Here is a video documenting our trip to the Icelandic island.
Camper Life, A memior by Finn Carpenter
Another school year was out, and my family took a two week stop in Iceland on the way home. While in Iceland we stayed in Reykjavik for the first few days, where we biked around the city and experienced some Icelandic cuisine, such as skyr, yogurt-but-better as a breakfast treat. But after Reykjavik was the part I looked forward to the most — the camper van. This is what really made the trip — living and working in the small enclosed space while driving around the country. I loved it all, and from the day we got our camper van, I was bouncing around. I wanted to see and explore every inch of the thing. There was the eating-living-sleeping space just as we came in, the kitchen to the left, and an L-shaped seat sat on one side of the table while the driver and passenger seats on the other. Past a door in back was a bed with a bathroom and shower on either side right as we walked through. This was the camper; with such tight quarters, we were going to need all the communication and teamwork skills we could muster. This was a new exciting way to live, and I just loved it. Every day in the van was another adventure, a new thing to try, a new way to have fun. I was a mouse poking his little head out into a new world. Living in such a small space brought us together as a family in order to communicate more effectively, cook, eat, brush teeth, stay organized, and not aggravate each other. Living in the camper was like a team building activity: it required more communication than it seemed like it should, and it got everyone up and moving closer to each other than they wanted to.
In the camper when we woke up, everyone was in one of two places: the bedroom in the back where my parents slept on a mattress with about two inches of space on either side, or where my brother and I slept on a mattress/platform suspended from the ceiling. The bed that we slept on was a twin bed that was on rails that we would slide up and down so that it was either in the ceiling during the day or resting on the backs of the chairs at eye level(at least for me) each night. In our camper every morning we would swing the driver and passenger seats 180 so that we could all sit around the table and eat. When my brother and I woke up, we would sit and slide off the bed – which rested atop the L-shaped chair – into the driver and passenger chairs. Silent arguments took place, furious whispers exchanged, who would deal with the shades that covered all the windows to keep out the midnight sun. Once out of bed, we pull the shades back and clip them into the sides of the window. Since we were in Iceland in the summer the sun went down at 12 and came up at 2. Our shades had to be closed tight or we would be up and rocking at 3 in the morning. We clambered over each other, reaching and grabbing at the thick cloth. Still all is quiet, so far we were being mindful of the noise we were making. With our parents sleeping so close, we had to be all quiet whispers and tip toes then… Bang! Something had slammed or been dropped…so much for mindfulness. After we opened up the shades, the light flooded into the room and I could finally fully wake up and read. Then right when I was starting to relax, it was time for breakfast – the ultimate teamwork game.
Breakfast was always quite a process in the camper. To decide on the food a conversation and debate of needs was necessary. How fast did we need it to be made? Did we have any of that left? Would there be enough for all of us? Then once we had a food chosen, we had to make it. For me, my favorite breakfast was eggs and toast with skyr and fruit. For that to happen one person had to be cutting the bread at the table on the tiny little cutting board because another person would be cooking the eggs and the toast in two different pans on the stove while the sink was being taken up by the fruit washer. However, the fruit washer cannot be in front of the sink because that is where the stove monitor is, the fruit washer has to be in front of the refrigerator. The fourth person, usually me, the least muscular and most acrobatic, ended up getting juice, silverware, and doing the other chores like delivering from person to table and back. Every day in order to even make a simple snack, I needed to squeeze, squish, and contort myself just to get an apple. The amount of teamwork required to accomplish one simple thing was immense. To get one apple was like that one team building activity where you need to guide the other person who is blind folded, and I had to be told, “No the apples aren’t there.Wait! A little to your left.” It was the ultimate way to bring people together while keeping them pleasantly unable to do things effectively.
After breakfast was always hectic: the time when you brush your teeth and get dressed. Every day was a strange game of clambering over other people and arguing about everything. Could you move that over there? Wait, I need to get past you over there! Can you pass me that? No, I took out the trash yesterday! Just to brush my teeth each day, I had to climb over my brother, squeeze past my dad, and negotiate my way through my mom, the kitchen, and the door. Then back through the jungle-gym, with arguments and hostile demands on every side, just to get dressed. In the camper, my brother and I stored our stuff in overhead cabinets and under seats, almost like an airplane. In order to get my clothes, everyone had to stand up and move everything off the seats, then I would remove the cushion and pull up the hatch. I had to argue myself out of taking the trash, and negotiate my way to my seat just so that I could read my book.
Then came the most annoying time of day: the passing time. When we were traveling around Iceland, we did not have a set course day by day. That meant my parents and my friend’s parents would sit and talk about different possible schedules and activities. When should we go there? Won’t that take all day? What route should we take to get from A to B? That was the most annoying part of the day because that was when I would just sit. There was not enough time to get out a game, but when I tried to just fill the time with reading, it felt like I would pick up the book then we would leave. No matter what I did, I either had too much time to do nothing, or not enough time to do something. My brother was endlessly trying to get me to do something for him. He would say “We don’t have much time, can you take out the trash?” No, I would not take out the trash today. “We need to get moving can you finish up the dishes?” No, he could finish the dishes in about two minutes. Apparently even arguing about who should do the dull menial tasks takes too little time to be interesting. The way that passing time required communication and teamwork – while still being boring enough that I wanted to do something else – was truly and inspiringly evil.
After the passing time and before we left the camp, was always an interesting time. It was not the passing time after the passing time, it was the grey water time. Anyone who has lived in a camper knows this time, it is when we would stop on the way out of the camp to unload. Every camp had a grey water station to stop by, usually with grates in the ground and a hose. The hose was for the innocent, side, filling up on water, the grates were for the grey water. The grey water was the water in our camper, built up from use of the toilet. My dad would pour it out every day, and we would have to sit and watch it flow from the little box into the grate. As our nostrils filled with the acrid stench of urine, we tried our best to fill the tank and empty the sink water as fast as possible. Once we had all yelled at each other and held our noses sufficiently, we clambered back into the van and were off… time for travel.
Then comes the travel time, the time of day where we drove. We usually drove for around an hour to some activity or another. While we drove, we would have one person hopelessly trying to navigate, my dad driving, and me, playing the audio books. I was great at it, I would pause when we needed to talk about something and start right back up into the story when ready to listen. I was always on the watch. Was there a conversation that needed to be had? A problem that needed ridiculous amounts of teamwork and problem solving? I was the ever present thumb over the pause button, while everyone tried to actually get somewhere even with the pretty scenery. Driving was stunning some days, and utterly boring others. One day, the landscape out the window looked liked rocky cookies and cream ice cream; other days it looked like a flat moon landscape. Driving around Iceland was an adventure no matter what the circumstances.
Arriving at campsites, we always had to dock and hook, or at least that’s what I called it in my head. We would pull in and dad would go investigate. Is there space? Are there plugs? What is the situation? Then, once we had the all clear, we would bump in on a gravel road and find a spot. Finding the perfect spot was more an art than a search. Talking, yelling, and discussions always filled the air when it came to the camping spot. Teamwork and listening to each other were needed even for this insanely simple task. We had to avoid spots that were too tilted, too buggy, too far from the toilet, and too far from the plug. Usually it was hard to get everything, but occasionally we would get that perfect spot; those nights were the best.
Really, all the nights in Iceland were the best. However, the ones in the camper were the best of the best. The camper made Iceland more exciting and more fun, no matter where we went. It continually brought us closer together. Closer emotionally, but also physically, a day did not go by without stepping on someone’s foot, or squishing past them into the kitchen area. Being in the camper was really the most fun part of Iceland, and I think without it, Iceland would not be the same. I look back fondly on the memories of Iceland, while some are not the best, they will always stay with me. They will remind me of my family, my brother, and the good times we had together. Without those memories and experiences, my family would not be the efficiently oiled machine it is and neither would I.
Now for some of our best memories:
We biked all over the Reykjavík area on a cold windy afternoon.
The city was very modern and friendly. We took a walking tour and got to learn about all the different parts of the city and a little bit of Icelandic history.
Our first day campervanning was a blast; we stopped in a large field of lupine and by an inspiring waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.
Our next day we took a walk out to a natural hot spring. It was slimy but warm and surrounded by beautiful hills.
The Black Sand Beach was geometrically astounding. Paired with a gorgeous gorge I don’t know what would make the scenery better.
More waterfalls and a glacial hike.
We ticked one off the bucket list visiting a beautiful glacier.
Another long drive and we arrived at a secluded campsite. We hated to leave but after almost half a day of games and sun we had to move on.
As we approached the North we had to speed our journey a bit to make it back in time for our flights. We still had time to stop in a few important places like these natural geysers.
One of our main destination on this leg of the journey was a whale watching trip.
We took an short walk with a difficult climb to get a nice view of a interesting lava rock park.
We warmed and refreshed in a geothermal lagoon that smelled bad but was warm and fun.
Leaving the kids to play games in the van, Maureen and Paul luxuriated in a beer spa where the hot tubs are actually filled with warmed beer.
Our next stop was a bumpy horse ride in the mountains. We learned about sheep herding and Icelandic law regarding livestock importations. The puppies were cute.
We visited a very interesting herring museum and learned quite a lot of the history of fishing in Iceland. The town of Siglufjörður was spectacular.
The last thing we did before we left was visit the puffin island and hang out in yet another astounding campsite at Drangeyjarferðir with a 41 degree Celsius hot tub.
The trip was astounding. The topography and natural flora created a inspiring and dynamic landscape we will remember forever. The Turke family was a great travel team for us, and we had a blast hanging out. Hiking, diving, learning, or sailing, we always were blown away by this great island. I would say this is one of our most successful trips to date. – North