Jordan; A Jewel Within A Crown of Thorns

Nestled inbetween counties torn apart by war and political unrest, Jordan truly is a jewel within a crown of thorns with its rich history, culture, dramatic yet beautiful landscapes and some of the friendliest and welcoming people you’ll ever meet.

If you enjoy a fast paced holiday, want to see ancient ruins whilst learning the history of the land, eat amazing food until you’re fit to burst, then hike wonders of the world and stunning landscapes, then Jordan is the place for you.

Now, before I go on, I want to share my number 1 tip for Jordan… get the Jordan pass before you go. It costs 70JD which is around £77 and gives you access to most of Jordan’s top attractions including entry into Petra which alone is 50JD. The pass also covers your visa fee when entering the country. You can pay a little extra for the pass which gives you a 2 day pass to Petra. Petra is such a huge site so if you have the time I would advise doing this. I’m a keen hiker so can get around pretty quick but 1 day for me wasn’t enough. There are also options to add on entry to Bethany which I would advise doing if you’re planning a trip there. You can find the Jordan pass on the link below.

What Jordan has to offer

  • Beaches

Aqaba in the south of Jordan is perfect for those of you that want to relax and catch a few sun rays. The beautiful beaches overlook the Red Sea with views of Egypt and Israel. As well as relaxing on the beach, many of the resorts offer water sports including scuba diving around the coral reef. I didn’t have time to dive but managed to take a glass bottom boat tour, where I really enjoyed seeing the coral but it made me feel sad at the amount of litter thrown in there.

**Top Tip** if you want to sunbathe, I would advise doing so in one of the resorts. Although Jordan is pretty westernised, you should still be respectful of the local community if you want to lay around in swimwear.

  • Markets

For the shopaholics out there, you’ll be pleased to know there will be ample opportunities to shop with quirky bustling markets and boutiques dotted around the place. I explored a market in Aqaba and particularly enjoyed the spice stalls where I picked up some lemon salt and Jordanian tea (a must try). There are plenty of places to pick up souvenirs from your trip but animal lovers be warned.., you will see animals waiting to be slaughtered as well as slaughtered animals. I know not everyone wants to read that but I personally found that quite hard to see so thought it only right to share my full experience.

**Top Tip** Try the spices in the market before you buy, they are so delicious! Also go in there prepared to haggle and you’ll grab yourself a bargain.

  • History

For the wannabe historian/archaeologists or for those interested in seeing/learning about ancient history you have the Greek and Roman remains of Pella, Umm Qais and Jerash. Not to mention the Nabataean Kingdom of Petra, one of the wonders of the world and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Whether you are religious or not, it’s very interesting learning about Biblical times and seeing some of the places referred to in the bible as well as seeing views over the Holy Land. You can also visit Bethany which is the claimed baptism site of Jesus.

**Top Tips** take appropriate clothing. Walking boots or at a minimum trainers are required as there will be a lot of walking in gravely and sandy areas. I’d also recommend taking a backpack and layers. I visited in February and had beautiful sunshine, rain and even snow so its good to be prepared.

  • The Desert

Visiting Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) for me, was the best part of my tour around Jordan. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, enjoy being outdoors and taking a jeep safari through the sand dunes, or simply just be, and watch the beautiful sunset behind the dramatic landscapes or taking a camel trek to watch the sunrise, then Wadi Rum is the place for you.

For the more adventurous or people wanting to connect with the nature around them, you can even stay overnight in a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum. Enjoy a traditional evening meal and dancing followed by camp fire stories and gazing at the infinite, beautiful stars. Just unreal 😍

**Top Tip** the desert gets cold at night so take layers. I shared my hand warmers when sat around the camp fire to other members of the group, it really does get cold! See the link at the bottom of this page for my preferred choice.

I would also have your sunglasses to hand regardless of the sun. When the wind picks up it blows the sand around and you want to avoid getting it in your eyes.

  • Relaxing

After a few days of exploring, why not take yourself off to the Dead Sea for a mud treatment and let the tranquility take over you by floating weightlessly on the water. This is a truly unique experience and another must do when in Jordan.

**Top Tip** Take some beach shoes that you can wear in the sea. The sea bed is made of very hard and scratchy salt so if you don’t want to cut your feet up, wear the shoes!

