You know, I started visiting 25 years ago, and in those days I met people who said, “What, you mean Ireland?” And now everyone says, “Oh, I’m going there,” or “My neighbor is going,” or “I want to go.” It is much more in people’s consciousness.
Immediately after the 2010 volcanic eruption, the “Inspired by Iceland” campaign was launched to promote tourism. I read that more than a quarter of the Icelandic adult population participated in it.
Well, everyone was supposed to tell all their friends to come to Iceland. I probably did, and many other people did too. There have been some great campaigns and many of them have important underlying messages about sustainability, such as the icelandic promise, a commitment to responsible travel that anyone can make online. I think travelers want to learn about the countries we visit and what we can do to give back, but sometimes we don’t know how to access that information. And the Icelandic pledge is a good way to remind people to be kind to nature and make sure you have a travel plan in case something happens.
I was struck by an element of the commitment that said: “I will take photographs to die for, without dying for them.” I guess people forget about themselves sometimes?
Here we have hot springs with really hot water; we have active volcanoes; have sneaker waves on beaches; we have strong winds. Somehow we think we are invincible when we are on vacation, but we still have to use our common sense.
You write in your book that one of the best ways for visitors to get to know Icelanders is to hang out in a hot tub in a geothermal pool. Why is that?
They say if you want to meet a Brit, go to a pub; If you want to meet a French person, go to a cafe. And definitely, here in Iceland you go to the pool, because that’s where you can meet people, in the morning, in the afternoon or at night. And I recommend visitors to try different pools, because they all have their own character and personality and you can meet different types of people. They’re clean and affordable, and it’s something all the locals do.
Reading your book, I got the feeling that the Icelandic community is becoming more diverse, but still very close-knit.
Over the weekend I had to buy a bra, which, you know, is a really fun experience. I was talking to the woman working in the store and the woman in the fitting room next to me says, “I know that voice.” And he was our medical director, like Anthony Fauci of Iceland. And we laughed that only in Iceland do we find ourselves in an underwear store. And then I ran into her again at the supermarket the next day. And you just think: this is a small country.