Mr. Dawn Shalhoup, a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers)
My tour with Oli/Highlander Adventures (July 28 through August 3, 2014) was different from any other ‘tour’ I’ve had in my travels. On the most basic level, Oli handled all arrangements for lodging and transportation (he drove us personally)…where he went above and beyond is how he created one-of-a-kind experiences that could never be arranged by anyone else.
Taking our broad overview of Icelandic elements we wanted to see, he quickly and thoughtfully arranged an itinerary that incorporated everything we ‘knew’ we wanted to see, and much more of what we didn’t know. In hindsight, I wish we’d just said “…we have 8 days, show us what we need to see in that timeframe.” For us, he was able to pull off a fairly tightly-packed schedule that was also sensitive to our kids’ needs while also satiating our desire for adventure…with some relaxation and fun thrown in.
Because of the sheer number of people he knows/has known, we were able to get into areas that are largely unavailable to everyone else: Private, preserved farmhouses complete with access to the blacksmith turf house and other spaces, an approachable and safe part of the Vatnajokull glacier (because it was a request of my son’s to walk on a glacier), and more. He also took us to parts of the interior of Iceland that typically don’t even show up on ‘lists of things to see,’ and were beautifully untouched.
Simultaneously, we received commentary that perfectly suited what we wanted to learn about the country…it wasn’t ‘stale,’ canned verbiage spouted over a loudspeaker. We got to hear about real Icelandic people and their lifestyle, the country’s attachment to elves and real stories about how construction companies have moved rocks to avoid the repercussions of elvish anger, etc., and even personal accounts of historic events. It was fascinating.
While we were there, he was contacted by the media as a resource and expert on the rapidly increasing tourism numbers over recent years. He truly is a wealth of information, and being with him made our travel experience sincerely unforgettable. As you are well aware, having worked with writers and journalists as long as we have, it’s rare to find such valuable contacts who can conjure experiences that make writing a story a breeze…but this is the guy.