Tips & Tricks for Traveling in Iceland

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Since we’ve returned from Iceland a lot of people have asked us a variety of questions about our trip, the country, logistics, etc., so I thought I would capture my thoughts in one place.

This island country is so unique and there are definitely some unexpected things that you come across that I think are good to know about before you go.

Take the time, stay longer, and drive around the whole island. It’s so worth it to get out of the main city of Reykjavik and experience the more remote areas and the small towns. Plus, you see such a variety of scenery by driving around the country. We had two weeks to explore and that was just right.

Driving in Iceland is a different experience. The main Route 1 (Ring Road) around the country is only one lane each direction, narrow, and there’s not much shoulder and not many places to pull off the road. And, there are something like 130 single lane bridges on the Ring Road. And, sometimes the asphalt turns to gravel suddenly. So you need to be comfortable driving in these conditions and really focusing as you do so. When coming to a single lane bridge, the only rule is: whomever gets there first gets to go on the bridge! Some of them are really long too, so it’s tough to see if a car has already entered the bridge. Also, they have many speed trap cameras along the way! Purchasing gas cards at the beginning of the trip made for quick and easy transactions at the pumps. Oh – and get the GPS option on your rental car. It seems like a no-brainer, but we were flagged down by tourists who were going by a paper map and were completely lost. We lived by the GPS, especially since using our phones would have eaten up too much data.

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Get the gravel insurance on your rental car! There were so many times that we were on gravel roads and pieces were kicking up that we were thankful we got the extra insurance for that. They also offered ash insurance, but we figured that if we are in a situation where ash is a concern, we have bigger problems than our car insurance 😉

Invest in a quality coat, and waterproof outer layers. My Eddie Bauer down coat became my best friend. I have seriously never worn a furred hood for so much consecutive time in my entire life – and purely for function, not fashion! You need a coat that will cut the wind and keep you warm – the wind is bone chilling and frequent. And we had waterproof pants (love the Kuhl brand) and also several different weights of base layers, and waterproof hiking shoes. All of this made for hiking and sight seeing in warm and dry comfort.

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Yes, the Blue Lagoon is worth it. Touristy? Yes. Incredibly unique and lovely experience? Absolutely. A visit to Iceland really should include the Blue Lagoon, and it’s very easy to get to because it’s close to the airport, and only 40min. from Reykjavik. It’s just other-worldly to be in the milky blue hot water, surrounded by black lava stone, with white silica mud squishing between your toes. And the place is HUGE. Plenty of room to spread out and get away from the crowds. Plus – silica mud masks and swim up bar. Enough said. (note: the cranes in the background in photo below are from the construction of their new hotel)

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Holy crap, EVERYTHING is expensive. I guess because they are a remote island nation, importing most goods is very pricey. Well, you feel that with everything you purchase. For example: a paperback Harry Potter book in a normal bookstore in a small town: $35. A 750ml of Absolut Vodka: $55. Typical lunch entrée: $20-25. You definitely want to take advantage of the sales tax refund you can get at the airport at the end of your trip. We were advised to buy any hard liquor at the duty free shop at the airport when we arrived. SO glad we did. Note: their currency is the Icelandic Krona.

Take advantage of geothermal hot springs every chance you get. The Icelandic people know how to keep their spirits up during those long, cold months. And I’m not referring to liquor (too expensive to buy much!). They are really adept at harnessing Mother Nature’s power and relaxing in geothermally heated water. If you can stay at rental houses with geothermal ‘hot pots’, or visit local pools – do it. Nothing eases the cold you felt all day while out and about like a good hot soak.

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Plastic is King. It’s credit cards all the way for transactions. It seems cash is rarely used. Cards are just expected.

Eat a hot dog! Try the local beer! Their hot dogs are famous – I guess because they are one of the only cheap food items you can find and well, they ARE good! They are a mix of lamb, pork and beef and are not junked up with unnatural ingredients. And the local beers are good; Todd embraced several breweries including Viking, Einstok and Gull.

The West Fjords and the Highlands (island interior) are not accessible until the summer. We thought we might be able to drive through the West Fjords in April, but no dice, it was still snowed in and too dangerous. The West Fjords are known for their stunning cliff-to-sea fjords, abundant bird life and uninhabited areas. During the summer, you can drive further inland to the Highlands and do glacier tours and ice cave tours.

The locals DO NOT eat Puffin or Whale and neither should you. Bad form. Insensitive. Oblivious. Environmentally irresponsible. Just, don’t.

