10 Life Lessons I Learned In Iceland

Road tripping through Iceland taught me a lot, from photographing every moment to using the right adapters. Read on for 10 (slightly humorous) lessons from the land of fire and ice.

Some lessons you learn from your parents, like how to treat people, or why popcorn doesn’t need 15 minutes in the microwave. #Oops.

Some lessons you learn from your siblings, like the importance of friendship, or how peanut butter gets gum out of hair. #Doubleoops.

And some lessons you learn while traveling, like who you are as a person, or that converters and adapters are not the same thing. (Cough, burnt hair, cough.)

While taking our first road trip together across Iceland, my boyfriend and I learned quite a few things not only about each other – but about life in general. Now, I realize I probably should’ve learned these things years ago, but hey. We’re not perfect; we all burn our hair sometimes … right?

Sigh. Here we go:

Nice drivers still get to their destination.

Drivers on the East Coast have more than a chip on their shoulder – they have some sort of massive boulder that can only be handled with a honk and middle finger. But Iceland? When you’re passing someone on the left, they not only let you go by (none of that “speed up, try to catch me” crap), they put their blinkers on and pull over so you can pass.

And they still get where they’re going – on time. Mind. Blown.

Paprika is delicious. On all things. At all times.

If you haven’t had paprika chips, pretzels, crackers or potato rings, you haven’t lived. Iceland gas stations (which we frequented) carry paprika-flavored everything, and when you’re road tripping across the country, these snacks become your breakfast. And lunch. And, in some cases, dinner. Thankfully they’re delicious – but I can’t find them in the states! Shout if you have!

The Northern Lights are fleeting.

I stupidly went to Iceland with hopes of a full night of star and Northern Lights gazing, with the Aurora dancing across the sky for hours. Spoiler alert: The Northern Lights are amazing – but they’re fleeting, and can come and go so quickly it’s often tough to see them. Definitely don’t plan your trip just to Aurora gaze; make sure to appreciate the twinkling stars, too.

Where we enjoyed a brief Aurora glimpse – and lots of stars

Where we enjoyed a brief Aurora glimpse – and lots of stars

I love my boyfriend – perhaps more than I knew.

If you can road trip across a country with someone and still come out madly in love, well, you’re definitely meant to be.


Converters don’t adapt. And not-adapted straighteners can burn hair.

Burn my hair once, shame on the converter. Burn my hair twice, shame on me. Seriously. I’ve made this converter/ adapter mistake before, but for some reason, I thought this time would be different (because that makes sense). It wasn’t, and it went a little something like this:

Stephanie buys converter. Stephanie says “it’ll be fine!” Stephanie uses straightener with converter on day 1. Stephanie burns hair. Stephanie has charred hair for months.

Same story, different day. Le sigh.

Always take the detour.

I love mapping things out before the trip – figuring out everywhere possible I want to go, then plotting it on a map to see what’s feasible. Iceland reminded me that some of the best destinations aren’t planned, so I should always build time in for – and take! – those detours.

Appearance doesn’t matter – even if it’s on the Insta.

Road tripping and living out of a suitcase does not lend itself to beauty. It lends itself to all things grunge, and in my case, some things burnt. Fortunately, that didn’t affect our photos in the least. Even the photos that included our grungy little faces still came out OK.


My learning? Embrace who you are, and remember – Iceland isn’t there for you to look pretty in. It’s gorgeous enough on its own.


Pay for experiences, not things.

I realize I’m not the only one who lives by this, but man is it true. I’d rather have the memory of sleeping under the stars in a plastic bubble or floating in the remote North Iceland hot springs than a pair of shoes or new sweater any day. So while trips may get pricey, there are some things you’ll just never have the chance to do again.

Silence (seriously!) is golden.

Sure, I’m a walking cliché at this point, but guys – silence is actually pretty amazing. I mean, think about it. How often can you relax with no sound, no distraction, no Netflix, no text “dings”? I’ll tell you the answer: almost never. There’s something about silence that’s just so peaceful, so grounding, and we could all benefit from quiet reflection every day.

Capture every moment on camera.

While you’re doing it, you’ll probably feel like an annoying weirdo, but having your camera out for everything means you’ll have SO much to work with later on. I forced myself to take video after video, vlog after vlog, and while in the moment I looked like a camera-obsessed crazy person, it paid off in the end because I have these amazing moments to remember for a lifetime.

It’s wild how much travel can teach you in seven short days; what’s even crazier is how quickly you forget. To stay honest and educated by your own travel, jot down your memories, regularly revisit your lessons, get camera crazy and, by all means, if your hair’s burnt, wear a beanie.


Originally written by Stephanie Vermillion via www.thewanderlostway.com