I am one of the few people who gets to boast that I went to 30 countries before I turned 30 (that was the most pretentious sentence I have ever typed, insert the eye roll emoji here). I wish I appreciated travel in my early 20s the way I do now. When I first started traveling internationally, I was still a heavy drinker. My trips abroad were spent in pubs and bars. I regret this so much as I approach 30 and have more travel experience under my belt. Do I miss drinking? Absolutely. I envy my travel companions who enjoy afternoon local beers in foreign lands. I think drinking in different cultures is a large part of the experience, but getting black out wasted defeats the entire point of travel. As I have matured, so has my travel style. When I was 23, I wanted to shop in Italy; by the time I was 27, I sought out Gothic architecture. When I was 24, I wanted to dance in European nightclubs; when I was 28, I wanted to climb Volcanoes in Costa Rica. I grew up.
I have been to every continent (with the exception of Antarctica), I have seen a lot of cool shit, I have hiked in Africa, swam in the Mediterranean, driven over London Bridge, sailed in Croatia, and sat in Hungarian bath houses… all of those experiences were nothing short of incredible. But none of it can compare to Iceland. Literally nowhere on this earth holds a card to it. Have I been everywhere? Not even close. But I have been to enough places and know enough fellow travelers who have each gone to 30 other places, and we all agree on one thing: Iceland fucking rules. HARD.
I have been to Iceland twice now, both times with Matt Vincent (and his wife Ashley) as my tour guides. Our first trip to the island was in December of 2014, and we had roughly 5 hours of daylight a day. Pair that with the rough storm that hit the island, and this made sightseeing tough and our options were limited. We stayed in Reykjavik and ventured south to Vik for a quit overnight trip. This was your typical touristy Iceland trip: The Blue Lagoon, Jakabol, The Glacier Lagoon, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss. All these things were beautiful but we definitely stayed safely in the “Reykjavik Bubble” and due to the darkness of winter, the drive to these incredible places hardly showed me what Iceland truly has to offer. (All of these mentioned places are easy to find and get to. Most of them offer shuttle rides from the city that stop off at numerous locations.)
The first time I left I loved it and missed it, but it was not at the very top of my “favorite places” list; although it was probably in the top five just from the brief, dark visit. I came home feeling very “small” as I had never really felt like I was I was at hands of Mother Nature as I was in the Icelandic winter. The wind, snow, and rain were overwhelming (keep in mind that I lived in New York City at the time and I was no stranger to extreme winters). I was impressed. And eager to head back during the summer.
At the Arnold in March of 2017, Matt mentioned that he was headed back in June. I was jealous and joked about going… Matt told me to make it happen. So once I got home, I did! At first, Ben and I were going to arrive earlier than Matt’s six-man crew as we were already going to be on the east coast for a wedding. I got on the phone with Matt to go over the trip details. We weren’t sure how much time we were going to be able to spend with Matt, as they were planning on driving the perimeter of the island—The Ring Road—and our dates didn’t quite line up to join them for that adventure (sad face). Now here is the exact conversation that my brain had with itself immediately after hanging up the phone with Matt:
“Drive the perimeter of the island…. he just said that. That sounds tight! I really want to do that too! I have already hung out in Reykjavik for enough time, I want to see everything else. I guess if we just book flights back to home from the wedding, then plan on leaving from home two days later, we can be there the exact same dates as Matt. Yea, I like this plan better.”
So a few weeks later, on June 16th, we landed in Reykjavik a few hours after Matt’s gang did and the journey began. He had Nick Koumalatsos and Alison Capra in tow, as well as Brock Gomez (who films and produces Drifta Lifta for Matt) and his wife, Natalie. The eight of us had this amazing trip planned out to drive the perimeter of Iceland… something few can claim. We started off the trip with a few mellow days in Reykjavik to get plenty of food and rest as we had many long days on the road ahead of us. Iceland in June means 24 hours of daylight and we didn’t even necessarily have sleeping arrangements made all the way around the island.
Matt is friends with all the giants of Iceland, so we got to train at Hafthor Bjornsson’s gym. We got to wander the streets of Reykjavik during the Iceland’s independence day. We went to the big Lebowski bar (I went full white girl with excitement). We ended our time in the city with a quick day trip to Gullfoss and Geysir: the massive waterfall in the opening scene of Prometheus and the geothermal fields with massive geysers. Both of these are an hour inland from the city and easy to get to. There are busses for rides or you can easily rent your own car from a number of places. As far as lodging in Reykjavik is concerned, we used Airbnb (which is my typical go to for International Travel as I like the experience better than hotels).
