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The Island of Malta (Valletta, Malta). Island number 29 (out of 100), country number 26 (out of 25), month number 29 (out of 100.)

The small island of Malta is part of Europe and the EU. But geographically is is actually closer to mainland Africa than to mainland Europe. (It’s just 497 km Tunisia but 677 km to Italy.)

Historically the island has belonged to all kinds of rulers: The romans, Morrs, Knights of Saint John, the French and the British and visitors from Africa, the Middle East and Europe has arrived on the island for at least 4000 years. Malta is an island that is connected to many other parts of the world.

It is now an independent nation and a member of the EU.

At the time that I visited Malta the Italian government had just announced that they would not allow ships with refugees from Africa to dock in the country.

People on both sides of the political spectrum are upset.

Some because they are angry about all the African refugees coming by boat to Europe. (“They have to be stopped!”)

Some are in shock about how the refugees are being turned away, or worse, die at sea. (“We have to let them in!”)

But to think that it would be possible to stop people from one continent from trying to reach another is naive. Humans have travelled across from Africa to Europe for tens of thousands of years, and with technology it is just getting easier and easier.

On the other hand: to instantly allow any person in Africa who wanted to come and live in Europe to do so would most likely create a huge strain on the European political system and society at large.

As a Swede I am blessed with one of the most generous passports in the world where I can travel almost anywhere and to most countries I can do it easily and without even having to apply for a visa.

I dream of a world where every person on earth is allowed to travel anywhere without a visa.

Unrealistic?

Of course not.

For most of human history visa free travel has been the norm. And a beautiful result of the European Union is the ability to travel across scores of national borders.

A “World Union” where all countries let all citizens travel all over the planet is a goal we should thrive for.

Not necessarily because we should encourage more people to move physically, but to move people’s minds.

And not necessarily to let anyone, anywhere move anywhere right away.

Uncontrolled human movements sometimes get out of hand. That is why the Chinese government put limitations on who can live in their cities and thus have less slums than, say India.

Or why a tiny, crowded country like Singapore control how many people are allowed to live in its tiny island.

But the vision should be a borderless planet with as few restrictions as possible.

As a first step we could restrict people’s right to settle down, but let anyone come as a tourist and/or to do business for, say one month where the default is that you are allowed to come and restrictions are only put in place when needed.

As a person from Sweden who already have the right to (more or less) travel short term to anywhere I know the feeling that creates: A feeling of immense freedom.

Not being able to travel when you want to is best described as having your spirit in jail.

We should thrive for a world where as many people as possible are allowed to let their spirits free.

As I leave Malta to fly to Sweden I make a vow to work towards a more borderless world.

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 Malta was island number 29, country number 26 and month number 29.
(Countries visited so far: Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France , Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mauritius, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, United Kingdom, USA, Italy and Malta.)

(Island visited in June 2018, text published October 2018.)

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Tiber Island (Rome, Italy). Island number 28 (out of 100), country number 25 (out of 25), month number 28 (out of 100.)
The fate of the Tiber island is interesting.

Tiber Island is an island located in the Tiber river that flows through the eternal city of Rome.

Legend has it that the island was created when angry Romans thew the body of the despised tyrant Tarquinius Superbus into the water where sediment from the river got caught and eventually formed the island we now call Tiber island.

For the longest time the island had a terrible reputation (“Only the worst criminals and the contagiously ill were condemned there.”)

But then a temple was built on the island in the honor of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. In 1584 a hospital was also built on the island, a hospital that is still (!) in operation more than 400 years later.

The island is now considered a place of healing.

I like this story because it shows that our image of a place can change from bad to good over time.

But the most inspiring story about the Tiber Island hospital is a story that combines the reputation of the island as a haunted place with it’s reputation as an inspirational place of healing:

“When the Nazis occupied Rome in 1943 and started rounding up the Jews, Dr. Borromeo, head of the hospital, invented a “deadly” and highly contagious illness he dubbed “Il Morbo di K” to keep the SS away and protect those Jews hiding inside the wards, just a stone’s throw from the Ghetto.” (According to Wikipedia)

As I stand on the banks of Tiber island and reflect on its millennia of history I realise that the reputation of the island could be seen as a symbol of humanity.

