Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Aspects of information, Distributed to the entire population.

Monday July 5

Iceland is a small country. It has a land mass the size of Kentucky. It has a population less than Minneapolis. And many of the inhabitants of Reykjavik are from other areas. When talking to someone new, one of the default questions is where we are going and where we have gone. Towards the beginning, the number of people who suggested we stop by the village where they grew up was staggering. We were told of restaurants to try, places to meet people, and sights that weren’t in the tourist books. Everyone wanted us to see something amazing in their eyes.

It is therefore surprising the amount to which people don’t know useful items of information. When asking one person behind the desk at the hostel about the Skogar to Thorsmork hike (the one that takes you right over Eyjafjallajökull) I was informed that the hike was closed and unsafe. Two people who had just completed the hike overheard and corrected that information with pictures. When asking about the same hike, we were told by various staff at the hostel at the start of the trail that the rivers were drinkable, that the rivers were full of ash and not drinkable, that the first hut was closed (it was not) and that we had to take all of our own water (the second hut had water).

When coming down to Heimaey, where we are now, the rides were easily sorted out as the schedule has not changed in at least 3 years. Heimaey is famous for a few reasons. One is the lava flow which consumed about 20% of the town. The other one is puffins – huge cliff breeding grounds, restaurant menus with puffin, and puffin catching. Puffin season has been July 1 to August 15 for as long as can be found. Last year and this year due to a dwindling population puffin season has been shortened to 5 days, which will be determined at the time that those 5 days start based on puffin migration activity. This is a very nebulous timeline that makes vacation planning around it very hard. The bigger problem here, compounded by the size of the country, is the fact that this information is not out there. No one in mainland Iceland informed us of this shift when we told them of our plans to travel to Heimay to catch and eat puffins. The Westman Islands tourist website does not mention anything to this effect. And half of the people on Heimaey were only able to tell us that they hadn’t yet received puffins and that for some reason the season hadn’t started yet. Information that wasn’t need-to-know was being held as if it was. And as such Jamie and I spent 6 hours and about 4000 kr each way to get to an island famous for being windy in order to accomplish a task that we cannot accomplish.

Dear Iceland-

You are very proud of your language and you have one of the coolest mobile phone networks I’ve seen with connectivity even on top of volcanoes. Please take advantage of these aspects and communicate with each other about what is going on in your country. Tourists asking you will really appreciate it and you will be more informed of local events. Everyone wins.

Sincerely, a bored tourist stuck on Heimaey.

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2010 by in Iceland.

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