Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Dark clouds and Blue Zones, time to reflect

23 years ago I met three Americans on a bicycle in Costa Rica. I remember us putting up camp outside a farm and how impressed I was over their equipment which was so much better than mine. I had a 3-speed bike, an old, leaky tent and a thin foam pad to sleep on. They had cycling helmets, which I thought was hilarious, Therm-A-Rests, new modern tents and 18 speed bikes. It was kind of the old World meeting the New. They were heading down to Argentina and came from Alaska. I was going the other way. They were going to do all of it in 10 months, for which I used 1½ year. The group leader wasn´t here, neither his brother. The team leader, Dan Buettner had flown to Cordoba in Spain to meet his first child, a son, arrive in daylight. His brother Steve was waiting in Managua. Since this day I have been in contact with Dan on and off over the years, since he has cycled through Africa, Russia and much more. But it took us 23 years to meet and that at his son, Dan Jrs, 23rd birthday!

In these years Dan has become very successful. He writes for the National Geographic and his latest book The Blue Zones has been a huge success, sold in 250 000 copies and he has been part of all the big talk shows like Oprah Winfrey and more and after reading his book, which I enjoyed a lot, I have realized, once again, that all seems to be meant, maybe, like the Arabs say, it is written in the stars. It was meant to be, him and me meeting. He gave me a nice perspective on certain things regarding the meaning of life. Dan seemed to enjoy every aspect of life, especially having time to be with his extended family. One of the ten commandments of how to get over 100 years old according to Dan and his Blue Zone project!

Visiting the great area where Dan had his mansion, also offered some nice winter days with son and less cold....
Visiting the great area where Dan had his mansion, also offered some nice winter days with son and less cold….

It was great meeting Dan during the Minneapolis visit. Otherwise a lot of my energy has been trying to figure out how the latest developments in Yemen will affect the Expedition. As it is now, the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen is closed and I communicate excessively with my friends in this great country. Latest news comes from Brid Beeler, who is more updated than most people regarding the situation in Yemen, that not even the UN are getting through. So far, one of the better articles I have read about the situation comes from The Guardians Brian Whittaker here! This is of course, bad news, very bad news, so the question is, when will the border open up again? And do we need to re-route completely? That means we need more money and more time, which is not easy to acquire in these days of recession. Right now, the situation looks worse than ever and my big worry, is that it will develop even worse, that outside troops will move in and we will have a very serious situation. It smells Afghanistan and Somalia. And all borders will, of course, then be closed to Saudi-Arabia, the country the Expedition really needs and wants to pass through. Not possible, no Expedition. That is reality. We are returning to Oman at the end of the month to continue our work to put the Expedition on its feet. Until than, there are other worries….

And if I haven´t felt the global recession anything earlier, it is moving in everywhere. I get emails from colleagues all over the world who describes the situation more dire than ever. And it easy to see here in the US of A. The recession. It has, so far, been a very important and interesting visit, and the positive aspects of this great country is the multi-cultural society and the positive attitude of most people. I am in Philadelphia right now, and I really like its Afro-American population. On the negative side, this is not a place to be, the US, if things turn bad. No matter how often I have seen homeless people all over the world, it pains to see. I have taken one decision, if I ever, in shallah, become a father, Sweden is the place to be. I have re-evaluated my own country a lot during these last 6 months. I am beginning to feel full proud Swedish again. Especially after meeting all Americans with Swedish back ground in Minneapolis talking about the Old country.

William Penn´s beautiful City Hall in Philadelphia, a very interesting and livly East coast city.
William Penn´s beautiful City Hall in Philadelphia, a very interesting and livly East coast city.

By the way, if you have time to kill, why not come to see the Siberian lecture at Williams College in Williamstown on Friday?

One comment

  1. Hi Mike
    Love keeping up with your travels and observations re USA. Yes, Sweden would be a better society to raise a family. Quite cold here in UK but I guess nothing like Minnesota. I studied there in the summer of 1990 and a heat wave dried up the Mississippi! Hang in with the expedition despite the recession. Love your photos which I file. What is your all purpose daily, travelling camera.
    Ciao
    Bruce T

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