When we look back on human history we tend to see horror, problems and violence, but actually the story of human history is for the most part a story of amazing improvements:

– From starving to not (94% of the world population was living in absolute poverty 200 years ago, today it is less than 10%)

– From violence to less violence. (Killings as a percentage of all humanity has probably been declining over the years, even as weapons became more and more effective at killing)

– From struggling for survival to living healthier and longer. (Life expectancy in the world today is 71.5, 1950 world average was 48, Bronze age average was 26)

And yes, there are still uncountable problems for humanity to solve.

But from a branding perspective perhaps we should not look back at ourselves and see something to be ashamed of, but instead see a success story that should inspire us to continue to solve even more and bigger problems in the future.

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After I visited Tiber island I went to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum not far from Tiber Island. Da Vinci, one of the greatest problem solvers and inventors of humanity. And yes, he did create a bunch of war machines, but he is remembered more for his positive inventions, his beautiful drawings and his general creativity.

When I stood in the “multi-mirror-cabinet” that Leonardo invented I reflected (literally) over how human creativity has helped propel mankind to something better.

Now it is time to take the next step and embrace a mindset of true human thinking where we develop solutions on a global scale for the benefit of the human species and of earth as a whole. Grand thoughts perhaps, but they feel appropriate standing on an island in the eternal city.

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. Tiber Island was island number 28, country number 25 and month number 28.

(Countries visited so far: Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France , Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mauritius, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, United Kingdom, USA and Italy.)

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North Island (Wellington, New Zealand). Island number 27 (out of 100), country number 24 (out of 25), month number 26 (out of 100.)

It is easy to think about New Zealand as isolated from the rest of the world pinned as it is on most maps in the lower right hand corner of a world map with just Australia next to it and hours of fly time over water to any other continent.

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Actually according to some experts New Zealand is not separated from the other continents but instead part of its very own continent – the continent of Zealandia. Zealandia is a vast landmass that is almost entirely submerged by water and which broke free from Australia 60–85 million years ago with the New Zealand island and a few other smaller islands being like “top of icebergs’ sticking up above the water.

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I find the notion of New Zealand being part of a continent that is mostly under water fascinating – and it suddenly give the name “New Zealand” (= New Sea Land) a very profound meaning.

New Zealand was originally settled by humans who emigrated from Taiwan via Melanesia and the Society Islands and finally arriving in New Zealand. Humans who under centuries travelled from island to island. Epic “Island hoppers” …

I visited New Zealand for a speech I was invited to give in Auckland but decided to fly down a few days earlier to go to Wellington and visit an old friend.

This friend, Derek, used to live in the USA, then moved to Singapore (where we got to know each other) and then he moved down to Wellington five years ago.

For two days we hiked in nature, went for walks, visited restaurants and talked, talked and talked. Good friends having a good time.

Both me and my friend have hopped continents for where we call home more than twice, and perhaps that is why we could feel close friendship even after not really seeing each other for years.

When we have the mindset that friendships are based on our connections to other people – not by geographical distance, but by emotional proximity, then we become more open to being close to people that are living far away from us.

When we get used to the idea that continents are not separating us – but rather binding us together – then we start to see earth as that one, big landmass that it is (some of it covered by water, some not.)

In a way Earth is a big version of Zealandia – a big chunk of land that mostly is covered by water.

When we fully understand that concept we stop looking at people as living “somewhere else” and start to understand that we are all just living “here”. And we start building bridges between each other how ever far away from each other we are.

That is what hiking with my good friend Derek thought me when we spent a few days together in New Zealand.

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(Island visited March 2018, post posted September 2018.)

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. North Island was island number 27, country number 24 and month number 26. (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, Mongolia, Myanmar, South Africa, Norway and New Zealand.)

 

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Jag Mandir (Udaipur, India). Island number 27 (out of 100), country number 23 (out of 25), month number 26 (out of 100.)

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The small island Jag Mandir is almost completely covered by a palace. It is located in the Pichola Lake in Udaipur in India and has been the home of many Indian emperors over the 500+ years it has existed.

Standing on the island more than half a millennium (!) after it was built was like riding in a time machine. Even with all the modern technology of modern Indian life surrounding me at the visit (mobile phones, petrol engines on the boats etc) you could not but feel the energy from centuries past vibrating around you.

