Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 09.08.03

The Saint Helen’s island (Montreal, Canada). Island number 22 (out of 100), country number 19 (out of 25), month number 21 (out of 100.)

I have an affinity for domes, so when I heard there was a huge dome on an island in Montreal I had to go and visit.

A dome on an island? Now that got my attention. I love islands and I love domes.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 09.08.21

And when I heard this dome was designed by no one less than Buckminster Fuller I knew I just had to go.

Fuller was the grand father of domes, a visionary, and a strong proponent for humanity to look at earth as one.

A classic Fuller quote is: “We are all astronauts on a little spaceship called Earth”.

The Montreal Biosphère dome on Saint Helen’s island was built as part of the 1967 Expo.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 09.08.56

Today just the metal frame is left as the plastic covering that once surrounded burnt up in a fire.

Looking at the naked skeleton of the dome frame reminded me of the fragile state of the round planet we live on. Earth might be a big round ball, but we are really just living on that thin outer crust – like the peel of an apple.

All of humanity on a thin outer cover of a dome.

When you look at humanity like that you not only think about how fragile our whole existence is, you also realise that all of us are living very close together.

When people say that they are “living in their own little corner of the world”, they are not only ignorant, they are factually wrong.

There is no corners on earth. That becomes so obviously clear when you stand infront of a big dome like this.

I just wish more people would get to fully understand that.

If they did – or should I say, when a majority of humanity does – the way we look at Earth, at ourselves and at humanity will change forever.

We will finally become a humanity which looks at humanity as one. Which looks at Earth as one. If we do it quick enough there is hope that humanity pulls together to work in the best benefit of us all, not just sub sections of us. If we do not do it quick enough we might very well be doomed.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 09.08.36

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The Saint Helen’s island was island number 22, country number 19 and month number 21. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Iceland and Canada.)

Share:
Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 23.25.10

The island of  Iceland. Island number 21 (out of 100), country number 18 (out of 25), month number 20 (out of 100.)

Coming to Iceland is not like coming to another country.

It’s like coming to another planet.

A smaller, rougher, more barren planet than ours.

And I always feel I learn something about Earth when I come to Iceland.

I am back in Iceland as part of my “100 islands world tour to learn about humanity” as Iceland has a very special place in my heart: It’s the country that made me move past countries.

I remember exactly when I became a truly global citizen, or as I like to think of it: When I became a Member of Humanity.

It was at a time where I had decided to stop living in Beijing, but not yet decided that I was going to live in Singapore. For about 6 months I literally did not have a home.

I was flying from speech to speech around the world while figuring out where to live next.

And during that time of my life I arrived for a speech in Iceland and woke up one morning with a terrible tooth ache.

I remember saying to myself; “I need to get this fixed as soon as I get home!”

And then it hit me: I did not have “a home” …

So I googled “English speaking dentist Reykjavik” and got my tooth fixed in Iceland.

That is when I realised that I am at home everywhere on earth. If I need to go to a dentist, I just go to a dentist where ever I may be. No need to wait until I get “home”.

It’s not that a Member of Humanity doesn’t have a home. It’s the other way around, as a Member of Humanity everywhere is your home.

I was thinking of this story as I today am back in Iceland sitting in a hospital room.

Yesterday I fell badly and hurt my leg while getting a heavy car battery into a rowing boat in Sweden. Then I got on an Iceland Air-plane to got to Chicago but during the stop-over in Iceland the leg started to hurt more and more.

So here I am, waiting to get my leg X-rayed in a small hospital in Keflavik, Iceland.

A Swede, living in Singapore, flying from Stockholm to America via Iceland – and then off to Nepal via Istanbul.

But now sitting in a hospital waiting room to have my leg looked upon by a doctor.

And again I feel like it was natural to go to the doctor here, not wait until I “got home”. I was already home.

I love Iceland.

It’s a small island of just over 300,000 people far away from any other country.

People in Iceland are living close to nature, but far away from the rest of humanity.

But they are not, at all, isolated from humanity.

Being such a small country they have realised that they have to look after themselves -and at the same time they need to be open for ideas from outside.

One of my all time favourite words is the Icelandic word: “Heimskur”.

It is an old, viking word that is very Icelandic.

Way back, during the age of the Vikings, the Icelandic vikings had a tradition that if you had a farm you should build a Viking ship, go sailing to other countries and steal as much as you could. Steal gold, weapons and treasures – but more than anything else: Steal Ideas. Learn how they do things in other parts of the world, and then bring back those ideas to your farm on Iceland.

If you did not do that you were a “heimskur”.

Heimskur means “idiot”…

If you do not learn from others you are stupid.

The Icelandic Vikings knew that isolating yourself from the rest of humanity was a bad idea. That picking up ideas from others made sense.

1000+ years later the Icelandic people are still both proud of who they are and curious to learn from the rest of humanity.

Perhaps being a small number of people living on a tiny, rough, “planet”  makes it easier for them to see the need to think as one humanity.

Do not be a Heimskur.

Travel the world.

Learn from the world.