Inhale that pure air and drink that pristine tap water every chance you get!

Thanks for reading! Happy travels.

 

 

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An Actual Store is Carrying My Book

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Ohhhhh yeeea, an actual store is carrying my book! Dream come true! The BookBar of Denver accepted my book into their local author program and I could not be more grateful. So of course I had to get a picture of me grinning stupidly next to my book on the shelf.

Book at BookBar

So cheers to the self-published authors and the independent bookstores who support them!

How Do YOU Dream?

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dreams

I’m doing some research for my next book and would like to know the following from you, dear reader:

How many days a week would you say you remember what you dreamed about?

Are your dreams detailed, or vague?

Do you have recurring dreams?

Do you have night terrors? (Different than nightmares. With night terrors you awake petrified, but do not remember what you were dreaming about and often see dark shapes in the room that you are scared of)

Do you sleepwalk?

Thank you for your responses!

 

The Smoking Cowboy

I am fortunate to have several different routes I can take to work in the morning. I make the decision based on traffic, weather, stops I might need to make on the way, and lately – just to see if I glimpse a particular person.

I started noticing that the same man would be walking along the road at roughly the same time every morning. He’s a cowboy. He’s tall and wears a black cowboy hat. In the winter he wears a black duster. On warmer days he wears a black Colorado Rockies jacket. He’s always smoking a cigarette.

I guess what has caught my eye about him is his complete lack of urgency or hurry about his walk. Every time I see him, he’s walking slowly, taking his time. But not in the way one walks when they are old or injured. It’s an easy-going walk; like he has all the time in the world. He doesn’t look old enough to be retired. It’s 7:45am on a Wednesday and he is strolling alongside a rush hour route without a care in the world. He seems absorbed in his thoughts. He’s never looking around, never taking in his surroundings. He’s looking at the ground in front of him, absorbed in his thoughts. He walks tall, proud and confident.

Why does he walk right along the side of a busy urban thoroughfare? Some areas where I see him there isn’t even a sidewalk. There are so many more lovely and quiet places to walk. But that’s where he chooses to walk – on a homely stretch in front of of strip malls, vacant lots and run-down houses.

I started to conjure up life stories for him. Maybe he’s a resident of the eastern plains of Colorado, but he was brought into the city when his mother’s health starting going downhill and he is staying with her to take care of her. His daily routine to get a break from the reality of the situation is to take a walk.

Or maybe his wife hates that he smokes. Maybe she insists that he go outside to smoke and he ends up taking a walk to pass the time.

Whatever the reason he is out there, I find myself looking for him on my way to work. When I see him I smile and start making up a new story for his life. And on the mornings I don’t see him I wonder if everything is okay, or if life has changed for him and he will  no longer be walking that narrow strip of dirt anymore.

Or maybe I’m just late to work.

And then I wonder if someday I will be that stranger to someone else. If I develop a routine and someone notices it, and looks for me, and wonders about my story.

 

Things On My Desk – A Visual Journey

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My home office is a small sanctuary for me. I have it decorated just the way I like, I have a super comfortable chair, and I set things on the desk that bring me joy. Some of these items are inspirational, motivational, make me smile, or just help me get in the mindset to write and be creative. So here are a few of the items on my desk . . .

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This is my ‘paper goods’ corner. I have several notebooks, pretty papers, wax seals, journals, etc. All inspire me to write and be creative. I love birds, so several of them have that theme.

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I ALWAYS have a candle lit when I am writing.

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Hi, my name is Katie and I’m addicted to lip balm. It’s Colorado, yo.

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These inspirational cards are good for drawing one for the day and focusing on it.

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This mini terrarium brings me peace when I look at it. (I also wish I was a tiny person that could walk around in there)

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Yep. I like to have a beverage when I write. It was wine tonight. But usually a V&T. Oh, but if it’s in the morning it’s green tea!

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Another inspirational token. Some birds aren’t meant to be caged . . .

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A must for every gal’s desk/home/patio!

Now, you share with me please – what items are essential on your desk, and why?

Book is Published!

BAM! Book published! Dream come true! Item on bucket list – checked off!

What a surreal moment for me when I saw my book on the Amazon sales page. I LITERALLY (Chris Traeger, Parks & Rec) started laughing out loud. Kind of a crazy-goofy-off-your-rocker laugh. It’s finally real. Thank you to all of you who supported me through this process with encouraging words, and even just asking me about its progress. You don’t even know how it inspired me to keep at it.

