Our flight left at 6 PM from Boston, and five hours and five time zones later we were on the ground and watching our passports get stamped. It was just after 8 AM when we checked into our hotel and found out it would be at least two hours before our room was ready. Shortly after 10 AM, room key in hand, Adam decided to take a shower while I took a much-needed nap. 20 minutes after closing my eyes, they popped open again: something smelled horrible.
“It’s sulfur, remember? The hot water smells like that,” Adam said. I paused, smiled, and fell back to sleep.
It was good to be back in Iceland.
We don’t often visit the same place twice, and we have many reasons for constantly scanning the map for new places to go. Our blog is based on the idea that the world is a big place and you don’t have to resign yourself to having the same vacation year after year. We have visited cities that have changed us and had experiences we love to reflect upon whenever we can, but recreating the same journey? That’s not really our style.
So why visit Iceland a second time? When we started discussing what to do for New Year’s Eve, Iceland somehow snuck to the top of the list; we thought their holiday traditions sounded like a lot of fun, and it was a quick flight from Boston (our launching point for this trip), making it a good fit for the timeframe we had. Aside from watching the fireworks and visiting the Golden Circle, which we skipped last time, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for our second trip.
So was it worth it to visit a place we had been to before? Here are three reasons why it was.
1. Comfort Feels Good
I wrote a while back about traveling in your comfort zone, and that was a major factor for us when it came to hitting our travel groove right away. What surprised me instantly about our repeat visit to Reykjavik was how quickly we settled into a city that was familiar to us. This time, instead of wandering around the streets with wide eyes and a map in hand, we walked from place to place with purpose and confidence. When we were ready for lunch, instead of looking at restaurant reviews online or asking someone for a recommendation, we decided where to eat based on memorable meals from our first visit. When we left our hotel, we knew which direction to head in to get where we were going. We didn’t have to pull the map out once.
We grow familiar with the places we live in and frequently visit, so it’s exciting when a city far from home starts to share some of those characteristics. That’s how this trip felt for us: seeing sights for the second time grounded us and made us feel like we were home instead of just passing through.
2. You’ll Soak It All In
Feeling comfortable had a second effect on us: we felt relaxed right away. Our first trip to Reykjavik– as much as we loved it- was a whirlwind of sightseeing, trying new food, getting lost, getting found, and getting out. By the time we had a moment to process it all we were on our flight home. In some ways, that is true of many of our trips and absolutely a reflection of our travel style: we want to see as much as we can within the confines of our vacation time.
This trip was different from the start. We paused to really take in the scenery. We savored meals we knew we wouldn’t have again for a long time. We spoke of how great it was to be there, in Reykjavik, in that moment. And when the time came to get on the plane to come home again, the fact we loved our trip didn’t hit us two hours into the plane ride; we had really processed where we had been and why it was so much fun. It made the experience much more impactful for us.
3. It’s Never the Same Trip Twice
Reykjavik isn’t really that big of a city, so we figured we would have an experience similar to our last visit. We didn’t.
Some aspects of our trip were completely different from our last. In 2014 we spent our time searching for the northern lights on a boat cruise and relaxing at the Blue Lagoon. On this trip we took in the bonfires and fireworks on New Year’s Eve and visited the incredible landmarks that make up the Golden Circle. And there were plenty of things we didn’t have a chance to see and do; we already have a list to tackle when we make our third trip there someday. Just because we found ourselves in a place we had been to before did not mean we were limited to the same experience we had once had.
Even the experiences we replicated were different the second time around. We had an incredible dinner at Grillmarkaðurinn in 2014, and we made reservations to eat there again on New Year’s Day. The food was as delectable as we remembered it; however, some of our favorite items were no longer on the menu, which meant we had to try a few new dishes. That helped us to uncover new favorites, which lead to some new, unique memories (and solidified our belief that it’s one of the best restaurants we have tried!).
We returned to Hallgrímskirkja, Sólfar, and many of our favorite places, and even though they remain unchanged it didn’t detract from how much we loved seeing them again. It was incredible to find that one memory of a place didn’t supersede another; even in the same city, you don’t have to take the same trip twice.
(One thing did remain exactly the same, though: the hot dogs were just as tasty as they were during our first trip.)
Although we don’t do it often, visiting a place we had been to before ended up being exactly the kind of trip we needed. Our upcoming international travel plans won’t have us repeating a city any time soon, but we’re excited for the next time we’ll find ourselves on a familiar street, enjoying a meal we have had before, appreciating how a world so big can have so many familiar corners to welcome us when we find them.