Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 17.36.00

The island of Hainan, China.

Island number 1 (out of 100). Country number 1 (out of 25). Month 1 (out of 100)


The island of Hainan, located off the southern tip of China, is often called “The Hawaii of China”. In many ways it is a good description. It’s a big, tropical island – full of coconut trees – that the country’s citizens can reach without having a passport. Hainan feels like home, yet at the same time like a paradise getaway for the Chinese. Just in the same way as Hawaii does for the Americans.

I spent one day here while doing a speech for the Chinese managers of a multinational American company. The conference was held at the massive newly built Westin Blue Bay Resort & Spa.

During my stay there I got the chance to have a chat with the General Manager of the Blue Bay Resort mr Douglas Ariza Giammaria. Douglas, who comes from Colombia and has made a career of going around the world to run hotels was now in China managing this resort. I asked him what he had learnt by coming to China.

He said: “I have learnt to appreciate the Chinese approach to service.”

I found his answer very, very interesting, because many non-chinese, (and perhaps also many Chinese) will argue that service in China absolutely sucks.

I sure know that when I arrived in China for the first time in 2005 I was equally amazed and appalled by how waiters would throw the food infront of the guests and how guests would spit on the floor of restaurants. But I also understood what mr Giammaria was trying to say, because few things are purely one-sided.

He said: “I have come to realize that the Chinese are warm and friendly people. When they serve you they do not look for the tip, they just want to serve you, it’s about face for them.”

He explained that the first impression of Chinese for many might be that they are rude, harsh or unfriendly but, as he said “you have to look deeper. At the core they really are warm and friendly people.” With this I agree.

In many ways they can be the most genuinely service minded people you can meet. In other ways they can be the least service minded people you can ever meet.

And here is the interesting thing: Service-quality in China has increased leaps and bounds in the last few years. Sure, you can still get the “plate-thrown-on-the-table-service” in many local places, but in places like the Westin, there service quality is on par – if not better – than in any other place on earth where there is a Westin.

Ask a waiter at the Westin Blue Ray Resort for a glass of Coke and she will reply “Certainly, sir.”
Meet a cleaner in the corridor outside your room and she will look you in the eye, smile and say “Good morning.”

Thanks to massive service training by companies like the Westin (and Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons etc.) the best practices from the rest of the world has now arrived in China.

At the same time they have kept many of the best practices of their own way of thinking of service.
The result is world class service as a result of the best of both worlds.

Globalisation gets a lot of bad rep, and especially around how local products, customs or traditions are traded for new foreign ideas.
And sure, it can be sad in some cases.

But we seldom talk about the opposite: about how the global distribution of ideas and customs are transfered around the world in order to improve how things are done.

Like, for example, how the service in China has gone from being one of the worst expericences in the world, to today being a place where you can get some of the best service on this planet.

Who would have thought.

Well, that’s what happens when you are open for new ideas from the outside. Which brings us to the coconuts.

Did you know that coconuts floats? Well, they do.

And because they float they can travel from their “hosts” to new shores to plants their roots in new places.

That is how I look at ideas. Ideas should be allowed to float. To spread. To travel.

And we should all be open to picking up those ideas from other shores if doing so makes our lives better.

That is what the island of Hainan has thought me about the world today: That we should be more like coconuts.


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.
Hainan was island number 1, China was country number 1 and this is month number 1.


I created this project to combine two of my biggest interests: Islands and the World.

My Islands



I live, with my family,  on the amazing, modern, island of Singapore. A wonder of efficiency, a bustling, energetic, global city and a remarkable green city considering it hosts more than 7000 people per square kilometer. One of the safest countries in the world, the easiest country to do business in, the country with the most dollar millionaires and so on.

It is in no way Utopia. The city state struggles with income inequality, cost of living and, because it imports almost all it consumes, is not a very sustainable place. But overall there are few countries in the world that has been able to develop so fast and so well over the last 50 years. It’s a privilege to live on this island.

Svanholmen (Sweden):


But for about two months per year we leave Singapore and move to a small, private island just outside Stockholm. It might now have running water, and it is just powered by solar cells which means power is somewhat limited – but it is also such a privilege to stay at – for totally different reasons than Singapore. Literally hundred’s of birds nest on the tiny island and we get to see them nest and hatch their eggs. We live close to nature and very simple. Spending our days playing with the kids and enjoying the endless Swedish summer days.

Ideas Island (


My other island is an island I own, but that I never stay on. Instead I let people stay on the island for free for a week. Yes, for free. (I ask the guests who can afford it to just pledge 1000 USD to charity, but it is not required.).

I call it “Ideas Island” and I created it because I wanted more people to experience the absolutely powerful creative experience it is to sit alone- by yourself – on an island. How the creative juices explode when you are isolated from the rest of the world and can just focus on the creative project you want to create. I knew this from studying creativity for the last 15 years – and by spending weeks and weeks on my other island. (Read about my book, The Idea Book, here.)