Be part of the world.

Be a Member of Humanity.

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of  Iceland  was island number 21, country number 18 and month number 20. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Iceland.)

Share:
Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.31.48

The island of Menekse, Istanbul, Turkey. Island number 22 (out of 100), country number 19 (out of 25), month number 20 (out of 100.)

This week the world thought me a lesson about being one.

On Monday I went and visited “The bridge between continents” at Sandvík, Iceland. It’s a place where you can visually see where the North American continental plate and the European continental plate meet (and slowly drift apart from each other.)

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.33.27 Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.33.15 Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.33.03
One second you are standing on the European continental plate. Walk over a bridge and a few seconds later you are standing on the North American continental plate.

Standing there made me realise: We are not separated by continents – we are connected by them.

The landmasses of the continents might be divided by oceans but zoom out a bit and you realise that all the continental plates stick together like a giant puzzle holding us all together.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.39.56

I had scheduled a one day stop-over in Iceland on a journey taking me from Sweden to Chicago. One Tues-Thursday I was in the USA (Speaking for The Global Leadership Summit, a summit that is broadcast to 400 000+ people in 128 countries.)

On Thursday I flew from the USA to Istanbul, Turkey and landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.32.25 Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.28.29

Again I had scheduled a one day stop-over and went to Menekse Island, a small island in Istanbul, close to the airport.

The magical city of Istanbul is situated between Europe and Asia making it the perfect hub for intercontinental flights – a reason why Turkish Airlines is the airline in the world which flies to most destinations. (227 international destinations in 117 countries.)

And a reason Istanbul airport is such a mix of all kinds of people (illustrated above with the picture I took just before boarding of a women in rainbow hair sitting next to a conservatively dressed muslim family.)

Spending a day in Istanbul again reminded me about how the continents bring us together, not separate us.

I then flew onwards to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I landed on Saturday morning, which means I flew Sweden, Iceland, USA, Turkey, Nepal in less than a week.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.39.14 Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.39.36Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.40.32Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.40.08

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.31.48 Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.42.03

And that I had three intercontinental flights ni 6 days (Europe-North America, North America – Europe. Europe – Asia.)

Stopping over in Iceland and Istanbul and experiencing the interconnections between continents combined with so many flights in a short period of time where I had the privilege to look out of the window and look down on earth got me to reflect on the word “continent”.

“Continent” comes from the latin “terra continent” meaning “continuous land”.

But the more you travel, the more you look down on Earth from the sky and the more you think about humanity and our place on Earth you start to understand that the more relevant phrase to think about it not “continuous land”, but “continuous Earth”.

We are all living on a thin layer of crust. All connected to each other on “Continent Earth”.

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of Menekse (Istanbul, Turkey) was island number 22, country number 19 and month number 20. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Iceland and Turkey.)

Share:
Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 10.51.58

The island of  Île aux Cygnes, Paris, France. Island number 20 (out of 100), country number 17 (out of 25), month number 19 (out of 100.)

What is the opposite of enlightening?

“Endarkening”?

That was the thought that hit me as I was trying to walk up to the 22 meter tall replica of the Statue of Liberty that stands at the end of the man-made island Île aux Cygnes (Island of the Swans) in the river Seine in Paris.

I write “trying to walk up” because I was stopped by a large number of French policemen who explained to me that the statue was off-limits for visitors.

Turned out that the American first lady, Mrs Trump, was approaching in a boat to take a peek at the smaller sibling to the more famous statue in New York, so no-one else was allowed near the statue.

The stature is most commonly known as “the Statue of Liberty” but is actually called “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

I find it a bit ironic that I was stopped by armed police to go and look at it because the wife of a man seemingly obsessed with stopping immigrants wanted to go take a look at this symbol of freedom which has greeted immigrants fleeing from oppression for generations.

But I guess it was a very symbolic thing that happened: police restricting the freedom of ordinary people from getting a glimpse of the liberty of enlightening…

We are living in a time:
– Where it is fashionable to be against knowledge – Just 14 per cent of Americans have “a great deal of confidence” in universities. (Source.)
– When it is popular to stand for anti-immigration and fear of foreigners (More than ten countries in Europe now have strong “anti-immigration parties, something that was more or less unthinkable not long ago.)

– Where expertise in out of vogue (A British politician recently said: “people in this country have had enough of experts”. (Source)

We might not yet be living in a new Dark Ages, but I want to say we are living in the Dark Decade.

A time where politicians, and many citizens, seem more interested in pushing an opinion than finding out the truth.
Where people seem less interested in being enlightened and more interested in getting confirmation for what they have already decided to believe.

A time where people are proud to be ignorant.

To be “Ignorant” (according to the dictionary) means: “lacking knowledge or awareness in general.”

But I want to add: “Lacking knowledge or awareness in general AND … lacking any motivation and/or interest to want to fix that.”

And I do not think the opposite of “Ignorant” is “educated” (as my dictionary tells me).

I think the opposite of “Ignorant should be “open to learn”.

There are people who are highly educated – yet frustratingly ignorant, if you ask me. (Some religious fanatics, for example.)

