Posted by: neilh10 | September 22, 2011

10,000 hits: An endless Icelandic adventure!

It is fair to say that when I started building this website, nearly a year ago, I had no idea that it would get so many hits. Originally the blog was only there because I wanted to use wordpress as a frame for the site and don’t know anything about website building, so the blog was almost incidental to the project of building a website to promote my apartment over in Iceland.

But, I guess over time I’ve been putting more effort in to the blog, just for its own sake. I’ve also been writing some more articles for the Reykjavik Grapevine. I hope it demonstrates that my appreciation for Iceland and the Icelandic people goes way beyond just owning an apartment there and renting it out.

I suppose, though, that my project (as compared with others I know in the Westfjords), is inherently boring and practical. I didn’t arrive and refurbish a hundred year old house, or an abandoned farm building, or develop an art installation, or anything like that. Nope, I went for the practical, boring approach of buying an apartment, and then renting it out to ‘average’ tourists. People who wear raincoats, and then loiter confusingly around the Vagninn, wondering whether it actually is a pub, and whether it ever actually does open.

Friends of mine in the Westfjords gravely express their fears that the area is about to be flooded with tourists, the foreign, raincoated hoardes, who do nothing except for drive their hire cars around the beautiful landscape, and call in for coffee and hot dogs at the gas station. No-one seems to be keeping tabs on the situation, but it seems that the Westfjords still features mainly as a pit stop on a road trip around Iceland. Foreign tourists, at least, seem to be experiencing the area, for the most part, from the inside of a car. Car, gas station, tourist office, restaurant, guesthouse.

And, people think that this has to be stopped somehow, that it’s going to f**k the place up, as it were. “It’s not prepared for tourists”, i’m told. So, there is this school of thought that emerges, that the kind of tourists they want to attract to the Westfjords are ‘few and rich’. The idea is that the tourists that come spend a lot of money there, supporting local businesses, etc, but then the overall impact of tourism is minimised, and the beauty of the area is preserved.

But personally i’m pretty sceptical about this’few and rich’ strategy, I have to say. I suspect that strategy will never really work in the Westfjords. Why on earth are rich people going to do when they arrive? Go and order a the most expensive burger in the N1? Buy a stuffed polar bear from the only tourist shop in town? Try and climb a mountain but then get forced to stop because of the weather? They might not even get here at all, because the road was closed, or the flight couldn’t land. Thats a pretty rubbish way of spending your vacation! Wouldn’t you rather fly in on Saga Class, dine at the Pearl, and then have your own helicopter ride above the volcanos, all of which you can enjoy with one eye on your blackberry?

Anyway, with this rant I am digressing. I think, if there is a philosophy towards what I am trying to achieve with this project, it is to try and market the area and its attractions to a ‘slow’ kind of tourist, people who want to really spend time in a truly magical, beautiful and special part of the world. There’s possibly no better place in the world to read a book, and look out at the mountains or the distant sun. But also, although the landscape can be barren, every farmstead, every road, and every signpost in the Westfjords tells a fascinating story about mans battle with nature. And, I think this story should be told.

So, a year in to this project, I’m thinking of expanding. I cant disclose the details, yet, but I’ve been talking to a friend about setting up a new project that at its heart is all about a slower kind of travel, that tries to capture the Westfjords and what makes it so special, and convey the magic of the area without the expletives and slogans of the regular tourist industry. We want to take the raincoated tourists out of their cars and make them interact more with the local area, to learn more about it, and to have a truly worthwhile visit.

The project is in its embryonic, very, very early stages. But, I’m really optimistic about this, so please do keep reading. And, watch this space.


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