Memory #18: That Time I Went to Iceland…Twice

When I was in the 5th grade, I remember reading a fact somewhere that Iceland had been voted the “happiest country in the world”. Wait, what? A whole country full of the happiest people in the world living a dreamy, nordic life together on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic? It was almost too much for my little 10-year-old brain to handle. Through the bewilderment grew a romanticized fascination though, and I vowed then and there to visit this enchanted place someday.

Flash forward 10 years and a Björk obsession later to my parents asking me if I’d rather have a trip or a party as a college graduation gift. Was it even a question? The trip instantly won over the party and I got my college bestie Jocelyn on board to map out a 10-day journey for us to the land of fire and ice: Iceland.

I’ll be the first to admit that I overuse the word magical, but honestly, if you had to sum up Iceland in one word this would be it. The unspoiled and resplendent beauty of the country was unparalleled to anything I had seen in my life and it was equal parts the most beautiful and bizarre place I had ever been. We spent 7-days driving the ring road through the farmlands, into the mountains, and alongside the breathtaking fjords, and topped off our tour in Reykjavík, the shockingly hip and unexpectedly rowdy capital city where the majority of the country’s population resides.

It was kind of awesome (do you sense my sarcasm?)—so awesome in fact that the following year I returned for a 4-day music festival called Iceland Airwaves with my boyfriend at the time Tim, and one of my best childhood pals, Jenny. Though the theme of that trip was a bit different—all-night Icelandic dance parties, crazy hipster outfits, and $12 draft Viking beer took precedence over geysir-seeing and elf-hunting—it was a pretty incredible trip as well, and one that I’m glad I took when I was in my early 20’s because whether I’d like to admit it or not, this side of 25 looks a whole lot different than the previous one.

So, moral of the story? Go to Iceland. It’ll blow your mind. And if you’re at the age where staying up all night furiously dancing around to crazy Icelandic dance music sounds appealing, go to Iceland Airwaves. That’ll blow your mind too.

 

The first trip looked like this

The first trip looked like this…

the sedodo

…and the second trip looked a little more like this (p.s. this band is called FM Belfast, they will blow your mind too)…

This is how much fun an Icelandic dance party is

…and also kind of like this

 

Memory #14: Our Viequation

A few winters back, Dan and I found ourselves (finally) coming down from a pretty intense stretch of time. We had been burning the candle at both ends for a while…running ourselves a little too ragged…and every ounce of everything in us was pleading to slow down and take a break, aka, a vacation.

After a bit of deliberation, Budget-Travel scouring, and friend-polling, we decided on our spot: Vieques, a little island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico.

We stayed at a rustic-style B&B called Hector’s By The Sea (which I’d highly recommend) in our own private “casita” that featured stunning views of the of the ocean to one side, and wild horses grazing by mango trees on the other. In other words: it was perfect.

Because Hector’s was bare bones in a lot of ways, there wasn’t any on-site dining—but lucky for us, there was a larger scale inn next door that had a restaurant and bar that were open to the public (win!). During our stay, we made sure to take full advantage of both, ordering chocolate chip pancakes almost every morning for breakfast, and heading over for a late-night cocktail at the bar almost every night.

On one particularly beautiful evening, we mozied over to the bar only to find that for whatever reason, we had to whole place to ourselves. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, the drink special of the night just-so-happened to be pain killers (my favorite drink of all time, if you remember), and they were exclusively playing Frank Sinatra all night long. Oh hello, all of my favorite things ever.

We spent the entirety of that night enjoying each other’s company under the oceanfront cabana, sipping on the serendipitous drink of the night, and being serenaded by the sound of the ocean mixed with ol’ blue eyes. Sigh…

Vieques + a slow night at the beachside bar + pain killers + lounge music + my favorite person in the world = #dreamlife

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Hector’s By The Sea

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Sunsets were ok...

 

DSC_0154Best. Bar. Ever.

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D&D getting their share of Vitamin D

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This trip also happened to be a favorite memory of Dan’s. Here’s his account of that magical night:

In the distance, we could hear the sound of bongo drums. And wait, was that a mirimba? It was close by, but we couldn’t see where it was coming from. We decided to walk towards it, and as we came to a clearing behind a row of tropical shrubs on the other side of our private casita in vieques, the music got louder. It was coming from the outdoor bar of a neighboring bed and breakfast, situated about 100 yards from the ocean, and they were winding things down for the night. We walked up to the bar counter under the gazebo and, being the only ones there, made fast friends with the bartender.

We leafed through the drink menu, all delicious tropical frozen drinks (my favorite variety, for those who know me well enough) and decided tonight would be frozen painkillers, one of Danne’s favorites, and one that I had never tried before. Our bartender dipped behind the counter, and a few minutes later, the whir of the blender quiet, our drinks arrived with the perfect sprinkle of nutmeg topping off the whipped cream. We clinked our glasses, listened to the bongo drums, and drank to the start of an amazing vacation, the sound of the ocean right behind us.

 

Readers’ Memories: Week 3

This week I have 2 amazing readers’ memories to share with you all—thank you so much for sharing ladies (and thanks Tara for the first love story of the month, I loooove a good love story).

