If you’ve been following our company for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about our International Travel Incentive by now. It’s one of the absolute coolest perks that I’ve ever seen any company offer, and many of our employees have already taken advantage since the program was implemented a few years back. Basically, the company gives one lucky employee each year a stipend and a week of PTO to travel anywhere in the world outside of the U.S. Leon Ngo recently went to France, our COO Jennifer took a trip to London, and others have gone to exotic locales such as Thailand, China, Bali and Peru.
A Week in the Weird
Iceland has been on my bucket list since my best friend Teylor and I were 13 years old, watching Björk music videos and wondering what planet she was on. From the second we stepped off of the plane from our surprisingly short, 8-hour flight into Reykjavík (the plane jumps north through central Canada when you fly out of LA), it all started to click. Iceland really is like another planet, with unique customs and attractions that you won’t see anywhere else.
You’ve most likely seen pictures of Iceland’s insanely-gorgeous, wallpaper-worthy, distinctive landscape on the internet. It’s an unbelievably green country, but since it is so isolated, there is a noticeable lack of large trees and wildlife. Other than the countless farms in the countryside with adorable Icelandic sheep and horses, we were surprised to see a bird or anything more than a patch of small trees. Just outside of Reykjavik, there is moss-covered plains that go on as far as you can see, and dramatic rock ridges that pop-up out of nowhere. Travel any further and be prepared to see a magical world you never knew existed! Geysers and steam bursting from the earth, majestic waterfalls at every turn, and the strongest wind I have ever felt! Iceland’s nature remains mostly unspoiled as the island is scarcely populated, only 330,000 people total!
As soon as we stepped off the plane, we hopped on a 20-minute shuttle to Blue Lagoon—a gorgeous geothermal spa with milky white pools, a swim-up bar, and beautifying silica masks for your face. It’s like being in a huge Jacuzzi with strangers from around the world…if you’re into that sort of thing…which apparently I totally am! It is a must for anyone going to Iceland. We loved it so much we hit it again on our way back to the airport.
Another must-see is the Langjökull glacier. Talk about being on another planet! This place wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced. All you see is the white of the glacier and the black of the volcanic mountains. We went on a snowmobiling tour and Teylor and I were the first tourists to flip over our snowmobile—but we weren’t the last! Luckily no one was hurt, and we walked away with just a crazy story.
Another amazing place is the Black Beaches at Reynisfara. It was super eerie and out of this world. On one side, it’s a gorgeous mossy green cliff, and as you walk around the edge of the beach, the cliff opens up with basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, called Gardar. And the sand isn’t really sand. it’s countless smooth black skipping rocks. Out in the sea are the spectacularly shaped basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar and the waves from the Antarctic are huge and crash down in all white foam. Just incredible.
Lagoons & Glaciers
Getting around Iceland was relatively easy, they drive on the same side of the road. Despite the fact that they have their own, mindbogglingly complex language, everyone speaks English perfectly, so asking for directions was easy. However, beware of using a GPS! We got totally lost when Hertz typed in the wrong destination for us. After driving two and half hours in one direction we realized we were nowhere near the glacier we needed to be for our ice cave tour. Icelanders are incredibly nice and friendly and didn’t mind answering all of our stupid questions and were pretty nice when we showed back up to Hertz after 5 hours of driving to nowhere and were two not so happy Americans.