Jetlag & The Blue Lagoon



After a brief demonstration from the kind guys at Lava Auto, we were off. Our original plan was to spend the morning exploring Reykjavik, before ending our fist day at the Blue Lagoon. Because of our delayed arrival, we didn’t have much time before our 5:30 reservations. In a move all to common for us, we picked a direction and drove. We were headed toward what we thought was Reykjavik when we spotted the Bonus.

If you’ve done any research, at all, about Iceland, you’ll know of Bonus. They’re Iceland’s main, and basically only, discount grocer. Using the word discount, when referring to Iceland is an oxymoron. Nothing in Iceland is cheap, except the flights that take you there. Nonetheless, I’ll give them the credit they have due, they’re a way to lesson the toll that Iceland takes on your wallet. The Bonus shopping experience is one that deserves a better explanation, I’ll be sure to write about that soon. We left Bonus with hotdogs and sandwich meat, as we had yet to find fuel for our camp stove. After a quick bite to eat in the parking lot, we were back on the road.

The volcanic landscape near Reykjavik is like nothing we’d ever seen. We’d often use the word “moonscape” to describe it. Lava fields stretched to the horizon, as far as our eyes could see; craggy, crater-filled rocks, covered in snow and moss. I can only imagine what kind of creatures can eke out an existence there. We drove for a while, admiring our surroundings before entering the outskirts of Reykjavik. A few too many times around the roundabouts (little did we know what England would have in store for us)  and we’d found ourselves a nice little coastal car park (European word for parking lot) to have a nap, to rest up for the Blue Lagoon.


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Endless Fields of Lava Rock

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I didn’t know when I picked my blog name, just how much Jetlag would affect me. My struggle started on the first day and continued for the first week of our trip. When I woke up from my nap I was still tired, and quite crabby. I even had a small breakdown when I realized I’d forgotten almost ALL my SD cards. So much for taking any video footage in Iceland (don’t worry, I made it work). While it seems silly to write about faults such as these, I want you to know that travel isn’t always fun, smooth, or easy. There are still days when I want nothing more than to be home. Thankfully, there is usually a rainbow after the storm, our time at the Blue Lagoon was just that.

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Enjoying the Thermal Waters of the Blue Lagoon

Despite the whipping, bitter wind, we relaxed and floated in the Lagoon for several hours. I’ll spare the details, as it deserves an article all of its own. Shriveled and “pruney”, we returned to our van to find a place to sleep for the night. Too tired to care, we picked a parking lot near the Tjornin Pond in Reykjavik and fell asleep. We slept well, cuddled in the warmth of our van’s Webasto heater.



 

Where Have You Been?

 I’m sure that’s what you’re all wondering. Two years of planning this big adventure, preparing to bring you along with… and yet my blog remains mostly untouched, my social media silent, and my instagram unused. Many of you have asked and I’m finally ready to answer.

Note- Clicking or double tapping on a photo will show you a larger version 🙂


Where have you been?

Well, we’ve been on the road. In the almost 7 months we’ve been out of the US, we’ve driven over 25,000 miles and visited 29 countries. Let’s get you caught up with a “quick” recap. Ok, this is actually going to be quite a long read, but summarizing over half a year of adventure would just be too hard to do in under 2,000 words. So, grab a cup o’ joe and settle in…things are about to get interesting.

Our journey started February 26th, 2018 in Iceland. Iceland in February? We know it sounds crazy, but we were blessed with relatively mild temperatures and “great” albeit very windy weather. We were glad for it too, because we stayed 5 days there, living out of a rented Nissan camper van. During that time, we circumnavigated the entire island, driving both the Ring Road and the Golden Circle Drive. On our way, we gawked at glaciers, explored waterfalls, and even spotted some wild reindeer. We got up close to some of the volcanic activity that the island is known for like geysers, lava fields, dormant volcanoes, and fumaroles. And of course we couldn’t go to Iceland without visiting the therapeutic waters at the Blue Lagoon. Finally, on our last night there, we caught a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights. While they didn’t put on the most colorful or mesmerizing show that everyone hopes to see in their lifetime, they were there! A thin, green ribbon in the sky, dancing for us as we snuggled each other to sleep.

