Iceland Travel Tips

Mossy terrain is everywhere in Iceland. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Mossy terrain is everywhere in Iceland. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Short trip? Long trip?

The two lengths of trips I would recommend are 4-7 days or 14+ days. If you decide to stay in Iceland for 4-7 days, read my tips below. If you decide to stay 14+ days, you'll want to travel around the entire country. Might I suggest on a Happy Camper?

Moonlike terrain around the plane wreckage. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Moonlike terrain around the plane wreckage. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Where to stay

If you're planning to stay in Iceland for a week or less, definitely stay in Reykjavik each night. It allows you to stash your stuff in your room while you drive out of the city for a few hours and see the sights. Traveling back at night is fast and you'll have plenty of food options in Reykjavik.

Kex Hostel
For those of you who are on a budget and love design, I would recommend the Kex Hostel. Gorgeous Ace Hotel-esque decor paired with a stunning bar, restaurant, and even a barbershop tucked inside an old bank vault makes this a popular destination for hip, attractive, beard-laden travelers. The hostel rooms are clean and the bathrooms, although shared, are single-use and quite nice! I'm always wary of hostels and found my stay at the Kex to be incredibly enjoyable.

AirBnb
Cheaper than a hotel, more expensive than the Kex. AirBnb has hundreds of apartments and homes throughout Reykjavik. Just make sure you're staying in close-proximity to the restaurants and bars in Reykjavik.

Gunnuhver. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Gunnuhver. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Getting around

I cannot stress this enough, get a car...and better yet, an SUV. Most people who go to Iceland assume they need to take excursions to get out of Reykjavik and see the country. Sadly, the excursions are about $200+ each and you get shuttled around with about 50-100 strangers. NO FUN. Renting a car was by far the best decision we could have made. Because of this, we were able to see all of the sites completely by ourselves. There were a few places we drove that would have been impossible to get to without an SUV (gravel roads), so upgrading to an SUV is very important. I've rented a couple of times from Procar and had an amazing experience. Opt for the GPS and the Self-Drive tours and you'll have a great time.

All the tourists at Geysír. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

All the tourists at Geysír. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Things to do in Iceland

The Golden Circle
When you get to Iceland, all you'll hear about is the Golden Circle. It's the easiest place to shuttle tourists to on busses because the landmarks are conveniently located in a circle. Geysír, Gullfoss and Kerið are really great sights on the Golden Circle. However, when you get to these places, you'll be sharing the sights with hundreds of tourists. I much prefer the places below, most of which you'll practically have to yourselves!

Hrunalaug
This is a secret hot spring. You'll have to do some googling to find exact directions. It's tricky, but worth it. When you get there, do some hiking up the hill behind it and hop around in the moss.

Blue Lagoon
This is a given. It's the #1 tourist attraction in Iceland for a reason. Unlike anything you'll experience in the world. My huge tip: Get there as they're closing. We got there 1.5 hours before they closed for the night and we practically had the place to ourselves.

Vik
This is a beachside town with black sand beaches. They're incredibly gorgeous!

Plane wreckage
This is one of my FAVORITE things in Iceland. You have to have an SUV to get there and drive about 15 minutes off any roads on a moon-like terrain to get there. Completely worth it.

Seltún
This is a geothermal steamy area with good (optional) hiking!

Reykjanesviti Lighthouse & hike
There's a huge cliff over here and a picnic table for lunch. Highly recommend climbing up the hill and enjoying the seaside views.

Gunnuhver
Just next to the lighthouse and cliff. Large steaming area that looks like Mars!

Seljavallalaug Hidden Pool
A secret hidden pool that will hopefully be unoccupied by the time you get there.

Inside Harpa. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Inside Harpa. Photo by Jonnie Hallman!

Things to do in Reykjavik

Food & Drink

Reykjavik Roasters
I'm addicted to the oat milk latte from this place. Hands down the best coffee in Reykjavik!

Kex Hostel Restaurant/Bar
Great breakfast, good dinner, and live music on certain nights. Even if you aren't staying at the hostel, you're welcome.

Café Babalú
Great lunch spot!

The Laundromat Café
A great spot if you're missing home. Especially great if you're a New Yorker. The food is delicious and the decor is wonderful.

Gló Laugavegi
Great vegetarian restaurant. A good choice if you're looking to eat healthy for a meal.

Forréttabarinn
One of the best meals of my life. Great fancy spot for dinner. Beautiful decor and delicious cocktails.

Lebowski Bar
A Big Lebowski themed bar! Great menu of white russians if you're into that sort of thing.

Activities

Hallgrímskirkja
The tallest building in Reykjavik. Take the elevator to the top and take in the colorful buildings in Reykjavik.

Harpa
If you can, try to catch a show at the Harpa. If not, simply visit during the day and have lunch or a drink. The architecture is absolutely breathtaking and you have to go inside to see the best part!


Designer of the Year Nomination!

I just caught wind that I was nominated for Designer of the Year (alongside an insane lineup of some of my good friends) from the Net Awards and I'm so freakin' excited! Sure, I was nominated last year (and didn't win), but I feel stronger, better and more amazing this year. What have I accomplished in the past year?

