Off The Beaten Path: A Road Trip Through Iceland

When I arrived, I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do with my 2 weeks in  Iceland. I had heard that the country was among the most costly in the world, and that all of the biggest attractions were far from Reykjavik (the capital and home of the country’s only international airport), and not too easy to get to for a penniless backpacker like myself.

Amazing Landscape of Iceland- 2 Weeks in Iceland

I considered the options: a tour was out of the question, for reasons of price and my own distaste for set itineraries. Buses were similarly unaffordable and were limited in terms of destinations, and hitchhiking was just too hit-or-miss in September, as tourist season was waning. After asking around at various hostels, I finally landed on the answer. Together with a group of backpackers, we found an agency that rented well-used cars at a fraction of the price of a normal car rental. Our beat-up Subaru wasn’t much to look at, but she was the answer to all our dreams. We loaded up the hatchback and hit the road.

Enjoying the heat from the Blue Lagoon- 2 Weeks in Iceland

Before leaving Reykjavik, we hit the essential highlights.  We started with the famous “golden circle” of attractions right outside of Reykjavik: the thundering Gulfoss waterfall, Geysir, the gusher that gave all geysers their name, and the stunningly pristine Thingvellir National Park. Next we paid a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon. While the entry was a bit pricier than I would have liked, the experience in the ethereally aquamarine geothermal waters was a once-in-a-lifetime luxury.

The Untouched Crashed Plane- 2 Weeks in Iceland

Having seen the essentials of Iceland’s southwest corner, we hit the road. We made our first stop at hveragerði, where we hiked an hour and a half through lushly rolling hills to a river that naturally runs steaming hot. The sensation of the thermal waters was unbelievable, it was a heavenly feeling that I’ve never experienced before or since. In the same day, we made it to Seljallandfoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind for amazing views through the falling water and a black sand beach that’s home to a crashed plane that has never been cleaned up. Leaving a surprising, and unsettling monument on the sand.

Amazing views at Skaftafell National Park- 2 Weeks in Iceland

Over the next few days we crossed Southern Iceland, encountering more natural wonders, each more incredible than the last. We camped next to the breathtaking Skogafoss waterfall, hiked through the Skaftafell National Park to see the incredible waterfall with its geometric basalt columns, and passed by the noble tongues of the Vatnajökull glacier on the way to the final destination of our trip: the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Feeling cool at Jökulsárgljúfur National Park- 2 Weeks in Iceland

It’s nearly impossible to explain the beauty of Jökulsárlón. The stoic lake, littered with giant hunks of marbled ice from the nearby glacier, carries a singular sense of peace. The blue water, the blue sky, the floating icebergs, and the reticent glacier behind combine to create a truly breathtaking plateau. The beauty, so unearthly and exaggerated, is the perfect summary of what makes Iceland so special and so hard to capture.

Watching the tide roll in at Black Sand Beach- 2 Weeks in Iceland

Our last stop before heading back towards Reykjavik, was the black sand beach just south of Jökulsárlón. This is where the glacier fragments make their last stand, before washing out to sea. Walking on the sand amongst the sparkling sculptures, I had one of those moments that every traveler aims for. I felt at once far from home but far from homesick, with a sense of interconnectedness with nature. I forgot every external worry, every bit of daily stress, and was, for a brief and precious time, completely lost in the moment.

Orignally written for the Happy Nomad


10 Mexico City Museums that Should Be On Your Bucket List

It’s been said that Mexico City has the most museums of any city in the world, and after living here for a year I believe it. This city is a museum-lover’s paradise, with museums of all shapes, sizes, and devotions seemingly on every corner. It would be impossible to list them all, or even to list all the great ones, but these 10 are a great starting point. Especially now, during rainy season, I know that there’s nowhere I would rather be.

Casa del Lago

This tiny museum is located in the heart of the giant park known as Bosque Chapultepec, where many of Mexico City’s most prestigious museums are housed. Casa del Lago is not one of the most prestigious–in fact it’s tiny, little known, and little advertised. However, it’s the perfect place to go see local contemporary artists from this creative mecca in pristine natural surroundings away from the madding crowd.