And then there are people with not so much knowledge who I would not call ignorant at all: most children comes to mind with their limited knowledge of things but thirst to learn more about the world.

(Come to think of it, calling yourself “educated” or “knowledgeable” in a way, is being ignorant., as if you have found “the truth”, received “the knowledge”.)

I would like to propose a new word for the curious people in the world who are interested in learning more, the people who want to hear different perspectives, the people who acknowledge that what they know about the world is not the only truth and who wants to learn more, regardless their level of education or knowledge.

An antidote to ignorance.

Let’s call them “The Unignorant”.

Not “The Educated”, not “The Knowledgeable”.

But “The Unignorant”.

The people fighting the “Endarkening” of our world.

Who have not given up on Humanity.

The people who believe in the power of connecting all of mankind and in getting us all working together for a better world by constantly learning from each other and creating better solution as one.

Because we are all living on this very small, little human island called Earth.

And when others are trying to build walls across it. We should work to tear down those walls and instead build understanding.

Understanding between humans. Understanding of the world.

The people who do that are the Unignorant.

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of  Île aux Cygnes  was island number 20, country number 17 and month number 19. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland and France.)

Share:
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 17.31.17

The island of  Ireland, number 19 (out of 100), country number 16 (out of 25), month number 18 (out of 100.)

“Companies in Ireland will only pay for a speaker if he or she is flown in from overseas.”

This I was told by numerous people when I was invited to Dublin to speak at the Professional Speakers Association of Ireland.

The reason for foreigners being paid was, apparently, not that they were “better”, but because they were “foreigners”.

Or perhaps more precisely because they are perceived to be better because they are foreigners.

I find that this behaviour is common in many parts of the world, it was true in China when I was living there, it is true in Singapore (where I am living now), and it is true in my native Sweden, for example

(The notable exception would be the USA where clients are somehow inclined to pay more for their own speakers than for foreigners flying in.)

Many speakers I meet seem annoyed and/or frustrated about this fact.

Personally, I like it.

The idea that thoughts and ideas from foreign lands are worth paying more for is a welcome break from the notion that local ideas are somehow better.

Ireland is one of those islands in the world where the opinion about “our ideas are best” has created a lot of suffering. The fight between Protestants and Catholics has created a country split in two. At least the violence that used to rock the island has subsided.

With the new Brexit vote a new potential conflict might occur, that between “EU is good to be part of” and “EU is bad to be part of” where they have to figure out how to resolve the issue of a EU border going straight through this green and friendly island.

The Idea of “we are right, they are wrong” fascinates me.

I recently did an interview with a professional speaker and teacher based in Hong Kong who told me that he had asked his students: “Was Hong Kong better run during the British or during the Chinese?”

The class was split 50/50.

He then asked: “How many of you have a different opinion about this issue than your parents have?”

Not a single student raised a hand…

The bias about “right”, of “good ideas” is pushed upon us from our society, our families, or culture etc and this “invisible influence” is so strong and so subtle that most of us do not understand that it is pushing us to what we should think.

One of the most eye-opening events I have experienced was a seemingly simple observation that happened to be when I lived in Beijing China.

I moved to China as a single 37 year old man, without knowing anyone in China. I arrived in a country where I did not speak the language, did not know the culture, and did not have any friends (local or Swedish).

Before I managed to build up a social life I lived a quite isolated life which meant many meals by myself in restaurants where I was the only non-chinese speaking person.

And I noticed something interesting: Often when I ordered a dish they would serve me the food and then give me a fork, a knife, a spoon and a couple of chop sticks.

All the locals just got chop sticks.

For the first time in my life I would eat a meal and not have a cultural bias on how this meal “should” be eaten.

This small, brain twister of an experience got me to realise how many things in life we do thinking that we are making an individual and conscious decision – when in fact we are just being lured into that feeling by surrounding cultural pressure.

Most of the time we are just a sheep in the herd.

People used to ask me if it was not difficult to live in China when I was cut off from my culture in such a abrupt and strong way.

I way the opposite: It was never easier to know who I (!) was, then when I just had arrived in Beijing. My Swedish “bubble” was gone and I had not yet been absorbed by the Chinese “bubble”.

I was making decisions based on what I wanted. Not what was deemed right by the surrounding culture.

And that is why I, since then, have been spending so much time actively traveling the world and get to see as many different ways of looking at the world, of many different ways of thinking what is “right”.

Today I did it in Dublin, Ireland, because the local Irish speakers wanted to have the perspective of a global speaker from a Swedish man living in Singapore. (But no, I did not get paid more because I was a foreigner at this specific event. I actually did not get paid at all. When you speak at speaker events you do it for free to give back to the speaking community.)

Speaking for speakers in Ireland got me thinking about our tendency to sometimes think that foreign ideas are worse, and sometimes think that foreign ideas are superior. I wish we would just look at ideas as ideas and judge them on their creative merit, not their geographic origin.

Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of Ireland was island number 19, country number 16 and month number 18. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom and Ireland.)

Share: