.

Waterfalls in South Iceland

Just another thing to love about life in Iceland, how close I live to such beautiful places!

The fact that I can go from sitting in my pjs watching tv to taking in this view in just an hour, it makes me fall in love with Iceland all over again!

And other awesome thing about Iceland, the fact that with each season the places in Iceland change, meaning I could revisit the same waterfalls at different times of the year and would find some new factor to swoon over!

Waterfalls in South Iceland

After a quick stop at Seljalandsfoss (and the hidden waterfall!) we made our way over to Skogafoss. During this short drive I swear the temperature dropped a degree with every mile we went. By the time we were at Skogafoss I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t reading the temperature wrong, it was -12°C!

Now I know I have been going on and on about how I am adjusting to the Icelandic winter and enjoying the cold and snow, but -12°C, I draw the line there.

While I was more than content sending my Viking off to get some pictures while I kept the car warm he did not agree that this was a fair trade. So I layered up, and thought warm sunny thoughts.

And as soon as I stepped out of the car I forgot all those warm fuzz feelings I have been having about Iceland lately. I think my face says it all.

Waterfalls South of Iceland

Clearly I just love when the freezing Icelandic wind whips around, especially when it brings a face full of snow with it.

My sourpuss mood went away quickly, thanks to the sun that came out from behind the clouds, and of course Skogafoss. How can I be grumpy when taking in such a beautiful sight?!

Waterfalls South of Iceland

While Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are beautiful they weren’t the reason for our south coast adventure. The Viking and I were on a mission to discover a new to us waterfall, one that I had stumbled upon during some online research. H and I weren’t really too sure where to find this waterfall, all we knew was that it was near Skogafoss, and we had a not so detailed description of how to find it.

Challenge find new waterfall accepted!

To be safe though we asked a local, especially since there was a lot of the snow in the area we didn’t want to get stuck somewhere. With improved information from our new local friend we headed off in search of the waterfall.

Waterfalls in South Iceland

Our new friend may of been a bit off when he told us there wasn’t that much snow on the pathway. The things I do for waterfalls.

The Viking and I continued on our waterfall search though, making sure to be extra careful in the deep snow, it was an adventure we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. There will be a full post about this waterfall later on, but for now here is a sneak peak.

Kvernufoss, Iceland

Waterfall challenge completed!

Waterfalls in South Iceland

Standing behind this beautiful waterfall, it was totally worthy the snowy hike!

And after this past weekends adventure I am even more in love with waterfalls. Since this is the month of love and all I am trying to convince my Viking we have to visit a new waterfall every weekend, we will see how this plan works.

Other hidden gems I discovered this weekend…

You never know what you will find when exploring Iceland 👙

A photo posted by Kaelene (@unlockingkiki) on

Just a fence line of bras, no big deal.

Like I said, this weekends adventure is one that the Viking and I won’t be forgetting anytime soon :)

Question of the Day?
What is your favorite kind of winter adventure? What are you loving lately?

I am super excited to be joining some lovely ladies for this months travel link up, all about love! Share what you love with us and link up below!

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Iceland Myth Busters

Iceland Mythbusters

These past few weeks the internet has been blowing up with lists sharing Top Travel Destinations for 2016. And do you know what place is on almost all of these list, besides Cuba???

My beloved Iceland!

Now in my opinion Iceland totally deserves to be on all of these lists, I mean this country is gorgeous! And apparently many of you agree from all of the messages I have been receiving lately with people planning a trip to Iceland this year!

With Iceland’s increasing popularity among travelers (and my family and friends back home!) I am constantly getting questions about things people have heard about this unique country. Some of the things people ask me about, well they are a bit out there and most definitely false. But other things people ask me about Iceland, well they are a bit out there too, but they are true.

So to get the facts straight about this place I call home here is my Iceland version of myth busters!


Iceland is green and Greenland is covered in ice

Iceland, Unlocking Kiki

True!

This is the most common question I get about Iceland, and really all I knew about Iceland as well before I met my Viking. While you will still find ice covering parts of Iceland (like one of the largest glaciers in Europe!) the country for the most part is covered in gorgeous green landscape that makes for fairy-tale road trips. Well, in the summer time it is green, winter is a different story.


We live in igloos
Winter in Reykjavik

Myth

Sorry to squash your idea that Iceland is the land of Eskimos and igloos but you won’t find anyone inside an ice house here. I may love my Viking but not enough to live in an igloo so I am more than happy that there are no igloos in sight. Instead the houses you will find are charming colorful ones in a range of colors, even neon green and purple.


The winter is completely dark
Winter in Iceland

The winter sunrises, they are worth waiting until 10am for! #unlockingiceland

A photo posted by Kaelene (@unlockingkiki) on

Myth

My first winter in Iceland everyone kept warning me about the long dark days ahead. In my mind this meant that I wouldn’t see the sun for weeks and the days would be like one long never ending night. Thankfully I was totally wrong about this, and while the nights are certainly much longer we are still treated to at least 4 hours of daylight on the shortest days.