 

After some time spent exploring Reykjavík, we caught an early morning flight to Paris. We lived like locals for four nights in an authentically tiny, 5th floor Airbnb. Spring had already arrived in Paris, the flowers were blooming and the sun seemed to warm any traces of the chills we carried with us from Iceland. As it was our first time there, we had to visit all the iconic, cliché tourist sites. We saw the Arc de Triumph, Champs-Elysees, and the Bastille. We toured the Notre-Dame Cathedral and wandered through dark tunnels of bones in the Catacombs. And of course, we visited the Louvre, where we unfortunately didn’t see the Mona Lisa (more on that a different time). We ended our time in the City of Love with a romantic, night-time climb of the Eiffel tower…what a view!

March 7th, we woke up extra early and hoofed our way back to the Paris ORLY airport. A few mistakes on the Métro line and a couple delays meant we were fashionably late to our next appointment. Luckily, no flight to catch this time, instead we were there to pick up a brand new vehicle. We leased a Citroen Berlingo, through a special program with Citroen and the French government, that we would be traveling and living in for the next 6 months. The car came right off the assembly line with only about 10 kilometers on the dial. Pick-up was quick and soon we were headed for the coast, enjoying the sunny back roads of the French countryside.

Of course the vehicle didn’t come live-in ready, so we had some work to do. With only two days till our ferry from Calais to England, we wouldn’t have time to get much done in France. Instead, we decided to use the time to take the 8 hour round-trip drive to Omaha Beach in Normandy.

As you likely already know, Omaha Beach is were the allied forces landed and fought to victory in the WWII D-Day invasion. After so many years, Omaha Beach is simply a beach like any other, with a strong salty wind and the sound of waves crashing. The only visible difference is that this one is dotted with a few monuments. But we knew the significance of what happened there, just over 70 years ago. I could feel it, an overwhelming and powerful feeling of pride. We sat in retrospective silence for some time, staring at the surf and the magnificent memorials, imagining how different the beach much have looked on that day. A man, walking his dog, stopped to speak with us about his father, whom had fought there for our flag. He stated that he had the amazing opportunity of returning to that beach with his father again, before he passed away of old age. Speaking to him and hearing his story made being it seem so much more real. After paying our respects to the monument of our fallen fellow Americans, it was time to head back to Calais.

We were staying in Sangatte, a beach town near the Port of Calais. We had rented a cute vintage camper through Airbnb. It was small, but well cared for and was the perfect place to spend a couple of days. We used the rest of the time to grab some essential supplies and prepare ourselves for the tasks ahead. Our main concern was finding a suitable location to build our camper van kit. We would need somewhere we could use power tools to do some sawing and woodwork. Luckily, a nice woman on Airbnb agreed we could stay at her property and do the work in her yard, so long as we kept noise to a minimum. So that was the plan, and we were off to England.

You’ll start to notice a pattern me being late for things. If you know me, you know it’s a bad habit I have. Unfortunately, that was the case for our ferry ride to England on the 9th. Word of advice, don’t be late for check-in time on international ferries. We were supposed to check in at least an hour before the scheduled departure, but we were 15 minutes late. I’ll say it was only partially my fault, the port police can attest to that. So, they wouldn’t let us board the ferry, we missed our chance. Thankfully, they were kind enough to allow us to take the next scheduled ferry, which we were now over 3 hours early for. We had learned our lesson, so we got in line and were the first to board this time around.

The ferry ride was smooth and relatively short. The weather on the observation deck was perfect for watching as the white cliffs of Dover came into view. We disembarked the ferry nervously as we switched from the right lane to the left. “Hard left,  wide right,” was a phrase we continued to repeat, until eventually, driving on the opposite side of the road seemed almost normal. It wasn’t too hard to get used to, it was more the roundabouts that had us confused. We did have the luxury of being able to communicate in our own language, a nice change from Iceland and France. We navigated our way to Littlebourne, where we would finally begin our project.

