Month: April 2014

Housesitting in Kent

About a month before Jeremy and I were leaving Santa Barbara to depart on our adventures, I was scouring travel blogs to find tips and advice on how the hell to pull off this whole open-ended trip we had semi-planned. The amount of time we are able to travel obviously depends on money. Traveling costs money, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be forced to return in a month. We have been using Airbnb for years, and depend on it when we travel in the States, and knew we’d be using it a lot in Europe. Even though it’s usually cheaper than hotels and even hostels, it still all adds up. Then there’s Couchsurfing, which we haven’t resorted to, but it’s nice to know it’s there if we need it. There are also sites where you trade labor (not heavy labor for the most part) for lodging and food, such as HelpX, Wwoof (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and Workaway, to name a few. So really, if you do it right, all you’d have to pay for is transportation to and from these stints. We are most likely going to try one of these sites a little later on if we are finding that we are going through our allotted money faster than we were hoping, but for now, we haven’t done it yet.

On one of these days I was glued to travel blogs, I had an epiphany when I read about housesitting abroad. People from around the world post on various websites (,,, for example) that they need people to housesit (and usually petsit) for a certain amount of time. Jeremy and I immediately knew this would be a huge opportunity for us and we needed to get on it right away. I looked at the different sites, and could kind of tell which ones were more legit and had more opportunities. There is a fee to sign up on almost all of them, but it’s not bad and it’s for an entire year. Some of the sites are less expensive, but we ended up going with TrustedHousesitters, which had the highest fee ($79 for a year) because it looked the best to us.

We signed up, created a profile, got some people close to us to fill out character references, and began searching for assignments. It’s fairly competitive, and assignments get filled the day they are posted for the most part. There are about 10-15 new assignments a day, and over 6,000 housesitters available (not all active), soooo you have to be on top of your game to snag a good one. Most of the listings are in the U.K. and Australia, with some in other European countries and America sprinkled in. We got lucky and have already had one assignment, and have three more coming up, in Geneva, Switzerland; Azille, France; and Paris. I was able to get these because I was the first person to contact them, otherwise you have 30+ other people emailing them too, and your message gets lost with the others.

Our first housesitting assignment started a week after we arrived in London, in a town called Chiddingstone Causeway in Kent, 35 miles southeast of London. We took care of three dogs, four cats, five chickens, two ducks, and two fish. It was a doozy.

Jeremy and a sampling of the animals we looked after.

Jeremy and a sampling of the animals we looked after.

We arrived at the train station in Sevenoaks (after a confusing train journey that was supposed to take 45 minutes and ended up taking two hours, thanks to rail maintenance, a common occurrence on Sundays we discovered) and our host picked us up. She was so sweet even though she had been waiting over an hour for us. I don’t have an international plan on my phone, so I couldn’t contact her to tell her we were running very late. At one of the train stations we had to transfer at, I found some wifi on my phone that I could pay for, so after a few tries of purchasing an hour of internet, as the train was pulling up, I finally got it to work and I typed an email as quickly as my sausage fingers would allow, and pressed ‘send’ as I was jumping on the train. I didn’t know at the time if it had even gone through, and I kind of figured I had just spent six pounds on nothing. It turns out it did go through, but it also caused American Express to cut off my card because it looked fishy, and now I still can’t use it.

ANYway, after a scary drive to the house (it was our first time being in a car driven on the left side of the road, and on top of that people were driving insanely, more on that later), we arrived and met our host’s husband, two children, and their menagerie of animals. Everyone was so sweet to us, and we ate Domino’s pizza (with hot dogs on it for the little boy) and watched The Inbetweeners with the husband until it was time for bed. The family left the next morning, and Jeremy and I were alone with a house full of pets. It turns out that the dogs (one of which was a puppy) and one of the cats, a Siamese kitten, were so incredibly sweet and wanted to cuddle anytime you were around them. I honestly miss them now.


What a face.


Dolly, the hyper but sweet Boston Terrier puppy.


Molly, the affectionate Siamese kitten.


Dolly and Doris cuddling on the couch.

