by Lu Sobredo
Why a stopover in Iceland? The topic was not even on my radar screen as a blog writer. I have never been to Iceland, although I did meet a wonderful couple from Iceland when my family and I were in Stavanger, Norway in 2004. But here it is.
My new pursuit as a travel blogger formally launched on October 1, 2016. After only a few days, family, friends and new readers have been supportive of my new venture. In the course of viewing my Lutravelsabroad Facebook Page which is linked to my travel blog site: http://blog.lutravelsabroad.com, I ran across a comment from my beautiful cousin Luchi aka Lucia Tagle, a nurse in New York who just returned from a Baltic Cruise. I felt as if I was given a gift from heaven which I had to share. Luchi surprised me with information about why going on a cruise is a cost-effective way to travel, why a stopover could be very good for your wallet and more. I share her story and photo with permission.
Personally, I am less inclined to go on a cruise but I was enthralled by my cousin’s side-trip to Iceland. Although Iceland was not part of the Baltic Cruise, she and her group couldn’t pass it up. I will explain later "why." To be sure we are all on the same page, and for the sake of the neophyte traveler among us, the Baltic is an area of Northern Europe. It includes bordering countries of Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, northeastern Germany and eastern Denmark. Luchi described her recent travel in September 2016 in a way that is very much in keeping with the theme of the Lu Travels Abroad Blog. Lu Travels Abroad aims to awaken the senses to encourage travel especially among those with limitations of all kinds particularly budget and physical limitations. She writes: “…just did a Baltic Cruise and realized this is the most cost effective way to travel these countries. (In these countries, the cost of) food and hotels are double that in the USA And (cost of) food is triple that in Iceland for the simple reason that they don’t have crops produced (in farms) like ours due to the harsh environment. Food production is done in greenhouses. Thus, cruising is like bringing along a US hotel and U.S. food at US prices.”
Luchi observed that during the cruise, two fellow passengers with physical limitations were self-sufficient and operated their own electric wheelchair. She was impressed that they did not allow their disabilities to limit them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a Baltic Cruise is accessible to the disabled travelers.
I am reminded of a woman on crutches traveling with her husband to visit Monserrat, the site of the Benedictine Abbey, one of the historic sites my family visited in Spain during our travels in the summer of 2016. The woman traveler was pleasant and always had a smile on her face even though she was on crutches. She also came with a lightweight wheelchair which her husband pushed during their tour of the premises. Somehow I was comforted by the idea of not being the only one on the tour bus with a disability. I felt especially blessed that my increased mobility enabled me to move around with my cane with some help from my husband. Since my husband had already been on the tour and a hike made accessible to visitors three summers before, he encouraged our college-age son to take the one-hour meditative hike up to the peak, the highest summit called Saint Jerome. Our son did and was able to soak in the beauty of the place. I did not go on the hike, but the spot where I stood looked out to the vastness of the Catalonian countryside. I marveled at the breathtaking views of Monserrat, the multi-peaked rocky mountain range near Barcelona. Like the woman on crutches, I sported a grin from ear to ear. Never minded the stiffness and discomfort from my disability.
Even though Iceland was not included in the Baltic Cruise, my cousin went anyway. Remember I had mentioned that Luchi, and as it turned out, a bunch of her friends could not pass up the opportunity? Why? Because the airfare to Iceland was FREE. According to Luchi, Icelandair, the flagship airline for Iceland, “allows free stopover up to 7 days if one takes a roundtrip airfare to any European destination.”
I am not in anyway giving an endorsement or recommendation to fly Icelandair. I am mainly illustrating that sometimes special offers are available when you least expect it. When my family was planning our summer 2016 trip to Spain, I did observe that airline prices tended to be less with connecting flights and stopovers that stretched for up to four hours or more. This seems to also apply when the connecting flights or stopovers are in cities that might be less visited by tourists. So, it’s practical to look out for good travel deals.
My special interest in Iceland is twofold. First, I am fascinated by the Blue Lagoon Spa, the geothermal spa that you see in the featured photo of my cousin bathing in its blue mineral water. It has a reputation of helping with skin ailments because of the mineral-rich water. I often wondered what other medicinal effects it has. (Yet another possible topic to explore for a future blog post). The second reason for my interest in Iceland is based on discussions I have had in the past years with my husband, James Sobredo, a university professor with a keen interest in economic history. I do recall reading how the 2008 economic recession actually had a positive impact on the residents of Iceland. In the Business section of HUFFPOST, July 23, 2012, there was an article titled: Iceland Recession Actually Improved Health of Residents: Report. As the article pointed out, “Icelandians cut back on behaviors that put their health at risk and even boosted some behaviors that promote good health.”
What behaviors did Icelandians reduce? The article mentioned: “Between 2007 and 2009, Iceland’s residents reduced their smoking, heavy drinking, indoor tanning and consumption of unhealthy foods like sugary drinks, sweets and fast food,” a finding outlined in the study from researchers at the University of Iceland, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center and Rider University. Although the population may have cut back on costly fruits and vegetables, “they consumed more fish oil and were more likely to get the recommended amounts of sleep.”
My motivation for writing about travel and disability is to stir curiosity in others about going abroad. Moreover, as a person with a chronic illness, I can’t emphasize enough that travel and healthy habits must go hand in hand. I am in awe of my family and friends who are already living the life that includes travel. In this regard, I couldn't be happier for having widened the list of guest writers for my blog site. It would be interesting to follow up if Icelandians sustained the healthy behaviors into the period of economic recovery.
My next stopover might just be Iceland!
©Lu Sobredo, Written: October 5, 2016; Inspired by Luchi Tagle.