Iceland is the coldest, hot place to be. The people have spoken, the masses want a shot at the Aurora Borealis and the Blue Lagoon. I can name a handful of friends and acquaintance who are packed and ready to fly to the frigid nation. Who could blame them? It’s a boundless nation to get your travel boots wet. The Icelandic people are the kindest I have ever met. For example, a member of my party left her wallet and passport at a Dominoes. She could have been so screwed. An email awaited my inbox the following morning from the Akureyri police station stating that a good Samaritan had turned it in. It could have been pure luck, but, deep down I know that anywhere else a passport and wallet would have been long gone. It’s a safe destination, an amenity people want nowadays. I wonder if the tiny paradise can handle the rapid influx of eager tourist. The sustainability question hit yours truly as I boarded my flight to Oslo. Ten or so planes were lined up away from the other terminals since all the other terminals were full. My flight mates and I were herded via bus over to the boarding ladders. Keflavik International only has one main terminal with about thirty-five gates. Figures from the Icelandic Tourist Board shows a 29% growth in visitors from 2014 to 2015*. Tourism for a nation is both a blessing and a curse. Chew on this, the entire population of Iceland according to google is 330,000 and change. Conversely, the number of tourists that visited Iceland in 2015 was approximately 1,289,140. Friends, that is four times the population. I question the sustainability.
Before leaving, the curious would often ask, why Iceland? Why are people traveling in droves to this tiny island in the north Atlantic? I finally have an answer. I know that it’s complex to capture beauty from a lens. There are places to witness for yourself. Iceland is more than the sights. Moments you capture do no justice to the experience.
Personally, it’s why I travel. I can’t sit by and dream of life browsing Pintrest.
Iceland is the smell of damp moss and sulfuric egg salad.
The ultra-violent Arctic wind that smacks one upside the head. The sun on the skin when it finally breaks out of its cloud prison. The warmth of the geothermal underground.
Iceland is the giddiness as the Aurora Borealis dances across the sky a silk scarf blowing out of a car window. It’s the taste of salt and minerals. It’s the collision of modern religion and legends from the past.
Iceland is knowing that if a cataclysmic event were to cease life as we know it, nature would have already claimed its territory. Iceland is cursed with both beauty and rage.
What is to be done? Practice conscious tourism. Stay on the beaten path or hire a guide to enter sites beyond your ability. Keep money in the pockets of the locals. Stay in guesthouses. Many are family run. Buy that wool scarf from the teenager trying to make a buck instead of mass produced retailers.
You Cobweb Clearer, Kate
How do you practice conscious tourism?