Iceland: A place that wows at every turn
"It felt like a different planet. Everywhere you go is beautiful."
Iceland: A land of diverse and breathtaking Nordic landscapes – from glistening glaciers, incredible waterfalls, exploding geysers and more, you can find it all across this vast land of marvelousness.
For freelance photographer Tim Landis, a trip to Iceland was a dream come true – an island of immense beauty asking to be captured through a lens.
But Tim's dream was fulfilled both professionally and personally. Thanks to United's MileagePlus® program, Tim's wife Staci and their three children -- Makenzie (16), Madden (13) and Amara (11) – came along for the incredible experience.
"Soaking it all in was amazing but watching my family experience it as well was even better," said Tim.
It was the ultimate family adventure – four days filled with the best of the best that Iceland has to offer. The trip kicked off with a stop at the world-famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa whose vivid turquoise water attracts tourists from all over the world. Each day that followed brought a new sense of curiosity and wonder.
A drive along the Golden Circle, stopping to marvel at the gorgeous sights of Thingvellir National Park, playing the waiting game anticipating when the geysir will erupt and taking in the massiveness of the Gullfoss waterfall.
Continuing on to Vik along the stunning southern coast of Iceland visiting various sites along the way, including two of Iceland's most famous waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. A bit of rain and fog didn't deter plans to check out Dyrhólaey, where the sea meets the dramatic cliff and where you can catch a glimpse of a puffin, Iceland's most famous bird.
The fourth day began with an early wake-up call to drive to Skaftafell National Park, home to some of the most precious natural pearls of the country. Here, you'll find breathtaking scenery, rugged mountains and beautiful glaciers, and a variety of plants and wildlife. The day continued with a boat excursion at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon where you can cruise between the marvelous icebergs which regularly break off the glacier and make their way to the sea.
The Landis family will forever be able to look back on their Icelandic adventure through the awe-inspiring photography they captured. But beyond the unreal scenery, unforgettable memories and unbelievable experience, the family's #UnitedJourney trip strengthened the Landis' most precious treasure: their unbreakable bond.
"One of the biggest takeaways from the trip is that we all saw each other grow in a small way. As parents, we got to see our kids be creative while also allowing them the space to interpret the world in their own way," said Staci. "I didn't travel much as a kid so being able to be alongside them during this opportunity and watch them take it all in is truly special."
As for Tim, he says the chance to share this journey through Iceland with his family is almost indescribable.
"It was incredible to experience a multitude of 'firsts' together – new and different foods, a variety of new experiences, landscapes we're never seen before and experiencing the grandeur of so many amazing piece of natural history," he said. "This trip was one for the books and we're so thankful for the opportunity."
5 tips & tricks we learned during our Icelandic experience:
- Layers, layers, layers! A famous saying in Iceland is: "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes." The expression reflects the notoriously changeable weather of the country, so pack for all four seasons because chances are, you'll experience them all in one day.
- Rent a car. Most of Iceland's top attractions are remote and spread out around the island, and with no railway system, your options of getting around are limited. Rent a car and hit the road for the ultimate road trip! *Note: Car rental is quite pricey in Iceland but use your MileagePlus® miles to book via Hertz and earn miles for your next adventure.
- Factor in time for extra stops. Driving around Iceland is far from boring and each turn reveals a breathtaking landscape after the next. Plan for extra stops along the way because trust us, you will want to stop and take in the beauty. Note: Fill up whenever you see a gas stations – you never know how long it'll be before you see another one.
- Order fish and chips at least once. Surrounded by the North Atlantic, no wonder Iceland offers some of the freshest seafood around. Our favorite? The classic fish and chips, specifically from the small red shack at the entrance to Skógafoss. A must, if you ask us!
- Prepare to throw off your sleeping habits. During the summer months, Iceland has daylight for up to 20+ hours per day while in the winter, the may only be a few hours of daylight. Either way, adjusting your body to a sleep schedule is tricky.
Inspired to take your Icelandic adventure? United offers seasonal, daily nonstop flights from Newark to Reykjavik – only a four hour and forty minute flight! Book at United.com.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.