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Ultimate Contrariana: Iceland for X-Mas

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

As most readers of the CT know, we have been off-the-charts, drop-your-pants excited about the global financial meltdown for months now. The plunging Dow, the faltering Nikkei, collapsing I-banks, devalued currencies… Why? You ask - does that mean Iceland, Sensei? ‘

Here’s what a bad economy means to us:

* Previously unaffordable places become semi-affordable.
* Middle class white American people become too poor, economically anxious to travel- ie: fewer tourists.

So, while Wall Street aches, while the Euro struggles, while the financial spine of Iceland breaks, CTers are getting ready for some hard-core backbacking in previously unaffordable countries — like Iceland.

Did we ever tell you how much we like Iceland? One of the CT’s seminal pieces, way back in 1998 was on… Icelandophillia.

That said, the CT has long had a weakness for Iceland, but has been thwarted by the horrible dollar to krona exchange rate.

Some super encouraging news started appearing a few weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal ran a short piece about how the demise of Iceland’s banks has been driving Icelanders back to their roots in fishin. We started sensing some opportunity.
So did the CT’s arch-enemy, The New YorkTimes…

Michelle Higgins of the Times wrote the paper’s first openly contrarian piece of the 2007-2008 Subprime Crisis turned Mini-Recession. Higgins makes the bold (for the Times) suggestion that “a bad economy is good for travellers.”

She cites Iceland in a round-up of global meltdown = travel bargains. Here is the “Christmas Bargains” piece.

Then, we also spotted, just day later, a desperate plea — in “Ailing Iceland Invites Visitors”

And then, it gets even better, a google search yielded a Travelocity story about some precocious genius who is going to Iceland for the holidays. The Travelocity travel blogger writes:
“When a good friend of mine told me last month that she was considering spending this New Year’s Eve in Iceland, I nearly laughed her right out of the room. Iceland in the wintertime? You know that’s north, not south, right? Besides, Iceland has such a high standard of living. Who has the kind of cash to travel there now given the state of our economy?

Earlier this year, the blogger points out, one U.S. dollar was worth around 70 Icelandic Krona; now it trades for 100 Krona or more.

In conclusion: “Which means this island nation might actually be a splendid winter destination for budget-minded U.S. travelers.”

Please read “Budget Travel in Iceland this Winter” closely. Read it as if its the Talmud.

Reason: This is, in many ways, the ultimate manifestation of the contrarian spirit. This is our Holy Grail. That’s right — Rekyjavik -in the winter of 2008 — is our Valhalla..
You see, by going in December, the Contrarian takes advantage of not only Iceland’s economic woes — and desperation — but also seasonality. Only a diehard contrarian would go to Iceland during the dead of winter, around the winter solstice, at a time when there are mere hours of sunlight. But the pay-off for the contrarian who does have the moxie, the pride, the quartzite balls, the fearlessness of the dark, the immunity to SADS (Seasonal Affecticve Disorder) is huge.

Lael Powell-Rushing, a recovering Icelandophile, will discuss this later this month in our next issue — we’re going to devote the whole CT to Iceland. Specifically, LPR will talk about what you’ll find in Reykjavik, Akureyri, and Husavik during December and early January, what you can during the two hours of daylight, where to go Nordic skiing and bar-hopping. He’ll also talk about the pros and cons of car-camping in Iceland.

Meantime, here are a few resources to whet your appetite and prepare you.

The Times on “When to Go to Iceland?”

And below, a picture of the intrepid Cameron Smith — a fellow we don’t personally know — in Iceland. Look closely at this picture. This could be you.

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