Why am I in Ikaria? And a chat with Dan Buettner…

It’s a fun story behind how I wound up here in Ikaria, a small island all the way over to the east of Cyclades which has been formally freed from the Turks for exactly 100 years this week (I have the commemorative T-shirt to show for it).

I’m also here for a very fun reason. Here’s a little video I just did in which I interview Dan Buettner, a National Geographic adventurer (such things do exist) and author of the New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones, which kinda explains things. We’re sitting in Thea’s Inn, at sunset, in Nas, Ikaria. And, no, it couldn’t be more idyllic. (PS, I know I stumbled at the beginning, but finding video editors in Ikaria is a bit of an issue!)


Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some insights and recipes and ideas from what I’ve learned from being here.

But to give you a little background, I’ll first share how things came about. It’s nice serendipity. Or miraio, which is what the Greeks call it.

About ten years ago, Dan set about exploring the regions of the world where people live the longest. These regions are called Blue Zones. Dan narrowed things down to five such zones, one of which is Okinawa in Japan, another is Icaria.

The population of Ikaria is only 8000 people; there are more than 90 people over the age of 100.

That’s not the half of it. The oldies also look 20 years younger than their years and get about on motor scooters, farm every day and are dead cheeky. There’s also zero cases of Alzeimer’s.

He also identified nine “stupidly simple” life principles that folk in said Blue Zones have in common and which seem to point to some sort of longevity blueprint. Then he wrote a New York Times bestseller – The Blue Zones – all about it.

The inverted commas on “stupidly simple” are mine. For, about three years ago, I wrote about Dan’s Blue Zones. And referred to his “seven years of tireless research” as, yes, stupidly simple.

Now, those inverted commas are Dan’s. