Morgan Forrest joined Culture Trip’s Frozen Wilderness Adventure in Iceland earlier this year. Here’s her story from meeting the group in Reykjavik to sharing a magical birthday surprise under the Northern Lights.
Travelling from Maine, USA, with her friend Hannah, Morgan took a break from her day job in healthcare and kicked off 2022 with a five-day trip to Iceland – one of our specially curated TRIPS by Culture Trip.
“I only booked so I could chow down on the hot dogs in Reykjavik,” Morgan jokes when Culture Trip asked her what brought her to Iceland. To be fair, the hot dogs are famous and even have former US president Bill Clinton’s seal of approval, but that’s not quite the full story.
“Just kidding! I had followed Monet Izabeth for the past few years, and she seemed like such a wonderful, adventurous spirit – I couldn’t think of a better person to travel with,” Morgan adds.
Culture Trip teamed up with Monet, who invited her online followers to join her in Iceland. Ragnar, our Local Insider, would be leading the small group around his homeland – delivering all the highlights promised in the full itinerary as well as a few surprises along the way. Here’s what Morgan had to say about the rest of her trip, explaining why she felt so compelled to go on a group trip in the unique style we had on offer.
Why did you want to travel with Culture Trip?
“I have a love of and passion for travel, but I haven’t traveled on my own a lot – so having the option to travel with a small group and an experienced local guide sounded perfect. Being packed onto a big tour bus like a tin of sardines is my worst nightmare – and this was something promising the opposite of that. TRIPS by Culture Trip gave me a true taste for Iceland, plus I was given the opportunity to make new friends from around the world. I can’t wait for our next adventure together!”
“Additionally, I live in an area of the world that gets quite cold in winter, and I seem to have a proclivity for traveling to even colder, more extreme environments in the winter. Iceland seemed like a great destination to add to my cold-weather-trips list.”
What appealed to you about Iceland as a destination?
“Iceland just seems so other. The landscapes, the culture, the experiences – I feel like Iceland is uniquely beautiful. From the time I stepped off the plane, it felt like I was transported to an alien planet; no wonder Interstellar, Star Wars and Game of Thrones were all shot on location here. If I could travel to every country in the world, I don’t think I’d find anywhere remotely similar to Iceland. Seriously, where else can you shoot a local whisky on top of a glacier that you just climbed?”
Have you traveled much in the past two years?
“No, and I’ve been itching to get back out into the world. My last big trip was to Ireland at the end of 2019 – which turned out to be great timing so my travel bug was assuaged at least for a short while. When the pandemic hit, it wasn’t long before I was ready and raring to go, go, go again! Unfortunately, the only place I could go, go, go was down the street to pick up my groceries. These past two years have been difficult for so many people – you know it’s bad when vegging out on the couch in your sweats and binging Netflix starts to lose its appeal, because it’s all you’ve been doing for months – or even years – on end.”
“For me it was really important not only to feel safe as an individual, but also to be as respectful as possible while traveling in order to make sure I was not negatively impacting any communities I visited. It was also important that my group felt the same – no one wants to be thattourist or group who thinks of nothing but themselves.
“With all the precautions taken before, during and after our trip, I never felt anxious during my Iceland journey, which was such a breath of fresh air! Culture Trip took care of everything: food, travel, activities and accommodation. To not have to worry or think about planning was such a gift; to be able to get up and just gowas fantastic!”
Were you nervous about traveling with a group?
“Yes! As I said, my idea of a wasted trip would be a traditional group tour, riding around in a large tour bus and not getting a full, authentic experience of the country I am visiting. I was also worried that the people I’d travel with would be a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud, and not want to go out and try new things or challenge themselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We had a vibrant, outgoing, fun group of individuals that felt like family by the end of our trip.”
“Our whole group kept saying that we were a ‘yes’ group. Despite some initial hesitation to tackle some of the more challenging excursions we were faced with, everyone rallied and encouraged one another to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. We made a commitment to saying yes to every experience ahead of us. And it is in those moments that you push yourself when – at least for me – you experience life more vividly and appreciate it more fully.”
What were your initial thoughts on Ragnar, the Local Insider, and the rest of the people joining you on the trip?
“We were all so quiet the first night when we introduced ourselves. I’m pretty sure I came across as incredibly unhinged. For one thing, I hadn’t slept in 36 hours due to traveling – so I was in a bit of a goofy mood anyway – but once we got over the initial awkwardness of standing in a circle and introducing ourselves, we headed out into Reykjavik for a wonderful meal. It was over dinner that we were able to relax, have a drink and eat some incredible food. And that was one thing I didn’t expect about Iceland: the delicious cuisine. Well, minus the fermented shark, which was a bit too Icelandic for me.”
“I immediately felt at ease with Ragnar, our Local Insider and adopted Icelandic dad! He was so warm and friendly. And that continued throughout the trip – Ragnar truly set the tone with his high energy and wonderful presence. He fully immersed us in Icelandic culture with facts and stories – including epic tales of elves and trolls. He taught us his language, too, and just made us all feel so incredibly welcome. He even ran down the streets of Reykjavik with me to buy beer out of the trunk of some guy’s car.”
Any special moments you thought stood out?
“What didn’t stand out?! Of course, seeing the Northern Lights on my birthday was the icing on the cake. It was our last night in Iceland, so at that point, I wasn’t sure if we were going to have the opportunity to see them. It was the best possible gift I could’ve received. Snowmobiling in white-out conditions, hiking behind a waterfall at dusk, watching the full moon rise over the mountains as we stood by a lighthouse overlooking the black-sand beaches – the list goes on!
“This trip has been the best I’ve ever gone on. My friend Hannah and I kept saying to each other how amazing it was we packed so much activity into every day – in fact, we did more than I possibly would’ve been able to if I had made the trip on my own.”
Would you travel with a group like this again and where are you going next?
“In a heartbeat! Of course, I’d love to travel with the exact same group again, but I would love to explore other opportunities, too. Japan is at the top of my travel list, but I would also love to explore Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Europe – Switzerland, I’ve got my eye on you. I can’t wait to book another adventure through Culture Trip again.”
What were your final thoughts about the trip?
“I got to experience so many things on my trip that I’d never have experienced on my own. I got to make lifelong friendships with people around the world – seriously, I’ll be crashing on their couches at some point when I visit them – and immerse myself in the mystical land of fire and ice. More important, I got to reignite my love for travel and exploration. I’d say, for the first group trip I’ve ever been on, it’s going to be pretty dang hard to beat. Seriously, what an incredible trip. If you’re considering booking, all I can say is, do it!”
“Skip eating the fermented shark, though. Bleugh!”
Feeling inspired? You can live the same travel experience by joining our next Iceland departure, or choose another destination from our selection of TRIPS by Culture Trip.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
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It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
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