Rikka is a trained social psychology researcher turned full-time traveler. She first “deviated the norm” from a typical academic career path when she received her PhD and decided to travel long-term on her own. Since she was previously on a meagre graduate student income, she travel hacked her way to near-free airfare around the world and shares how others can do the same on her blog. Everywhere she goes, she focuses on understanding other cultures through the local people, their foods, and their social issues. She stays open to alternative perspectives and shares what she learns with her readers. Rikka aims to influence others to break out of their own routines and open up to new ways of thinking, even if it’s not normative to do so. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Rikka on the Ring Road in Iceland!
Day 1 – Thursday
9:00 AM – We’re riding along the Golden Circle in Iceland. In the driver’s seat is Fabrice, a French Canadian I met at a couchsurf meet-up in Reykjavik the night before. Sitting in the back is Carolina, another couchsurfer who is from Northern Sweden. We all decided to road trip the Ring Road (the circumference of Iceland) together. Currently, we’re entering Þingvellir National Park. Ahead of us is Lake Þingvallavatn with hundreds of cairns stretching across the area. We stop to run and play in between them.
3:00 PM –Walking up to Geysir, Icelandic for “gusher,” a roaring explosion of water shoots into the air and falls back to the ground. We stay here for a while watching it explode and cheering every time.
7:00 PM – We arrive at the map marker for our hostel east of Hvolsvöllur, but it’s the wrong address. The woman at the hostel tells me over the phone to “keep going down the side road until it ends.” As we continue, the road turns to gravel, farmland stretches out from the car on both sides. Glaciers are in the distance and in the foreground are cliffs dotted with waterfall after waterfall.
8:00 PM – After a bumpy, dusty ride, we arrive as the sun is setting. An elderly woman directs us up the hill to a rustic house with a traditional turf roof. We have the entire hostel to ourselves. This place is just too far off the beaten path for most people.
9:00 PM – We eat what’s left of our snacks for dinner (there are no stores or restaurants around!) and settle into our bunk beds for the night.
Day 2 – Friday
7:00 AM –The hostel has an outdoor shower with a bucket on top you must fill with water brought from inside the house. The hot water from the sink inside rains down like a waterfall on my head. This is the first of many waterfalls on the schedule for the day.
8:00 AM – I turn off the road to check out Gloggafoss, a waterfall near a sheep farm just 200m from the hostel. Carolina decides to bathe in another waterfall that’s just 50m away, Fabrice wanders up a path next to Gloggafoss, and I “Baaaahh!!!” at some of the sheep up on the hill. They graze and take draughts from the falls, humoring me with a few “Baaaah’s” back.
9:00 AM – Following the Ring Road, we make it to Seljalandsfoss—a waterfall you can walk 360 degrees around. We get sprayed from the wind as we walk behind it.
10:00 AM – We arrive at the perfect time of day to see not one but two rainbows at Skógafoss. Double rainbow—whoa!
12:00 PM – We get lunch in a town called Vik and visit the black sand beach. Awesome rock formations protrude out of the ocean in the distance. We want to stay, but the locals tell us there are no hostels in town with availability.
5:00 PM – In the next town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur (we don’t bother trying to pronounce its name), we check into the hostel. Grabbing a few Viking beers, we head up a trail to the cliffs where we stay until sunset.
Day 3 – Saturday
8:00 AM – Om nom nom! I’m eating some Skyr for breakfast, an extra creamy, non-fat Scandinavian yogurt. After we finish eating, we pack the car again and hit the road.
11:00 AM – We left the car parked just down the hill and are gazing at a huge lake with ice formations spread across it. This is Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon with natural ice monuments leftover from the receding Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. I decide to jog along the shoreline to get a better look.
12:00 PM – After taking in the scenery, I jog back to Fabrice and Carolina. On the way, I fall on the rocks and bang up my leg pretty bad. It’s bleeding as I limp back to them, but I don’t even care. With scenery like this, nothing can get me down.
1:00 PM – Carolina helps clean up my leg and we hit the road again. We’re on our way to Iceland’s farthest eastern town: Höfn.
6:00 PM – The three of us ascend the hill next to the Höfn hostel to drink the rest of our case of Viking beers and take in the amazing Eastern fjords and mountains.
8:00 PM – Fabrice and I cook a huge dinner of vegetables, couscous, and fish cakes. We all go to bed full and happy.
Day 4 – Sunday
7:00 AM – I watch as Carolina boards the bus in Höfn. Her flight out of Reykavik is scheduled to leave tomorrow so her journey with us is cut short. But we will meet again when we’re both in New Zealand in several months.
8:00 AM – Fabrice and I head North on the Ring Road. We want to get to Mývatn before dark to experience the natural hot springs there. The scenery along the Eastern coast is breathtaking in these early morning hours.
2:00 PM – The road soon turns from beautiful fjordlands to a much darker, volcanic wasteland. Soon there’s the distinct rotten egg smell of sulfur pouring through the car vents. We must be getting close to Mývatn.
3:00 PM – We stop at the sulfur springs of Námafjall hverir. The ground here is either cracked and dry or hot and bubbling. Thermals are loudly pumping and fizzling steam out of the ground. We feel like we’re on another planet. The sulfur smell is intense and there are flies buzzing around everywhere.
4:00 PM – We arrive at our hostel in Mývatn. The weather is rainy and the town seems deserted. We check out the hostel and are unimpressed. Emerging from the hostel building, we are attacked with hundreds of flies! They swarm around our faces, going in our eyes, buzzing around our ears, and flying into our mouths as we gasp in disgust. We run back to the car and slam the doors shut. “Let’s get out of here!” we say in unison. Later, we learned “Mý” in “Mývatn” is Icelandic for flies.
5:00 PM – It only takes us an hour to make our way to Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri. We check into the backpacker hostel, have a bite to eat, and I take a nap.
7:00 PM – I wake up to the sounds of guitars and people singing. I head downstairs and find Fabrice sitting with a huge group of backpackers, a few of whom we had met at the couchsurf meet-up in Reykavik several nights earlier! France, Canada, Germany, Wales, and England are all represented at the table. We spend the rest of the evening singing songs and drinking merrily.
11:00 PM – Fabrice goes upstairs to bed, but I walk with the group up a hillside overlooking the city. In the rain, they set up a campsite there and we continue to party until the wee hours.
Day 5 – Monday
10:00 AM – The backpackers from the night before all leave to go on their own adventures while Fabrice and I decide to spend another day in Akureyri. I write all afternoon while Fabrice skateboards around town.
3:00 PM – We check out the Akureyri public pool together. There we meet another French Canadian, Pascal, who is staying at the same hostel. We all decide to cook together that night.
5:00 PM – Fabrice suggests we buy minke whale meat at the supermarket since it’s something you can rarely get in other countries. I’m very hesitant, but decide it’s a part of the cultural experience being in Iceland. It tastes like a mix between beef and tuna. I feel awful eating whale and didn’t love the taste, but I’m glad I kept an open mind and tried it anyway.
7:00 PM – Pascal, Fabrice, and I meet Hreiðar, an Icelandic native who was sitting in the backpackers bar.
9:00 PM – Hreiðar takes us down the street to a late night happy hour down the street. I learn part of Hreiðar’s job is to take care of the forest nursery. There are very few trees around Iceland, but once the baby trees are grown up in the greenhouses they will be planted around the country and Iceland will be full of trees again!
Day 6 – Tuesday
9:00 AM – Fabrice and I pick up a hitch hiker before leaving Akureyri. Valentina is a young woman from Italy working in Iceland for several months. We spend the ride sharing ideas about how we’d like to make the world a better place in which to live.
10:00 AM – We meet some farmers herding sheep on the side of the road. We’re awe-struck by the insanely beautiful scenery surrounding them as they go about their daily work.
12:00 PM – We drop Valentina off and continue to Borgarnes, a quaint town on a peninsula near the northwest fjords. We stop at Café Kyrrð in town for lunch.
5:00 PM – Fabrice and I make friends with a German couple in the kitchen at the hostel and then make plans to meet them later.
7:00 PM – Entering the Borgarnes public pool area, we spot the German couple and join them. We all end up giggling like school children as we slide down the water slides together.
8:00 PM – I swim in the main pool until sunset, reflecting on how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful place, meeting such wonderful new people.
Day 7 – Wednesday
11:00 AM – We drop off the car rental in Reykjavik and then walk to the backpacker hostel in the city center.
2:00 PM – I spend some time by myself exploring the city and shopping for my German relatives who I will be meeting in the coming weeks.
4:00 PM – Our friends from the Akureyri backpackers hostel are back from their adventures! We meet and spend the rest of the day at the hostel making music and partying together.
8:00 PM – We all go to a bar down the street. Many of us are leaving the country in the coming days, so this is a farewell outing.
11:30 PM – I help the backpackers set up camp right in the center of town! We all hug each other goodbye. It’s time for me to go back to the hostel. My plane will depart for Frankfurt, Germany early the next morning.
Rikka has been taking more road trips and camping all over New Zealand with other travelers for the last four months. She is currently living and working in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand living with a local and volunteering with a community center that helps citizens and immigrants with various social justice issues. Rikka is looking forward to more adventures this year including diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, crewing a ship around the South Pacific, and maybe even making her way back to Southeast Asia.
The best part about deviating the norm is Rikka never knows where she might end up next, who she might meet, or what opportunities may come her way! Find out where she’s been and where she goes next at deviatingthenorm.com, or by following her Instagram, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.