What I did for my birthday 2017…Iceland!

When I bought my flight ticket to London, I had no idea what I was going to do while I was there. I’ve practically been solo-flying to London every year since 2015, and I just thought that this would be my yearly solo vacation spot.

I love traveling solo. It’s liberating…something I’m comfortable doing, yet always something new to experience.

So, this “something new to experience” brought me to choose Iceland as my main destination for this trip. I had always been caught up with its name since I was a little girl – a land made out of ice? Ha. Furthermore, I could experience the Northern Lights. Two things to strike off the bucket list at the same time.

Also, it was time to go to a place where English isn’t the national language. But I’m so glad Icelanders speak good English!

Here’s a summary of my trip expenses (excluding food and miscellaneous items):

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The green colour indicates “paid”, while the red one indicates “to be paid when there”.

  • 26th Jan – depart BWN, Brunei
  • 27th Jan – arrive LDN, UK
  • 28th Jan – depart LDN; arrive KEF, Iceland, Northern Lights hunt
  • 29th Jan – South Shore Adventure (Vik)
  • 30th Jan – Golden Circle Classic
  • 31st Jan – Leisure in Reykavik
  • 1st Feb – depart KEF; arrive LDN
  • 3rd Feb – depart LDN
  • 4th Feb – arrive BWN

Initially, I wanted to stay in an airbnb in Reykjavik (the world’s northernmost capital city!), and there was this beautiful apartment next to a lighthouse(!!) but the host said that he wouldn’t be accepting guests on my requested dates so…bummer. I’m actually glad for this because the hotel that I booked for (Hotel Fron) was one of the best decisions I made for this trip. Will tell more in another post!

I’m usually not for big tours, but upon researching into hiring a car, I thought better of it. Hiring a car to drive in winter would be a first for me…what more driving solo. (Many advised about solo driving in Icelandic winter – not recommended!) As much as I would have loved to drive, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, I had to scrap the idea and opted for guided tours. I splurged on one of the tours, which was for the Northern Lights hunt. Reading the reviews for the hunt with a big tour seemed like an almost impersonal experience, so I chose the jeep tour, which had me and four other people, plus the driver. It was a little pricey, but definitely worth it! The experience was magical, and for another post! ;)

Oh, right. I researched on flying into Keflavik International Airport, and found two competitive budget airlines, flying from London i.e. Icelandair and WowAir (baggage allowance included in fare). Of course, reviews are important, and tbh, there weren’t much difference between the two, in terms of their pros and cons. What made me decide to go with Icelandair was that it had a reasonable flight time and a convenient point of departure that I wanted to fly from i.e. Heathrow. It was overall a good flight experience for me. Also for another post. Maybe. Haha.

Be prepared to pay more for food. I think I only had three proper restaurant meals on my 5-day trip. Had breakfast every morning in the hotel, and hot dogs when I was out and about. Their hot dogs are famously affordable and they fill your tummy just right.

I didn’t get to try the beers (did try wine! Nyum!) except for one…which I can’t remember the name of, but the bartender said it’s similar to Viking’s. Not a fan of beers, but that one was just nice. Had loads of free, drinkable Icelandic water.

All in all, I’m glad I chose to go to Iceland for my birthday trip. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and, the fact that Iceland earned the numero uno position in Global Peace Index (last checked in 2016), it was perfect for my thirst of solo travelling.

Iceland was magical.

northernlights
Photo taken by Superjeep.is, my jeep tour guide, 28.01.2017. Beautiful!

My First Solo Trip (Part 2)

Few days before the travel fair, my friend, the travel agent, texted me:

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I couldn’t believe I was going towards this thing I was doing for myself. It always felt like it was just at the back of my head. And to have seen it being executed was just…yeah.

When my friend was processing my debit card for the ticket at the fair, I remember looking around at the other keen travelers, and I wondered what their choices of destination would be. Everyone seemed engrossed with their travel agents and the flashing signboards with the prices of tickets to various capital cities. Most of them were families, some were couples, and the odd few, like myself, were solo. All parting with their money for a temporary escape. Well, it’s true for my part, anyway.

Upon purchasing my air tickets, I looked at my budget to accommodate all subsequent spending for this trip. I had to remember that I was doing this on my own so I was adamant that I wouldn’t borrow any money from anyone for it. I’ve never spent this much amount of money at one time. Initially, it was tempting to get a credit card, but now I’m glad I didn’t ’cause it turned out that I didn’t need one!

As you can see, I’ve chosen to go for 10 days (as 21st would be all-day travel). It seems like a long time, but it’s not enough! I would’ve chosen a month if I had my way. Ha. So for the 10 days, I wanted to go to a lot of places. I think I’ve re-done my itinerary at least 5 times to try and include all the places I wanted to visit. I also wanted the trip to be around my birthday; it is after all my birthday trip! :)

I started to subscribe to various travel sites including airbnb, bownty, voyage privy, secret escapes. I’d look at all the great deals, and browse upon many, many pages of wonderful places to stay at. I looked for inspiration as to which towns/cities to visit, what activities to do…I couldn’t wait.

I know it might not seem much to most people. Solo trip to some means going on an unknown path, a totally foreign country, and all that. But this is my version of a solo trip. It would be my first adventure on my own. I even took these tips I found at this site for female solo travelers, which I found was pleasant to read as a beginner! The blogger’s tip on what to pack was especially useful as well!