The next three days were spent gathering supplies and creating our camper van kit. Thanks to years of research, we already had a general idea of how we would make it and what it would look like. With the vehicle now in our possession, we could gather dimensions and get to work. First we purchased wood, screws, and hinges. Then, we rented the saws and power tools that we would need to make the base and the fold-out bed. We constructed some of it in the yard of our Airbnb, but most was done in the parking lot of the hardware store. I was anxious to be operating a circular saw in their parking lot, but too many trips back and forth made it necessary. They didn’t seem to mind, and it gave us the opportunity to make changes and alterations as we went along. We finished the kit just in time to return the tools, check out of our apartment, and head to IKEA.

It was time for a shopping spree! Needless to say, our first time in IKEA (shame on us, I know) wasn’t wasted. We purchased the bulk of our household good there, such as kitchen equipment, bedding, and a foam mattress. Our car was stuffed with gear and daylight was waning, so we checked into one last hotel, at least for a while. The next day we took a knife and scissors to our mattress, cutting and shaping it to fit our camping kit. We finished our “home” by making blackout curtains for privacy. To make them, we bought a roll of vinyl fabric and cut pieces in the shape of our windows. We attached suction cups to them, so they could be applied at night and removed each day. Finally, we picked up the last of our gear, our stove, cooler, and water tank, at an outdoor store. Our camper van was complete and we were off to see the world, well, Europe at least.

 

 I know I promised a long read, but I’ve got to keep you coming back for more! We still have 26 more countries to talk about. So, I’ve decided to break this post up into a mini-series. Please stay tuned for part 2 in the next few days. In the meantime, here are the answers to a few more of your questions….


How are you doing?

We’re doing well! It’s been an exciting, interesting, and exhausting journey so far.  We’ve been living in our van (technically homeless) consistently, for almost 7 months. The van life has only gotten easier, as we’ve learned how to soar over our biggest hurdles. So far, we’ve been taught a lot about ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live. We’re still in love, still going, and excited about the adventures still to come.

Why haven’t you posted?

I think this is the real question that you all have. It was a question I asked myself each night, for the first few months of our trip. I have lots to share- pictures, videos, experiences….so what’s the hold up? We are constantly busy. From early morning to sundown we are on the move, exploring, driving, or grocery shopping. By the time we stop to set up our bed and cook supper each night, I am drained. I am fast asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. With very little “down time” during our day, I underestimated how tired I’d be. But there is more to the story than just exhaustion.

I finally realized that I was being too hard on myself, taking myself too seriously. I started this blog not only to share and document my own travels, but also to encourage others to experience travel for themselves. I want to show others the world, advise them, and have them learn from my experiences and mistakes. How could I do this if I couldn’t take my own advice to slow down and enjoy the moment? So I did. I just focused on being where I was at the time, on being happy. I enjoyed not working, or having any real responsibility. No to-do’s, no deadlines, no pressure. I re-evaluated my goals and the direction I want to take my blog; so that I’m sure it doesn’t become a “look what I’m doing” and rather a “look what you can do”! I’m not off track, or behind. I’m just me…doing my thing.

So, what’s next?

I’m finally ready. I’m going to continue where I left off, telling you a chronological recap of our travels. I’m going to post more, more often. I’m also going to share some interesting destination articles, so you can start planning your own trip. Finally, I’m going to share all those pictures and videos that you’ve been waiting for. I’ll be keeping you up to date on where we’re at and what we’re doing each day…so be sure to follow Jetlag & Wanderlust on Facebook and Instagram. Please know that there will be some changes to my blog. In order to take full advantage of my work, I had to switch blog hosts (insert techie jargon here). It meant I had to start over on many things. Long story short, if you experience any issues trying to access my site, please know that I’m working on it…and hope to have it finished within a month. Please don’t hesitate to point something out, a link that doesn’t work, a page that won’t load, etc. I’ll also be working to update my present content, which has become outdated. Thank you all for being so supportive and interested in our travels.  


I’ll catch you later, we’re off to explore Cathedral Beach!!!

Dear Diary- It Snowed in England!!



