A Nordic Adventure

3 things I learned living in a camper van in Iceland

By Dr. Elke

 Water Fall | Photo by Dr. Elke

Water Fall | Photo by Dr. Elke

When I was fresh out of university I had the awesome opportunity to camper van around Australia and New Zealand. I found the van life to be equal parts fantastic and exciting and so when we decided to hit up Iceland for our two-year anniversary, it was a no-brainer that my husband and I would camper van it. I, by no means, have lived the van life for an exorbitant amount of time but with the time that I have, there are a few things I’ve learned, here are a few things I’ve learned living in a camper van in Iceland. 

1. Living in a camper van is one of the best ways to explore

  Grand Iceland  | Photo by Dr. Elke

Grand Iceland | Photo by Dr. Elke

The best, and maybe most obvious reason to van around is that you are driving in your accommodation. This means, no pre-booking of hotels or hostels, you can stay in a town or city you find particularly awesome for as long as you want and leave whenever you want. You can also make your own food in the camper, saving even MORE money! (Definitely, key when in a country where a burger can cost you almost $20 CAD). And napping. Napping whenever you want is a bonus. 

There are many camper van companies to choose from in Iceland. You can connect with each one to see what makes the most sense for you and your travel plans and travel party. We connected with Grand Iceland – our first encounter with them via email was warm, SUPER informative and at the time seemed randomly caring about making sure our trip would be as awesome as it could be. Less random, when we found it was family run by true Icelandic people who really did want to share Iceland’s grandness. And boy is it grand. 

 Journey is the destination | Photo by Dr. Elke

Journey is the destination | Photo by Dr. Elke

After spending our first morning in Reykjavik, we began our journey in a clockwise direction around the country along the Ring Road. We climbed up to the highest waterfall in Iceland, saw the Northern lights that night on the Sneafellsnes Peninsula, and woke up to a bunch of tourists surrounding our van taking photos of a morning rainbow. Turns out we had parked at a gorgeous lookout. Another awesome thing that living in the camper allowed for was the unexpected beauty. This beauty was around every turn with constantly changing landscapes and weather, and we could stop wherever we wanted to (safely) to take photos of it all. We headed north to Hofsos and up around to Husavik for Whale Watching, down toward Lake Myvatn and the Mars-like terrain of Krafla.

 Visual Art | Photo by Dr. Elke

Visual Art | Photo by Dr. Elke

From Mars to Blizzard at the Dettifoss waterfall, we slipped and slid our way toward the East Fjords for even more stunning views. At one point we got stuck on some morning ice on our way up the mountain to check out a music sculpture. The owner of Grand Iceland just happens to live in east Iceland and was at home and able to come save us from slipping off the edge! BONUS points. The sheep and Icelandic horses continued to be the only constant in our journey as everything else around us changed as we made our way to the South, catching glimpses of icebergs off of Vatnajokull - the largest glacier in Europe, black sand beaches, Geysers, and more waterfalls than you can imagine. Everything from the beauty of the landscapes to the inviting humans who live in Iceland, our camper van allowed us to explore at our own pace, laughing and listening to music as well as the sweet sound of fresh Iceland. It truly allowed us to enjoy the journey, as there really was no real destination. 

2. You don’t have to go anywhere to dive deeper into the relationships you have already

 Mike and Elke | Photo by Dr. Elke

Mike and Elke | Photo by Dr. Elke

We really didn’t need to get away for our anniversary. It’s fun to be in and explore another country but if we didn’t have the time to get away, we could have stayed at home and focused on and spent time with each other. I know it’s cheesy, but I really do think that this is the shit that matters – spending time with people you want to spend time with, learning with and from them, being challenged by them, growing as a result of sharing connections. This isn’t just for husbands and wives, I mean making time for your grandparents, they have so many stories to tell, your parents, your close friends, mentors and even yourself. If you’re like me, you’re usually onto the next thing and your default isn’t always to call someone up and ask how they are or connect. Or connect with yourself. But these relationships are the things that help us to grow and support us when we’re going through the seasons of our lives. You don’t have to be stuck in a camper van to remind yourself of how significant people are in your life. 

Maybe this provides a little spark in your heart to connect with someone today. Yeah cool, we went on a trip, but most of all I came back with a greater respect and love for my husband. I could’ve done that from home too! 

3. When you know that one part of your journey is over, let it go and move onto the next part

 Ready to return | Photo by Dr. Elke

Ready to return | Photo by Dr. Elke

Oh man, when I was traveling in New Zealand and Australia, I never once wanted to leave the van life. Was I younger maybe? But this time, let me tell you, when our time was up, I was totally fine with getting out of the van and back into a real house. You can only put your pants on laying down, duck to avoid hitting your head, and putting your jacket and boots on in the middle of the night to pee for so long. I was ready. 

This goes for so many other things in our lives. When we are done with one thing, there is something else waiting for us, no need to hold on. Even if it’s sometimes scary to let go of what has become comfortable, we know in our gut when it is time. Listening to our gut is the wisest thing that we can do. Almost like when people told us it wasn’t clear enough to see the Northern Lights but we followed our gut and the stars, knowing we would see them. We did. And when you decide to follow some river rocks at the opening of a cave only to find yourself at the bottom of one of the most epic waterfalls you’ve ever seen. And how we were told we might not be able to make it all around the ring road as there was a bridge that got washed out by the rain. It re-opened the day before we got to that point in our journey. We followed our gut, knowing we would make it all the way around. 

 Feet on the ground, head in the clouds | Photo provided by Dr. Elke

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds | Photo provided by Dr. Elke

But maybe it’s a change in career, a change in a relationship, change in a path at school, change in food choices, or a change in how you’re living – when you know, you know, trust yourself to move forward, knowing that you are where you are supposed to be, you’re better than you think you are and you’re not fooling anyone – you are awesome you and we have nothing to gain from life but being true to who we are, otherwise there’s just a bunch of unhappy people around. Trust yourself. 

Everyone has such a special journey and gets to acquire knowledge and insight in their own way. Whether you’re exploring something 10,000km away from home or somewhere you’ve never been to in your local town or city, you discover another piece of your story, a greater appreciation for life and maybe even a deeper understanding of yourself. There is such awesomeness in the unknown. Go explore. 

 Go Explore | Photo by Dr. Elke

Go Explore | Photo by Dr. Elke