Asked a couple of people of where I should go when in England, but none that stuck as a sure thing. So while looking at all the options for my accommodation as well my modes of transportation, I listened to Dexter Britain‘s music. Fitting, isn’t it? It is also so inspirational, and makes you want to get up and go do things. So I chose the places that would suit the way DB’s music make me feel;

  • 21st – Arrive at Heathrow, take Heathrow Connect to London Paddington (£10.10), London Paddington to King’s Cross to York (Grand Central ticket £40.40 return)
  • 25th – York to King’s Cross – a night in London at a friend’s in Greenford
  • 26th – London Paddington to Bath Spa (First Great Western ticket £30 return)
  • 27th – Daytrip to Bristol (this was not in the plans, initially)
  • 28th – Bath Spa to London Victoria to Canterbury (National Express £12 return)
  • 29th – Canterbury to London Victoria

Will let you know in the next post of why I chose these places! Also, I will include all the hotels/b&bs (cost, location, etc.) I stayed in during my trip. I had so much fun planning, honestly. I will also be writing about the list I had of the people I wanted to see…and the list I ended up having. Life is never really a sure thing; it’s fascinating :)

Till next time, my lovelies.

Chase your dreams!

x

My First Solo Trip (Part 1)

When I got my first bonus from the company, I already knew what I had to do with it. I paid the first two months’ of the rent of the apartment I was moving in to. I didn’t plan on it, but it sort of just happened. I knew I wanted to move out of my sister’s house and get a place of my own in the capital, but I didn’t know that I would actually do it. 2014 was a lot of “didn’t know I’d actually do it”.

Moving in with my good friend was also one of those things. We became fast friends, and realize that we could make great housemates. And we are. One night in April, we were having one of our conversations about the future and the present.

 “I need a holiday. Work is crazy.”

“Me, too! I’m going away for two weeks for my birthday with him, you know!”

“Really? And you’re not going to tell me where, right?”

“Nope! You should do that, by the way.”

“Travelling on my birthday? Yea, that’s a good idea. I wanted to do that for the longest time, honestly. And on my own! I’ve just never had the money and the time to do it. I have to do something for my 27th, though. My birthday’s on the 27th!”

“Well, do it then! And you’ll have plenty of time to plan and save up! Okay, let’s do this! You have to go somewhere for your birthday!”

“Especially with that raise I had late last year…I could definitely save up! Oh, but where would I go?”

“Never mind that for now. You have to decide by July, though, ‘because that’s MY birthday month. It’ll be like your present to me.”

“Haha! Okay, set. I’m going on my own, right?”

“Yep! Your first solo trip somewhere for your 27th birthday on the 27th. Great number.”

And so, the seed was planted in my head. For the next following months, I planned to go somewhere nearby because it would probably be safer to do so on my own and within my budget. So, I decided on Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; close, sort of familiar, and it’s got wonderful beaches. I started to look at TripAdvisor for places of interest, hotels to stay in, and restaurants/cafes/pubs to go to. Over time, I felt as if I was only planning for the sake of it. My heart wasn’t into it. I was excited, but not too much. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

July came, and my housemate asked if I’ve bought the flight ticket. I told her my worries, and that I’ll let her know my answer when she gets back from her holiday, which was early August. I knew I had to decide soon, as it was only few months to January.

 “Well, if you don’t want to go to KK, then maybe you could go somewhere else. Maybe Malaysia is not where you want to go.”

“No, not really. My friend told me that there’s going to be a travel fair this September. I think I will look into that.”

The answer came sooner than anticipated. I received another raise few days after.

Since I left England for good in 2011, I felt empty. And when I visited in summer 2012 for my graduation, I knew that I have to return at least once in a while. After resigning from my previous job, I was unemployed for 6 months. I was down, but never really discouraged; always trusting God to lead me. But I was missing England, terribly. I vowed to myself that I have to visit it as soon as I get myself together.

With the raises I was getting, I saw that my savings was building up, and I could afford an expensive birthday trip. It was only logical to choose England as my travel destination. When I told my housemate of the decision, she agreed that that was definitely a good choice especially when I’ve been talking to her about how much I’ve missed England.

So, that was that. People have asked me why I have chosen England as the first place to travel to solo.

 “Why the UK? You’ve been there. So, what else is there to see?”

“England’s too expensive for shopping!”

“There must be a defining moment when a light bulb switched on.”

I lived in the UK for four years. In those four years, I’ve only been to London, Nottingham, and most of the towns in Kent. I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland, but I didn’t. Sheffield, Bristol, Bath, Southampton, Somerset, Lake District, etc. And, to be honest, I’m not a very big shopper. I’m also going for the experience – sights to see, good food to eat. I can’t say if there was a defining moment. I just *knew* I had to go back to the UK, even just for a holiday.

Heck, I had to go back because I owed it to myself. I’ve spent so much on other people that I forgot to spend on myself. I came to the realization that the person I was most neglecting was me. As I was travelling solo for the first time and for my 27th birthday on the 27th of January, England seemed like a good choice. It would be familiar, awesome, and worth the trip.

And it was. Didn’t know I’d actually do it! :)

Chase your dreams!

/E