3.18.18

It snowed in England!! I’d have to guess this doesn’t happen much here, based solely on observation. While the amount of snow was significant (4 inches) based on most people’s standards, their  reaction to it was astounding. Traffic on the dual-carriageway roads, think freeways, moved at a snail’s pace despite fairly decent conditions. On the side roads, traffic backed up as many stopped and abandoned their vehicles where they sat, too terrified to move forward. It was apparently so intense that even the emergency crews weren’t responding, which was made evident by the number of wrecked cars left to sit, no attention given by police or tow trucks. It was all quite comical to two Wisconsin natives who now had the streets of England to themselves. I guess that’s one reason to thank the Lord we were born in a land of snow and bitter winters.


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Near White-Out Conditions
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An Overturned Car- no emergency crews at the scene even hours later
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The Abandoned Scene of a Head-On Collision


 

A New Begining



Our flight to Iceland was scheduled to depart Chicago at 6:30pm on February 25th. The day had finally come after years of planning, months of preparations, and a frantic, weeklong game of catch up. In just 6 days, we’d quit our jobs, got rid of our belongings, and moved out of our house. Needless to say, we were finally ready for a fresh start.

Unfortunately, our fresh start wouldn’t be had without a few setbacks. First, our flight was delayed 3 hours. Then at the check-in desk, we learned that it wouldn’t leave until 11:30pm. Since Iceland is 5hrs ahead of Chicago, there was no way to inform the rental car company, which was closed for the day, that we’d be late, except by email. So, I shot them an email and hoped for the best.


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A Waiting Lounge- Chicago O’Hare Airport

The time went by quickly, we said our final goodbyes to family and had a nice, albeit expensive airport dinner of sushi and tacos (quite the combination). I was much more relaxed once we made it through security and were waiting at our gate, a couple of cocktails helped with that too. Since we were carrying a large amount of electronics, including a drone, I was worried we’d get held up. No such thing happened and we were on our flight in no time. The half-empty flight provided an opportunity for Andy and I to spread out. I took my own row of 3 seats, laid down, and did my best to sleep. Icelandair’s flight was comfortable. We were given a free bottle of water, a free blanket, and had the option of using the tablet (attached to the seat in front of us) for some free entertainment options. Because we chose the cheapest flight class, wifi was not included. It was available for purchase, however we were simply too tired to look into it.


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Activity on the Tarmac

When we arrived in Iceland, it was almost noon. The airplane didn’t pull up to the airport, so we were shuttled from the tarmac to the arrival gate. Our first taste of Icelandic weather came the second that we stepped foot off the plane. With warning from the flight attendants, I hung on tightly to my glasses and hat, to avoid them being blown away. Though I scoffed at their warning, I must admit that the wind was some of the strongest I’d ever felt, at least up until that point.

The Keflavik airport (we didn’t actually land in Reykjavik, though that’s what airlines will say) is clean, modern, and stylish. We didn’t look around much as we were looking around for our ride. We’d rented a campervan from Lava Auto, through the website Northbound.is. The decision to rent with this company did not come easily. Rental car company reviews tell hundreds of horror stories of customers being charged astronomical prices for damage they didn’t do. Lava Auto had great reviews and were cheaper when booked through a third party. Thus, we chose Northbound Iceland. Much to my relief, there was a gentleman holding a sign with our names, waiting at the exit. We were shuttled to Lava Auto’s main office, just a few minutes drive from the airport. Pickup was quick and easy. A few signatures, a brief overview of the van’s features, and we were on our way. With no real set plans, we drove off to discover the wilderness of Iceland. So begins our 5 day Icelandic road trip adventure.

Coming Soon: A detailed account of our trip around Iceland’s Ring road and the Golden Circle!



 

Video Diary

Check here often to keep up with us during our great, and not so great, adventures! Follow our youtube channel so you don’t miss a beat!

~>>*CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE*<<~

Be sure to select the highest video quality possible for the best viewing experience.


3.16.18


10.17.17



 

Raising Phoenix

I consider myself lucky to have grown up with so many great cousins. They were the source of my first friendships, my first adventures, and my first fights. While I don’t see them frequently as an adult, I know we could pick up where we left off, in the blink of eye.