We spent most of our days taking the dogs on walks, which was an experience unlike any other. The area was so beautiful, but we were not expecting the extreme speed at which people would be driving. There was a stretch of road that had no sidewalk, and people were driving upwards of 80 mph, even though we were on small country roads. There were countless blind turns, and people would barely move over when they passed us. We had to jump in the mud or bushes several times to avoid getting hit. This was seriously the most scared either of us had ever been while walking, and we just couldn’t believe it. Luckily after we got past the sidewalk-less stretch, there were some really nice pedestrian paths to the small town, and through beautiful fields. I couldn’t get enough of the yellow rapeseed fields, and took lots of pictures. I also loved the baby sheep and alpacas who were our neighbors.







Monika came to visit from London!


One of the many delicious breakfasts Jeremy has made.









On one of the days during the week, we decided to take a journey to Royal Tunbridge Wells, which we had heard good things about. We also wanted to send some clothes back to the U.S. to lighten our load, so we brought two big bags full of stuff with us. It took two trains to get there, but it was a fairly quick journey. Tunbridge Wells was really pretty, and had some nice pedestrian-only shopping areas. We also found a beautiful park to eat our picnic, jacket potatoes and prawn crackers from the local grocery store. It took us asking four people where the post office was, but we finally found it. We have been having some trouble with our credit cards since we don’t have the chip and PIN cards Europeans have, and have caused countless amounts of ordeals because of it. It happened again at the post office (the machine wouldn’t take our swipe cards), and it took over an hour for the whole situation to get resolved, and we also had a very disgruntled man behind us basically yell at us because we were taking too long and his parking meter was going to expire. It costed a lot to send a box home, but it was worth it to not have to lug it around with us.


The park we had a picnic in.


Two of my favorite things.



Pretty Royal Tunbridge Wells.

On our way back, we had about 30 minutes between trains in Tonbridge (a different town with a slightly different spelling…confusing), and walked around and stumbled across a beautiful castle.



Tonbridge Castle.



After the week was over, we had been dreading the walk we’d have to make with our luggage on the scariest road in the world. We booked it as fast as possible, and luckily made it to the train station alive. We hopped on a couple trains, the Tube, another train, and a plane, and then were in Zurich.

This is what our life looks like now.

This is what our life looks like now.





A Week in London

Hello from Zurich!

I’m getting behind in my blogging, mostly because Jeremy and I are having so much fun (which I think is a valid excuse). We’re sitting here in our perfect Airbnb near Zurich Lake, enjoying some red wine and down time. Tomorrow we get back on the train and head to Wunnewil-Flamatt, Switzerland, right outside Bern.

After Iceland, we spent a week in London and stayed at one of my best friends from high school Monika’s house in East Dulwich, in South London. We had a really nice time, and it was fun to be in a big city after being surrounded by the magical wonderland that is Iceland (although I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m a more off-the-grid person rather than busy metropolis person).

I’ve been to London a few times, and the last couple times I went by myself and stayed a couple months, so I feel like I’ve gotten most of the touristy spots out of my system. Jeremy hadn’t really ever been there (besides once for a short trip in high school), so we did a combination of sightseeing and exploring, but also picnicking and visiting the local pub in East Dulwich. In no particular order, here are some picture highlights from our week (all iPhone, I didn’t bring my nice camera out the whole week for some reason).

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Exploring East Dulwich when we first arrived.


Picnicking with wine in a pretty park = my favorite thing to do while traveling.


We visited the Rough Trade record store in Shoreditch and wanted to buy lots of things.


Our office for the day at The Great Exhibition in East Dulwich.



Jeremy and I walked around Shoreditch for our six-year dating anniversary.


Hanging out at Gordon’s Wine Bar in central London.


Being touristy in St. James’s Park.

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Taking a sunset stroll on the London Bridge.


More tourists.


Another sunset picnic with homemade veggie sandwiches.


Jeremy understanding the art at the Tate Modern.


More Tate Modern art.


The cute restaurant where we got bahn mis and a custard filled dumpling for our dating anniversary.


What’s that, another veggie sandwich?


I was curious about this Mexican food stand, the last time I got nachos in London they were Doritos with non-melted shredded cheese on top.


Jeremy’s first pint in a pub, at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.


Another scene from East Dulwich.


Buckingham Palace.


A delicious cheese plate from Gordon’s Wine Bar.

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Street art in Shoreditch.



I’m obsessed with Maltesers and couldn’t resist these Easter-themed ones.


Professional photograph in front of Westminster Abbey.


Eating our bahn mis in a park in Shoreditch.



The yogurt in Europe is SO GOOD.

I kind of feel like we did a lot more in London, but I must not have documented it very well. Next up, our very pleasant week spent in the English countryside!



Iceland Part II: Geysir, Seljavallalaug, and the Northern Lights

After exploring some of the south coast of Iceland, Jeremy and I wanted to go north from our cabin to see a geyser and another waterfall we heard about. The lady we were renting the house from also gave us directions to the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, and we were determined to go, even though it was in the opposite direction.

Driving in Iceland was really fun for me, mainly because our 4×4 was awesome, there weren’t many people on the roads, and the scenery changed dramatically with each turn we made. What we didn’t realize about driving in Iceland was the price of diesel. Every time we passed a gas station and saw the prices we thought, no that can’t be right, we must not be understanding it. When we finally had to fill up, we ended up getting a half a tank for over $100. It was painful.



The Great Geysir

After recovering from filling up the tank, we made our way to the Great Geysir (Jeremy and I called it the OG, “original geyser,” since it’s where geyser got the name), where there was a beautiful restaurant and shop. Even though we didn’t eat anything due to the high prices, all the food looked and smelled delicious.






At least they have a sense of humor about their financial collapse.


Strangest souvenir we’ve seen.


The gift shop at Geysir.


Traveling on a strict budget = eating a cucumber in the car.

We didn’t realize that it was going to cost money to get into the area to see Geysir, so we stayed near the road and waited for what we thought was going to be a smaller geyser… We really thought we tricked the system and were going to see something cool, but after 30 minutes of standing there watching the ground smoke and water bubble, we finally asked someone if it was going to off. He told us that it wasn’t a geyser and nothing more was going to happen. We ducked our heads in embarrassment and ran back to the car. We ended up seeing the actual Geysir go off as we were driving by (but sadly didn’t get a picture), so it all worked out.

Waiting on a nonexistent geyser.

Waiting on a nonexistent geyser.

It was still a pretty view while we waited.

It was still a pretty view while we waited.


The drive to Gullfoss from Geysir only took about 10 minutes, and we didn’t know what to expect since we hadn’t seen pictures beforehand. Gullfoss (“golden waterfall”) is Iceland’s most famous, and we could see why. Along with everything else we saw in the land of fire and ice, it was difficult to believe that what our eyes were seeing was real.


Another rainbow/waterfall combination at Gulfoss.





Weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and changes quickly, just like the scenery. We got lucky and had pretty much clear skies the entire time we were there, but the day before we arrived was extremely stormy, we heard. As we were driving back from the Golden Circle, where Gulfoss and Geysir were located, we saw dark clouds and rainstorms near the coast, which is where we were heading to get in the geothermal pool. Jeremy and I went back and forth on deciding if we should make the drive to the location (it was an hour out of the way), but ultimately decided to risk it. For me, this was the best decision of the trip. I’m not a huge risk-taker in life (except when it comes to dropping everything and buying a one-way ticket to Europe, apparently), and normally I would play it safe. We didn’t know exactly where the pool was, we knew it required about 20 minutes of hiking, and we had no idea what to expect when we got there, or if we would even find it. The weather cooperated and stayed beautiful, we found the parking area, and headed out on foot with our bathing suits.

The hike did require a lot of jumping on rocks and climbing up hills, but it was easier to find than we were expecting. When we finally arrived, I was so, so happy that we decided to make the journey. There were a few other people there, and there was a structure where you could change (which apparently was just a sheep shed). The experience in the pool is one of the best things I’ve ever done, for sure.

When we first got in, it wasn’t quite as warm as we thought it would be, but enjoyed it anyway. One of the other people in the pool came over and introduced himself and let us know that the reason everyone was in the opposite corner of the pool was because that’s where the pipe that the hot water was coming out of was located. We joined the others, and were relieved to feel the VERY hot water pouring in. The people we met were so nice, and all traveling. Only one guy was from Iceland, and he was hitchhiking around the country because he had a few days off from work. It was so fun to be around other travelers and to talk about what we were doing and where we were going, and to hear their stories. They even shared their vodka with us.

