At the age of sixteen, Eva Bryndís Ágústsdóttir became the youngest person to walk around Iceland. It took 43 days to complete the 1,500 kilometre walk (35km per day) which she finished this time last year. The Iceland native also raised more than €9,500 for the Iceland Children’s Hospital, in honour of her brother who was a patient at the time.
But nobody covered the story….so I decided to track Eva down and ask some questions.
Walking 1,500 Miles Around Iceland for Charity
Iceland is known for having some of the most spectacular sights and hiking trails in the world. From magical lagoons and cascading waterfalls to lunar landscapes and towering volcanoes; the scenery is unrivalled. During this walk, Eva followed the Ring Road which circumnavigates the country. Just so you know, Iceland is home to just 360,000 people and two thirds of this population reside in the capital – Reykjavik. For this reason, there is little more than wilderness in between the small towns or villages that crop up along the way.
Here’s what Eva Bryndis had to say about this epic undertaking in the land of fire and ice:
Interview with Eva Bryndis: Walking Around Iceland
Derek: Eva, thanks so much for taking time to talk about your adventure. Can you tell me what route you took on your walk around Iceland?
Eva: I mainly followed the ‘ring road’, which is called “road number 1” in Iceland and it’s about 1333km. Of course, I walked almost 1500km on my trip which means I took some detours for my own enjoyment. On my first day I walked Krísuvík, which is an added 30 km detour. I also chose to walk a lot of old roads that were beside the ringroad to stay away from traffic and keep myself safe from fast driving cars. These old unused roads were often a couple kilometers longer than the main road, so it just so happened that I walked a bit longer than the main road itself.
When I arrived at the east-fjords I hadn’t really decided what road to take. If you have never been to Iceland I guess you wouldn’t know how the east-fjords work, but you either need to walk all the fjords, which takes a long time to walk, or take a shortcut through Öxi. I didn’t want to walk too many fjords, but I felt like I would be cheating if I took the shortcut. So I ended up walking up Breiðdalsheiði where the old ring road used to be before they built the tunnel ( it is not allowed to walk nor bicycle through a tunnel). Even though it was a shortcut it was better than walking an extra 100km, so I let it slide. I walked 35 km each day and in total it was almost 1500 km on my 43 day trip around Iceland.
Derek: Why did you decide to take this journey? And why walking?
Eva: When I was kid I remember watching a series about a man and his journey around Iceland. I asked my mother what he was doing and this man was walking around Iceland. He became the first man to do such a thing. His name was Reynir Pétur and this memory of him walking around Iceland has always been engraved in my mind. In January 2019 I was watching some videos on Facebook and I stumbled acr0ss this post of a interesting man; his name was Ross Edgley and he swam around England. That video was so inspiring and I really wanted to do something like that in my life. I was 16 years old at the time and while I wasn´t the most active person in town, I really enjoyed walking. The memory of Reynir Pétur walking around my country and the inspiration that Ross Edgley pushed me into becoming the first woman and the youngest person to walk around Iceland. When the idea had settled it became clear that this was a major opportunity to raise money for a good cause. I immediately thought of the local children’s hospital in Reykjavík. My older brother suffers from a chronic heart illness and as a child he stayed at the hospital very frequently. I wanted to thank them for everything they had done for the family and especially my brother, so I decided to raise money for them while I walked around Iceland.
Derek: This is such an inspiring story. Did you have many injuries on or after the walk?
Eva: Surprisingly no. I think the main reason was good shoes and that my mother, who is a chiropodist, massaged my feet once in a while and I am positive that it helped. Sometimes I woke up sore from walking all day, but other than that I was very lucky!
Derek: And where did you sleep each night?
Eva: My mom followed me around Iceland in a car while I walked alone and we had decided to sleep in our jeep. We took mattresses with us that we put in the backseat of the car and it was comfortable, but only for a few nights. Iceland is also a small country and we knew people that wanted to help us and give us a place to stay for the night, I am still very thankful for that. I also contacted some hotels and small accommodations and asked if they wanted to help me with this project and they were very kind to offer me and my mom a place to stay and even breakfast. So in conclution we often found places to stay the night and if we din’t we just slept in the car on campsites.
Derek: What food did you eat and how did you collect drinking water?
Eva: When I stayed with acquaintances or at hotels they usually prepared delicious dinners for me and it was often lamb steak or burgers and something that I would normally eat for dinner, but when I was on the road there wasn’t much time for big meals. I usually ate both corny bars, which aren’t too healthy, and ready noodles in a cup. I was of course lucky to have my mother by my side and while I was walking and she would drive ahead of me and prepare my next ‘meal’ even if it was apples from yesterday or crisp bread with cream cheese. I didn’t eat very healthy food, but I took whatever I could get, I snacked alot and I was constantly hungry and thirsty too. Iceland is a very resourceful country and getting water is no problem. Everyone on Iceland has drinkable water in their tab and if not they could always just go to their garden and get water from a lake in the mountains. My mom always had three bottles of water in the car so water was never a problem.