My cousin Jesi and I have always been two peas in a pod. We’d always ask our parents to stay over at each other’s house for “just one more night”. We’d spend weeks at a time with each other as a child and loved it. Whether is was four wheeling, bale jumping, or Rugrat Soup Picnics, we always had a blast. Though we haven’t met up in years, we’re still kindred spirits. We recently discovered a mutual interest in blogging.


Jesi’s blog, Wandering Nirvana, is the story of her nature-loving family and their outdoor escapades. Follow along as she tells the story of her and Jason falling in love, and setting off towards adventure. Along the way, they had some surprises and now they’re a family of three! She writes about their love for the outdoors and adventures hiking with a toddler. After a recent illness, Jesi found motivation to get back on the move. Luckily, she’s taking us this time. Follow her blog as she takes us with her each week on her 52 Week Hike Challenge. She’s also planning to do a writing series about Camping in Wisconsin.

Jesi’s writing features her young son Phoenix, who comes with on many of the adventures. She’s instilling in him independence, resourcefulness, and a love for the outdoors. While her writing and the photos she takes are amazing, the real beauty here is getting to watch her raising Phoenix. I’m very lucky to be related to such a strong, beautiful, talented person.

Please follow Jesi, Jason, & Phoenix: WanderingNirvana.com

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Jesi, Jason, & Phoenix- out for an adventure

Photo of Jesi and family is property of wanderingnirvana.com

 

How Much Does it Cost?

How much does it cost to travel the world?

Goal Measuring.JPGThis common question in the travel blog community is an impossible question to answer. Unless you’ve ordered your trip from a vacation catalog, and even then, there are too many variables. A better question, and one I can answer, is “How little CAN travel cost?”. Ultimately, travel expenses depend on your need for a good night’s rest, your hygiene standards, and your willpower. While you can assume what your needs will be, you won’t really know till you’re there.

To better plan for your trip, you’ll need to set a budget. Your budget will be determined by the amount of time you have. If you know how long you’ll be gone, it’s easier to set a realistic goal. Generally speaking, you can get by in most countries on $50 – $100 per day, per person. If you saved for that, plus flight tickets and gear, you’d be just fine. Its more difficult for extended or open-ended trips. This is our scenario. We’re planning to travel the world until our money runs out. To set our budget we did some research, decided when we wanted to leave, and calculated how much we could save in that amount of time.


In April of 2016, we set our original savings goal at $20,000. A week later, it was $50,000. While we’re not there yet, it looks like we’ll be able to hit that goal. We’re going to document every dollar, euro, dirham, and rupee we spend. Our hope is that by the end of our journey, we’ll be able to show you how little travel can cost. You’ll be able to learn from both our discoveries, and our mistakes. If you’re interested to find out how much we’ve spent so far, please click the link below.

CLICK HERE TO BE DIRECTED TO MASTER EXPENSE LEDGER ←

Master Ledger Picture


 

Milestones

Growing up, I struggled greatly with writing. I found it difficult to translate my thoughts into written text- too much of a perfectionist. Poetry was my solution; it came easily to me. I’ve found that I still tend to turn to poetry to express my deeper thoughts. With all insecurities aside, I present this short poem about life’s milestones and living in the moment.

Listening to people’s reactions about my plans to travel has been thought provoking. Why do people often spend their life, waiting for their life to start? They hold tightly to their subconscious belief that “when they grow up”  all their dreams will come true. They’re only wasting the time they could use to achieve them.  Please, whatever you want to do, do it now!



~>>*MILESTONES*<<~

 

Driver’s license – Diploma

College – Career

Marriage – Kids

Retirement –                 

         

They say happiness is just around the corner

So you run through life, searching for what’s next.

You think about where you’ll go, not how you’ll get there.

You’ll finally get to enjoy yourself at last!

So you’re settling, but only in the meantime.

It’s not good, but it’s also not that bad.

I’m sure true happiness is almost yours now.

Perhaps your next big milestone is where it’s to be had.

Maybe you’ll be happy when you get that big promotion.

Or when your lover gets down on one knee.

