Why the Mongol Rally? #LolasMRJourney

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I’m setting off on what is surely the biggest adventure of my life so far. And as excited as I am I’m also nervous. It’s hard to say goodbye to all that you know to go into a world of unknowns. It’s also thrilling. I’m opening myself up to any possibility and letting my story unfold.

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Meeting new people and experiencing new things is one of the most exciting parts of life for me. I know this adventure will change me in ways I don’t even know. It’s partially why I’m doing it. I believe in getting out there and living.

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But I know leaving my life behind, even if only for an extended period, that things will change with that too. But I guess you never grow if you aren’t open to change. My friends say I’m brave. I’m not sure about that. I just need to do what I need to do.

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Someone said recently that I have high hopes and I hear that if you have “low expectations then you’ll be happy” but I respectfully disagree. I think you should live life looking forward to great things. You should have high hopes. For the good that’s out there. For what you are and what you’ll become.

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Living life with low expectations is sad in my opinion. Maybe you don’t get disappointed but you also don’t raise the bar for the world to rise to. Maybe you don’t get hurt by things but you also don’t feel the great potential in it all.

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Besides seeking a life of adventure, I’ll be looking for all the joy in the journey. The little things that give me hope and set my expectations for something greater. The world is too wonderful not to believe in it to its full potential. For me, the Mongol Rally isn’t just about reaching Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It’s about “the journey is the destination” more than ever.

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I’m going places I never expected to go. I will be meeting people and learning things I never expected to learn. And I feel so lucky! Lucky to explore. Discovery in myself and the outside world has never led me wrong. I hope you enjoy the ride. The insight. The funny moments. The mishaps. The wonder. The reasons to have dreams and high hopes!

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I’ll be posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as often as I can with the hashtag #LolasMRJourney

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Next up for Lola: #IcelandStopover in Iceland!

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I’ve made it NO SECRET how much I loved Iceland. Soooo when I knew I had to get to the UK for the Mongol Rally in July, I thought to myself, why not take advantage of that awesome stopover option with Icelandair to go to Iceland in the summertime and see my lovely friend, Inga, of Tiny Iceland fame as well. I mean, I did fall for Iceland in the wintertime so I can only imagine how smitten I will be with her in the summer.

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I’m thrilled to be going back and not only returning to some of my favorites from my March visit but also focusing on a new part of Iceland that I was unable to see before. This visit I’ll be going with Inga to West Iceland and the Westfjords. I absolutely loved the fjords in East Iceland so I know I’m going to be in for a treat. The Westfjords in Iceland are often overlooked by travelers because it’s sometimes inaccessible (i.e. roads closed in the wintertime). Our plan is to take four full days to see this area in a relaxing & stress free way and really taking in all that Mother Nature has to offer. We will have the pleasure of staying Hotel Edda Laugar in Sælingsdalur, with a fantastic central location for the area and are partnering with the fabulous Sixt to give us a safe, sweet ride for those Icelandic roads. I cannot wait!!

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BUT to kick off our little tour, first, we will revisit Laugarvatn Fontana Spa. Remember how I said the geothermal waters have restorative powers? Well how better to ward off jetlag than having a relaxing soak? We’ll be staying at Hotel Edda ÍKÍ, a summer hotel about an hour from Reykjavík and located right next to Fontana Spa. Another cool thing to note about this location is that it’s in the Golden Circle (Þingvellir national park, Geysir hot spring area and Gullfoss waterfall) which is always of interest to visitors of Iceland.

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After touring and sharing the best of the West of Iceland, Inga & I will spend my final night back in Reykjavik and at my favorite - Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. I’m sure we’ll find lots of good fun in the capital city, maybe even some new discoveries. It’ll be like returning home for me. So excited! AND a perfect send off before the craziness ensues with my Mongol Rally journey.

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You can follow us on our journey from July 11-15 at:

TinyIceland: TwitterInstagramVine App & Facebook AND introducing Snapchat (add @TinyIceland) to give readers and followers the chance to see real, authentic, unedited and behind the scene footage!

Lola: FacebookTwitter & Instagram

Our Official Hashtag is #ICELANDSTOPOVER

A bit about Tiny Iceland – Those who have followed me around for the past two and half years know my passion to promote Iceland, interact and meet travelers, share photos and videos via social media, and that all with personal, informative and fun touch! I really appreciate all the friends, followers and success I’ve gained since starting Tiny Iceland april 2012 and I can’t wait to share this trip with you guys. Make sure when visiting Iceland to use my official hashtag #TripInIceland so I can follow along via social media.

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And more on Icelandair’s awesome stopover program: Traveling from the US to Europe or vice versa you can stop in Iceland for up to 7 days, free when flying with Icelandair. Click here to read all about it! The Icelandair stopover is a brilliant way to get a taste of what Iceland has to offer.

TAKK to our partners: IcelandairSixt car rentalHotel EddaIcelandair Hotels and Laugarvatn Fontana. We can’t wait to share more of why Iceland is so special!

 

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Travel Brand Shout Outs to Sixt and Flytographer!

Over the past year I have been so fortunate to discover and work with these two travel brands and I wanted to take the time to give them the credit they are due. Both Sixt and Flytographer are consistently professional and a pleasure to work with. Here’s a quick run down of my experiences with both brands in the United States and abroad! Proof positive that consistency in business and customer satisfaction can be universal.

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As a frequent traveler, I rent cars quite a bit. It’s usually fine but not above and beyond. With Sixt, all three instances were just that, above and beyond. Truly, hands down, the best car rental experiences of my renting career.

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In Seattle I tried one of Sixt’s luxury cars – a sweet BMW, perfect for a drive into the countryside for a wedding. Not only was the process painless but the staff were extremely helpful. AND upon return, it could not have been easier. Pull up and pass off the keys, that is it!

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In Iceland we rented an SUV for our Icelandic roadtrip. It was perfect for the time of year and road conditions. I particularly loved Sixt’s concern for us as they followed our progress on our journey. Again, upon return, the process couldn’t have more simple.

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In Miami I had the pleasure of cruising around in one of Sixt’s fantasy cars – an ombre neon pink Mini Cooper, perfect for Lola and SoBe. The rental process was a piece of cake and the staff ensured I knew where I was going and then upon return it was just a matter of handing over keys and getting an emailed receipt. Nothing could be easier. Parting with that little baby was the hardest part!

Founded in Germany, Sixt is one of the oldest, most prestigious car rental companies in all of Europe and the world. Renowned internationally for their quality customer care and low rental rates, Sixt has recently opened branches in the United States. Now you can experience the benefits of a great car rental from Sixt both stateside and worldwide. Sixt has locations in 105 countries across the globe.

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My favorite travel photos in the past year have been those with Flytographer. Alyson Aliano for Flytographer captured fun moments in California for a girl’s glam weekend. Acting like a fly on the wall, she was able to get truly wonderful candids.

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Soon thereafter, we found ourselves in Amsterdam having a tour of the city and getting some great action snaps with Flytographer’s Traci White of the girls enjoying learning all about Amsterdam’s neighborhoods. Again, non-intrusive and professional. I love these photos showing what it is like to be on a tour and not just of the things you learn but your reaction to it all.

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Finally, my most recent time working with Flytographer was in my beloved Miami. They had just found a local photographer, Daniel Lateulade, and I happened to be there and loved the idea of getting photos around various highlights of South Beach. It was amazing! Some of my very favorite pictures of myself. You can see why.

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The highly acclaimed Flytographer captures travelers around the globe every day whether it’s special romantic trip, family vacation, girlfriend getaway or a reunion & more! Capture memories in over 100 cities worldwide with their hand-picked list of over 170 professional photographers. It’s like strolling the streets with a local friend who shares insider tips, all the while discretely chronicling unforgettable vacation memories.

Disclaimer: all of my experiences with both of these brands have been complimentary but they are still my favorite travel brands I’ve worked with over the past year. Customer satisfaction and professionalism are priceless and that’s why they are Lola Approved.

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One Day Stay: Reykjavik, Iceland

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As I’ve mentioned previously, Iceland was a place I just had to visit. And although I wanted to see more of the country than just the capital city, I absolutely loved Reykjavik. What a cool city with great culture, food & nightlife. Just the things Lola loves! AND the people were so friendly and amazing. Best of all, it’s a super short flight from the east coast of the United States and with Icelandair’s awesome stop over program you can visit Iceland en route to another destination with no extra flight charge. That makes Reykjavik a perfect place for a ‘One Day Stay’ but don’t take my word for it…put it on your list and get yourself there ASAP!

DROP YOUR BAG

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Icelandair Marina Hotel couldn’t be any cuter and more fitting for Reykjavik’s harbor area with all of its nautical touches and Icelandic fun facts. The 108 room boutique hotel has a staff that’s super friendly, funny and helpful. The inclusive breakfast is divine and the cocktails at their Slippbarinn during happy hour are a favorite for locals and guests alike. Best of all, the location is key – only a few steps away from downtown Reykjavik.

DO

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There are so many great things to do in Reykjavik it’s hard to narrow down. Here are my three suggestions for a start. Take a harbor boat tour to try to catch the Northern Lights (this, of course, applies in the light catching season). I went with Elding Adventure at Sea. It’s a fun way to get out on the water and try to chase those mysterious lights we all hope to see. Although the Northern Lights sighting was dismal the night I went out the complimentary buttered rum and hot chocolate kinda made up for it. Two other fun things that happen to be free are to walk around Harpa Concert Hall and check out the amazing architecture and colorful windows. AND go into Hallgrimskirkja Church and take a visit to the top of the tower for some incredible views of Reykjavik.

DRINK

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There’s probably many awesome places to take in a drink or two in Reykjavik but I’d say my favorite are the bars along Laugavegur like The English Pub and Lebowski Bar. I hit up the English Pub and Lebowski Bar on St. Patrick’s Day and boy did I have fun. People were wearing festive Irish top hats and spinning the booze wheel like it was going out of style. Very fun, very addictive.

DINE

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Probably my favorite meal in Iceland was at Mar Restaurant in Reykjavik. I had no idea what kind of food to expect in Iceland but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it all was. At Mer I had scallops followed by Salmon. I was also introduced to several Icelandic beers and Brennivin – the schnapps of Iceland.  Not to mention, I absolutely loved the simple nautical decor.

Honorable mentions: I had an outstanding brunch at Tiu Dropar – a must try! AND another fabulous geothermal spa experience with Fontana. Dare I say I preferred it to the Blue Lagoon?! It was completely different but much smaller and personal feeling.

While I booked my own trip to Iceland, some of my meals were complimentary thanks to Tiny Iceland. I was also given the boat Northern Lights tour and spa experience complimentary. AND I received a lovely press rate at Icelandair Marina. Having said all of that, I wouldn’t change any of what I did or experienced. Iceland & Reykjavik are so totally ‘Lola Approved’!

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10 Tips for Surviving the Mongol Rally

Very excited to have a guest post today from a veteran of the Mongol Rally last year and friend, Britany Robinson, who’s the travel writer behind Stars on the Ceiling – a blog for Millennial travelers and adventurers. She’ll soon be taking off on a 3 month road trip across the United States, putting her Mongol Rally skills to good use in her search for destinations that appeal to the Millennial generation.