Museo Jumex

This towering museum in the posh Polanco neighbourhood is an incredible wealth of contemporary art, featuring both local and international talent. As a bonus, it’s also right next to the beautiful Museo Soumaya, which features classical art for a bit of balance.

Museo de Antropologia

One of the two most famous museums in the country, this massive collection of cultural artefacts is a genuine treasure trove. You’ll need a full day (or 3) to see it all, but every room is an incredible window into the vast and rich history of Mexico. We recommend going during the week to avoid the formidable crowds.

Museo Frida Kahlo

This one, it might go without saying, is the other ultra-famous museum of Mexico. Frida’s little blue house is now graced daily by long lines of tourists eagerly waiting to see the way the visionary painter lived and worked. The museum doesn’t have a lot of her actual work, but it is a loving ode to the life of an extraordinary artist and revolutionary thinker.

El Centro de la Imagen

Located in a corner of the breathtaking national library, this public photo archive is an incredible space with an even more incredible collection. With both temporary and permanent photo exhibitions, this museum is an incredible gem for photography lovers.

Museo Dolores Olmedo

Those interested in seeing more of Frida Kahlo’s artwork will be blown away by the incredible collection of Dolores Olmedo, a close friend and benefactor of Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. This museum, located in the south of the city in beautiful Xochimilco, has amazing examples of paintings by Frida and Diego as well as a stunning collection of folk arts from around the country. If you’re not convinced yet, you should know that there are also peacocks freely wandering the grounds.

Originally written for the Happy Nomad:

A Week in Prague

I knew little to nothing about the Czech Republic before I arrived, other than a few foggy details from when I was assigned Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being in high school. The very first thing that made an impression after landing at the Prague Airport is how ridiculously beautiful their money is, each bill like a neo-baroque work of art. As we pulled out of the airport and into the capital city, I realized that the Czech Republic didn’t just give extra-special attention to the currency, but absolutely every aesthetic aspect of their breathtaking nation. Nearly every single thing in Prague looks ripped out of the pages of a fairytale storybook.

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As we passed something that looked remarkably like every castle in every Disney movie, I fell deeply and swiftly in love with Prague. Opulently decorated steeples dot the skyline and ornate Gothic bridges span the sparkling central river. The city streets, narrow and cobblestoned, are lined with an enchanting mixture of medieval and postmodern architecture. I never wanted to leave–and all this was before I had even tried the beer.


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Czech food, while hearty and great for a hangover (coincidence? I think not), is not particularly memorable, unless you’re a huge fan of gravy-covered foods in varying shades of brown. But the beer–the BEER! In every shop, every hole-in-the-wall pub, every cafe and restaurant, there is an unbelievable selection of local, delicious and amazingly affordable brews. I recommend the pilsner–all 900 of them.

Due to the Czech Republic’s history behind the Iron Curtain, their economy still has not caught up with much of Europe. While this still poses some financial strife to the locals, it also makes it a great travel destination for those tight on cash. Hostels, meals, and libations are all extremely affordable, which is probably why I never managed to leave my bed before noon during my stay.

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Prague is not just pretty buildings and beer, it’s also an incredibly historical and culturally-rich city with no end of amazing museums, monuments, and galleries. It’s also not all beautiful. If you explore outside of the tourist districts, you’ll find some fascinating and decidedly stark communist-era architecture, a fascinating contrast and remarkable historical reminder of life as a soviet state. In these same concrete-grey neighborhoods, there is also an amazing variety of cafes, bars, and small art spaces occupied by students, making a lively atmosphere that shouldn’t be missed.

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During my stay I also took a day trip by train to the nearby town of Kutna Hora, famous for its unique Ossuary, a church made for the purpose of storing (human) bones. The Ossuary of Kutna Hora is macabre, but it’s also bizarrely and enchantingly beautiful. All of the skeletal remains here have been used to create incredible works of art, from chandeliers to enormous crests. I would say that, disturbing or no, it is entirely worth the trip. You certainly will never forget it.

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The Czech Republic is bursting with completely singular works of art, historical artifacts, and cultural marvels. It truly has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in history, architecture, stunning countryside, or just some really, really, good beer. Na zdraví!

Originally written for the Happy Nomad:

10 Movies That Will Give You a Serious Case of Wanderlust

We all know that movies are a great way to escape reality and travel to new places without leaving your couch. But we also know that it’s infinitely better to get out and really explore those places on your own. Here are 10 movies that do an amazing job of capturing the beauty of the world, the excitement of travel, and will make you want to get out there see it all for yourself.

Wild (2014)

Wild is a fantastic travel movie on several levels. Not only is it a gorgeously filmed love letter to the Pacific Crest Trail and the jaw-dropping beauty of the western United States, it’s also an homage to powerful women and free spirits everywhere. As you join the main character Cheryl on her gruelling trek from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods between Washington and Oregon, it makes you want to strap on a pair of boots yourself and hit the trail to see what you’re really made of.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Everything that Wes Anderson touches turns perfectly picturesque and tantalizing, but the Darjeeling Limited is especially profound in its loving and enchanting depiction of chaotic and colourful India. With the romance of train travel, the delicacy of the Indian musical score, and the indescribable beauty of the passing countryside, this film is an incredible ode to an incredible country.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

es, most of this documentary takes place in an underground subway station. But travel is about more than pretty places–travel is about people, culture, food, sharing, risk-taking, and learning. And Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about all of this and more. This close-up look at the art of sushi and the power of food and family in Japanese culture is enchanting in its heady mix of tender craftsmanship and tough love. Never has Japan seemed so exotically foreign and so intimately universal.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Before Che Guevara was a polarizing revolutionary and bereted poster-child (t-shirt child?) for the communist movement, he was, like many of us, a wandering 20-something looking for answers on the road. This cinematic re-telling of a true story is a classic road trip movie, full of wrong turns, unexpected discoveries, and really, really attractive actors. As Che and his friend travel across South America on the back of the motorcycle, it’s impossible not to fall in love with each country they cross through and each culture they encounter. It’s the kind of broke, broken-down freedom that we all long to experience while we’re young.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

I recently travelled to Iceland, and I heard a whole lot of people talking about the “Walter Mitty peninsula.” At the time I was confused, as this is nowhere on any map of Iceland, but now that I’ve seen the movie, oh boy is it understandable. Once you get over the fact that it’s an Adam Sandler movie, you’ll see that the main character of Walter Mitty is actually the incredible and otherworldly landscapes of Western Iceland. If this movie doesn’t convince you that Iceland is a fairy-land that you have to visit before you die, nothing will.

The Beach (2000)

This 2000 film starring a wide-eyed baby DiCaprio is a little dated, but it’s premise about a legendary pristine beach is still the stuff gap year dreams are made of. The movie explores many aspects of Thailand–the stunning nature, the seedy cities, and the dark reality of consumer culture and irresponsible tourism are all present. But the star of the show is really the Beach itself–Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay, a breathtaking beacon of blinding white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, and verdant limestone karsts that will continue to call your name no matter how bad things get for little Leo.

Into the Wild (2007)

To die would be an awfully big adventure. Yes, this one has a sad ending. But for all the brutality of an Alaskan winter, the message of this movie shines clear: not all those who wander are lost, and there’s a part of humanity that you will never truly discover unless you head into the wild. As you watch Alexander Supertramp commune with nature, hitch-hiking his way through impossibly beautiful landscapes and living off the land, his eyes sparkling with tears at the confounding beauty of a grizzly bear in her natural habitat, it is you are reminded of how much beauty there is in the world if you are willing to get out there and find it.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Who hasn’t fantasized about meeting their soul mate on a train in Europe? This subtly beautiful film about love and travel is dedicated to just one night in Vienna, as American traveller Jesse and his new French acquaintance Céline wander the city and talk to each other about life, philosophy, and simple get-to-know you banalities, quietly falling in love under the Austrian stars. Recommended for romantics and realists alike, this movie is a moving and distinctly un-cheesy masterpiece of human interest.

Paris, Je T’Aime (2006)

This unique movie is made up of short films, all directed by different people, with the city of Paris as their only common thread. From first dates to childhood bullying to vampires, this movie has it all. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the diverse streets of Paris through the eyes of all of the amazingly different directors who all find something irresistibly enchanting about the City of Lights.

