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Photo: Stocksy/Thais Ramos Varela

Creativity is hard to measure. But after just two days in Iceland, psychologist Barbara Kerr, PhD, noticed that people who live in the nation seemed especially adept at churning out creative projects and notable artistic figures (like Björk). So, she later returned to the country with a team of researchers to figure out exactly why Icelanders are so creative.

According to Artsy, the country of about 330,000 people supports 7,000 creative companies; 25 percent of its people work in creative industries, and 1 in 10 have published books. For the study in Gifted and Talented International, Dr. Kerr and her team attempted to figure out what the country or its society does to foster artistic expression and freedom. The team spent more than 1,000 hours poring over preexisting data as well as conducting their own interviews. Ultimately, they found a number of societal and educational factors that encourage creative and artistic expression.

Marriage is not a priority for Icelanders, though child rearing and care is. Household structures are egalitarian (the country has frozen the wage gap), so both men and women are supported in their creative endeavors.

First, there is stark difference between the average Icelanders’ familial dynamics and life and that of Europeans and Americans. Marriage is not a priority for Icelanders (30 percent are married, Arsty reported), though child rearing and care is. Furthermore, household structures are egalitarian (the country has frozen the wage gap), so both men and women are supported in their creative endeavors.

Icelanders have “attitudes of independence and tolerance” that “support openness to experience, the personality attribute that is most strongly correlated with creativity.” —study co-author Barbara Kerr, PhD

The school system is more about experiences, free play, and hands-on learning than it is about anxiety-inducing tests and lectures. In this vein, the study found that Icelandic males were proficient in manual crafts such as knitting, while women were equally knowledgable about and able to use tools. Dr. Kerr wrote that Icelanders have “attitudes of independence and tolerance” that “support openness to experience, the personality attribute that is most strongly correlated with creativity.”

Curiously, one thing that doesn’t contribute to their enhanced aptitude for the arts, Dr. Kerr discovered, is the beautiful natural scenery, to which Icelanders are reportedly desensitized. But, of course that doesn’t stop to rest of us from having restorative hot springs on our bucket list.

According to Airbnb, these are the spots you should add to your bucket list this year. Just make sure you’re polite to your seatmate on the way there.

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