Surviving Iceland's Arctic chill when your luggage goes missing.

USA, what a trip. Warm weather all around, with an average high of 28 degrees Celsius, I was living the American dream. But then it was time to pack up and leave to a country I had longed to go; Iceland. Surely it’s on your bucket list, and if it isn’t, it probably should be.

I felt well prepared as I packed my suitcase and got my warm Kathmandu gear ready for the Arctic chill, it’s a well-known fact that Iceland is freezing all year round, summer included. I boarded my plane, flew from NYC to Berlin, then over to the Icelandic capital; Reykjavik. Peering out my window, I saw snow-capped mountains and glaciers with rivers flowing between – they almost looked like veins from above.

I was super excited. I got off the plane first and went to the baggage claim, only to find my bags hadn’t arrived. Where were they? Initially I thought they may have missed a couple of bags in the hold, but I asked the ground staff who confirmed all bags had been delivered to the carousel. Slightly anxious, I asked when they would arrive and what had happened to them. Here I was on an internship, with my warm clothing, camera gear, and money missing. My questions were met with uncertainty and vague promises the bags would arrive, just no guarantees when. Some people in the same position as me had their bags the next day, others, a week later. I was crushed. I was about to explore an Arctic, photogenic country with only an iPhone, half a camera battery, no money, and a light-knitted long sleeve.

A day passed and I met up with fellow Kiwi traveler and legend; Logan Dodds. He was buzzing around the Faroe Islands and came across to join me. From here we flew from Reykjavik on the west coast, to Egilsstaðir, where I was to pick up a rental car and begin a huge roadie from the Eastern Fjords of Iceland, down the south coast and back up to the west. Over the next 4 days, we travelled around 650kms; it was hard not to pull over every few minutes when looking out at the scenery. The landscape was changing constantly, as was the weather. Mountains were multi-coloured, others hidden from sight under a cloak of dense cloud. It’s easy to see why this small country in the far north attracts thousands of people every year.

Each day that passed, I would follow up with the airport to see where my bag was. There was still no sign, so I was stuck with the same light clothing in 10-degree weather. I also had no money or chargers for my gear. This could have ruined the trip as it’s easy to fall into a spiral of negative thoughts when something is playing on your mind, but somehow it all worked out. A camera store we visited in Höfn had a one-size-fits-all charger and her son had the same drone as me, so she let me charge up my batteries. As for clothing, it was Iceland’s independence weekend when I got in and most retailers were closed, so I improvised. There was a bath robe in the hotel room which ended up being my wind breaker for the entire trip. I looked like an oddball roaming about Iceland in a hotel robe, but it worked. No frost bite, no flu. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

The robe accompanied me to an abandoned crash site, a canyon with waterfalls flowing through it, and a uniquely shaped mountain range encircling an ancient Viking settlement village.

Iceland is truly something else. It’s nice to see nature raw and unspoilt, untouched by the hands of man and flowing in perfect harmony. Being on this trip with a tight budget and the bare minimum of clothing forced me to be resourceful in what I wore. I also had to ration my money (we lived off hotdogs from the gas station for the majority of the trip) to get me through from day to day, which was a bit tough seeing as Iceland is considered to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. These all came as blessings in disguise; I barely had my phone out, and without my cam the first couple of days I was able to take in the scenery with my eyes rather than my camera’s lens, which is something us photographers and videographers forget to do at times. We can miss what’s right in front of us in an attempt to capture it, which is the irony of it all.

Also, having a robe to get me through gave me a real “Icelandic” experience, and when I finally got my bag back 5 days and 10 hotdogs later, it made me appreciate the comforts such as warm clothes we have on the daily.

As you can tell by my face, I was pretty stoked to be appropriately dressed for the climate.

If I can take anything away from this trip, it’s to be more present, something I often forget to do when shooting. Also, if you find yourself in a “light” situation like I did, don’t let it spoil the rest of your trip. Run with it and see where it all takes you. Iceland has been one of my top favourite countries yet, and I was lucky enough to share it with Logan, another local creative who had been an early inspiration with my own journey.

For now, I’m headed back to a warmer climate where they serve pizza and cheese for breakfast, talk again soon.

– Ben Mikha