Favorite memory from Tara Mazzeo of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: “La Pura Vida”

In the spring of 2006 I set off on a journey with a dear friend of mine.

It was one of those “take a time-out from your life” kind of adventures and I was in desperate need of it. You see, my life was a constant state of Chaos and I was over it. So I decided that I was going to allow myself to hit the coveted snooze button and go on a treasure hunt for that shiny gem known as Clarity.

Our plane touched down, we de-boarded and there we were…Paradise had been found! We made it to the lush, tropical, untouched purity of Costa Rica.

I could feel a shift as soon as my feet landed on the tarmac. I shed some layers of clothing (it was cooking hot) and though I didn’t know it yet, I also shed some of those pesky inhibitions that were cramping my Spirit’s style.

The first few days were spent lounging, reading, swimming, sunning and detoxing the stressors I left at home.  The cotton candy sunsets, bold iguanas and howling howler monkeys took residence where the sights and sounds of city living once did.

Before I knew it relaxation had set in and running in tandem with it was the weekend.

My girlfriend and I decided to head out on the “town”. Now, by “town” I mean tiny little surf town on the edge of the Costa Rican jungle, of which you navigate by dirt roads and big smiles.

It was this night, in this town, backlit by stardust that I never knew to exist, that I met him.

Our paths crossed in a manner that only makes sense if you never question it. We fell into a state of normalcy that would historically have taken me aback. Lucky for me, I had just excavated a state of mind akin to blissful relaxation, so I decided to be Zen and just roll with it.

My mantra was something along the lines of “Tara, be Zen, roll with it, don’t question the magic and be sure to call the airlines and extend your stay”.

(FYI:  My mantra was a success.)

It was a whirlwind romance that made all the sense in the world. The only issue was…I was a world away.

My last morning in Costa Rica found my hiding spot. My two worlds were colliding.

He drove me back to my neglected hotel (and forgiving best friend) before the sun began to rise. We parked out front sharing a very long and hesitant farewell, filled with pleas and wishes by both of us that I could stay longer (maybe forever). But home and the chattering list of life obligations began to trickle into my Zen. The only words that found their way to my voice were the ones that said I couldn’t stay. I wanted to stay…but I couldn’t.

My heart and my soul slumped their shoulders in defeat. They were advocates of staying.

Before I could let him change my mind, I kissed him one last time, hopped out of the truck and bolted toward my room without daring myself to look back.

I flung the door open and my girlfriend greeted me with a look of shock and the following words: “I can NOT believe you are coming home!”.

My response was: “I can’t believe it either”.

I packed my bag in a fury. Within minutes there was a knock at the door. My heart jumped, my soul squealed in delight. I looked at my friend and said: “It looks like I’m staying after all!”.

Much to my dismay, it wasn’t him with one last request, it was our driver letting us know he was ready to begin our long journey back to the airport where this whole adventure began.

We tossed our bags in the car, gave our surroundings one last look and crawled into the backseat. My heart and my soul reassumed their disapproving positions. I sat back, closed my eyes and did my best to tell myself I was making the right choice. Soon, the gentle rocking of driving on unpaved roads had me drifting off to sleep.

It wasn’t long into the drive that I could feel the car begin to slow and then come to a stop. I slowly opened my eyes. The dirt roads illuminated by the rising sun created a magical, dusty curtain over the countryside. I whispered to my girlfriend asking her why we stopped. Her eyes widened and she told me to look ahead, through the windshield.

That’s when I saw it.

Standing there, in the middle of the road, was a white horse so grand, so pure, so dreamlike I could hardly believe it to be true. He stood there, looking at us, unafraid, unwavering and beautiful beyond words.

My girlfriend turned to me, she held my hand and she said: “Tara, what do you think he’s saying to you?”.

I would love to tell you I listened to his message that day, turned around, drove back to my love and stayed in that little casita on the edge of the Costa Rican jungle forevermore…but I can’t.

Instead, what I can tell you is that I did, in fact, find the clarity I was searching for on that adventure in Paradise. I can tell you, with certainty, that I was forever changed. I can tell you that I am engaged to marry that man and we plan to do so on the beach where we met in Costa Rica. Of course, I can also tell you that I believe in magical white horses who are messengers and reminders of the life you are meant to life.

:: Always from under the same sky ::

Photo from: www.andihatch.com
Photo from: www.andihatch.com

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Favorite memory from Alana Mairs of Vancouver, British Columbia

A few years ago, I spent a weekend on a tugboat. A docked tugboat, that is.

I found the tugboat on a vacation rental site. My friends and I wanted to get out of town and the tugboat was located just a short ferry ride from Vancouver.

A lazy Saturday afternoon. Scotch. Hazy sun. Friends sitting around a galley table shooting bottle caps back and forth. Time stands still.

I have photos of the hike we did to a bald patch of rock overlooking the ocean, and of us pretending to drive the tugboat, and of the little town itself, but none of them quite capture the feeling of peace I remember when I look at this photo:

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You can read more about Alana’s tugboat adventure here