Another way to relax after walking all day is to visit one of the Turkish spas. There is one on the same road as the entrance to Petra so after walking for miles I took myself off here with a couple of gal pals.

**Top Tip** The massages can be pretty handsy so if you don’t like bein nude in front of other people and being massaged pretty much all over then this is probably not for you.

  • Dining

Now for the foodies out there, trust me, you’ll be in heaven in Jordan as the food is just amazing. You can find the usual takeaways, even a KFC here and there but dining out in Jordan is very much a social event and sampling a local Jordanian restaurant is a must. There is food to cater for meat eaters and vegetarians and no matter what you order, you’ll always seem to get a traditional starter of pitta breads, hummus, multiple salads and dips. The fresh fruit drinks are also to die for. I found the food here very reasonably priced considering you always get a Mezze starter (which always filled me up.) The most I paid was 13JD which equates to about £13. For lunch I had falafel wraps with a drink and fruit and that was around 5JD.

Alcohol is also served in Jordan. It isn’t served in every restaurant BUT there are liquor stores wherever you go.

**Top Tip** seriously get stuck into some traditional food, it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten. With things like Mansaf, Maqluba, fresh fish of the day and a sharing Mezze to name just a few, trust me, there’s bound to be something on the menu that you’ll love.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for a package holiday, however, as much as I wanted to explore Jordan, I did have my reservations given its geographical location but how wrong could I be?! I always felt safe here, even when alone or getting taxis. The below is the itinerary I covered, I will cover each thing in more details in future posts.

Day 1: Fly to Aqaba followed by a traditional evening meal.

Day 2: Exploring the coastline of the Red Sea before driving up the Wadi Arabia road to Amman.

Day 3: A day of ruins with a morning visit to Pella, one of the most ancient towns in the world followed by an afternoon visit to Umm Qais, a member of the Decapolis and the centre of Greek culture in the region.

Day 4: A morning visit to Jerash, The Jewel of the North and one of the most preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside if Italy. In the afternoon we headed over to Bethany followed by the Dead Sea.

Day 5: A beautiful drive along the 2000 year old Kings Highway took us firstly to Madaba,’The City of Mosaics’ before proceeding to Mount Nebu known as the burial place of the Prophet Moses. We then stopped at Kerak to explore the spectacular Crusader Castle built in the 12th century AD and situated 1000 meters above sea level.

Day 6: The one we were all waiting for, a full day in The Rose Red City of Petra. The ancient Nabatean city is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Day 7: Enroute to Wadi Rum we took a stop at Little Petra, which was the entry and exit point for the trade routes followed by a stop at the Seven Pillars of Arabia which is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Last stop was Wadi Rum which is home to several Bedouin tribes and was a perfect last night under the stars in Jordan.

Day 8: A sunrise camel trek in the desert before heading back to Aqaba to take a glass bottom boat tour to see the Coral Reef followed by some last minute shopping in the markets.

I felt very lucky actually as my tour guide for the week, Eddie, had an in depth knowledge about the history of Jordan as well as where to go for food/shopping. He gave us all some very useful tips. Here are just a couple:

  • Don’t talk about religion or politics
  • Do talk about the water shortage, the deficit and Azuz (a small child that is the butt of many jokes.)

I took the below picture of Eddie in Wadi Rum. He loved it so much I traded my lens ball with him for a beer!

Things To Pack

Clothing for every type of weather. It’s better to pack layers so you can add or remove as necessary.

Sensible walking boots as you’ll probably cover every terrain imaginable.

Camera and equipment. I always carry mine on me as you just never know when the perfect picture opportunity will arise.

Hand/foot warmers. TRUST ME, these are a godsend as the desert gets freezing at night. These particular ones are tried and tested by myself and literally last all night.

Beach wear with suitable shoes for the Dead Sea. I would recommend wet shoes with a rubber sole and NOT flip flops.

A sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. As well as the cold, it will also get very hot. The sunglasses will also help keep the sand out of your eyes in the desert.

A power bank to charge your phone. If you have a similar itinerary to mine and use your phone to take photos, then you’ll probably need a recharge at some point. I use the one below which gives me about 5 charges.

A sturdy rucksack to put your water bottle/flask in plus all over the above! I use the one below as it comes with a detachable day bag. I always take my stainless steel cutlery set as shown below, you never know when you’ll need them. The set does come with a set of straws but again it cant hurt to take some extra with you in case you can’t wash them. These ones are stainless steel so reusable and more environmentally friendly. When you’re off the beaten track and buy a drink, it’s more hygienic to drink from one of your own straws rather than the can/bottle.

I truly loved this country and the time I spent there. I really hope to go back to explore further but until then, Jordan, keep shining.

Cat x

P.S. Sign up to my blog for more in depth details about all the excursions I went on and please drop me a message for any questions about this amazing place!

Southwest Icelandic Adventure

One of the reasons I love living in my home town of Sheffield, UK, is because it has a bustling city centre full of trendy bars, pubs and restaurants as well as some beautiful architecture. If you take a 10 minute drive out of the city you are out in the Peak District where you can hike, climb and cave to your hearts content.

I think this is one of the reasons I feel so at home in Iceland. Staying in its capital, Reykjavik, you have all the shops, bars and restaurants you could possibly need and with only a small population in the city of 123,000, it is a very peaceful place.

To take in the stunning views of Reykjavik, all you have to do is take a step out of your front door.


Iceland, to me, is a home away from home. I feel so at peace there. There always seems to be a mysterious magic in the air which I find enchanting and this is before you start to read and listen to the local Icelandic folktales, such as the story of the terrifying Christmas Cat or Yule Cat.

At Christmas time in Iceland, families give warm clothing to each member of their household.

According to legend, there is a frightening Christmas Cat who stalks the snowy countryside and gobbles up anyone not equipped for the cold and wintery weather.

Families in Iceland work together to ensure nobody will “go to the Christmas Cat”.

Icelandic Christmas Cat

Anyway, then you have the absolute beauty of the country, the stunning scenery carved out by the volcanic activity (something I’ve always been obsessed with) and moving tectonic plates. Not to mention waterfalls in abundance and the breathtaking glaciers and glacier lagoons.

Now, you can hire a car in Iceland. The roads are pretty quiet, especially after you’ve left the city and there is one main road that circuits the whole island. Many of the roads have underground geothermal heating which helps the ice and snow melt so driving conditions aren’t too bad. Myself, I took tour buses so that I could relax and meet people along the way.

So far, I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of the Southwest coast but these are some of my favourite things to do and recommendations.

1. Explore!

Take a walk around the city, it is small enough to see everything by foot. The Cathedral, Hallgrímskirkja costs 1000ISK to go up the tower but it offers panoramic views over the city.

I particularly enjoy walking along the marina to take in the panoramic views over the mountains. At the end of the marina is Harpa, a relatively new concert hall which has some beautiful architecture, just make sure you look up when you go inside.

After a bit of walking you might want to check out one of the many coffee shops dotted about the city, where there isn’t a Starbucks or Costa in sight! Te og Kaffi is Iceland’s biggest coffee shop chain but it’s always good to check out the independent stores as well. Most stores have free samples of teas or coffees!

**Top tips** try out the local cuisine. I had it on good authority from a local Icelander to try Icelandic lamb as apparently it’s like no lamb you’ve ever tasted before. I’m not a big meat eater but when I’m away I do try and sample local delicacies.

Having done so, I can confirm the lamb is truly delicious and as promised, like no other lamb I had tried before. Whilst over there you must also try the local hot dogs (also made of lamb.)

My most favourite meal I ate whilst in Reykjavik, was the home made soup. There is normally a meat or a veggie option, all made freshly and served inside a giant bread bowl. It’s honestly the best soup I’ve ever eaten and the cute little cafe, Svarta Kaffid serving it did say it was the best soup in Reykjavik! I can’t say how welcome the cosy little cafe was whilst the wind howled and snow fell outside with the beautiful soup warming our souls.

The final thing to try whilst you’re out and about is the local ice cream. Come rain, shine or blizzard, Icelanders love their Ice cream. I’ll be honest, I thought people were bonkers eating ice cream in the winter even if you do eat it indoors (advised) but on my last day I thought, when in Rome…. I tried the smoked lava salted chocolate ice cream… heaven!

2. Perlan

Another fantastic thing to go to in Reykjavik is Perlan. Perlan is a bunch of large hot water tanks and sitting on top of them on the forth floor is a large observation deck which offers panoramic views over the city.

