River Rafting on the Ocoee

We walked towards the Ocoee River as the mist dampened our skin and hair. We carried the rafts down to the edge of the frigid, angry river that moved gallons upon gallons of water down the river every second. The frothing and churning water deafened us to any other sound. Our guide had told us this would be the worst part, and I thought, “so glad it’s the first time I’ve white water rafted since I was 7!” The 4 of us and 2 guides braced ourselves and took the plunge with our raft into the Ocoee River. We were off. We sailed through the fast-moving, white rapids as muffled directions were being shouted from behind us. Forward 3! Forward 2! Backward 1! Lean! These were the commands we had been taught to follow less than 15 minutes prior to our adventure. It signaled which way and how many paddle strokes we should take. There is not a lot that can prepare you for any type of extreme sport. It takes a lot of common sense and adrenaline to make it to the other side of white water.

We made it through the first rapid with no casualties. Then we arrived at a class 4 rapid further down the river. As we arrived at this rapid called The Washing Machine, we were given a general route we’d follow through the water and headed in with our raft. Within 10 seconds, the commands stopped. We kept pushing through the rapid, and then I turned around and realized with a shout, “They’re gone!” We were on our own – 4 semi-novice white water rafters. At that moment, a boulder caught the raft and started to tip us over. We all reacted on instinct by leaning and scurrying to the other side of the boat. We started shouting out commands ourselves until we had pushed off the rock that had caused our unusual event of almost capsizing. We paddled our way fiercely out of the rapids until we found our guides who had been washed downstream along with their paddles. They had been literally whirled around like a washing machine – the name of the rapid was no joke. Talk about an experience. It lit me up with energy and prepared us all to make it down the rest of the river without any other men falling overboard.

Even though we had a high adrenaline trip at the beginning, there were moments where we floated down the calmer portions of the river to see a rainstorm coming up the river towards us. We were only in the rain for about 30 seconds while it beat down on our tense muscles, but after we passed under the rain cloud and turned around, we could see the departing dark, rain cloud moving down the river and breaking through the sunshine as it traveled. The scenery down the Ocoee River is filled with tall, thick tree-covered hills growing up out of the choppy, blue water canyon below. Sadly, we were not able to take an pictures rafting down the river for fear of losing our phones and cameras to the unforgiving waters!

I would definitely recommend rafting down the Ocoee for anyone who is looking for an exciting place to white water raft. If you want to do it on a budget like us, we used a Groupon! Have fun and hold on tight!

Chatt

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

Update!

Alec and I have decided to take on international travel planning. We are doing our very first, all-planned-out, on-our-own, international trip together! We don’t really count traveling to an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica for our Honeymoon “planning a trip.” I mean sure, it took SOME planning, but let’s be honest, we just had to show up for our plane, meet our bus for the hotel, and it was smooth sailing from there (other than when we lost our luggage, but that’s another story for another blog).

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Anywho, this year, we have decided to do more research and plan out a full international vacation to a drastically different climate. And we went all out.

We are going to ICELAND!

Many people, and even myself, have a perception about Iceland being a barren wasteland filled with ice. But remember Greenland is ice and Iceland is nice. There is a running story in which the original Norse settlers left Norway to colonize Iceland and actually planned to confuse everyone back home on purpose. They hoped those coming from Norway would inhabit Greenland instead of Iceland – they wanted to have this scenic island all to themselves. This kept the Icelandic natives safe in their haven while everyone else assumed they were living in a wasteland. Maybe this story is true and maybe it’s just a tale, but one thing to note is that many people still assume Iceland is an overgrown wilderness of sorts.

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I never imagined this would be a destination we would choose, but after my friend and alteration queen, Rachel Swayne (altermyheart.com), told us all about her awe-inspiring trip, our interest was piqued. She told us all about the natives, caves, black sand beaches, waterfalls, geothermal lagoons, mountains, glaciers, and other experiences we could witness while in Iceland. The land of fire and ice is filled with interesting formations and lush nature that cannot be found anywhere else. It has very open, rugged, and unique landscapes; It is a mystical land from our fantasies.

Once we started looking into it, we realized this getaway could be a reality for us. We researched a lot during our pre-trip planning phase, and after crunching the numbers, we realized we could easily make a budget trip out of this destination. We chose to fly with WOW Airlines for our airfare, which is a budget airline that flies to European destinations including Iceland, obviously. This airline is based out of Iceland so airfare from the eastern seaboard of the United States is VERY affordable. I would definitely check them out if you’re thinking of venturing out on an Icelandic vacation.

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We chose to go with a car rental company called SADcars for our transportation – they are an establishment that maintains 10-year-old vehicles to make rental prices cheaper for budget travelers. For our accommodations, we also chose to go a more affordable route than hotels or resorts. We searched all over and ended up choosing 3 different Airbnbs and a cabin recommended to us by Rachel. Choosing an entire home to rent (versus renting out a private room) on Airbnb is not sketchy by any means and is a great tool for budget travelers – we have stayed at them many times with no issues! We will also be staying in a wooden cabin for a couple of nights outside of the town of Vik in hopes to see the enchanting Northern Lights illuminate the night sky with their green and blue hues. September is the beginning of the Northern Lights season. The nights grow longer and the days grow shorter as Iceland moves into the fall and winter months causing the lights to be more visible in the dark. We hope we’ll spot them while we’re there!

After we secured these 3 main components of travel (airfare,  transportation, and accommodations), the hardest part was over. From there, we worked on our activities, itinerary, and restaurants to make the trip our own. As easy as the second part sounds, it was very time-consuming trying to decide what we wanted to see and what would need to be cut. Sadly, we will not be able to see everything in 8 days. I’m so excited to be able to share our trip with you. We have less than 3 weeks until we arrive there! The past 5 months have been dragging on in anticipation of going.

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Most people have said “you’re so brave” when we tell them we planned our own international vacation without a travel agent, but I think anyone can plan a trip if they set their mind to it. It just takes the courage to make the initial step.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

The adventures, memories, and life you experience when you are outside your comfort zone can be amazing and fulfilling in ways you never would have comprehended. Take it from me, it is SO worth it.

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Giving out gifts to the children of Peru

Just always remember: The fun part about a journey is not knowing how your journey will end up.

Be brave and try something new.

More blogs and photos to come on Iceland and its grandeur in the near future. 🙂