Making the journey to the swimming pool, not knowing where we were going or what to expect.

Making the journey to the swimming pool, not knowing where we were going or what to expect.

The magical pool.

The magical pool.

The sheep shed where we got changed into our bathing suits.

The sheep shed where we got changed into our bathing suits.

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The view from inside. I never wanted to leave.

The Northern Lights

Jeremy and I reluctantly got out of the warm geothermal pool and trekked back to the car to make the drive back to our house. We went the same road as we went the first day, when we saw all the horses. Luckily they were still there, and we got out to take more pictures of them.










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When we got home, we made our dinner of a pizza we picked up at the grocery store (turns out we didn’t have an oven so we put it on a pan on the stove and it worked out really well surprisingly), some Icelandic beer for Jeremy, and some red wine for me. Some of the vegetables at the grocery store were really reasonably-priced, but then all of a sudden there would be four tomatoes for $25, or three peppers for $20. Since everything was listed in Icelandic Krona, we were really careful about what we were getting, and probably spent an hour just figuring everything out. We made some great choices though, and only spent about $40 on food for the entire time we were there, not including the alcohol we picked up at the duty-free shop at the airport (which was recommended to us).



I could live here.

I figured our day couldn’t possibly get any better, but as we were going to bed, Jeremy looked out the window above our bed and noticed the Northern Lights had appeared. I was giving up hope that we would see them, but as soon as he said that, I jumped up, went down the ladder, threw as many layers on as I could, and grabbed my camera and tripod. We ended up staying outside for almost an hour, after discovering how fast the lights were changing. We were SO cold, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to go back inside because every few minutes there was a new scene. It was kind of difficult to figure out how to photograph them since I’m still learning about my camera, but I was able to get a few good ones with some long exposures.

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It was very hard to say goodbye to our little perfect cabin, but alas, it was time to return to civilization. As a side note, Icelandic folklore is so incredibly interesting, and we found a tiny elf house outside our cottage, which is very common in the country. People put these little houses outside for elves to live in, and Jeremy and I read that sometimes you even see tiny churches meant to convert the elves to Christianity. We saw many elf houses on our travels, and loved every one of them.

The tiny elf house we found outside the cabin.

The tiny elf house we found outside the cabin.

We decided to head to Reykjavik before getting to our Airbnb in Keflavik near the airport, since we hadn’t spent any time there yet. The city was really nice, clean, and beautiful. We walked around a bit on the main shopping street, and started our quest to find the famous hot dog stand we’d read so much about. We finally found it after asking three different people for directions (Icelanders give interesting directions, we discovered: “take a right and then go a bit, and then take a left and then another right,” with no street names or any more details). The hot dog was made of lamb and had crispy onions and honey mustard on it, along with other spreads we couldn’t identify. It was delicious.


Who knew Iceland would be known for its hot dogs?


Waiting in line at the hot dog stand.

Reykjavik has a lot of Norwegian design stores, and beautiful street art.








We stayed at a tiny, tiny cottage in the back of someone’s house near the airport, and had to be up at 4am the next morning to return our car and catch our flight to London. We were so sad to leave Iceland, and hope to go back to that magical place someday in the future.


*Another side note: It’s probably obvious, but I’m not running the Cork Marathon on June 2 anymore… With my knee issues derailing my training early on and not being able to run as much as I was expecting the past month, AND the fact that my parents told me they can’t make it to Ireland that week anymore, I’ve decided not to do it. I downgraded to the half just in case, but it is looking like Jeremy and I will be in Honfleur, France with my parents that week, and getting to Ireland is too difficult. I can’t wait until I run a full marathon, and I know that there will be a better time in the future where I can “respect the distance” instead of rushing it.


Iceland Part I: Waterfalls and a Glacier


Jeremy and I are in Kent, about an hour southeast of London, housesitting for a family with three dogs, four cats, five chickens and two ducks (more on that later). I hope to catch up on everything we’ve been doing lately, and I am excited to finally share our pictures from Iceland.

