When Abdul, my limo driver, picked me up at the Newark International Airport on Sunday night, I had a sigh of satisfaction. I checked off an item from my list of Countries to Visit, Iceland: 82 down, 18 more to go.
For two years, in a row, I had to cancel this trip rendered difficult by the belief that one should not be in a place called ICE-land outside of summer. July and August are the only months when the temperature averages 50 to 60 degrees in Fahrenheit.
Icelandair, flight #1623, a Boeing 757 carrying 240 passengers, flying from Reykjavic, landed at 7:05 PM. It originated from the northernmost capital in the world, close to Greenland. It took five and half hours to get to EWR.
Slumped in the rear of the black Lincoln town car, I was thankful for the esoteric restful journey in the Land of Fire and Ice. What do we know about Iceland? Why would we be curious to travel there?
Like with all Scandinavian countries, we associate Iceland with the Vikings. Of more recent times, we will recollect the 2008 worldwide financial crisis that indeed started in Iceland, with the collapse of its three major banks.
Then there was that major volcanic eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajökull; it severely disrupted international air travel for a week; that was in spring 2010. Last year, we were in awe in front of the Icelandic football team. Representing a population of only 335,000 souls, the Strákarnir Okkar reached the quarter finals of the EuroCup; they only lost to France, the host. What a party that was!
Many will be quick to remind us that Game of Thrones is set in Iceland, so was James Bond’s Die Another Day.
Iceland epitomizes the concept of a prosperous capitalist social democracy. In Iceland, no citizen is left behind: they are doing well, but they take care of the poorest and weakest. Meaningful social welfare is available; in America, we would characterize the system as “socialist”.
Like in Canada or Cuba, education and healthcare are free, but private insurance remains an alternative. Utilities are cheap. The monthly minimum wage is $2,500 a month. Thereby, every citizen is guaranteed a healthy, educated, comfortable living.
The absence of an underclass explains why crime rate is extremely low, the institutions are stable, confidence of the international investor is high in a population that is both healthy and well educated.
Endowed with a free enterprise economy, carried by a strong Christian and socialist ideology, Iceland is thriving on the edge of science and technology, while being a guardian of international peace. It is in the pack of the “countries of tomorrow”.
(O Robert Jeanlouie, Friday, August 11, 2017)
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