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Hot Spring(s) Break: Iceland

There’s only one place to take a dip in the world’s best hot springs, drive through the most breathtaking mountainsides and hike through some of the purest natural scenery in all the world. It’s famously known as the land of fire and ice. I’m talking about a 103,000 square kilometer nation built on a volcano that is barely touched by man to this day. I’m talking about Iceland.

For the last hoorah as a student in my life, I took a spring break trip to this wonderful land of glaciers and small towns while friends made the “smarter” move to travel somewhere warmer. To make it even better, we drove around the island in the dead of winter while sleeping in a tent at night (crazy, I know). This week was nothing short of a wild experience with good times and bad times but I would never take it back.

Five Michigan State Spartans started their journey by driving from East Lansing, Michigan to Toronto, Canada. A cozy Airbnb and some authentic Thai food from Thai Elephant got us through the night and ready for our flight the next day. After some Toronto sightseeing to pass the time, we were ready to embark on the challenge ahead. A flight with WOW Air landed us in Reykjavik, the country’s capital. Fun fact, it’s actually the world’s northernmost capital.

Geysers, black sand beaches, small horses and snow capped mountains filled our path for the first few days. Oh, and who can forget the waterfalls. The water flowing off these cliffs is stunning and they’re everywhere! One in every three to five Icelandic landmarks we visited were waterfalls.

As we drove through the one highway road, we noticed the monopoly Quizno’s had on the country. It became a long-lasting joke and I think I ate the most Quizno’s I’ll ever eat in my whole life. They were attached to almost all of our favorite gas stations to stop at, Olis. The free coffee kept us kicking so we could reach all of our stops for the day.

The trip was too long to sum up its greatness in one post but I can tell you about my favorite places. Stokksnes. The pictures say it all and they look exactly like the real thing. This colossal mountain was copy and pasted right out of Lord of the Rings. Long trails lay within the sides of it and it is by far my favorite place on this wonderful island.

That little speck on the shore to the right in the picture below is my roommate. This is one of those places that reminds you how small we really are in this world.

Akureyri, a northern city, made for a good stop and I highly recommend putting it on your list. It hosts great restaurants like Akureyri Fish & Chips and Rub 23. Kjarnaskógur Woods is just south of the city. There’s nothing better than hiking in the woods with big, beautiful mountains in the background. In the northwestern region, we were able to visit Hvítserkur, a fifteen meter high sea stack on a black sand beach. This coast of Iceland touches the Arctic Ocean and we all have a goal to swim in all of the oceans. We took off our shoes off in 20 degree (fahrenheit) weather and ran through the waves quickly before we froze to complete part of the task. The picture below was taken at this beach and it’s one of my favorite places

The journey was too fun to miss but there’s something even more valuable from this spring break adventure that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. This massive week-long road trip circled around the whole island, which gave us better insight into how different the locals’ lifestyles are from our own. Travelling throughout the whole island gave us another reason to fight against climate change. We are always getting pictures and stories about what climate change is doing to the world. There are so many negative effects thrown at us. Floods, droughts, higher sea levels, and more. No one ever tells you what life could be like if the Earth was still in its natural state. This is an example of the positives to stopping climate change; a motivation we rarely see.

Iceland is one of the few spots in the world that is almost completely untouched by man. These people understand the effects of climate change and try to use their resources sparingly. They protect their parks because these areas have such a controlling influence on their lives. Iceland is a country that uses 85% natural warmth for heating and 100% renewable energy for electricity with the help of geothermal and hydropower. After visiting and reflecting on the trip, I read into how this country made sustainability a top priority. Read about the fascinating research from the University of Colorado here. They worked up the movement’s popularity during the Kyoto Protocol and it stands as one of the most natural places in the world. Other nations ignored environmental action and I take no joy in being a part of the generation that ruins it for others. I would hate to see the Icelandic glaciers melt and wither away like the Great Barrier Reef. Wouldn’t you rather be the generation that saves it all?

Pristine lands like these must be preserved so we can enjoy it with future generations. My rant ends with that but my point is that Iceland reminded us about how the world could be. It motivates us at p.o.m.e. to strive for more and to make a change.

Check out my video below on my experience through the island.

– Kevin

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