Admission to the observation deck is 490ISK however, one of the hot water tanks has been converted into a museum called Wonders of Iceland. The museum has exhibitions about volcanoes, glaciers and geothermal marvels not to mention the museum’s very own ice cave and Planetarium! The cost for the museum is 3,900ISk which also includes admission to the observation deck.

One of my favourite things to do on holiday, is find a good observation deck and go up the tower just before sunset. That way, I get the view in the day time, during a (hopefully) stunning sunset and of the city all lit up at night.

**Top tip** there is a free shuttle bus to and from Perlan which leaves from Harpa. The shuttle bus runs every half an hour.

3. The Golden Circle Tour

A good way to see a lot of the more popular tourist attractions is to go on the Golden Circle Tour. The tour guides offer a history and geology of each spectacular site. On the tour you will get to walk in the footsteps of Jon Snow and the Wildlings by walking between the tectonic rift at Thingvellir National Park. Here, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet or rather move away from each other and you can walk in between them. For the very brave, you can throw on a wet suit and swim between the plates!

The tour also offers a trip to the awe inspiring Gullfoss waterfall. If you go in the winter, the waterfall will be perfectly frozen and glistening in the sun.

**Please take heed!!!** It can be incredibly windy here! I’ve seen many people blow over so be sure to wrap up warm and hold on for your life!!! This is a video of my best friend and I trying to stay on our feet…

I think my favourite part of the tour (also very windy and cold) is the Stokkur hot springs and Geysers. Stokkur is the most reliable geyser on site launching scolding hot water up to 40 metres into the air every 6 to 10 minutes!

**top tips** (literally) try not to stand down wind. The water is very hot and you will get soaked!!!

I would advise you to take snacks and water (or a nice flask of hot tea) with you on the trip. There is a cafe at Stokkur where the bus will stop for lunch.
4. Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss

I promised waterfalls in abundance and here are 2 more! Whilst making our way to Black Sand Beach we stopped at 2 waterfall sites, the first one being Seljalandsfoss.

This is the waterfall that you are able to walk behind to see the waterfall’s force up close and personal. Unfortunately, due to freezing conditions, this was closed off when we visited. Still though, how beautiful is this?!

Just to the left of this waterfall is a viewing tower which gives you a beautiful side view of the falls. This can also be closed in winter as the spray from the falls often freezes making it too dangerous to go up.. not that that stopped some people.

This is generally a nice area to hike so we took a stroll just to the left of the falls to stretch our legs and take in some of that fresh Icelandic air.

About a 15 minute drive from Seljalandsfoss you are greeted by the almighty Skógafoss.

Cascading from a height of 60 metres and at 25 metres wide, Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls.

Trying to take these pictures on a cold, wintry day was pretty difficult. The spray from the falls had frozen on the ground so I was like Bambi on ice trying to get up close. Everyone was waddling round like penguins trying not to slip.

Icelandic folktale says there is a chest of treasure at the bottom of these falls, put there by Þrasi Þórólfsson, the first settler of Skógar. He was said to be a great warrior, well informed and with supernatural skills.

Þrasi was a wealthy man and in his later years, he decided that upon death, he did not want to share his wealth so locked away gold and treasures into a chest and dropped it into the darkest depths of the Skógafoss plunge pool.

Over many years, people have tried to find the chest with only one group of men coming close. They managed to get their rope through a ring on the chest however, after they started to raise the chest, the ring broke off allowing the chest to fall back into the depths. The men were left with only the ring.

Skógar used to have a church where the ring was fitted to the church door. In 1890 the church was demolished so the ring found its way to Eyvindarhólar and was fitted to the church door there.

In 1960 the church was demolished and the ring can now be seen in the Skógar Folk Museum.

**top tip** tread carefully, the spray from the waterfalls freezes on the ground and it really is treacherous to walk on. Also dress appropriately, it can be freezing and the falls kick out a lot of spray.

5. Black Sand Beach

Although one of the most exotic and famous beaches in the world, this is also one of the most dangerous. It has crazy undercurrents and HUGE waves as there is no land mass between Antarctica and here so the waves have thousands of kilometres to build. Even on a calm day sneaker waves can appear when least expected and if any of the waves knocks you off your feet you’ve had it.

Beautiful scenery though with the huge rocky sea stacks just off the coast. According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns (in the above picture) were once trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore. However, these trolls were dim and went out too late in the night; dawn broke on the horizon, turning the trolls into solid stone. – everyone knows trolls turn to stone in daylight!