We woke up June 17th and packed eight people plus a shit load of gear into two adventure vehicles (we used GO Car Rental Iceland) and we were ready to party. The adventure began! We drove all day, we filmed, I stepped in my own shit, we watched the big guys pick up stones, we drove some more, we went back to Reykjavik to watch Chris Burkard’s Under An Arctic Sky. This film was really inspirational due to the fact that there were several parallels between what Chris did in Iceland and our own journey we were about to embark on. We realized this trip wasn’t about the drive, but our story: who we were and why we were there. We left inspired.
That night was the first time tensions rose in the group. We drove aimlessly for what felt like forever in the midnight sun and arrived to a very small A-frame cabin in the middle of nowhere aka Grundarfjordour. Once we finally got inside to where we saw there was only one bed, so the eight of us got cozy! We were exhausted, hungry, and a storm was approaching. We finally fell asleep at 2am and wake up to rough weather. This meant our drive to the Westfjords was deemed unsafe so we got to work on setting up a ferry ride up to the fjords. Tensions continued to rise in the group as our plans slowly went to shit and we started to fall behind schedule. We arrive in the Westfjords and unload our gear into our housing for the night. Matt arranged the lodging here and I am unsure of the name of where we stayed, but I did my own research and found a couple cool places in the area.
Luckily, we ended the long day on a positive note, as we went on a midnight birthday hike in the actual middle of nowhere. This is easily the most remote part of Iceland and a place that very few people can say they have visited in their lifetime. To get to experience this part of the world, not only in car, but on foot was a life changing experience for me. Iceland has a unique way of making me feel small, which is not something I feel anywhere else in the world. Ben, Brock, Ash, Nat, and myself got to frolic through fields of flowers, climb alongside waterfalls, and the view from the top was absolutely incredible. I turned 29 on top of the world.
The next day wAS my birthday, and it was a long one. The days starts a bit rough for me as I explode two liters of sparkling water on myself and it took me about 7 hours to get dry and warm again; typical Krissy. We had a long drive to North Iceland where we finally got to stay in a hotel and eat at a restaurant instead of a gas station, so I kept my eye on the prize and snapped out of my whiny mood (boohoo, poor me, I’m in Iceland for the adventure of a lifetime or my birthday).
Now I am going to explain to you the level of excitement that was attached to our arrival at this hotel… do you remember growing up watching Disney movies and you had your favorite characters, then one day your parents tell you there is place called Disneyland where all these characters walk around in life sized form… and that you get to go there? I might as well have been a seven-year-old driving up to Disneyland for the first time. Matt and Ash had told me about this place months prior, and I had done very through research. I spent virtually every single day torturing myself by looking at pictures of it. ***Travel Pro tip: Search the Instagram geotag or your destination prior to arriving to a place, so you waste less time researching the area once you get there. Find people who visited prior to you and you may discover some hidden gems close by whether it be food, hikes, etc.***
So, we pulled into the town of Siglufjörður and my heart actually fluttered a bit… I was taken back by how beautiful this place is and I was immediately filled with so much gratitude that I get to not only see this place, but I get to see it with incredible people whom I hold close to my heart. The Siglo Hotel lives up to expectations and then some (the hype is real). Everyone’s spirits were immediately lifted and the trip takes a turn for the best. I mean, look at the view from the geothermal hot tub that sits on the Arctic Ocean…
After an evening at the Siglo Hotel, we were sold on the idea of staying a second night. This meant a hiccup in our plan to make it around the perimeter of the island. We had a few options:
1) Complete the drive around the island, which would entail a 10-13 hour drive to the south part of the island since we no longer had time for a night in East Iceland.
2) Drive through the middle of the island on the gravel road that the locals don’t even feel safe on through volcanoes and glaciers. This road is typically closed and not drivable.
3) Stay in Siglufjörður for three nights, then drive back to Reykjavik they day before we depart back to the states.
We got news that the drive through the middle wasn’t open, which eliminated one option. As cool as it would be to say that we have driven the perimeter of Iceland, we decide that this country isn’t meant to be experienced from the inside of the car and we decide against doing what we came to do. The surrounding area is stunning, so we dive into the Arctic Sea and we embark on a hike above the town. We also decide to get friendship tattoos to represent the trip.
To me, this trip was never really about making it around the entire island. I came on this trip to spend time with people I love and I learned a lot in the process. When I arrived in Iceland, I had no interest in having my own YouTube channel, as I looked at a channel as a burden, opposed to a creative outlet. After watching the rest of the group express themselves through film and tell a story, I wanted to do the same. I left Iceland with one goal in mind: to share part of my life with as many people as possible in hopes to inspire travel, as world travel is largely responsible for who I am today. When I quit using and drinking year ago, I embarked on international travel in hopes to do some soul searching, and boy did I. Every time my passport gets a new stamp, I evolve and I come home better with a larger appreciation for life and the world we live in.
