Living Like a Viking: My Icelandic Adventure

What a trip. Finally made it to Iceland to visit my good grad school buddy, Magnus.  Actually, almost all my grad school buddies made the trip to Iceland, including John, Rich and his wife Elizabeth, Pat and his wife Sarah, and Christina Tiani and Eliz.  Below I share a few of the most memorable moments from my recent trip to the island combined with a few pictures that complete the tale.

 A Hectic Morning Arrival to Reykjavik

Getting to Reykjavik is slightly difficult from the west coast I learned. Having arrived in Denver from our home in Phoenix late Tuesday night, I worked all Wednesday afternoon before heading to the airport for a direct flight to Iceland at 5:30pm. As Reykjavik is 6 hours ahead of Denver, I decided to have a few cocktails and try to fall asleep because it would be early morning in Reykjavik when I arrived. This turned out to be harder than I thought. Although having a beer and a few spirits, I could not fall asleep and mostly watched movies the whole flight over.  When I arrived in Reykjavik at 7:00am I found ourselves awake and excited nonetheless.


I had rented a van which proved to be a veteran move for the trip. I have found that renting cars in foreign countries very empowering. It can also be frustrating when getting lost. I made the hour long trip into the city mostly without incident, although I was fighting Thursday morning traffic which delayed me. I made it to our rented home I reserved through Airbnb about an hour later than anticipated. I coordinated meeting with my friend John and the rest of the group who had arrived a day earlier via Skype at about 9:00am local time and I was all set. The guys couldn’t find my place, so I took my van out and easily spotted John’s pale face in a heartbeat. We hugged it up on the street which was exhilarating for me, and the non-sleeping may have contributed. We headed out.

It wasn’t powerful, but it got our team around

Waterfalls and a Fun Car Ride

In my van, it was Rich and his wife Elizabeth, Patrick and his wife Sarah, and myself. A good group. We followed Magnus and he did not disappoint taking us on the days journeys. We saw abundant waterfalls, arches, ocean views, Icelandic mini-horses (simply the best), sheep and more along the way. Occasionally we stopped for snacks and drinks. It was nice getting to catch up with Rich, my old, Planet 9 teammate at grad school, and then getting to know the wives a little better. Patrick was entertaining, which is not a surprise, and overall it was a good group.

Rainbow sighting at our first stop of the day

After the second waterfall, we stopped for beers which Magnus had stored in a cooler in the back seat. Very nice touch. It was perfect to enjoy some Icelandic brew named Viking and Thule outdoors near some of the island’s most scenic possessions.

After a bit of hiking we cooled off with a few Icelandic cervezas

An Icelandic Secret

At the end of the days trip, Magnus said we had one more stop to make, but that it was not a touristic stop. We followed him down the path less traveled faithfully on foot and he led us to a pool of natural hot water. The water was naturally heated by the earth, and was being piped through a gravity feed to an old abandoned swimming pool. While the facilities were a bit dank and ran down, most of us jumped in and enjoyed an adult beverage in this natural hot pool.  That evening we had dinner together but took it easy as most were tired from the action packed day.

Highlight of the day: The secret hot-pool

Could Friday be as Amazing as Thursday?

Friday was also expected to be a great day. Now that we would have a full night’s sleep, I expected to have even more energy. We started off with a waterfall, and the weather was significantly worse than the previous day. It was wet and cold, and  due to this we kind of hurried through the first few sites.  This day we had Eliz and Tiani with us in the van, as well as my good buddy John.  At first I was a little disappointed because I wasn’t sure the value-add that Tiani and Eliz would bring, but it turned out to be an even more enjoyable car ride than the day before. The whole trip the girls created games that entertained the group, mostly without going too far over the line. Each of us shared hilarious stories, best of which were owned by John. By 3:00pm we had seen much but we had one more site to see…

The Blue Lagoon

This was the site that we had heard the most about before arriving to Iceland. My understanding was that it was a natural hot spring that is open year round to interested swimmers. It was, sort of.  While the blue lagoon was very nice, it also was the most commercial of our many stops. It cost us $40 to get in which I thought to be a bit steep as we also were expected to purchase $8 beers inside. The scene was very pretty I will say, but the crystal blue water lost a little luster in my eyes as I knew the water was actually warmed by the geothermal plant next door.