4 hours, okay that does sound really short, but the winter sunsets that we get to see at 3pm and the Northern Lights that light up the sky at night, they are gorgeous!


You have to get naked and shower before entering any of the popular swimming pools
Reykjadalur

True

You won’t find any nude beaches here in Iceland but you will find everyone stripping down before getting into the popular swimming pools and hot springs. In fact, it is required that everyone takes a shower before putting on their bathing suit and entering the pools, even at the famous Blue Lagoon. Many first time visitors find this uncomfortable and people often ask me if they really have to strip and shower. My answer, yes, if you don’t Icelanders will find it gross and disrespectful, I mean who wants to swim in dirty water right? But don’t worry, everyone is doing it, so strip down, rinse off, and then head out to enjoy a relaxing swim in the hot pools.


There are polar bears roaming around Iceland
Icelandic Horses

Myth

I assume people think that there must be polar bears in Iceland since Iceland is an island in the Arctic, but don’t plan on seeing any on your trip here. But there are ridiculously cute Icelandic horses roaming about everywhere! And I think the Icelandic horses are a bit friendlier than if you ran into a polar bear.


All Icelanders believe in elves and trolls
Dimmuborgir, Iceland

True

Or a myth, depending on who you ask.

It is often said that more than half of Icelanders believe in elves. It is up for debate as to how many Icelanders actually believe in elves, but you often hear stories of roads not being built somewhere because it would disrupt the elves, so maybe they believe more than they think. I have yet to decide which side of the debate I am on, but after visiting the elf church (pictured above) hidden in the lava fields I may be turning into a believer.


There is an tunnel from Iceland to Greenland
Unlocking Kiki, Iceland

Myth

Okay, not going to lie, when I first heard this I at first thought, “wow that is awesome”! I have a good reason for at first believing this. There is an underwater tunnel that goes from Reykjavik to a city across the peninsula, so you know anything is possible right. But sadly no, there is not a tunnel to Greenland, if that was true I would be visiting Greenland all the time! Instead you will have to save up and purchase the very expensive plane ticket over to Greenland from Iceland, I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day I get to make the trip over there.


Family names are not common in Iceland
Háifoss, Iceland

True

While some people do have family names, for the majority of Iceland’s there is no family name. That Viking of mine, he has no family last name that I would take if we were to get married. Instead the Icelandic last names are their fathers first name, plus either son or dottir at the end depending on if your male or female. For example, if my dad’s name is Jón (a popular Icelandic male name) than my last name would be Jónsdóttir. Interesting right!

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And now you can go impress your friends with all your Icelandic knowledge!

Want to learn more about this unique country I call home? Check out my Iceland page , it won’t take long before you will be dreaming up your own Icelandic adventure! Interested in what it is like to be a foreigner living in Iceland? Well if your me it tends to be full of embarrassing moments, but always an adventure.

Question of the Day?
Have you heard any myths about Iceland? What about your own country?

*A version of this post was originally shared over at the lovely Helene’s site

Meet Isabel The SloMexican Ambassador!!

I have some exciting news, the Viking and I, we just booked our first trip of 2016!!! New travel plans always get me all kinds of excited, it is seriously a must to have something to look forward to during the long Icelandic winters!

So where will we be traveling to??

This Easter holiday H and I will be spending a week in Slovenia! I will be traveling to Slovenia for work for a few days and then the Viking will be joining me for some Slovenian adventures, we can not wait!

One thing I am very excited to do while in Slovenia, meet the lovely Isabel from The Sunny Side of This! I have Isabel to thank for moving Slovenia up to the top of my travel list, I honestly don’t think this trip would be happening now if it weren’t for her blog and gorgeous pictures of her travels around Slovenia!

If you haven’t already met her Isabel is one pretty lady from Mexico living in the beautiful Slovenia with her husband and I am about to stalk her blog for all her Slovenia posts! Today I have her over on the blog answering my questions about life in Slovenia, her romantic international love story, and her must dos in Slovenia.

Welcome Isabel!

Isabel, The Sunny Side of This

Welcome! Lets get started with an introduction. Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Isabel, born and raised in the Sonora-Arizona Desert (so the extreme opposite of Slovenia), and a person who has had many hats before becoming an expat: English teacher, Marketing manager, Rotaract volunteer, President of my College Student Council, and the girl you could count on saying YES! to any kind of trip, adventure or fun experience. I was also a dancer for 12 years of my life (jazz, tap, hiphop, salsa, samba), and have been a bookworm and word lover for as long as I can remember. I speak English, Spanish, French, and currently trying to finally conquer the Slovenian language.

I am a sucker for a good international love story and you sure have a good one! How did you decide which country to live in, Mexico or Slovenia?

