Lindsey Skinner is a Program Development Specialist for WorldStrides Capstone Programs.
Before we left for Iceland, I sat on my bed in my hometown of San Diego, surrounded by all of the cold weather clothes I own (which is made up of roughly of my mom’s winter jacket, a rainbow ski beanie, and some purple gloves) when it hit me: Tomorrow at this time I will be stepping off a plane in the mystical country of Iceland, and I get to do this for my job.
There is also no amount of pre-travel speculation about the country of Iceland that could prepare me for what I was about the experience. There are no words to describe Iceland, but if I were forced to settle on one, it would be “eye-opening” (okay – I realize this is technically two words, but Iceland deserves an anthology of words!).
I started working for WorldStrides Capstone Programs in our West Coast office in July 2015. I was drawn to the company because of its ability to offer students the possibility to expand their world view, through opportunities that pair their education with real world experiences outside of their home country. My own travels abroad have shaped who am I today, and I knew I wanted to be part of something that impacts students in the same way. I am humbled by the opportunity to continue my own growth through travel along the way.
We deplaned before sunrise and were greeted by Ari, our amazingly knowledgeable and immensely interesting course leader. We boarded our bus and were off. There is an energy that is palpable—we have landed in Iceland and have three full days of unbelievable adventures and irreplaceable educational experiences in front of us!
After a quick breakfast visit to the Viking museum, the sun slowly rose over the snowy landscape on our way to Stakkavik, a fish production company that specializes in the freshest cod in the country. The family-owned business has grown rapidly over the past generation, and we witnessed the preparation of freshly caught Icelandic cod. After an interesting presentation on the company, it was on to the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle, or Þingvellir National Park, looks as if someone took all the most beautiful wonders in the world, and placed them delicately in an easily drivable route. It houses the Silfa Fissure, a giant crack between the North American and Eurasian continents.
I don’t believe I have ever felt as tiny as I did standing at this spot, knowing that it was there millions of years before me and will be there millions of years after I’m gone. Nearby is Gullfoss Waterfall. An incredible amount of water is pushed through the lava rock here to literally form a canyon before your eyes.
We also visited Strokkur Geyser after passing through a field of tiny potholes of boiling sulfur water. The earth feels so alive in Iceland. As our guide perfectly put it, “it’s an interesting place, because everything is consistently changing. There may be a lake in a place where only a few years ago there was nothing.” It keeps you on your toes to be in a place that feels so alive; you can almost feel it breathing!
From the Golden Circle, we continued on to Friðheimar Tomato Greenhouse. Thanks to the icy landscape, Icelanders have to be innovative when it comes to fresh produce. They use greenhouses to bring fresh veggies to the table. I don’t think I’ve tasted a sweeter, more delicious tomato in my life.
After an incredible dinner of fresh fish, beef cheeks, and some of the best seafood soup I’ve ever had, we got back on the bus and searched for the Northern Lights. It was the perfect way to end our first day.
On our second day, we witnessed the sun rise over the hushed white blanket that is Iceland in the winter. Then it was on to our glacier walk!
We were geared up with “crampons,” or spike-bottomed strap on shoes, to help us walk on the ice. As we set out and up the glacier, with our amazing glacier guide Gumi, I got the feeling again. There is something about visually understanding the way the earth is formed that makes one feel very human. We were taking steps on millions of years of snowfall, ice pack, and weather. Seeing a glacier in a picture is one thing, but hearing the crunch of ice beneath your feet is another.
After our glacier walk, we continued on to the black sand beaches. The coastline of Iceland is both frightening and beautiful. Dramatic black cliffs cascading down to meet very rough waters. Absolutely incredible.
After breathing in the salty air, we visited Eyjafjallajökull Glacier visitor center. The visitor center painted an incredible picture of life in Iceland during and after the volcano’s famous eruption, and focused on a farm at the foothills of the volcano. After seeing footage of the furious eruption and learning how Iceland came together to clean up (another inspiring story in the history of these incredible people), we boarded our bus again.
Up next? Two astounding waterfalls, and one just happened to have a rainbow perfectly arcing across it.
After our visits to Skogar Waterfall and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, we headed back to our cozy hotel in Reykjavik where we had a moment to catch our breath and let the day soak in over another delicious Icelandic meal.
I can say with confidence that Iceland is the most sustainable country I’ve visited. We were able to understand this firsthand on our last day. After touring the city of Reykjavik in the morning, we were off to Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant. 99.9% of Iceland’s power comes from directly below the surface. They utilize the fact that the entire country is sitting on a geothermal hot spot, and they utilize it well.
For the last stop on our Icelandic journey, we headed to the Blue Lagoon. This famous pool actually started to form from waste water from a geothermal power plant that used to occupy the area. Because energy production in Iceland is that green, it’s completely fine to swim in and the nation has embraced this as a national destination. In fact, the water even has benefits. My skin felt softer, like I had taken a dip in the fountain of youth!
While we swam in the Blue Lagoon, our incredible guide Ari was planning something devious—a goodbye present in the form of a traditional Icelandic snack of fermented shark flesh called Hakarl. Thank you Ari for a goodbye meal I will never forget (or like)!
Too soon, we were on our way to the airport. Feeling rejuvenated, excited, and all around inspired, I felt like the luckiest person on the planet. The people I had spent the past few days with were incredible, and the experiences had been irreplaceable. My time in Iceland is one that I will never forget. It shaped my thoughts and transformed me in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Thank you Iceland, for everything. Góður dagur!
Learn more about our Iceland programs.