Chef (2014)

This is another classic road trip movie–with a twist. A New York chef who has fallen from grace after a high-end restaurant meltdown buys a food truck and hits the road, wandering through the different cultures and cuisines of the United States. Eat first, or you’ll be salivating through all one hour and 55 minutes of this charming foodie film.

With this arsenal of movies, even the ultimate homebody will come down with some serious wanderlust. I mean, I love Netflix as much as the next guy, but nothing compares to getting out there and experiencing the world for yourself–all the tastes, smells, touches, and emotions of travel are something that the cinema can never truly give you.

Originally written for the Happy Nomad:

How to Be a Better Traveler

It’s a common misconception that just getting on the plane and touching down somewhere new is all you need to do to have a genuine travel experience. Indeed, getting out of your routine and getting out into the world is a huge step to discovering new people, places, and things — but that’s just the first step. Travel is more than taking great photos and having out with other travelers in hostels and hotels. Travel is about opening your eyes and heart to a new culture and making a genuine connection with a new place and its people.

Here are 5 ways that you can stop being a tourist and start being a true global citizen by experiencing a genuine cultural exchange:

1. Leave the Group Behind

Vacations can be a great bonding experience for couples, friends, and family, but if you only hang out with a group of people you know from home, or even a group of new friends who are all foreigners, it will
be much harder for you to really see, hear, and feel your surroundings. When you break away from the group and leave the tourist area of the place you’re visiting, you are not only making yourself more aware of your surroundings, you are also much more approachable locals who are as curious about you culture as you are about theirs.

2. Be a Good Listener

This is an important key for any interaction in life. Too often in conversations we are just waiting for our own turn to talk, or comprehending someone’s story only as it relates to ourselves. To have a genuine cultural exchange, it is crucial to really hear the person you are communicating with, and make no assumptions. Don’t interrupt, but make sure to ask questions to this person who is kind enough to share their time with you. Show interest in their perspective and take nothing for granted.

3. Have an Open Mind and Heart

No matter where you go, remember that you are a guest. You are not entitled to anything, and you owe a good deal of respect to all those you encounter. It is easy to think that we know a lot about a country, by guidebooks or by reputation, but in reality this doesn’t scratch the surface of the complicated, beautiful mess of a complex culture and the daily lives of the locals. Even if you disagree with someone’s opinion, remember that you don’t know their perspective, just as they don’t truly understand yours. Always stay open and respectful. Instead of being defensive, be grateful for someone sharing their stance with you. Have compassion and try to truly understand what you are being shown.

4. Curiosity & Care

You’ll never get anywhere without asking questions. Showing genuine interest in the world around you will open up doors to unbelievable experiences. The more you have genuine curiosity and compassion for those you meet, the more you will be invited — to talk, to have tea, to go to a party, or even a wedding (I speak from experience!). Being kind, being curious, and saying yes are the only tactics you need to have the journey of a lifetime.

5. You Get What You Give

If you are open, compassionate, curious, respectful, and approachable, the world will open up to you in ways that you cannot imagine. The more you share of yourself, the more people will share with you. Smiles beget smiles, laughs beget laughs. Approach the world as a grand opportunity. You are not entitled to a life changing experience when you travel — you must work hard to create it.


Originally written for the Happy Nomad:

Seoul Food: 5 Korean Delicacies That Will Blow Your Mind

There are many things that make Seoul, South Korea an amazing travel destination. It has incredible art museums, amazing historical temples, beautiful mountainous surroundings where you can take a nice hike, and a vibrant culture full of warm, friendly locals. But the thing that really made me fall in love with South Korea was the cuisine. Spicy, sour, salty, and sweet, Seoul food packs incredible flavour–and most of it’s healthy!

Here are 5 dishes that will make you want to stay in Seoul forever:

1. Bibimbap

Bibimbap is the only Korean food that most foreigners have heard of, and with good reason. This one-bowl wonder is bursting with flavor. Cooked in a stone bowl, the dish arrives sizzling with white rice at the bottom, topped with assorted vegetables like sprouts , sesame carrots , garlicky spinach , soy-glazed mushrooms, kimchi, and of course, a fried egg to top it all off. You would be hard pressed to find a more perfect lunch.