Aww thank you! Likewise, dear! Well, at the beginning of our relationship I was still studying my BA in Marketing and Mr. M was the one looking for opportunities in my city but that plan fell through. I also applied to another semester abroad in the University of Ljubljana and got accepted but that would mean that I would finish my bachelors for another 2 years (and let’s face it, I was probably never going to go back to Mexico to finish if that had happened). So then we looked into living abroad together on our own to an English speaking country but then I found this master program in Slovenia that was quite affordable for the academic curriculum it provided, and since I have always wanted to study a masters in Europe since my studying abroad experience in France, I decided to pursue that dream instead. So once we had that plan on lock, Mr. M proposed (first via Google Hangouts, geeky and romantic just like us!) and then he formalized it on Christmas Day of 2013!! (PS, you can read more about it here)

Thanks to you I have been dreaming of a trip to Slovenia for months now. What is your favorite thing about life in the sunny side of the alps?

The nature and weather. I love the fact that I have a “city hill” (as Slovenians call it) 20 minutes walking from my apartment and that all the hills and mountains around Slovenia have built-in paths that make exploring relatively easier. The hiking culture here is so important and respected, even kids learn the basic survival and technical hiking skills at school. I find it so impressive! Every Sunday you will see every single Slovenian on any hill or path you go to, exploring and enjoying the nature. Something that we, for obvious reasons, can’t do as much in the Desert. We do have a lot of mountains, but also extreme high temperatures and poisonous animals! You either need to become an expert or go with one for any expedition.

Golica

Any culture shocks you have experienced since moving to Slovenia?

Pleeeeeenty. But I guess the biggest for me, because of my personality I guess, is the fact that the culture here is more community oriented and therefore are more homogeneous in their behaviors (like fashion sense, creative outlets, etc). Like in everything in life, it has its ups and downsides. It has been changing over the years though, specially after the economic crisis and with the newer generations traveling more, a lot of opportunities are opening up. On the bright side, in rural areas in Slovenia, people will help building your new house. Like literally building the whole thing with their hands over the weekends. And once it is done, you make a barbecue party for them to thank them, which I find is really neat. In Mexico, we are much more diverse. For starters, we are Latin Americans and we are just so passionate and lively about EVERYTHING! Plus I come from a place too close to the USA border where a lot of people from all over the world emigrated to, so our culture is a mix of everything (Americans, Mexicans, Italians, French,Japanese, Chinese). So for good or bad, you really need to stand out and be really creative. In Mexico you literally can’t have a hobby without people giving you a thousand ways on how you could monetize it later on.

Since I am coming to Slovenia this spring I have to ask, what are the must see places you would recommend?

Lake Bled, hands down one of my favorite places on Earth. It is so beautiful and mystical. The Gorenska region in Slovenia is in general really beautiful. There are lots of lakes, rivers, mountains, you name it. So it is the perfect scene to get outdoorsy and enjoy some time with nature. You can have a look at my suggestions for the 7 must things to do in Bled!

Lake Bled

Have you always been a big traveler? Where was your first international trip to?

Yes! Well, my family and I went almost every 6 months to vacation to Arizona since I was very little. But the first “real” one was to Kalamazoo, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois for an exchange experience when I was 12 years old with my school. That was the first time where realize I could now think in English! It was also in the midst of 9/11, but this experience taught from a very young age that the world is not a scary place and there are far more good people than evil ones in this world.

What is your favorite and least favorite place you have visited?

Favorite has to be the time I went to New York City, I was going through a particularly rough time in my life but I had just started studying my BA in Marketing and I was mesmerize by all the grandeur of the city. It made me realize that life was going to happen under my own terms and I was capable to turn things around. Least favorite one has to be the time we traveled with my University by bus to Belarus and Poland. Don’t get me wrong, those countries were beautiful but I am just too old to travel 12 hours by bus every 2 days.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is in an international relationship?

Enter with an open mind and a full heart. So don’t take anything personal, especially issues regarding cultural differences or shocks (either with your partner, his family or friends). Because life will reward you for breaking your old paradigms of how things are suppose to be. And as a general rule of thumb, don’t take advice from people that are not living their life to the fullest, a lot of people will approach with advice (maybe with good intentions) that is based on fear. Take the leap, everything will be okay as long as you have each other.

Wedding Pic

Any big travel plans for 2016?

Yes!! We are going to go see Adele sing live in Lisbon, Portugal in May. I have been a fan of her since 2008, so this will be one more item off the bucket list! Plus, I have never been to Portugal, so I am ecstatic!!

Before you go what are three of your favorite posts that you think everyone needs to read!

If you want to know a little bit more of where I came from: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sonora
A round up of great things to do for your next visit to Ljubljana, Slovenia
And the Top 5 Must Visit Slovenian Destinations:

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Isn’t Isabel one awesome gal! Make sure to check out her blog, it will have you dreaming of a trip to Slovenia guranteed!

Question of the Day?
Have you been to Slovenia before? Any tips on what to do!?