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Last year, I participated in the Mongol Rally, and one year later, it remains one of my favorite talking points. This 10,000 mile drive is ridiculous, stressful, overwhelming, and wonderful – and I can’t wait to live vicariously through Team Mongolistic 4 this summer! Mystery and surprise are what make this route so thrilling, so I won’t give too much away, but I do have some practical advice to offer Lola and her team…

McDonald’s are the new Starbucks

Looking for Wi-Fi and a predictable menu? McDonald’s are where it’s at. Even if you’ve sworn off McFoods (like moi), you may reconsider when you see how much nicer McDonald’s are in Europe. There is almost always the McCafe counter with options for the more health conscious. And they ALL have Wi-Fi, which you’re going to crave from the confines of your car.

Find Lodging Before Midnight

In Western Europe, there are plenty of truck stop motels along the major highways, but SURPRISE – truckers fill them up at night and it can be extremely frustrating to find a room, particularly after an exhausting day of driving.

Opt for early nights and early mornings so as to not waste time trying motel after motel.

Once you’re in Eastern Europe and beyond, you’ll likely start camping with more frequency – which is also a tricky (and shady) option come nightfall. Find your campsites well before sundown and give yourselves time to set up and make dinner before it’s dark.

Splurge When You Can

There will be plenty of opportunity for earning your “I roughed it on the Mongol Rally” badges, so don’t push it. Savor the showers and comfortable beds when you have them. Before you know it, they’ll be a distant memory!

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Scarves are invaluable

Scarves were my savior on the road — not only for throwing over a dirty t-shirt and making myself relatively presentable, but also for sudden temperature drops at night, and for covering up in the more modest of countries.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Again with the temperatures – no matter your route, they will likely be all over the place. Mongolia was a particular surprise, as we went from desert surroundings to snow-capped mountains, and with that transition, the temperatures dropped drastically.

I wound up rocking the shell of a teammates winter coat while he wore the lining because I hadn’t thought to bring warmer layers.

Trust me, you’ll need them.

Cherish Your Alone Time

You love your teammates. You want to experience everything with your teammates.

Until, suddenly, you don’t and you’re secretly dying to speed off at the next rest stop while they’re paying for gas.

OK, maybe it won’t be that bad. But no matter how much you love each other at the start, hours on end in a car together will test even the tightest of teams. So enjoy your alone time when you have it. Exploring a city for the day? Take the opportunity to go see something your fellow ralliers might not be interested in.

Once you’re camping in the steppe, your only reprieve will be sleep – and even then you might listen to them snoring from their neighboring tent.

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Go Easy on New Foods

You think a stomach emergency is rough in the shared bathroom of a hostel? Try facing this situation in the flat expanse of the Kazakhstan desert without so much as a healthy bush to hide behind.

Carry the usual stomach meds for emergencies, and err on the side of caution when sampling new cuisines along your route. (There’s a good chance you’ll accidentally eat horse at some point.)

Border Crossings are a Bitch. Brace Yourself.

We were pleasantly surprised by border crossings for most of our Mongol Rally route – until we got to the border of Russia and Mongolia and were held there for five days.

You just never know when some piece of paperwork is going to make your life extremely difficult. Factoring in an extra full day for each border crossing

Capture it all

Nobody wants to be that jerk that keeps the camera rolling when you’ve run out of gas on the side of a dirt road and its 110 degrees out and you’ve got half a bottle of scorching water and no food. Until the rally has concluded and you’re the one with the priceless footage of the most memorable moments. Be that jerk.

No matter what – it will be over too fast. Enjoy it.

There will be many moments where you’ll long for the comforts that await you at the finish line. Just remember that once you’re there, the adventure has concluded. Enjoy every flat tire, mosquito bite, border line, and bad meal. These challenges may feel draining at the time, but they’re what make the memories you’ll hold on to, and they’re what will make this story worth telling.

Good luck Team Mongolistic 4! I know you’re going to rock this rally with style!

Thanks, Britany, for all your advice including all my messages with silly questions. There may still be a few more before July 19th!

xo – Lola

 

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