**top tip** and one definitely not to be ignored. These waves truly are ferocious and absolutely massive. If you think you are far enough back from the waves…. you are not, take a few more steps back. Also… NEVER turn your back on the waves. It takes just a second for the waves to hurtle onto the shore and knock you off your feet. If this happens… you’re a goner. I heard a local say the only way people escape this situation is by digging their hands into the sand. A lady on the beach at the same time as us didn’t listen to the warnings and went into a cave… A huge wave then filled the cave and swept her and her friend out. They really are lucky to be alive.

6. Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach is a strip of black sand belonging to the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain. As the beach is located next to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the icebergs which fill the lagoon wash up on the shore which against the dark contrast of the black sand, look like huge sparkling diamonds.

**top tip** calling all you nature and wildlife lovers!! Not only is this beach stunning, it is also called home by many seals. It is also the best place on the Island to see the orcas from the shore!

7. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

This is the first place in Iceland that blew my mind! The still water in the lagoon is situated within the Vatnajökull National Park and is truly stunning. The perfectly blue icebergs bob around in the water, some flowing down a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, hence the chunks of ice on Diamond Beach.

Chunks of ice also flowed up the waterway into glacier lagoon at such a speed it sounded like thunder as the icebergs collided.

During the winter, the lagoon is full of fish so hundreds of seals live here.

Honestly, I could have spent hours here, listening to the glacier collide as well as the ice crackling and popping in the icy water.

This brings me on to my next **top tip**. Take your time here. Take a seat on the rocks, enjoy the peacefulness and completely stunning scenery. It’s not often you get to witness mother nature at its best so take a deep breath and just let it all in.

8. Skaftafell National Park Glacier Hike

I honestly, don’t have the words to describe the beauty of the Icelandic glaciers. 11% of Iceland is covered in the stunning glaciers and whilst visiting, I cannot recommend enough that you take a hike on a glacier (with an expert glacier guide of course.)

This by far, was my favourite excursion (the glacier lagoon a close second.) Not only do you get to hike on the blue ice, you get to explore inside the glacier in one of its many ice caves.

After getting off the bus, we got all our safety gear on and then took about a 30 minute walk over what I can only describe as moonscape. You’re carefully walking and all of a sudden there it is, Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, looking like a giant frozen river over the moonscape.

You know when you’ve played a repetitive computer game like Tetris or Candy Crush and everytime you blink all you can see are the little screen shots of colour in your head? Well, after seeing the scenery in the below picture, that’s all I could see for days whenever I blinked or shut my eyes. I’ve never had that happen before but it clearly had an impact on me.

I was actually stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty, I very nearly cried. No time for tears though, it was time to put my nerves and excitement to one side and get to the glacier.

Once arriving at the glacier, the group took 10 minutes to get acquainted with our crampons and take a few more pictures.

It was time to hit the ice and go in search of an ice cave. It was almost difficult to keep an eye on my footing because with every step the scenery changed and I just wanted to take it all in!

After hiking over the meandering, jolty ice for a while (successfully without falling down a crevasse) we came across the entrance to our ice cave.

Carved out by the underground glacial rivers, I can only describe the cave as the most perfect, bluest, frozen wave you’ve ever seen.

The tour group that followed us into the cave had a young gentleman that proposed to his now fiance! Who could say no in such a romantic setting?!

After heading out of the cave, the tour guide had another surprise for us, a crevasse which the tour company had made safe for us to enter.

I actually didn’t think the day could get any better but then…

It’s hard to see from the pictures but this is probably the most perfectly carved blue ice tunnel anyone could see. Although slightly scary as it led to an abyss, it was even more beautiful.

Sadly, it was time to hike back to the bus but the views back were equally as stunning.

**top tips** always listen to your glacier guide and trust in your crampons! They will stop you from slipping and be your best friend on the ice if you listen to the advice of the guide. Also… Once again, take in every second of this once in a lifetime excursion.

Everything from Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Black Sand Beach, Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, ice hiking and caving on Skaftafellsjökull, was a 2 day excursion out of Reyjavik with a company called Troll Expeditions. This included an overnight stay with breakfast. The tour guide also keeps you up to date as to your chances of seeing the Northern Lights and where best to stand.