In short, Iceland was the most magical place we have ever been. We knew it was going to be beautiful, but we were blown away. What added to the experience was the cabin we rented on Homeaway; we could not have chosen a better spot. Coming from NYC, we were looking forward to having an entirely opposite experience, and we got that and more. AND we saw the Northern Lights on our third night there. I bought a tripod specifically for that reason, and luckily it was worth lugging it around for (and now I’m going to send it home I think).

We flew out of JFK in New York and the flight to Keflavik Airport in Iceland was only about four fours and forty-five minutes (about the same distance from NYC to LA, who knew). We touched down around 7am (2am New York time), and it was a pretty surreal day going forward since we hadn’t slept at all.

Our first impressions of Iceland were at the airport, specifically, the bathrooms. Each spotless bathroom had its own private room, with a sensor-operated sink that was a hand-dryer as well. They were very impressive. The airport was also really nice in general, especially considering it was pretty small. We were starving since we didn’t have dinner, so I got an egg sandwich and Jeremy got a smoked lamb sandwich, and we ate in the airport cafeteria among all the other travelers, 90% of them drinking alcohol even though it was so early in the morning.


Early morning in the Keflavik Airport.


Jeremy and his smoked lamb sandwich.

It’s pretty imperative to rent a car in Iceland, unless you want to take a bus from Keflavik to the capital, Reykjavik, and then take tour buses from there, but renting a car is far more convenient (especially when you’re going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere like we were, obviously). I got a really good deal on a rental car, even though we were getting worried because all the cheaper rentals were manual, and we can only drive automatic (we realized that should really change soon). The company also upgraded us to a nice 4×4, which we were really happy about after seeing the state of the roads we had to drive on to get to our cabin. The car also came with a free GPS system, but it didn’t work so we relied on maps instead.

Exhausted and deliriously happy!

Exhausted and deliriously happy!

The drive to the cabin was supposed to be a few hours, and seeing that it was only 7am when we landed and we couldn’t check in until 4pm, we were kind of at a loss of what to do. If we stopped the car at all, we would just fall asleep, so we kept driving and seeing where we could pass some time.



We finally got to a town called Selfoss, about 35 minutes away from the cabin, and decided to find some internet to buy to email the house owner and ask if we could check in early. Luckily she emailed back pretty soon and said yes, and we were so happy. It was the best 200 Icelandic Krona we spent! While we were on one of the backroads almost to the house, a group of Icelandic ponies were in the road… aka a dream come true for me. They surrounded our car and I got out to take some pictures.


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When we finally reached our little cabin, we only managed to stay awake for about an hour before passing out at 3pm. We woke up around 9pm, made dinner, then went back to sleep at midnight until the next morning, and we weren’t jetlagged at all after that. It was pretty great.

Our first picture together in Iceland, in front of our little home.

Our first picture together in Iceland, in front of our little home.

When we got up the next day, we were pleasantly surprised to see a dusting of snow on the ground and a shining sun, which made for some nice pictures. I got my tripod out again and took some of the house and a few more of us.




The next morning, we embarked on a day-long adventure from the cabin along the Ring Road, stopping at two waterfalls and a glacier before heading to the ocean to see the dramatic coastline. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, and it was a huge waterfall that you could walk behind. It was pretty icy so we almost slipped a few dozen times, but it was really neat and there were lots of areas to explore.









One of the many crazy tour buses we saw in Iceland.


Seljalandsfoss in the background.


Our next stop was the waterfall Skógarfoss, where we happened to see a perfect rainbow in front of it. We climbed many stairs to get to the top of the waterfall, where you could then climb over a little fence and explore the miles and miles of trails through the hills. There were no other people on the trails and even though we didn’t walk too far, I couldn’t help but think about running around there and how great it would be.









Jeremy and I were on a strict budget in Iceland, so we didn’t spend any money on tours or anything, but if we ever go back I think it would be fun to go on a glacier walk with a tour guide. We wanted to make sure we actually saw a glacier, so we drove a bit out of the way on rocky roads to look at the base of one.


Jeremy conquering the glacier.


Sitting on a boulder with the glacier in the background.