The islands most famous resident was Prince Khurram who later became know as Emperor Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan, which means “King of the World”, was the ruler during the Mughal-era and he was indeed one of the great rulers of the world. Shah Jahan who lived during the 1700:th century had to his disposal an army of 1,000,000 (!) men.

It has been calculated that “Mughal-era India’s share of global gross domestic product (GDP) grew from 22.7% in 1600 to 24.4% in 1700, surpassing China to become the world’s largest”. (source Wikipedia).

Perhaps the most interesting fact about Shah Jahan and the island of Jag Mandir is that when the emperor was young he lived on Jag Mandir and I learnt that the design of the palace on the island inspired Emperor Shah Jahan to later in life build his most famous structure: The Taj Mahal, one of the Wonders of the world.

Standing on Jag Mandir I reflected about this: How one place on Earth can inspire greatness in another part of the world years later. About how a man who was given the title “the Kind of the World” went looking for inspiration in different parts of the world.

We are all Kings (and Queens) of the World. As long as we make an effort to be inspired by ideas/concepts/habits/things/etc created by other people around the world.

We are all Kings (and Queens) of the Human Island if we are open to ideas from everywhere.

(Visited Feb 2018, uploaded Sep 2018)

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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. Jag Mandir was island number 27, country number 23 and month number 26. (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, Mongolia, Myanmar, South Africa and Norway.)

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Utøya (Outside Oslo, Norway). Island number 26 (out of 100), country number 23 (out of 25), month number 25 (out of 100.)

It took me more than six months to write this text.

Earlier this year I visited the island of Utøya outside Oslo in Norway. I went there as part of my “human island project” where visit 100 islands in 100 months to learn about humanity.

When I started the project I thought it would be a fun and easy: Just go around the world, visit islands, and write a text about what you learnt about humans and/or humanity.

And for the first 25 islands it was. From Robben Island to Manhattan, I visited island and I wrote.

But then I went to Utøya.

Utøya is the island where Anders Behring Breivik shot 178 people (many of them youths), killing 59 of them.
It was the deadliest attack on Norwegian soil since world war 2 and Brevik, a right-wing extremist did it, apparently, to promote his delusional manifesto around his racists view.

The attack happened 7 years ago and in one day the island went from being just a beautiful island where young Norwegian kids would come for summer camp to being the crime scene of a devilish attack.

Technically I did not visit Utøya way back in January when I went there. The island is off limits at the moment and it was winter so no way to get to the island anyway. But standing by the road, all alone, in a landscape covered by snow and looking out over the island still had a strong impact on me.

It was so silent.

(Snow makes sounds muffled and there was no wind the day I was there so it was an eerie silence around the place as I stood there.)

I felt so alone.

(This part of Norway is not overly populated and in since it was winter I did not see any other people as I stood there. Just a couple of cars passed by during the 30 minutes I just stood and watched the island.)

It was so profound.

The reason I have not done any updates around my “Human Island travels” in 2018 is that my visit to Utøya mentally knocked me down. I had of course, like everyone else, been horrified about the attacks when I heard about them back in 2011, but it was not until I came there and saw the island myself that the full impact of the attack hit me. Anders Behring Breivik’s decision to kill innocent teenagers because he had a problem with people from other cultures was an attack on humanity, on openness, on curiosity – on so many things that I believe in.

It hit me in the stomach so hard that I could not put words on it. As a writer that is the equivalent of being knocked to the ground.

I still can not put into words how profoundly sad it made me to see the island in person.

But I decided to move on.

My project about visiting 100 islands in 100 months was created for the very opposite reasons Anders Behring Breivik killed those kids.

It is a project about coming together as humanity.
It is a project about learning from each other for the benefit of us all.
It is a project in celebration of this one, tiny island that we are all living on.

I will not write a text about what the island of Utøya thought me about humanity.

I will give Utøya a pass on that.

Look at it as the equivalent of a text-based “silent minute” for the people who died that day.

Instead I will – with stronger conviction than ever – continue to travel the world and visit new islands to try to learn something from those islands about us as humans, about our behaviour, dreams, thoughts and characteristics and to try to put into words how each island has a lesson to teach humanity.

We all live on a tiny little island called Earth. We have so much to learn from each other. That I know to be true. And my conviction to spread that message is now stronger than ever.

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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. Utøya was island number 26, country number 23 and month number 25. (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, Mongolia, Myanmar, South Africa and Norway.)

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