Islands visited in 2017

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Nameless Island (Elsen Tasarkhai, Mongolia). Island number 23 (out of 100), country number 20 (out of 25), month number 22 (out of 100.)

The island I visited this month is a small, nameless, grass covered islet located in the Tuul river about 280 km outside Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Mongolia, a scarcely populated, landlocked country with big neigbours like China, Russia and Kazakhstan surrounding it.

Mongolia has just 1.9 people per km and considering that over 1 million of the total population of 3 million is living in the capital it feels even less populated once you leave the capital.

“The biggest problem with Mongolia is that we are landlocked.”

The words came from a man I interviewed while visiting Mongolia to launch my book, The Idea Book, in Mongolian.

I told him I disagreed.

It MIGHT have been Mongolias biggest problem, in a time when products, knowledge, people and ideas travelled by sea.

But in the 21st century people travel by air. And knowledge and ideas travel at the speed of light.

That means that no human being needs to be cut off because of being “landlocked” (or “sea locked” in the sense of being “stuck” on an island.)

The thing stopping people from getting information and inspiration from the world is not geographical limitations – but mental limitations.

The people we should be worrying about are not the once who are landlocked – but the ones who are “mindlocked”.

The people who should be inspired by are the people who are openminded and who have borderless thinking.

Chinggis Khan, the famous king who once ruled the world in what was one of the largest kingdoms ever to have been ruled by one king, was one of those open minded and borderless thinkers.

The famous king was born under another name: Temüjin, he became Chinggis Khan” when he became king.

Khan means king or ruler.

And the meaning of Chinggis is absolutely fascinating.

“Chinggis” means “the man who is big as an ocean” (!)

The Mongolians, the land locked of all land locked nations, gave the king a name that likening him to a big ocean…

As an “island man” fascinated by island I thought I would feel isolated, out of place, or confined in landlocked Mongolia, but after spending a couple of days in this vast country I feel the opposite.

The vastness of the plains inspires borderless thinking.

The blue, open sky feeds your imagination and creativity.

The fearlessness and can-do-spirit of the Mongolian people makes me want to do more and fear less. (and their friendliness makes me want to be a kinder person.)

Mongolia might be a landlocked country.

But the country is a catalyst for limitlessness.

As least it was to me.

My visit to Mongolia changed me to the core.

I am now more open then when I arrived.

I think bigger then before I came here.

I feel more human than I ever have.
I of course wish that Mongolia will learn more from the world and not be limited by thinking that their “landlockedness” hinders them from learning from others.

But I also really wish the rest of the world would learn more from Mongolia, a country that still knows how it is to live in harmony with nature, where mankind hasn’t yet learnt to dominate the landscape. Where people (for the very most part) are both strong, proud AND kind.

As Oyun, a nomadic women I meet just next to the lake said to me: “The nomad (still) have the quality of being human”.

Perhaps that is true.

Perhaps we need to go to places where very few people live to learn how to live like humans.

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 Nameless island was island number 23, country number 20 and month number 22. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Iceland, Canada and Mongolia.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

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