After the glacier, we drove toward Vik since we heard there were really beautiful cliffs, black beaches, and rock formations on the coast. The drive was beautiful, and this turned out to be Jeremy’s favorite part of the day (and maybe the whole trip).














DSC_2728And of course, on the way home I had to stop and take a picture of some horses.


Hopefully I’ll have part two of our Iceland adventure tomorrow!



New York: Part II

Hi! I finally have a few minutes to write a post! Our Airbnb in Manhattan didn’t have wifi even though I mistakenly thought it did when booking it, so I didn’t get to do a post while I was there. Not to mention Jeremy and I fit so much stuff into four days, I probably wouldn’t have had time anyway. And then our house in Iceland had limited wifi, so if we used too much (which we did immediately by accident), it would cut off and the owner of the house would have to re-up it. I feel a little overwhelmed now, since I have so many pictures from Iceland now too (we were there for a few days until Monday morning, it was the most amazing place I’ve ever been), but I want to post about our three days in Manhattan. Basically, it was filled with lots and lots of carbs and walking. We probably averaged 10 miles a day of walking, trying to see as many sights as possible. This is also how we justified eating so many bagels and falafel sandwiches. We ate bagels every day, and I couldn’t get enough. The ones we got in Brooklyn were my favorite:


but Jeremy’s favorite was from Ess-a-bagel:



Speaking of food, since we’re on a pretty strict budget so that we can stay traveling as long as possible, we didn’t really splurge on any nice dinners or anything. Next time we visit NYC, I hope that we can experience some of the amazing restaurants the city has to offer, but in the meantime we thoroughly enjoyed our street food and snacks. We stopped into a place on the Lower East Side to get a knish without even knowing what it was. It was basically a ball of mashed potatoes with veggies inside and dough on the outside. Needless to say, it was tasty.


A delish knish.

A delish knish.

We wanted to go get some smoked salmon or other treats in here, but the amount of people crammed inside was a little too overwhelming.

We wanted to go get some smoked salmon or other treats in here, but the amount of people crammed inside was a little too overwhelming.

We got some pho in Chinatown one night, and it was inexpensive and delicious:




Watching people make pasta in Eataly made me really hungry.

Watching people make pasta in Eataly made me really hungry.

Salted peanut and lemon poppyseed donuts from Donut Plant in LES.

Salted peanut and lemon poppyseed donuts from Donut Plant in LES.


I made sure my last meal in America was tacos with lots of guacamole (we got them from Brooklyn Tacos in the Essex Market in the LES).

I made sure my last meal in America was tacos with lots of guacamole (we got them from Brooklyn Tacos in the Essex Market in the LES). The one on the right was kale and potato.


I’ve been to NYC a good amount of times (I was born there, fun fact), but it was Jeremy’s first time, so we wanted to see some of the main attractions. Like I said, we walked a lot. We much prefer to walk six miles somewhere than take public transportation (if we have no time constraints) so that we can see everything along the way. We walked from the Lower East Side to Central Park because we wanted to see the apartment my parents lived in when they were my age. It was fun to imagine them in it in the 70s, doing all the cool stuff I know they did.

My parents' apartment building in the 70s.

My parents’ apartment building in the 70s.

Of course, we had to take a picture in Times Square (before we promptly got the hell out of there):



Flatiron Building.

A cold Central Park.

A cold Central Park.

Jeremy had to pry my face away from this store's window.

Jeremy had to pry my face away from this store’s window.

Coolest Apple store ever.

Coolest Apple store ever.

I love Greenwich Village.

I love Greenwich Village.

Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center.

Me with a very tiny Lady of Liberty behind.

Me with a very tiny Lady Liberty behind.

Empire State Building.

Empire State Building.

We did splurge on a show at the Comedy Cellar, where Louis CK is seen telling jokes in the opening credits of his show. All of the comedians were hilarious, and we didn’t regret spending the money at all.

We had a really good time in NYC overall, despite the freezing weather/wind (I didn’t even have a coat so I had to run into an H&M and buy a jacket), but we looked forward to getting to our cabin in the middle of nowhere in Iceland (the complete opposite of New York City). I can’t wait to share pictures from there!