Derek: What did it feel like to walk in the company of such immense landscapes?
Eva: Well I grew up in Iceland and I have seen many wonders of this land, but nothing could prepare me for the spectacular sights that I saw. Last summer we had the best weather in Iceland. When I walked around the island the sun followed me everywhere. I only got a total of three rainy days and the rest was sun! It was so beautiful too see all the mountains far away and especially when I walked past the glaciers. They shone in the sun and one time there was no wind and everything was so quiet that I could hear the glaciers crack and creak under the sun, it was truly amazing. Iceland has one of the most peculiar nature and I do recommend people to see it once in their lifetime, it is a whole new world. All the glaciers, waterfalls, mountains, lakes and hot springs, I could see all the wonders. Walking past nature is much better than driving past it.
Derek: Do you think that being alone made this trip more enjoyable? If so, why?
Eva: Walking alone is nice, you get to collect your thoughts and you get to feel at peace and it is especially nice to do so in beautiful nature, but walking alone for 8 hours a day for 43 days that’s something else. I have always enjoyed my own company and I have always loved to walk alone, but on this trip it exhausted me. Sometimes I would talk to myself only to feel something, to keep myself company. I of course am a teenager and I could be called a social human being so having company is kind of necessary, I think this trip made me appreciate the people around me more. All my friends and my family, I really started to miss them on this trip and I felt alone at times. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to feel at peace and to be alone in the beautiful nature, but no human should be left alone for such a long time without company. I was of course thankful that my mother was with me most of the time, so I didn’t get as lonely as one would think.
Derek: Did you get lonely or afraid at times?
Eva: I was very lonely at times, especially when nature was dark and gloomy. In Iceland we have landscapes that remind people of deserts, but the sand is black and grey. Walking those empty roads was very lonely. I don’t think I was ever afraid, but I guess I felt empty. The only real danger I was in was when the cars on the road drove very fast past me and when I crossed one way bridges, otherwise I was fine.
Derek: I believe fear is the most common reason why most people would not undertake this kind of journey but you did it anyway. Can you tell me when you were most afraid?
Eva: I guess I panicked sometimes when I needed to cross large bridges. In Iceland there are a lot of glacier rivers and they can be really mean and scary. The water flow is strong and there is little chance of survival if you fall into the water. I’m not fond of bridges and especially when they are old and rusty, so that is the closest I was to being scared.
Derek: What would you say to someone who might be afraid to do something like this?
Eva: To anyone who wants to do something like this, male or female, I think it’s important to not look down on yourself. We often think we can’t do something because we are not special enough or not capable of it, but that’s not how you should look at it. I didn’t think I could walk around my country at all! After all I’m just a young naive girl that has no special history in sports. But the only hard part is to realize that even YOU can do something this special. You can do something this crazy if you just set your mind to it. I think females are less likely to do crazy things like this because we doubt ourselves and make excuses to avoid the topic. This is something that society has imprinted in us and if I can help people understand that it doesn’t matter what gender you are and that everyone one is capable of completing big projects like this, then it’s totally worth it. So just set your mind to it and believe in yourself, be confident, if not in this life, then when?
Derek: Can you recommend a place/area in Iceland that we all MUST visit/see?
Eva: Don’t get me started, if I could I would talk about all the amazing places here in Iceland, but I simply do not have the time for that. I of course recommend driving around Iceland which can be done in 4 days, but if you don’t have time for that then you should definitely visit Jökulsárlón. It is the most wonderful place in Iceland and if the weather is good it is even more beautiful. It is a phenomenon caused by global warming, but while it’s there why not enjoy it. The glacier, Vatnajökull, is breaking into the sea and that is what causes such a beautiful sight. It doesn’t cost anything to look at it, but they offer a boat ride where you can touch the thousand year old frozen water. Maybe it doesn’t sound too cool, but believe me, it is.
Derek: Was there a stand out lesson that you can share about your walk around Iceland?
Eva: I do think I learned a lot both about my country and about the nature around me, but I also learned a lot about me emotionally. Today I feel more at peace with myself and I feel truly thankful for everything in my life. This experience has, as corny as it sounds, made me feel happy to be alive. I feel so confident and proud to be me and as a young teenager that is all you can wish for. I learned that it doesn’t matter what everyone around you says, the only thing that matters is what you want to achieve. I wanted to walk around Iceland even though I didn’t have much confidence in myself and neither did some around me. People around me weren’t sure that I was ready for it and it was amazing to prove them wrong. It was an healing trip for both my soul and body, and I would love to do something similar in the future.
Derek: Eva, you are amazing. Thank you so much for taking time to chat with Outdare.
Anything you’d like to say to Eva? Leave a comment below…