Matt, Nick, and Alison documented the trip far better than I did. I learned more and more about filming as the trip went on, and I am excited to put all this new info to use in my future videos as I continue to grow as a content creator. Thank you for watching and for your patience with my content. I am currently outsourcing the work while I am in film editing school, so I look forward to sharing all my new dexterities as I continue to develop my editing skillset.
Have Less, Do More
I have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years. I started working at 24hour Fitness when I was 18 years old, first at the front desk then I was able to earn my position as a class instructor and eventually became a personal trainer. I didn’t start my fitness business through Instagram; I worked very hard training clients in person for 5 years before social media took over the fitness industry and everyone became some form of online coach or trainer.
Ten years later, I am now a gym owner. I made what most people would consider to be a large sum of money in a short amount of time at young age from selling my fitness/nutrition e-books and from my lifestyle brand, Doughnuts & Deadlifts. Two years ago, I had over a quarter million dollars in my savings account after many years of hard work. I chose to use that money to open Black Iron Gym and employ a group of people who I believe in and who believe in me.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have a lot to show for a decade of hard work when I compare myself to most of the other big names in the fitness industry. I don’t live in a mansion, fuck, I don’t even own a home yet. I don’t have a garage full of luxury vehicles. I don’t own a nice watch, or any nice jewelry for that matter. I don’t have veneers on my teeth, I don’t get eyelash extensions, and I have no idea how to do my makeup with very little I have. My Instagram does not showcase the things I have bought, rather it’s purpose is to motivate people to get physically fit, stay mentally healthy, challenge themselves, travel, and get the absolute most out of life.
I walk into Black Iron Gym everyday and see my members smiling, laughing, and working hard. In my opinion, that is something far more valuable than any material possession one could purchase. The feeling I get walking into my gym is far more meaningful than the feeling one must get when they walk into a garage filled with a half million dollars worth of foreign sports cars.
For the sake of transparency, I do live very comfortably. The house I rent is roomy and nice, in a modest, gated neighborhood. Two years ago, I bought a bottom of the line Range Rover that I saved for for years. I get to walk into my closet everyday and I have a selection of Lululemon and Nike to choose from. I am not writing this to convince anyone that I don’t like nice things, because that is not always the case. The point is that when I came into a decent amount of money when my online presence in the industry took off, I had a choice. Would I spend it on things or would I spend on a concept greater than myself that would help others? I chose that latter while still treating myself to nice things once I feel like I have earned them and can safely afford them.
Frivolous spending for the sake of instant gratification has not once brought me happiness that lasted longer than a few days. Take it from me, money will never buy happiness. Prior to opening the gym, I had a $6500/month penthouse apartment in Manhattan, on the weekends I would treat my team to $750 dinners, and I had more clothes and shoes than I could possibly wear. I was still miserable and I lacked purpose. I was just a moderately attractive girl with a large social media platform who sold a shit ton of e-books and was in the early stages of selling a shit ton of t-shirts.
I constantly felt like I had something to prove and it was completely exhausting. The notion of making others aware of your success and status is an empty way to live. Your self worth should not be predicated on your social media following nor the total dollar amount of all your possessions. Furthermore, you should never seek validation from people you will never meet by boasting about your cars, shoes, and bullshit. Head pats from thousands of people on Instagram that come from showcasing your stuff will never replace real life, deep relationships that come from showcasing your soul.
Karina Baymiller recently wrote “What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into? We’re so busy proving our happiness and status via the things we can afford (to people we don’t even know nonetheless), that we’ve forgotten what we really, truly need to be happy.” This really hit home with me given the changes I have made in my life as of late and I felt compelled to write about what she said. The past two years have a been a personal journey of enlightenment and I have learned a lot about happiness. I am a rich woman when it comes to experiences and meaningful relationships.
Life experiences, without a doubt, bring more happiness than material possessions. The hard thing about this notion, is that material possessions provide a concrete, tangible representation of wealth and value where as experiences depend upon memory. You can slap a value on a Rolex, a pair of Yeezys, or a Mercedes, but memories and experiences are essentially priceless… their value is literally so precious that it can’t be determined.
One could surely argue that Black Iron Gym is a “material possession” given that it is full of nice equipment that I bought, but I did not buy it to show off. It was not purchased for a dick measuring contest. The gym was paid for to act as a lifelong, boundless experience for myself, the people whom I employ, and the countless people who will come to Black Iron to better themselves over the years. I look at it as an investment toward the legacy that I am trying to establish. I am not building an empire, empires fall. I am creating something eternal that will undoubtably last.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never get my personal financial investment back from the opening cost of my gym and I am 100% alright with that because I am no longer compelled to posses more things. In my opinion, I have built something that will provide careers and livelihoods for myself and my team for the rest of our lives. The gym will live on after my time on earth is done. I will be remembered within the walls, not a forgotten social media “celebrity”.