When you finally get to see all your grandkids

all together at your retirement party.

So you’ll sprint, full speed toward tomorrow

Only just passing through today

But don’t forget that your life’s last milestone

will be the big carved stone that sits upon your grave

-Danica Rowan



 

A New Lease on Life


portugal-2423629_1920America is a land dominated by cars. Our cities are sprawling while our public transit lacks, at least in comparison to our European counterparts. The vast openness of our continent makes driving more of a necessity, than a luxury. Its no wonder then that the love for speed and horsepower runs thick in our blood. Earning a driver’s license is a right of passage and our teenage years are spent behind the wheel. Children eagerly await their sixteenth birthdays, while older generations tell fond memories of muscle cars and drive-in movies. It is out of this love for driving that the road trip was born.


The great american road trip is idolized in our films, folklore, and fantasies. Always portrayed to be an epic adventure, road trips are a wonderful time spent with friends, exploring the country and living simple. If you haven’t taken an epic road trip yet, chances are it’s on your bucket list. So it makes sense then then that American travelers would look to take their love for the open road with them when they travel abroad. I’m talking about about a Great European Road Trip. Why? Because EuroRail passes are expensive, buses are uncomfortable and time-consuming, and neither offer much freedom from the beaten path. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take a 6 month road trip through Ireland, the UK, and Europe.

While traveling by car allows us much greater comfort and freedom, rental car company reviews are a red flag. So what should we do? Buy a vehicle? Maybe, but there are problems with that idea as well. I’ve found nothing but bad news when it comes to registering and insuring the vehicle, with intentions to cross the continent. Even with that problem solved, what will we do with the car when we’re done, sell it? How long will that take? What if we break down? I know I worry too much, but there is a lot of risk involved in this type of travel.

The solution to all of these problems is obvious. We’ll buy a brand new car, use it for a bit, and sell it back to the person who sold it to us. It seems too good to be true, I know, but it’s exactly the idea behind the French Buy Back Lease Program. In the European Union, there is a Value Added Tax (VAT) charged on goods & services. Since France’s VAT on a new vehicle is an exorbitantly high 20%, car companies are better off to sell slightly used cars. What a better way to do this than to sell the car to foreign travelers on vacation, and buy it back when they’re done. The cost is based on the number of days the vehicle is rented, with an option to buy the vehicle outright when you’re done.

Is it legal? Believe it or not, it’s been authorized by the French govt. Since 1954. See, it’s a win-win. The govt. allows it because it stimulates the automobile and tourism industries. Car companies make more sales. French citizens can better afford barely used cars, due to less VAT. And we get an affordable, tax-free vehicle that’s right off the assembly line. Even better, the car is registered in our name, has fantastic insurance, and 24/7 roadside assistance in over 40 countries. The Buy Back program is the perfect solution to long term European travel.


Benefits of the Buy Back Program

  • Zero-deductible insurance valid in 40 countries
  • Brand new car of your choice
  • Unlimited miles, 24/7 roadside assistance
  • Breakdown cover and factory warranty
  • No extra charge for extra drivers
  • Pick up from multiple locations in Europe- no charge for France locations

So what’s the catch? It’s only an option for those who are looking to travel long term, as the minimum requirement is 21 days. If that’s your plan, then then leasing really is a fantastic option.  We chose a Citroen Berlingo. Since the maximum lease for standard tourists is 170 days, we’ve booked two vehicles. Our first lease runs from March thru May, which we’ll spend in Ireland and the UK. The second lease period ends in September. During this time we’ll drive thousands of miles as we circle around Europe. We booked with IdeaMerge, which has proven to be a delight so far.

Berlingo

Finding the option to lease a Berlingo solved more than just our transportation needs. We’re going to live in it! That’s right, our transportation and our home, all in one. Why travel like this? To take advantage of freedom, the financial savings, and an incredible adventure. We’re surely not the first to do it, but we’re the first to do it like this. I’m sure you’re wondering how we’ll ever pull off this crazy plan. Don’t worry, you’ll have a front row seat on the action. Then you can decide for yourself if you’re ready for a new lease on life.