In Iceland, our guide told us the word in their language for a dull and stupid person was one that never left home. They do have a strong Viking heritage there to go wandering and encourage their children to see other countries. Travel truly does open our eyes to the rest of the world which has much to offer. If, however, you cannot afford to take trips but are a reader, you can wander through books and learn much, even from fiction. Want to visit Cajun Country vicariously? Read nearly any of the my books, and you will experience the culture and almost taste the cooking.
What did I learn in Iceland? Much. It is almost impossible to experience a dip in the Blue Lagoon without adjusting to full frontal nudity in the locker room as there are no changing stalls and one must shower in the buff before entering the large, warm pool, nice even on a rainy day. Just try getting a bathing suit on or out of one when wet! Well, the Japanese family I changed with didn't care, so neither did I. Other trivia: chocolate-covered licorice is great, their utility bills are only $50 a month for everything as it is all provided from geothermal power plants, though the water smells vaguely of sulfur, and hamburgers cost $24, but lamb and fish are wonderful, abundant, and cheaper. I missed out on trying puffin, but learned that marinated shark and dried whale are truly awful. Also, all the puffins leave on August 19th to spend the winter at sea, so we didn't see a one of them. Icelandic horses (never called ponies), cows,and sheep, came over with the Viking settlers and are the only breeds allowed as they are adapted to the climate and very hardy. Those Vikings also "stopped off" in Northern Scotland and Ireland to pick up some women for the colony, whether by force or purchase was not made clear, but genetically, the modern men test as 60% Scandinavian and the women as 50% Celtic. Now that might be inspiration for a romance novel.
As usual, I met interesting people, our great guide Harpa who is also an artist, our bus driver, Stenin, a vigorous woman who liked four pats of butter for breakfast because it is good for you along with skyr (like Greek yogurt) with cream and sugar on top. My fellow travelers included an eighty-two year-old woman who had been a child advocate most of her life, the delightful David taking a break from caring for his husband who suffers from Alzheimer's, the professor who pretended to be a vegetarian because she hates fish of which we had a lot, but then missed out on the delicious lamb and dairy desserts because they assumed vegan. She always ended up with fruit, but I did share my brownie with her one evening when she fessed up. Not so pleasant or so much fun, a hypochondriac woman who told my daughter and me to isolate ourselves at the end of the table because my kid had bronchitis and coughed a lot--even though she'd been told it wasn't contagious. Everyone asked if they'd end up in one of my books--maybe their characteristics will, but probably not on a trip to Iceland.
Came home and left a week later for St. Louis where I caught a virus that did not allow me to enjoy the barbecue I so looked forward to. In fact, I ended up getting an IV for dehydration at an Urgent Care and living on soup for most of that short trip with my husband. However, I did get to see my two main wishes--the King Tut Exhibit at their Science Museum and the ancient Indian site of Cahokia. On my birthday I stood at the foot of the enormous Monk's Mound a little too weak to climb it, but I did enjoy the very nice museum on the site. They downplayed the human sacrifice elements of that ancient culture which always fascinates me (very large scale there), but I appreciated the many recreations of day to day life. Never know when you can use that in a book. As a consolation for not being able to eat cake, my husband did buy me a lovely pendant containing fossils and crafted by a Native American. I bought some whimsical clay wood ducks based on figures found in the area,too. I love the get my souvenirs in museum shops because it helps the site and the artists.
Hope this hasn't bored you like the neighbors' slide show of their vacation (which I incidentally always loved as a kid). Next year--Australia!