If you are interested in understanding more about why a person would be crazy enough to lend out a private island for free to people he doesn’t know and who just apply on the Internet, then please go to to find out more.

(I also used to have another island, in the Philippines, that people also could come and visit for free. But it got totally destroyed in a terrible typhoon. Read about what I learnt from loosing it all here.)

The World

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 13.58.40

I make my living being a global keynote speaker which means I get invited to conferences around the world to speak. So in my job a travel – a lot. I worked in 22 different countries on 5 continents last year. The year before that I worked in 32. All in all I have been invited to speak in over 60 countries on 6 continents in the scope of the last 15 years, almost all of the multiple times.


I spend more time in the air than a commercial airline pilot, and I use so many passports that I got informed that the Swedish police put me on a “suspected persons”-list. I have been everywhere from Brazil to Belgium, from North Korea to North America, from Iran to Iceland and South Africa to South Korea.

My last book, “One World. One Company“, deals with the concept of being a Truly Global Company and how to develop a global mindset.

So why do I travel so much?

Mainly for two reasons:

Because I think that it enriches my life and because I feel that it broadens my mind like nothing else can, especially around the things that are important – the big questions in life.

Or to quote Seneca: “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

Me and The Human Island Project

I have created this project to learn more about myself, more about islands and more about the world. It is a theme that is very appealing to me and that forces me to study every new island I visit to learn something new that I will have to write about.

It is my hope that it will also inspire others to see the magic of islands – and more importantly to get curious and positively engaged in building a more humane world.

Fredrik Haren – The Island Man.

ps. Please connect with me by going to the Contact page if you want to know more about the project, about why I am doing it or if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas around how I can develop The Human Island project. I look forward to hear from you. (If you prefer to connect via Twitter its @fredrikharen or by linkedIn I am here.


Remember: No man is an island. But every man is on the same island.


We all live on a very small, beautiful, island surrounded by a vast sea of black space.

This island is called Earth.

Surrounded by nothingness in so many ways.

We all know that this precious island is all that we have.

Yet we somehow seem to ignore it.

Just as we seem not to want to work together to make our common home as great as possible for everyone.

But imagine if we did.

Imagine if we were able to take a global perspective – a human perspective – and act as if Earth was our common home.

Our common island.

If everything we did took ourselves, our family, our community and our country into consideration – but also our planet.

Perhaps especially our planet.


It has never been a better time in the history to take a grander approach to ourselves.

It is not about “Thinking Global and Acting Local”.

It is about:

“Thinking Human and Acting Humane.”

Which is the only thinking that makes sense if you think of us all living on a very small, beautiful – and oh, so precious – little island.


The What:

A journey of discovery with the goal of visiting 100 islands in at least 25 different countries, on at least 6 different continents in 100 months or less.

The Why?

Why visit 100 islands all over the world?

Well, I am on a mission. :)

I think that it has never been more important to understand what is happening in the whole world.

That it has never been more crucial to give oneself a broader – and deeper – understanding of our home planet.

I truly believe that we, as human beings, need to start thinking beyond borders and make a conscious effort to look at mankind as one, and to start thinking of Earth as our common home.

And with this World Tour of Island I want to see if I can gain some insights about how we can do that.

Why Island?

Well, first of all because I love them. (some might say I have obsession with them.)

But also because I think islands are micro-costmoses of planet earth.

And I also think that islands, because they have clear boundaries, make them easier to observe, learn from and reflect over instead of studying the whole planet. I hope that the insights I gain from visting these islands will give me the ability to draw conclusions on what we as humans can learn about ourselves in order to create a better world for all of us.

The When?

Start January 1st 2016. End 100 months later (May 1st 2024.)

The How?

It is just what it sounds like: a tour around the world to visit different islands to learn about the world.

Every time I visit a new island I will write one blog post about what I observed, learnt, understood or reflected over while staying on this particular island. 

As the number of islands visited grows I hope the different islands reports will create a clearer pattern about what we as humans can learn about ourselves through the lens of our islands.

Join me.

I am the one who will be doing the traveling (Read about who I am in this other post: “The Island Man – the man behind “A World Tour of Islands”.”)

You can follow the journey here.

If you have any interest in islands, in the world, in having a global – or shall we say, “human” – mindset – or just think it sounds interesting to follow a world tour of islands, then join us by signing up to the newsletter and revisit this site when you can. (And of course help us spread the word about us if you would be so kind.)

And if you have any suggestions on islands you think should be included in the tour, please go to the Contact page and submit your suggestion.

I look forward to hear from you and hope you look forward to following me on this discovery of the world through islands.