As business students we get the incredible opportunity to travel the world for 2 years, learning about different cultures, getting the opportunity to see where our fellow classmates grew up, or just taking some much needed time out to relax after a stressful semester or recruiting season. Even before business school, it seems as though everyone at CBS has amazing stories of the places they have traveled to and the things they have experienced. We wanted to share some of our favorite places we have been, and we encourage you to share some of yours with us.
In March of 2012, some of my college friends and I decided that before we committed to studying for the GMATs, or going off to business school, we needed to get one last incredible vacation in together. Rather than escape to someplace warm where we could relax on the beach for a few days we decided instead to travel to Iceland (because going to Iceland in the middle of winter seems like the obvious choice, right?). For those of you who haven’t been to Iceland, it reminded me of those movies where the world has somehow all but ended, and all that’s left is a huge expanse of land that has turned black from rock and ash, and a few humans who have somehow made it out alive. As we drove from the airport to our hotel in Reykjavic, all we could see on either side of us were fields of black volcanic rock. There wasn’t a tree or plant anywhere in site, and barely another car on the road. It was like walking into an alternate universe, and I immediately loved it.
On our first day we did the Golden Circle tour, where we were taken to a waterfall that was partly frozen over (Gullfoss Waterfall), a geyser that erupts nearly every 5 minutes due to the intense geothermic activity(Geysir), and a location where you can literally straddle a hole in the earth due to the shifting of the earth’s plates. Dinner that night consisted of trying all sorts of what we deemed to be unusual creatures to eat, such as whale and puffin.
The following day, we strapped on some crampons, received ice picks, and went ice climbing. As we were climbing up a mountain and through an ice cave, we literally forgot about just how cold it was. There’s something about having the opportunity to do incredible things you may never get to do again that causes you to forget about things like being cold or the intense wind biting your face. We searched for the Northern Lights that night on our drive back, but unfortunately it was snowing too hard to see anything. Catching the Northern Lights still remains at the top of my bucket list.
The day after, we decided we hadn’t quite experienced the frigid Icelandic winter enough and therefore needed to go caving. When I was younger, my family and I went on a trip to Howe Caverns in upstate New York. We parked our car in the large visitor parking lot, went up to the ticket booth to purchase tickets, took an elevator down into the cave, and enjoyed a boat ride through the underground lake. This particular caving adventure was nothing like that… After driving with our tour guide through the lava fields of Iceland (aka every part of Iceland), we finally pulled over onto the side of the road. Our guide instructed us to get out and walk about 100 feet in front of us. Within minutes, we went from discussing how excited we were about this adventure to discussing our best possible escape route, and imagining the newspaper headlines about 3 American Women who were killed on what they thought was an innocent caving trip. Our guide began digging, somewhat arbitrarily to us, and stated “If all goes well, this will be our exit.” He then proceeded to dig another “entrance” hole. I still don’t know why we thought entering that cave with a random stranger was a good idea, but we got into the adventurous Icelandic spirit and climbed down. The experience was incredible, and unlike anything I ever have, and probably ever will, experience again. Soaked to the bone and dirty from crawling through tiny spaces, we explored this ancient cave and learned all about its history. And lucky for us, all did go well, and we were able to use the escape hole our guide had dug out earlier. We then went to a ranch and got to ride on Icelandic ponies. My pony was too cool to follow the rules and decided it instead wanted to make its own path, down steep and icy ravines. This was my first and last horseback riding experience.
On our last day we finally decided to see what a relaxing vacation feels like and went to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa with incredible blue-green water reaching up to 102 degrees. There’s something about being able to see your breath in the air while you hang out in a bathing suit in boiling water that is so relaxing. Every part of our trip felt so surreal, and was like stepping off the plane into an alternate universe. It was incredible to see how this small country survives, to hear about its history including its strong legends and belief in trolls (look up the 13 Yule Lads), and to experience such natural untouched beauty. While I don’t know if I will be getting back to Iceland anytime soon (too many other places to tick off my bucket list), this still remains one of my favorite trips and was an incredible bonding experience for me and my friends.
–Kristen Bierfeldt ’15