  1. Totino's Pizza Rolls have tweeted at me on more than one occasion.
  2. My Mom unearthed this photo of me as a baby, which truly must be the cornerstone of my personality.
  3. I discovered how to make a thumb head and have taken at least 100 thumb head photos this year. Here's one.
  4. We redesigned Ghostly Ferns and became the only design company with a topless ghost for a mascot.
  5. I discovered that I'm not actually a robot after all.
  6. I started dancing. See above.

 I can feel myself peaking!

What's even cooler is that Ghostly Ferns was nominated for Agency of the Year! We've never even considered ourselves an Agency, which makes the whole thing even more exciting. The definition of Agency is changing and we're a huge part of that. Go Ghostly Ferns!

Please, please vote if you actually feel like I, and Ghostly Ferns, deserve the awards. If not, please vote for those you think do!

Vote for Designer of the Year here
Vote for Agency of the Year here

I'm Not a Robot! I'm a Human Female Who Loves To Dance.

Throughout my adult life I’ve always been extremely self aware, the personality trait that (to me) makes a person great. With being self aware comes the horrible side effect of being in constant fear of judgment. I am so self aware that I will think before I say or do anything as to not annoy or bother anyone. I have perfectly tailored myself to be the optimal human being. I make sure to listen 60% and talk the remaining 40% of the time. I frequently compliment people and mirror their personalities. I am just the right amount of funny mixed with loving compassion. My personality is a huge robotic calculation and it’s gotten out of control.

A few months back I decided to ditch the calculation and find out who I actually am. What is my real personality? Am I actually a horribly annoying person or am I a robot after all? The first step was to try something that I had always been afraid to do: dance. Dancing is the thing that has always made me feel most exposed and open to judgment. Why not start dancing and find out a) if I can actually dance b) if people actually judge me c) what it feels like to be exposed.

So I started dancing. First at parties with friends who already like me, then at clubs with friends and strangers. I decided it was extremely important that I let go 100% and see what happens. So I did, and something amazing happened. People judged me hard. I could see them staring at me and had to push through the judgment and continue to completely let go. After a few songs, I was in a groove and I could tell that everyone else was loosening up around me. A few people joined me at my level and we danced for a while. After my first night of dancing I started to receive comments. Mostly bewilderment that I was capable of moving my body in such a way, but also encouragement from people who admired my ability to not care what others thought. A few friends even told me that I’ve inspired them to also start dancing and letting go themselves. Score!

I’ve been dancing, a lot, for a few months now and it’s completely changed everything. Through the process of being completely open to judgment (and not caring!) it’s allowed me to open myself up to judgment in all areas of my life. It’s helped me to realize something exceptional about myself and my personality. I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m a nice, caring person who isn’t causing anyone mental or physical harm, I can and should do whatever I want. I actually am funny and compassionate. I love listening most of the time and feel open to talking sometimes. I’m not a robot. I’m a weird human female who loves to dance and no longer cares when people judge me. Because I rule! I encourage you all to do the same. Your ability to loosen up and let go will do wonders for your self confidence and will inspire others around you to be themselves. Everyone wins!

The last step of my dancing experiment is to allow a group of internet strangers to see me dance with no one else at my side. The ultimate test of judgment. Without further adieu, enjoy this video of ol’ Meg dancing to Yacht’s Waste of Time and having a ridiculously good time.

My Non-Award-Winning Design Process

The recent incredible Draplin logo design process video from Lynda.com really got me thinking about sharing my design process (or lack thereof) with y’all. I think it’s really important that other designers share their processes as we all have different styles. Some may resonate with others. Aaron’s process was exceptionally inspiring and completely different from mine. so, here goes.

Design things in the order in which you are motivated.

Starting the design process can be incredibly intimidating. A lot of people struggle to know how to start a design. You hear from a lot of people who are sticklers about beginning the process with sketching, wireframing, conducting user interviews, looking at inspiration, going out in nature, joining a cult, and so on. I’ve simply had a hard time saying that one, and only one, method is where I start my process. It works best for me to wait patiently for a surge of motivation to come about a particular piece of the design process. I might be out drinking at 12am when I get a random surge of color inspiration. I’ll gasp and run over to my computer to quickly put together color palettes for a project that I haven’t yet started. Hours later, the sun comes up and I’ve finished an initial concept that I love. The key: motivation. I was so excited that I spent hours, which felt like minutes, working on the design.

If I find myself working on a design that I’m feeling bummed about. I’ll stop, do something else, and wait patiently for the motivation and excitement to come back. It always does, just not at the most opportune times. However, the final product is always worth it.

Oftentimes this means you’ll have to design out of the standard “by-the-book” order. Whatever, man! If you’re excited about designing a Twitter avatar before you’ve even started on the logo. Do it! Maybe this is where the mobile first technique came from. A guy who got excited about designing for mobile while taking a shower. “But I haven’t started on the desktop site yet!” he exclaims while lathering. “Screw it! I’m designing mobile first.”

I’m just saying, don’t worry about a concrete process. Let the motivation and excitement of inspiration guide you through the design work. Or don’t. It’s up to you.