2. Kimchi Stew

Kimchi is the most iconic of Korean foods. This spicy fermented cabbage has a very strong flavour and can be divisive, but it’s one of my all time favorites. It’s also incredibly good for you, as most fermented foods are. Kimchi stew comes with a vibrantly red and super savoury broth, powered by sauteed kimchi, and also includes silken tofu, juicy pork, and scallions. You’ll see locals piling on the dried seaweed–a delicious and ultra-nutritious addition. Korean winters can get quite cold, and on a steely grey day, there is really nothing better than a hot bowl of this hot and spicy comfort food.

3. Dak Galbi

This dish is another classic Korean comfort food. Filling, cheap, and super flavourful, it’s a huge hit with students and you can find Dak Galbi shops lining the streets in hip, university areas like Hongdae. As with many Korean restaurants, they cook the dish on the table right in front of you, with a stir fry of chicken, cabbage, and the spicy-sweet Korean pepper paste gojuchang, the secret ingredient to pretty much every Korean food. You can choose to mix this colourful stir-fry with rice of ramen noodles and top it with–no, really–mozzarella cheese. Normally cheese and stir-fry don’t mix, but the ooey-gooey result is really to die for.

4. Korean BBQ

Often imitated, never duplicated, real Korean barbecue is an incredible experience. Much like the dak galbi shops, there’s a grill right in the middle of the table, but this time you get to do the cooking yourself. You choose from the menu which meats you want, and they bring them to you raw, accompanied by about a dozen little side dishes–kimchi, pickled daikon, dried fish, seaweed salad, etc. and lots of incredible sauces. Pair your meal with a bottle of soju (a rice-based liquor that the locals drink like water), and you have the perfect evening of cooking, eating, and drinking with your friends.

5. Japchae

Japchae is a real crowd-pleaser, as it is one of the few traditional Korean dishes that is complete mild and is not accompanied by kimchi, a very love-it or hate-it ingredient that can send some foreigners running for the hills. This simple and light dish is made from cellophane noodles, sauteed veggies and a delicious and slightly sweet soy-based sauce. After a vacation full of fiery foods, this is a great dish to cool down with.

Originally written for the Happy Nomad:

How to Find the Best Street Food Spots


One of the greatest joys of traveling is discovering the splendor of local street food. Food carts, food trucks, grannies with kitchen tables dragged to the side of the road…this is the stuff culinary dreams are made of. But choosing the wrong street eats can be a grave error, with possible consequences like food poisoning or, worse, bland food. Here are some tips to avoid falling prey to a bunk food cart.



The #1 most important thing to consider before settling on a street food stand, or restaurant, or anything for that matter, is taking stock of the clientele and making sure that it is predominantly made up of locals. Not only do locals know what’s good in their area, their presence also ensures that the food is authentic and that you won’t be subjected to inflated tourist prices.


Clean But Not Too Clean

Obviously, you want to make sure that the place you’re eating isn’t flagrantly violating a plethora of health violations. But if a place is too clean, too shiny, too new, this just isn’t going to be a true street food experience. Real, authentic street food requires a little grit and just a whisper of a salmonella risk.



If you can’t smell it from down the block, don’t buy it. The street food scale of excellence is based on greasiness, tastiness, and powerful flavor. You want that pad thai or al pastor taco or whatever it may be to be hearkening to you from down the street.



Not only do there need to be locals eating at your street food spot, there need to be a lot of them. Nothing is sadder, or a worse omen, than an empty street food stand. The more crowded, the better. Even if you have to wait a moment or rub elbows with some locals while you eat, you know it’s going to be worth it. Street food is the one travel occasion in which it’s always a good idea to go with the crowd.



If your street food locale is located a little too close to a trash heap, or livestock, or swirling dust, or a busy highway, maybe pass it up for a spot that’s a bit more protected from the elements. As we said, a little grit is great, but exhaust, gravel, and dumpster flies a little less so.


Originally published over at the Happy Nomad: