ICELAND & NORWAY
While there are always tough situations or slow days on the road, I've never actually disliked a country. Research shows that experiences become sweeter over time, with bad memories slowly fading and great memories growing stronger, so I don't doubt that in ten years every country will be my favorite.
But while my good and bad memories are still fresh, I can easily say that Iceland and Norway are some of my favorite places on earth. Some people feel they are drawn to a certain city or region, almost romantically, as if there is some emotional tie between them. Many will claim a longing for Paris or Tuscany or Hawaii even though they have never been. If I had to pick a country that represented that concept for me, it would without a doubt be Iceland, with a notable nod to Norway. And to be honest, I don't know if I can even describe it. I'm sure part of it is my fascination (read: obsession) with Viking culture and Norse mythology, part of it is the otherworldly beauty of the landscape, and part of it is the experiences that I had while I was there.
My personal challenge for this trip was twofold: try solo tent camping in the wilderness (not in parks or camp sites), and camp in snow (I'm from Houston, c'mon). I got those and some, including many harrowing moments driving blind through whiteouts on mountainsides, getting stuck in a snow bank and having to find help, and camping at the edge of a 2,000ft cliff in Norway. There were times where I didn't see another soul for days on end, and that alone affected me far more than I expected - it became a subtle theme through the trip, discovering the struggles and true value of complete solitude. I was only in Iceland for three weeks, but by the time I looped back around to Reykjavik, I felt like I had been gone for months, a completely changed person in the greatest of ways.