So here you go, if you are interested, or if you had some shopping to do on Amazon anyway. (Seriously, what CAN’T you buy on there?)

Cut and Bound on Amazon.com

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Book Cover is Finished!

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It is with much glee and grinning that I reveal the cover for my novel! I am very fortunate that my love and partner in life is also a Creative Director and brilliant artist!

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Head over to this page to read the book description. That is also where the link to the sales page on Amazon will be very soon.

Hobby Overload?

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Sometimes I find myself with so many interests, hobbies and projects in the works that I can hardly decide which to focus on first. It’s fun to have multiple interests and things I can go to at any time to fill my creative need. And that need is loud and ravenous! Creativity is part of my blood.

But can you have too many hobbies? Is it better to have one or two main ones that you put your focus on and therefore gain the most satisfaction? For instance, one of my hobbies is growing and learning about orchids. I have many plants, and several great books that go into considerable depth on the subjects of growing, propagating, breeding hybrids, PH balance of water, light spectrum, etc. and I could completely immerse myself in all that if I devoted the time. But I haven’t read the books cover to cover, and I don’t attend every orchid show in the area, and I haven’t joined the American Orchid Society (yes, that exists). There are just so many other things that call to me as well! But if I threw myself into that hobby, would it result in more personal satisfaction because I would essentially become a subject matter expert in that area?

How do you treat your hobbies? Do you prefer to focus your interests like a laser, or do whatever is calling to you that hour, day or week?

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My ‘Dancing Lady’ Orchid

The Empty, Yet Full, Week

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It’s that unique time between Christmas and New Years that never fails to feel like a no-(wo)mans-land of aimless mental wandering. Many of us take time off work and have free time to do random things that make us happy. It also provides time to think and reflect. Maybe TOO much time.

This week has me questioning things like a Tasmanian devil with ADD: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR CAREER? What is the next step? Do you need to change? WHY AREN’T YOU READING MORE BOOKS??!! When are you going to get on those projects around the house you have been putting off? STOP EATING THOSE CHRISTMAS SWEETS! What do I want my legacy to be? Why do I own so many swimsuits when I live in Colorado? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF (MY) LIFE?!

Sigh. Calm down, Tas.

This reflection time is a blessing and a curse for me. I can get too ‘in my head’ and start worrying needlessly about things. But I also become very creative and accomplish new and fun things. And I enjoy the time to forget about work and focus on the most important things in my life: love, family, friends.

Does anyone else feel  this way during this last week of December? Are you wandering around the house trying to find the motivation to organize that closet? Are you wondering what the heck to do in 2016 that will be lasting? Are you at work, but are instead researching your next beach vacation?

Let me know so I don’t feel like I’m on an island. An island laden with Christmas sweets, unread books, and a LinkedIn profile begging to be updated . . .

What Makes a Writer?

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OnceUponATime

This summer I took a break from my novel editing (I was utterly overwhelmed after receiving edits back from a professional editor) and didn’t move forward on it for months. Around August I started berating myself for not working on it. When friends and acquaintances would ask how it was going I would respond sheepishly and with embarrassment that it was taking so long.

Twitter is my favorite social network and it just so happens that a lot of authors hang out there, especially around #amwriting. It’s been a source of inspiration for me and also somewhere to reach out when I have writers block or need to connect with people who understand the sometimes grueling process of writing and editing.

But often I felt unworthy. I felt like a phony. I felt like I wasn’t a true writer. I let self doubt creep in. I compared myself to others and wondered why I couldn’t write that often, or that many words, or have completed that many books. And believe me, that state of mind did not help with the completion of my novel.

Come September, I looked back at what a wonderful summer it had been and how much I took advantage of my favorite season. I was outdoors often, went on great vacations, and spent quality time with those I love. So what if I took a break from writing? So what if I didn’t write as often as the other writers I followed? I yelled at myself: You work full time! You have many hobbies and volunteer every other weekend! You are not depending on writing to bring in money! I finally gave myself permission to relax, and accept the muse back into my life, when she was ready.

Am I a writer because I’ve been doing it for sheer pleasure since 2nd grade? Am I a writer because I have notebooks full of poetry I have written stuffed in multiple drawers and closets? Am I a writer because I’m a blogger? Am I a writer because I’m going to self-publish a book?

I finally call myself a writer with pride, but not because of any of the reasons above, but because it brings me joy, and so I DO IT.

Simple. I do what brings me joy.

I write.