By: Elizabeth Gangl, RPR
Since I first began work as a freelance court reporter over 30 years ago I have been asked too many times to count why I like what I do. I wish I had a dollar for every time that question has been asked.
I have no doubt you could ask this question of 15 reporters and end up with 15 different answers.
Easily among my favorite answer is the flexible schedule that allows me to travel when and where we want. We all have priorities on how we want to budget our dollars, but since we’ve become empty nesters, travel is very high on the list.
This past October I had the good fortune to spend five days in Iceland with my husband and another couple. We normally would rent a car and tour on our own. This time we went full-on tour buses with narration by local guides and covered as much ground as possible. We saw as many of the highlights of Iceland as we could squeeze in.
A little research before we left clued us in on how expensive Iceland can be. Top tip: Purchase alcohol at the duty-free store before leaving the airport, it’s the cheapest place on the island. Second tip: No need to bring cash. Iceland is pretty much a cashless society. Their currency is the krona, but it’s extremely hard to purchase before you get there and even harder to convert back once you leave. You can exchange some funds once you arrive but why bother – everything, right down to coffee from a convenience store, is purchased using debit or credit cards. Third tip: Check with your credit card company before you leave to make sure you won’t be charged exchange fees. Fourth tip: Unless you’re a foodie and want to experience the restaurant life – bring snacks and protein bars to stretch your food budget. As an example: Two beverages, one plate of meatballs and a bowl of soup: $70.00. One beer with a burger and fries: $38.00
We booked this trip through Icelandair.com. The flight, transport to our hotel, guided tour of Reykjavik and two of our day-long tours were all booked on this website – one of the easiest-to-maneuver sites I’ve ever used to plan a trip.
The most popular tour is the Golden Circle – Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir geothermal area. We saw the glaciers, the volcanos, the waterfalls – oh, the waterfalls. The next day we headed farther south to the black sand beaches, glaciers and more waterfalls – one of which we could hike behind (bring rain gear). Then came our longest day – 11 hours – to the Snaefefellsnes Peninsula, north of Reykjavik. We were fortunate to have a guide who grew up in that area. We made a lot of stops that weren’t part of the advertised tour so he could show us his old stomping grounds. What an incredibly beautiful place to grow up in!
And speaking of growing up in Iceland – English is taught starting in grade school, so getting around and talking to locals is so very easy. The entire population of Iceland is around 330,000, with approximately 220,000 living in Reykjavik. Leaving the city takes you to gorgeous scenery and places right out of Game of Thrones (which is filmed on the island). Many of the little fishing villages we visited look much like they did when first established.
Prior to the volcano that blew in 2010, tourism in Iceland was relatively minor. As our guide put it – when Eyjafjallajokull blew, it was global-wide free publicity for this tiny island nation. In recent years, tourism has beaten out fishing to become the top revenue producer for the Icelandic economy.
Which leads me back to my first statement – if I had a dollar for every time I was asked why I like freelance reporting – I would have had enough to spend a few extra days. It’s a small island but because of the infrastructure, it’s hard to see everything in just five days. Regrettably we did not make it to the Blue Lagoon. We thought going during the shoulder season it would be easy to get in. We found out that’s one site you really do need advance reservations.
And now back to work – until the next trip!