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A fully booked Iceland left me staying in a truck and plastic bubble. Now, I skip hotels and look for unconventional spots instead.

plastic bubble with bed inside
Unique stays are a lot more memorable than a hotel.Annita Katee
  • I got creative when I visited Iceland with my mom because most hotels were fully booked.

  • Our stays in a converted truck and plastic bubble weren't perfect, but they were unforgettable.

  • I learned travel accommodations are more than a place to sleep — they're ways to make memories.

When I used to think of Iceland, I'd picture the northern lights, gorgeous waterfalls, and must-see volcanoes. Now, I think of a truck and a bubble.

I visited Iceland last summer with my mom, an international resilience and change keynote speaker. She was invited to the country's capital, Reykjavík, to give one of her speeches, and I was honored to tag along.

Iceland's been an incredibly popular tourist destination in the past few years — over 653,000 international travelers including us visited between June and August 2022. Although we had a while to plan our trip, we didn't realize waiting to book accommodations until two months out would leave us with few choices.

When it became challenging to come by empty hotel rooms, I turned to alternate options.

Our first stay was at a truck-turned-hotel and I'll never forget it

truck with rooms in the side
We slept in a truck that had been turned into three separate spaces.Annita Katee

Most hotels and Airbnbs I came across were fully booked except for a newer listing of a converted truck. It cost $135.50 for the night. Since it had no reviews, I was left putting my full trust in the universe.

The truck had been renovated to house three separate groups of guests. Each room had a bed, toilet, and shower. When we arrived, we were met by a very excited host who kindly helped my mom up the slippery steps. Before arriving, she'd torn her ACL.

red tile behind small shower next to small are with bed
Our space was tiny but had the basics.Annita Katee

We were surprised by our room's small size — all three of us couldn't be inside at once. It didn't warrant a tour (the bed was next to the shower that had the toilet and sink in it), but our host insisted on showing us around the space.

Our host was so enthusiastic that he accidentally broke the handle of our door — to keep it shut, we had to place a chair against it outside.

The night was far from perfect with the truck's finicky electricity and heating but the stay quickly became one of my favorites ever — purely for the experience.

Our next unique stay was in a plastic bubble

plastic bubble with mom outside
The plastic bubbles were surrounded by beautiful trees.Annita Katee

After saying goodbye to the truck and our dear host, we explored a bit and then arrived at our next unique stay — a bubble.

I'd learned about the bubbles on Instagram years ago and, when we were struggling to find hotel availability, I checked if any were available. I booked a one-night stay for $395.

The bubble tents were located in a mostly empty area surrounded by trees. We were about 1,000 feet from reception and our bubble was at the top of what felt like an endless amount of steps.

The journey was worth it, though, because it led to the most spectacular sights.

looking up from plastic bubble
I loved being able to look up at the sky from my bed.Annita Katee

The bubble itself was a unique structure. Imagine an inflatable, echoey bounce house that's made of clear plastic and is cozy and warm inside. It had a zippered casing into an entryway of sorts, then a magnetic door that led to the bedroom.

When we checked in, the receptionist gave us one vital instruction: Only have one door open at once or the bubble will deflate.

I may have gotten slightly complacent while snapping photos of the space because, before I knew it, a slightly ajar magnetic door combined with the open zipper of the entrance caused our bubble to deflate. Thankfully, after I spent about 15 minutes panicking, it reinflated itself.

Bedtime was its own kind of magic. Sleeping in a clear dome meant there was no darkness while we slept — in the summer, Iceland's sun doesn't fully set. I woke up to photograph the sky throughout the night.

Other guests were around, but each bubble felt private thanks to the surrounding trees and bushland.

I used to think accommodations were just the in-between moments of creating memories, but now I know that's not true

Typically, a travel accommodation is just a place for sleeping and storing stuff in between creating memories on your trip. But after staying in a truck and a bubble, I no longer view it that way.

I've been inspired to look outside of typical hotels to make where I stay is part of my travel experience. When I think about my trip to Iceland I remember seeing the waterfalls and witnessing a dormant volcano erupt after 6,000 years, but what the truck and bubble still stick out to me the most.

There was a lot that didn't go to plan, but I learned being open to pivoting and doing things unconventionally can allow you to get more from a trip than you ever could have expected.

Staying in these unique spots gave me special memories, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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