The Blue Lagoon

Saturday – Tour of the Town

Walking around Reykjavik was very cool. There were hip little restaurants and fun art in many spots on the streets. I loved the place I stayed as I was right in a neighborhood which gave me a chance to see how daily life was for an Icelander. I saw people coming home from work, kids playing soccer and names of people and streets that I will never pronounce correctly.

A neighborhood soccer game in Reyjkavic

Becoming Real – Drinks at the Gudmundssons

We arrived to the childhood home of our good friend Magnus early Saturday evening and were thrilled to meet the parents of our interesting friend. What could they be like, we all wondered, as Magnus is a very unique individual. As is typically the case when I meet any parents of my whimsical friends, his parents turned out to be quite normal. They had provided an assembly line of Icelandic cheeses and small fish and cracker snacks as well as some american favorites like Cool Ranch Doritos and Bugles. Hungry from the days walking, We destroyed the display.


From there, Eliz and Tiani got their hands on a photo album from Magnus’s youth which provided some great material and evidence, (she snapped a few baby pics that I’m sure will wind up on Facebook eventually. We went outside next and took a few photos of the whole team as the sun wilted in the background providing beautiful streaks of pink and red.


After the photo session I remained outside alone. As the sun set there I found myself in a rare emotional moment in which it hit me that here I was in a house in a Reykjavik suburb, of a friend I made some 6.5 years ago. To the outside observer, I really had no business being there, but somehow our personal ties had become stronger bonds throughout the years. I thought of how amazing it is to me that this group of friends has remained close even though there are so many things that should have made our relationships obsolete, including long distance and dynamic personal lives. I felt honored to be part of such a close group of friends that I truly believe may just last a lifetime. Eventually, I snapped out of it and decided to return to living in the moment and headed back in for another gin and tonic.

Sunset from Reykjavik

A Dinner Party with the King

I knew that dinner and drinks at King Magnus’s place would not underwhelm. I was spot on. His nickname, the King, comes from one of our grad school professors who was convinced that Magnus was actually of Swedish royalty.  The King’s place was immaculate: modern furniture and appliances, new wood floors, and a terrace with a scenic view of the ocean beyond. I commenced to making robust drinks with the Greygoose and Svedka that we had brought. I had a sense that people would complain about the drinks strength, but was happy that no one did. We are a polite group I noted.

After joking and watching clips including the Meatloaf scene from Wedding Crashers and the Dart in Your Neck scene from Old School, Magnus began to barbecue. And this was no ordinary barbecue, this was an Icelandic feast. Magnus had prepared, not one, but two racks of well seasoned, fresh langoustines. Langoustines, I learned were basically a smallish lobster, and we were only eating the meaty tails of the crustacean. I should mention, that at one point I almost slipped and fell, and would have knocked all the langoustines to the table. Shoe-less, I had dropped my camera and while lunging to attempt the save I lost my balance and did a jig to keep myself upright. Only my pride was damaged as I luckily maintained myself on two legs.

With salad and rolls, we piled our plates high with langoustine. I personally had at least 6 of those amazing creatures, and forced myself to stop even though my gluttonous stomach yearned for more. Afterwards, we had a few more rounds or drinks before making our move to the bars.

John and Elizabeth practicing their Gangnam Style dance moves at Magnus’s apartment

A Rookie Mistake and a Near Slug-fest Averted

So we decided to dip back into our respective primes and hit the town bars and clubs that night as we used to do on Boylston Street back in grad school in Boston. We stopped in a few good spots before mistakenly entering an overly packed bar named B-5. we learned that in Iceland if there are too many people in a bar, pushing is the solution. We were all venting and swearing about ‘fricking euros’ when we headed out for a milder scene. I joked with Rich about how I almost slugged a large Viking, when I really was the one who thankfully did not get slugged!

Old friends from the 2008 Northeastern MBA class reunite in Iceland

Final Goodbyes

We closed the night and our trip in Iceland eating at the most well known restaurant in all of Iceland, a hot dog stand. Our hot dogs were bacon wrapped and delicious and the scenes of couples making out and young bar-fiends heading to the after-party completed the scene. I felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a few days on this Kentucky-sized island and fell asleep thinking about which movies I would watch on the long plane ride home.