What North America can learn from Iceland

Emily! Do you want to go to Iceland? Those were the first words out of Nicole’s mouth when I answered the phone in the middle of the winter last year. Flights: booked.

Not long afterwards, we picked up another travel partner, Hilary.

After months of postponing planning, we decided on two things: 1. rent a car and 2. figure it out on the fly.  Three girls, an SUV, a must-see list and a draft outline drawn on a map is all we had planned for our week-long trip in July.

There are a lot of great things to see and do in Iceland – glacier hikes, waterfalls, volcanos, helicopter rides, off-roading, scuba diving, luxury spas, culinary experiences, and Reykjavik, the nation’s capital, is a blend of history, business and culture.


We decided to drive both the Golden Circle (short circuit just outside Reykjavik) and the Ring Road (main highway all around the island). Here’s what I discovered about Iceland and what we, as North Americans, should take away from this country.

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Iceland hasn’t always been so lucky. It suffered a lot from the 2008 financial crisis and the major volcanic eruption in 2010. The value of the krona collapsed and the prices of goods remained expensive – it’s not easy transporting items to a remote island in the North after all. For a tourist, the cost of food and goods is still quite expensive so it’s worth spending your time and money on adventures.
Some say their tourism spike is thanks to agreements with major airlines that use Iceland as a stopover from North America to Europe, some say that it’s because the millennial generation is looking for that picture perfect background – either way, Iceland’s getting back on their feet… In a sustainable way.
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Locals pay very close attention to the ecosystem and the environment. There are no forests in Iceland – certainly not like you’d see here on the East Coast of Canada. Moss – basic green moss – can take upwards to 5-10 years to grow. Needless to say, when we stayed in a bubble in the middle of the “woods” we were sheltered by a few skinny trees that provided barely enough privacy for us to run to the outhouse in the middle of the night!
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Icelanders will not put up with your North American bullshit – they don’t have time for it and they want to have an environment to go back to once this tourism boom starts to downturn. Play by their rules or stay away. It’s a very fragile environment so be sure to respect the boundaries set out by the tourism bureaus, park officials, the governments and the locals – otherwise you will be ridiculed… a lot and by everyone.
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The majority of Iceland’s power is fuelled by renewable energy such as hydroelectric and geothermal. Iceland is full of volcanic activity that makes geothermal energy easy to access – essentially, they don’t have to dig too deep to find it. In fact, they love geothermal energy so much that they built one of the nicest spas in Iceland directly beside the plant. Tourists are literally bathing in the by-product from the plant – and it’s awesome. Silica and sulfur are so good for your skin that companies have started to bottle the product in hopes to make a profit.
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Hydroelectric = waterfalls. There are so many waterfalls in Iceland, I’m pretty sure we saw a different one every day! Hilary was on this photographic kick where she tried to capture the perfect milky waterfall – so we spent a lot of time visiting them…. and saw them from many different angles. It was totally worth it. There’s something soothing about watching waterfalls. Especially knowing that the governments and business leaders of the day were smart enough to realize that the force from the water could power the majority of the country’s energy requirements. (Gee – I wonder how much 160 billion tonnes of water twice a day could power *hint hint* Bay of Fundy…)
One more thing that I learned about Iceland: they have a very unique breed of horses. Icelandic horses are said to have been preserved by isolation – there has been no cross-contamination between these horses and other horses from around the world. I really don’t know much about horses, but I can say I literally fell in love with a short, shaggy haired Icelandic horse named Dorri. I seriously think this horse either had some cognitive issues or he was just simply just a klutz – whatever it was that made Dorri special, we were meant to ride together.  While Nicole and Hilary looked oh so graceful on their horses, Dorri and I bumbled along like YouTube compilation of “People walking into things”.
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All in all – Iceland is absolutely worth visiting. My advice: rent a camper or SUV and travel around. We stayed in some pretty cool spots along the way, but there are many different ways to travel this beautiful country – budget conscious to top-of-the-line luxury*.
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 *Side note: we had a brief moment of luxury when we pulled into a swanky hotel/restaurant for dinner with our new American friends. I had a nut burger – most delicious thing ever. If I didn’t like meat so much, this would have definitely convinced me to try vegetarianism.
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With shared content from Nicole Rowan and Hilary Brown


What You Need to Know About Traveling for Work – When You Return

You’ll meet a lot of people when you travel. As mentioned in my last post, the best way to jog your memory is to jot down a few notes on their business card. Now it’s time to use that info! 

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Reconnecting with your contacts 

LinkedIn is how I personally prefer to keep in touch with professional connections. It’s like having a summarized CV of your connections and it gives you more credibility by having your CV available. 

When adding contacts to LinkedIn, try personalizing your intro message own using the notes from the business cards:

  • If they mentioned they were taking a vacation, wish them a great trip. 
  • If they mentioned they were expecting a new grandchild, send your best wishes.
  • If they mentioned that they were looking to do business in your area, offer them a coffee next time they are in town. 
  • If they had a lot to say about something, reference it in your message. This way they will know that you were actively listening and had a genuine interest in the conversation.

You get the gist of it. Remember to add contacts that you ACTUALLY met; don’t just blindly add people – it’s both annoying and unprofessional.

Send follow up messages

If you were traveling for meetings, remember to send a quick message when you return home thanking the people you met with for their time. If there were any action items from the meeting, this is a great opportunity to remind yourself and others of their responsibilities.

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Take a moment to reflect. 

I can’t stress this enough. Too often when you’re traveling for work you forget to take time to look back on how the trip went. Some things to keep in mind:

  • meetings: were there any action items (things you need to do)?
  • hotels / restaurants: how was the service? would you go back? Is it somewhere you could recommend to someone who might be travelling there?
  • new thoughts: what did you learn? Was there anything new that you discovered that can be applied to your career?
  • goals: what was the main purpose of your travel? Did you achieve your goals? Did you discover something that you should remember for a future opportunity?


