Iceland through the eyes of my eight year-old niece

The other day, I was reminiscing about a trip I took in June, one about which I haven’t shared much: eleven days of camping and exploring the Ring Road in Iceland. It was inspired by the deluge of beautiful media from travelers through this beautiful arctic island. I had to see it, even though I knew it would be expensive (and cold, even during Midsummer!). Throughout my TGS career, I tried to organize flights to and from Europe passing through Iceland, but it never worked out…until the end.

Iceland was one of those trips I set my mind to and willed company to follow. Thankfully, my brother was up for a very different kind of trip than his usual beach or city visit. And his daughter, my 8 year-old (now 9) niece. And finally my colleague and co-advisor from TGS, Matt Cook. Somehow, our crew came together… different age groups, some strangers at first, novice and experienced travelers… and what transpired was truly a trip for the books. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

The best part, though, was watching my niece slowly absorb the world around her, transform her behavior, break her affinity for technology, and learn to appreciate and thrive in the company of adults. Day one she was wired from the flight and lack of sleep, squealing on the playground, messing with the iPad, and crashing hard in her sleeping bag. There were times she struggled to get excited for another waterfall or round of fish’n’chips. But then she found joy in little observations. She started getting up on her own to brush and prepare for the start of the day. She stopped pouting. She started beating us at “Kings in the Corner” with our own strategies. She cleaned dishes in a stream. She hiked 5K without faltering and laughed as the seabirds darted for our heads. And by day ten, she stared out the window deep in thought, uninterested in playing games or watching YouTube videos when she could be observing the rain as it fell onto the fields surrounding Reykjavik.

I’m excited to take her on more adventures (including one in Denver soon!), and I’m excited for my nephews to get older and do the same. This experience only confirmed my belief in the power of travel to educate and embolden people, young and old. You can observe her transformation for yourself in this video.

Ever since I stopped being the Media Specialist at TGS, I slowed down my production of travel videos. Lugging around a big 5D Mark II was a privilege for five years, but it tapped me dry of my interest to document everything. Sometimes a camera gets in between you and your own life experience.

But on this trip, Iceland proved too striking not to capture, and I loved seeing my niece react to its different terrain and wildlife. So, I edited together this virtual scrapbook (in honor of her mother’s birthday in August) with the hope that Olivia continues to reap the benefits of this trip for years to come.