9. Northern Light Tour

No trip to Iceland would be complete without an expedition out into the dark night on a quest to find the illusive Northern Lights.

On my first trip to Iceland, we could see every star in the sky but alas, the sky was just not dancing for us. This time, however….

The sky danced the night away! This was truly the perfect ending to one of the best days of my life. Glacier hiking topped off with Northen Lights. 😍😍

I was supposed to go hunting for the Northern Lights with my best friend, Lauren. Unfortunately, she was taken ill that evening so couldn’t make it.

In the queue for the bus, I met another solo female traveller and we got chatting. It turned out her friend was also supposed to come on the trip with her and coincidentally, her friend was also called Lauren! I took this as a sign that we were going to see the lights.

**top tips** If you take a tour bus to see the lights, try and go at the start of your holiday. If you don’t see the lights, the tour company will take you out each night until you (hopefully) see them, therefore you’ll maximise your chance of seeing them. This is the same with other tours such as Whale watching. When taking photos of the lights, remember to turn off your flash, have your ISO setting high and shutter speed on slow to take the best pictures (the tour guide can help with this) sometimes you can only see the lights through your photos and this gives you the best shot of doing so.

10. Blue Lagoon

To me, there was no better way of finishing off this holiday than to visit the Blue Lagoon on our last day.

Here you get to bask in the geothermal water whilst indulging in a complimentary face mask and drink at the poolside bar. You are given a handy wristband that calculates your bar tab meaning you don’t have to get out of the steaming hot water every time you want a drink! What’s not to love?!

It was a very odd sensation being in 40°C water whilst having ours heads sticking out in a blizzard!

Blizzard or no blizzard, this was the most chilled out I’d been all holiday and soaked my aching legs from the days of hiking.

**tip tips** you can hire a bathrobe for a little extra however, there really isn’t any point as you can enter the lagoon from inside the centre. Once you leave the lagoon there are plenty of towels to grab. Also.. for all you photographers out there, you can take a waterproof case for your phone/camera or even buy one for your phone at the bar there.👍🏻

One last tip, it can be pricey here. My friends and I hired a very reasonable and beautiful apartment in the heart of the city and our host had all the charms of Iceland. This way, we were able to do our shopping at a supermarket to save on cash. If you chose to do this, use the Bonus Supermarkets as they are by far the cheapest. Just bear in mind they close quite early so check the timings online before you leave. The water here is also some of the freshest in the world so do not waste your money on buying bottled water. You can drink the tap water and water from most lakes, rivers and springs as long as it runs clear!

Sadly, this was the end of the trip. I wish I could have stayed forever and I cannot wait to return to explore more of this beautiful country.

Iceland, I love you!

Cat x

P.s. Take a look below for a list of recommended items to take with you!

Essential Items to Pack

A sturdy rucksack. You’ll want to take snacks, water, cameras, first aid kit etc with you so this is a must have.

Photography gear. You cannot visit this beautiful country without taking any pictures. 

Thermal underlayers. I’d advise getting some merino layers to help keep the wind out!

Waterproof outer layers. You don’t want your trips ruined by being wet and cold especially as some of the trips last all day.

Waterproof, thermal coat. Don’t spend your holiday shivering!

Thermal hat and gloves. My gloves were waterproof and I was very grateful for them!

Sensible hiking boots. I’d recommend boots that at least cover your ankle to help keep the snow and cold out!

Insulated hiking socks to go with the above .

A water bottle. It’s expensive to buy bottled water in Iceland even though all they do is fill it from a regular tap as all the water is fresh glacier water. Same some money by filling up your own bottle!

Flask. I enjoyed making myself a brew every morning to take out with me for the cold day ahead.

Hand and foot warmers. For those of you that are especially nesh like me, these were a godsend

First aid kit. I always take this with me- you just never know when you might need it.

The American Adventure

Firstly, I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Cat Fox, I’m 32 years old and I’m from sunny Sheffield 🌞 in the UK. I am by no means a writer but in fact a full time civil servant and a wannabe full time traveller/blogger.

I have recently returned from a 5 week American adventure which took me from the sunny west coast of California and then across to the east coast which was also surprisingly sunny given the time of year!

This was my first solo trip and I survived! Yessssss! To be honest though… I more than survived, I felt liberated from the usual constraints of everyday life, a feeling I think I’m now addicted to.

To explain a little as to why I did this trip now, especially for someone who is taunted by anxiety on a daily basis, I’m going to go off on a tangent, a little.

Basically, I love music 🎶🎶. I love to play, sing, go to gigs and festivals and I can’t think of a better feeling than the euphoria thousands of people create when all singing along to their favourite band… talking of which, one of my favorite bands and the band that has pretty much been the soundtrack to my life since 2004 is, The Killers.

I have said since 2004 that one day I wanted to see them play a home gig in Las Vegas, so when the band announced a tour last year I was alllll over those tickets. I was FINALLY in a position where I was actually able to go ❤❤❤ Vegas baby!!!

So anyways…. Back to the trip. I now had my dream gig tickets along with the want to travel America so that was it really. I’m the kind of person that once I get an idea in my head, I have to make it happen.

I started to look at the route I wanted to take as well as blagging the time off work (winner!) but then came the tricky part, trying to persuade people to come with me…. I hate going to the supermarket alone let alone going travelling alone!

As much as people liked the idea of my trip, it was MY dream, not theirs and I began to realise that I can’t spend my life waiting around for people. If I want to do something I have to get out there and do it because truly, life is too short.

So that was it, I found my flights and after hovering over the buy button for around 10 minutes with the nerves in the pit of my stomach (and my friends shouting, “just press the damn button”) I did it, I actually bought the flights. That was it…. No going back. Although the nerves were still there I also had an overwhelming feeling of excitement…. I was going to America… on my own!

The rest of the planning was a bit of a blur but to keep the anxiety levels down I made sure I had all my accommodation and transport booked prior to leaving. Also making sure I had enough cash in the bank to buy a ticket home should I absolutely hate it… like that was ever going to happen! 😂

That was it, my trip was booked. San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, L.A., Las Vegas, Lubbock TX, Bandera TX, San Antonio TX, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Niagara Falls ON.

All I had to do now was get on the plane (I’m terrified of flying) for my first solo flight. And well…. I did it. As soon as we took off I felt like all my worries flew away as well, I felt nothing but excitement. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I would just deal with it as I went along.

Skip ahead 2 months and I’m now sat on my sofa dreaming of the adventure I had. From the sunsets on the Californian coast, the sounds of the slammer in Alcatraz, the shear beauty of Yosemite, paddle boarding in L.A, seeing the vastness of the Grand Caynon and watching The Killers play Vegas. Horse back riding in the Texan hills, seeing the liveliest city of the dead during Mardi Gras in New Orleans (as well as seeing someone literally come back from the dead 💀- freaky), seeing Alligators in the Louisianna swamps, playing on Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano in Sun Studio, Memphis (then crying like a little girl), having a holiday romance in Graceland. Hearing all the music in Nashille and then power walking around Washington D.C., running up the steps from the Rocky film in Philadephia before hitting the bright lights of New York, eating choc chip ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge in the crazy heat before going to the breathtaking cold of Niagara Falls and seeing the frozen falls.

This is not to mention all the wildlife I was lucky enough to see (Coyote, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Water Hogs, Racoons, Alligators, Turtles) as well as the crazy and wonderful people I met along the way. Some of which I already have plans to see again.

This truly was the time of my life and I would switch this comfy sofa in a heartbeat to be sat back on those stinky Greyhound buses (that’s a blog for another day).

I’m not saying all this was easy, in fact Texas almost broke me and I even had to change accommodation in New Orleans as the first one was so grotty. But I felt so care free on my adventure that fixing a few bumps in the road really didn’t phase me.

I had my friends at the end of my phone if I needed them and my America survival kit ( an amazing Christmas present from a friend) which contained 3 journals (also Christmas gifts!). One of the journals I took with me on my travels to document my journey – my memory is shocking so this way I could read back over the things I might have forgotten. Bullet journal writing is all the rage in L.A. so I thought, when in Rome ‘n’all that. This way, I could document what I had done each day along with my achievements.

Like I said above, I truly believe life is too short so if you want to do something, make it happen don’t let your fears hold you back and DO NOT wait for other people. Go have an adventure and enjoy life!

For me, the thought of not living life to the full is scarier than all the things that I could let hold me back, so I plan on carrying on with the adventure and you can keep up with me on here 😁.