Travel in Iceland! – With Photo Gallery
What’s travel all about?
Whats the difference between travelling, touristing, going on an expedition, or having an adventure? I think the definitions change depend on who is answering the question. Here is the way I define the categories;
Tourist – A person who takes a vacation and consumes the culture of their destination. Generally going to a destination resort, staying in hotels, or doing all inclusive packages. They take a break from their regular life for a brief period before returning to their normal lifestyle. They tend to consume the product of a vacation instead of immersing themselves in their destination.
Traveller – A person who travels and spends longer amounts of time in each location, eating local food, meeting local people and sharing in their meals and customs. The goal is to have a more meaningful experience and to understand the world and yourself more intimately.
Expedition – Travel to a location to do research that is added to the collective knowledge of humanity.
Adventurer – Being a Tourist, Traveller, Expeditionary and dealing with something gone wrong.
What am I?
I try to be a Traveller rather than a Tourist. So far I can not call myself a Expeditionary, but I’ve had a few Adventures in the last two years. I try my best to minimize those.
As I travel I try to spend at least a month in each country I visit. I eat local and try my best to meet people where I stay. Living in Hostels and Guest Houses makes this much easier. Lately my travels have felt a little empty, I feel I should also be contributing to the places I visit. This gives me the feeling that i’m just a tourist with a longer time frame. I may take a lot of photos to show and promote the locations I visit. But I’ve made no positive impact on the lives of the people I visit.
In January of 2017 I spent a month in Granada, Spain. I really enjoyed the location and even made some friends while I was there. But there are many times I feel lonely. Like I am just another tourist consuming the experience without connecting with the culture. I decided I need to change the reasons I travel. I want to visit the world and I want to feel that by visiting I make a contribution in some way. So I decided to look for opportunities to volunteer while I travel.
Volunteering in Iceland!
Fortunately the internet is full of opportunities to find organizations with which to volunteer. Searching brought up many companies that promise to place people in almost every country. What I noticed is that these companies want a lot of money to give people the opportunity to volunteer. The cheapest organization I found in Canada is CADIP. They organize Canadians and Americans to volunteer at locations all over the world. CADIP offers both short term and long term volunteer opportunities.
I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland so I searched their site, filled out the application form and selected between six possible options available in Iceland. I requested that I be placed in two consecutive programs so that I could stretch out my time there for a whole month.
The cost to sign up for the two programs was $880 CDN ($440 each ). CADIP requires that I also pay a membership fee of $55 CDN. I later learned from other volunteers that joined from different countries paid considerably less. For instance volunteers who joined through their university in China paid absolutely nothing and several volunteers from Europe paid €100 Euro or less. So while CADIP seems to be the cheapest place to sign up in Canada it is, by far, more expensive than in other countries.
The two programs I’m working in are journalism and a music festival. The local volunteer agency that CADIP placed me in is called Worldwide Friends. Along with the two programs I am placed in they also offer opportunities to work on farms and fixing up houses as well as many others.
1. Promoting Voluntarism Through Journalism and Photography
The volunteers in this project will create and put together a magazine promoting volunteer work, telling stories of volunteers’ involvement and contribution to the environment of Iceland, and promoting the work of the project organisers.
In the beginning of the project, volunteers will receive an introduction about the tasks. Afterwards, we will choose a topic for the newsletter. This is a great opportunity to step into different projects and to get to know Reykjavik even better. The group will take photos, create videos and conduct interviews with volunteers, local hosts and people living in the area. The outcome will be published in UNA magazine.
2. Westman Islands Festival (Þjóðhátíð)
The Westman Islands consist of a group of fifteen islands located at a short distance off the south coast of Iceland. They are so named because the Nordic settlers in the country called the Irish, who settled the island “Westmen” (the men from the west). All the islands have been created in submarine volcanic eruptions during comparatively recent geological time.
The first Þjóhátíð was held in 1874 making this Iceland’s oldest festival, celebrating the anniversary of 1,000 years of settlement of this frozen, northern outpost. On the first weekend of August, Icelanders celebrate in the town of Heimaey. The population moves into a tent city in the Herjolfsdalur, a short distance west of town, for an extended weekend of bonfires, dance, and songs. The most famous bands in Iceland are usually entertaining the guests. This festival is the most popular one in Iceland.
My first program is now complete
Yesterday was the last day of my Journalism program. It was everything I expected and more. Parts of it were complete chaos, parts super productive, and some of it was relaxing. My work team had 8 members including myself. Volunteers from China, Spain, Russia, Austria, France, and Greece made up our group. The team leaders were from Thailand and Czech Republic, France. Of course I was, by far, the oldest in the group, and the youngest was 18.
We produced an issue of UNA magazine. This is the official magazine of Worldwide Friends. Every issue is created completely by volunteers. The magazine is focused on promoting volunteerism in Iceland. This issue looks back at the 16 years that Worldwide Friends has operated in Iceland. Every article and image is created by our group. To check out the issue of UNA click the image below.
Westman Island Festival
My next program starts on August 3rd. I will take a bus and a boat to Westman Island. Along the way my bus will do the obligatory “Golden Circle” tour that everyone has to take in Iceland. The festival program will be less creative as I am there to help set up and take down the festival. However, along with my volunteer activities I plan to do video interviews with other volunteers, organizers, attendees, and performers. My plan is to come out of this festival with a lot of material for further blog posts, and Youtube videos.
What else am I up to?
If all the volunteering is not enough I also plan a bunch of travel on my own. This week i’m renting a car and driving it to the south coast. I hope to see icebergs, the diamond beach, and many other Icelandic wonders. My plan is to camp and take many many photos to share with everyone on my other blog at Pixelbip.
After my work on Westman is complete I rent a car and head to the north and to the west for 5 days. Yes, its a lot to do and see but the great thing is that Iceland is super compact. It looks big on maps but that’s because maps always enlarge areas in the far north or south. Here is another map showing all the locations I plan to visit in the next 20 days. I honestly forget what all the different colour pins mean.
If you have any questions about Iceland or Volunteering, or any recommendations for me please leave a comment!!