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Taking advantage of collapse, students head to Iceland

Iceland, the small European island nation, is famous for its hot springs, egalitarianism and medieval sagas. Unfortunately, it is now also known for the collapse of its economy and government in the teeth of the global financial crisis, which has led to devaluation of the country's currency and falling prices for many of its commodities.

After reading in a travel article over winter break that this reduction in prices of food and airline tickets made an Icelandic vacation less expensive, Lee Stevens '12 decided it would be a fun place to spend her spring break. She later convinced her friends Andrew Lee '12, Julie Chien '12 and Andrew Doty '12 to make the trip.

While many students will be spending their breaks at home, relaxing and seeing family, the group - along with Rachel Lamb '12, who was already planning a trip to Iceland with her friend and Carleton College first-year Julia Cohen - will be embarking on a week-long trip to Iceland.

The group of six will be staying in a hostel in Reykjavik, the country's capital and largest city, for the week, using the city as a "base camp" for possible excursions.

Stevens said what drew her to Iceland was its "very pristine" landscape and the fact that she isn't sure if she'll get another opportunity to go.

"When the hell else am I going to get a chance to go to Iceland?" Stevens said.

Because Iceland imports most of its food, with one notable exception being fish, food prices can be double those in the United States, Stevens said. But the country's economic troubles make a normally expensive trip far more affordable.

In addition to the low cost, Lamb said her interest in hiking and Cohen's in geology contributed to their decision to visit Iceland.

"We looked at pictures and were reading things and it just seems beautiful," Lamb said. "We talked to people and they said it would probably never be this cheap again."

Stevens said the group is planning the trip on its own, without help from a student travel agency such as StudentUniverse. Among their plans is a trip to Iceland's most famous geothermal spa, the Blue Lagoon. The spa, which Stevens said has health benefits in addition to its naturally warm water, is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. Other natural sites, including Iceland's geysers, glaciers and the island of Videy, which contains a large variety of bird life, are also high on the group's to-do list.

Stevens said she thinks the group will spend most of its time in Reykjavik, due to limited knowledge of how to get around the country.

Stevens said the group is not worried about the collapse of the economy and does not think the trip includes many risks, noting that a new government was recently set up in Iceland. She did admit that "things are pretty volatile right now" but added that Iceland doesn't "seem to be slipping into anarchy yet."

"Things could still change before we get there," she said.

According to the United Nations' Human Development Index, Iceland is the world's most developed country and one of the most egalitarian, based on income inequality metrics, which measure income distribution and economic inequality.

Stevens estimated that the trip will cost anywhere from $700 to $900 per person. The group's fixed costs include $400 for their round trip airfare, as well as $23 per night for their hostel accommodations.

"I could go to Mexico or Florida anytime," Stevens said. "But this may be the only chance that I could go to Iceland for this much money."


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