The P&E Guide to Boning Abroad - Destination: Iceland
So. You've found a cheap flight to Iceland and you're zipping off to join the bazillion other tourist this tiny nation has been heavily courting recently?
Excellent decision! Iceland is FUCKING amazing. You will not regret it!
You'll want help mapping your route for a selection of incredible vistas and natural wonders, each of which will steal your breath with their uncanny uniqueness and sweeping scope. Any regular guidebook can help you choose your own adventure, depending on how long you have to travel and how well you can manage a manual transmission.
But let's say for example at the end of your day clambering over rock outcroppings and ogling rainbows and waterfalls and what not, you want to transition to a night-time adventure, and figure out how to get down with some vikings. Well, read on intrepid traveler, cause Peach and Eggplant's got you covered!
Like many an island economy, anything not indigenously produced here will cost way more than you're used to. Apropos of which, it may surprise you to learn that Iceland can't grow anything but hay (and like, a few potatoes), because it is windy AF. As one tour bus driver blithely put it, gesturing towards a single farmhouse set sturdily against a high hill, "here, the wind is very dangerous, it is common that at least one house or roof blows away each year". Hay, apparently, can stand up to house eating winds, but hops and barley, alas, cannot.
Which means the booze is priced at roughly one arm per dram. Like no lie, we saw beers on the menu for like, 22 bucks. If you try, you can find some happy hours through which to explore the local beers (quite tasty, as it happens!), but unless you are balling out on a whole nother level, do what we did and pick up some stuff at the duty free and drink at the hostel.
Or don't! Sobriety is also great. You do you man! In situations such as these, though, I generally like a fair dose of liquid courage to feel socially slippery enough to slide on down to pound town.
To be honest I like a fair bit of the good stuff just in general. Cause Bourbon is delicious. And available in quite large bottles in the Reykjavik Duty Free.
En plus, what the hell else are you going to do of an evening, when there's a bar conveniently located on the ground floor of your hostel? Pro tip: locate yourself near the bar area, but just slightly outside the space where you'd have to actually purchase a drink; perch on any of the many couches and chairs your quirky accommodations provide, surreptitiously quaff your tax free tipples, and wait for weirdness to come to you.
It rapidly became apparent that no actual Icelanders are to be found anywhere tourists are likely to be. A fact that should've been obvious to anyone (like me) who lives in a major city and has assiduously, and with annoyance, sidestepped crowds of the sweaty, tube sock-wearing fools who mill around downtown. Outside, for example, the Hard Rock Cafe.
Somewhat dejected after failing to locate any vikings OR any northern lights, we return to the hostel one evening to drink near its bar and enjoy a chill night in. We haven't been lounging long when 20 or so 20-somethings in matching track jackets bound into the joint, buoyed on what we will later learn is the thrill of victory, and immediately bustle up the stairs, each carrying a pizza.
There's only one thing to do when a track suit pizza party breaks out in your hostel:
So we follow them up the stairs, ready to suss out what the fuck is happening.
Turns out they are the Swedish national handball team (I think? It was some sport that doesn't make it onto ESPN 1), fresh off their win against the Icelandic national team, in what may or may not have some type of tournament. Celebration pizzas all around!
They are singing songs and probs teasing each other in Swedish, and just generally being low-key excited, which is adorable. However, there are 20 of them, and though I am pretty extroverted, it has never been that apparent to me how to break into conversation with a large group of people who are all mostly just tryna talk to each other. Instead, I assume my awkward observational pose, and just sortof lurk around the edges, smiling weakly, and taking in the madness.
Travel Buddy Peach, however, has managed to find a tall Swede to talk to. And I mean, sure, he's not Icelandic, but he's plenty cute and there were plenty of Vikings in Sweden, so I issue her a high five and retreat downstairs to the relative calm of the bar-adjacent area.
I settle in nicely for a nice moody brood, observing the humans in their natural habitat. But I am no more than 10 minutes into my best Jane Goodall when a tall, lanky, flannel wearing man (...you know what, I could continue this description, but, I'm not gonna waste your time. Just, picture a hipster. That's exactly what he looks like. But a hot hipster, not a gross one that looks unwashed) comes over and says
"can I talk to you? I don't have anything to talk about, I just kinda wanted to talk"
I am immediately endeared by this awkwardness, and we start to chat. He tells me he is living in Greenland, running the brew-works attached to a bar (which is both impressive and -fittingly- the most hipster thing I have ever heard). He tells me he is in Iceland doing recon to see if they could open another brewery/bar there in Reykjavik (which makes me feel like his job is more fun than mine). He tells me we should come along on his fact-finding mission tomorrow night, he knows the owners of a couple places (which makes me think: free booze! Adventure!).
Then he tells me he's from Colorado, originally, which I am immediately dejected by. For any American abroad, whose heartbeat quickens at the prospect of seamlessly liaising with the locals, blending in and being mistaken for a local, there is nothing more depressing than another American abroad.
This particular one IS living in Greenland though, so I decide he counts as Viking adjacent, and we agree to meet up the next night to explore the bar scene as a group.
Your guidebook will tell you that Icelanders like to pregame heavily, go out late, and "drink until they literally drop into a gutter." I can confirm that we were out till about 430 or so, at which point shit was indeed still in full swing. I did not see any Shitcanned locals collapsing on the street - maybe they just hadn't gotten around to it yet - but we did observe several drunk Brits, working on a whole new plane of wasted, including one man projectile vomiting against a wall without breaking stride, as he rapidly walked away.