Meet with your supervisor

If you were traveling on behalf of an organization, setup a time to meet with your supervisor to discuss the outcomes of your trip. This is where you can have an open conversation about what went well and what could be improved for the next trip. If you found that the travel was somewhat unnecessary, as in the trip didn’t provide as much value as originally thought, speak up. Your supervisor will appreciate your honesty and you can use this conversation as an opportunity to explore other more suitable options.

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The people you meet when you travel – whether for work or for pleasure – can open doors, provide insights, and help influence your career path in many different ways.  It’s important to foster a connection because you never know when you might be crossing paths later in life. These are connections that you can’t find at home, because what makes them special is that they are from a different part of the world. And as for the experiences you shared together … well… everyone loves a good story.

What You Need to Know About Traveling for Work – Before You Go

Work travel is a great opportunity to network and be immersed in the culture of a given industry. You’ll quickly learn who’s who in the industry after you’ve spent a few concentrated days at meetings and events. Here are a few things you should consider when travelling for work.

Before you go

Plan Your Outfits – you likely won’t have a lot of time to pull yourself together in the morning. Plan ahead so your outfits are coordinated and thought-out.

Pack Light – there’s a good chance your going to need to bring some extra promotional materials, gifts and meeting kits with you so make sure you leave space in your bag. Don’t worry, you’ll be returning with many gifts and materials from your trip.

Workout Clothes – one set is enough. I don’t care if you wear the same shirt 2-3 runs in a row and neither will anyone else. If you’re really put-off by it, invest in dry fit so you can wash it in the sink and it will be ready for your next run.

Create an Itinerary – there’s going to be a lot going on during your trip having an itinerary with addresses and phone numbers will help a lot. Plus it gives you a chance to plan personal time and stick to it.

Check In With Your Boss – this is your number one priority. Your boss is sending you on this trip for a purpose. Clearly identify and make note of expectations, target clients, key messaging and other important information. Don’t assume you know everything your boss is expecting.

travel domestically

To anyone who thinks that travelling abroad is the only way to experience a cultural rejoice, I have some news for you. Canada – with a landmass of nearly equivalent to that of Europe – has more Instagrammable beauty and Snapchattable experiences than any one person can handle.

Having been blessed with the opportunity to drive across this beautiful nation twice, travel to every province a handful of times, visit 2 of the three territories, study in our country’s largest metropolitan, work on the west coast, and grow up on the east coast (the actual east coast), I am confident that I have enough to say.

When I read this article in the Globe and Mail, I was excited. Get out there and travel Millennials! Formal education is valuable, but not as valuable as the lessons learned during travel. Travelling exposes the deep secrets about a person – you really learn a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with when you travel. Stepping out of your comfort zone, entering into a world of unknown.

But remember one thing: it’s a privilege. It’s not about getting the best picture; it’s about taking it all in. Some of the best trips I’ve taken involved a lot of mistakes and no internet to help me figure it out. Sometimes the struggle is the experience. Problem solving, respect, empathy, patience, and adaptability are skills that can’t be learned in a classroom, but are the skills that are required in life. You’re lucky to be able to travel – not everyone can.

So what makes Canada so special? Think about it for a moment – Europe has ~50 countries in its 10M km2, Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories. Name two provinces/territories that are the same in culture… Right? Now name two cities that are similar in culture… Exactly. Just because our government is centralized, doesn’t mean that we are all the same. Even in a small province like New Brunswick –Indigenous, Acadian, Loyalist, and other Immigrant histories have collided to create a colourful multicultural province. A four-hour drive from the North to the South is the equivalent in distance to a drive between Zagreb, Croatia to Venice, Italy (and stopping for lunch in Ljubljana, Slovenia.) One would even argue that there are just as many “languages” spoken in the province of New Brunswick!

This is my point to all of the Millenials who are travelling abroad searching for a “cultural” experience… Canada is multicultural, multi-landscape and multi-heritage. The great thing about meeting new people is learning something new about their culture and teaching them something new about your culture!

Before you travel abroad, travel Canada first – then take that experience with you to show the world why you’re proud to be Canadian!





The vibe. The hustle.

Toronto. A concrete jungle. Where high-rises replace the trees and roads replace the streams. The animals are replaced by every walk of human life. Your may never see your neighbours and your day doesn’t shut off at 5:00pm. High expectations lead to big disappointments and cut-throat businessmen are willing to trample you to walk the next step up the corporate ladder.

What draws 8.3 million people to this zoo?

Yonge Street

Winterlicious – where chefs get their culinary on in celebration of deliciousness.
Skate on the Waterfront – When you think of skating in Toronto, you assume Nathan Phillips Square. Truth is, there’s a small skating rink down on the waterfront (Natrel Rink) where you can rent skates and start gliding.
Doors Open Toronto – visit somewhere new, you’ll never believe what’s behind a set of closed doors.
Toronto Fringe Festival – Bring on the live performance in a cunning way. Cheap tickets and usually good shows!
Toronto International Film Festival – I don’t even think I need to explain this one.
Nuit Blanche – This was one of my favourite demonstrations of passion. Gather at night and celebrate innovative and cutting-edge contemporary art.

A walk down Queen Street West heading towards the Kensington Market is like a vortex of colours, fabrics, style and compulsion. Embracing everything creative and vibrant while stimulating all unnatural senses.

Only a few blocks over, Starbucks at the corner of King and Yonge houses the complete opposite market. Black power suits flood out the doors in the morning. It is amazing how quickly the baristas whip up everyone’s overly-complicated warm beverage.

The vibe. The hustle. the quick-thinking mentality. That’s what makes Toronto.