But let me back up a bit.
After some enthusiastic Instagramming of the impressive natural wonders we had scaled and gawped at that day, followed by a delicious dinner of pesto pasta dished up by yours truly in our Hostel kitchen (over-salted, but servicing our basic nutritional needs) we head out to meet Greenlander Eggplant at his buddy's bar. Free beers do not appear (grumble) but the ones we do drink are delicious, if pricey. An excellent beginning to the evening!
From there, we branch out in search of a more lively crowd. To my mild dismay Greenlander Eggplant steers us to the touristy part of downtown, where each bar purports to be repping a different country. Outside of the Irish Bar, which is 2 doors down from the English Pub, and across the street from the American Joint, we view Mr. Mobile Vomitter.
Undeterred, apparently, by the splurt of fresh vom ornamenting the exterior wall, our group enters this "Irish" establishment where at 1230 everyone is already uberblitzed and dancing around with a gleeful enthusiasm I both respect and adore. I am spotted byby a drunk Irishman easily in his 50s who whirls me around the teeny dance floor as a beleaguered guitar player strums away; in the manner of every douchebag on your college quad, except this guy was getting paid.
Someone's drunk friend has procured 8 beers, all of which he (obviously) cannot drink. These beers are now our beers! We sneak over to a high top table to drink them. Drunk Irishman finds me again and whisks me away immediately for more wobbly dancing. After one song I enlist Greendlander Eggplant to help give drunk Irish the idea that he should really wobble off elsewhere now. Greendlander Eggplant is an awkward, dorky dancer, but a game one, which endears him to me further.
Whilst all this drunk dancing is occurring, Travel Buddy Peach has made friends with 2 actual Icelandic ladies, who insist we join them at a new location! Ecstatic to have located some actual locals, we all follow these amazonian, model beautiful blonds to -I shit you not - a place entitled Lebowski Bar, where white Russians are handed around to all (mine immediately gifted to a stranger, as I'm not super into any milk/booze combo).
I wish that at this point I could include fun tales of budding friendships with the local ladies, but they evaporate into the crowd almost immediately, and anyway by now Greenlander Eggplant is making it clear that he might like to smooch me. And though he is not a Viking, which is a shame, he IS, as mentioned, Viking adjacent, and also possessed of some very green eyes, and is awkwardly sweet, and tall, and did I mention it's 4 in the morning? I consider all this, and I decide: fuck it, why not, you know what I'm saying?
Green eyed men. They get me every time.
The Green Eyed Greenlander had told me he was staying at his friend's guest house, which made sense since I had already decided he counted as a local, and he knew that dude from the bar, etc. Imagine my surprise when we roll up on what was basically a one-floor hostel. Fun fact, apparently in Iceland the words "hotel" and "guest house" are interchangeable. I am uncharacteristically unenthused to learn this quirk of language.
Anyway, he opens the door on a room that includes 3 single beds and a bunk. Mercifully all these other beds are unoccupied, because there is zero chance I'dve been up for getting down in the presence of a bunch of weirdo backpackers peering down at me from the top bunk (or wherever).
This is, however, not nearly the least of my problems.
I know some of y'all were boinking your way through high school and college, but some of us were late bloomers, and spent our dorm years figuring out no usage more advanced for our single beds than how to cram three people in there and watch a movie on a laptop, or give blueballs to your best dude friend who you "just feel so comfortable with" and you like napping next to. (Sorry dude. It was a more innocent time.)
However, after my Iceland adventure, I have collected the following knowledge regarding how to successfully participate in adult activities in a sleeping situation designed for children, which I describe below, in case any of you tumble into a similar situation at any point in future
- One of y'all probs needs to keep one foot on the floor. For stability and/or leverage, or just because you might not both be able to keep all arms and legs inside the 36 inch limits of this IKEA vehicle at all times.
- Single beds are broad enough to accommodate the 3 major positions (girl on top, boy on top, and doggy)*, which feels appropriate, as it's about as much creativity as might reasonably be expect for teenagers. If you wanna do anything more advanced, explore other locations
- The communal shower in a hostel is one of the least sexy locations I have every laid eyes on. Also you're both drunk and you might drown. Abort immediately.
- If you have chosen a particularly thin Peach or Eggplant to share your sheets with, prepare for a small, hipbone sized bruise to appear on your inner thigh and annoy you for at least 4 days whenever you try to cross your legs.
- Speaking of bruises, seriously don't forget about that whole foot on the floor thing, or else you might forget you are utterly uncoordinated, and try to do some sort of advanced move you know in order to show off, loose your balance and tumble unceremoniously to the floor. Just like in college when your boyfriend had a bed on casters** and you fell off of it repeatedly because you kept trying lean against the wall and it always rolled away beneath you.
- When you wake up at 8am, perched precariously on a sliver of mattress after 2 hours of sleep, possibly still drunk, and needing to pee, but unsure where the bathroom is, do not consider your situation proof of your poor life choices. Certainly not! You are an adventurer! You could (or would) never have an experience like this at home!
Isn't travel fun.
*Right, Eddie Izzard?
**Beds should not have wheels. Safety first!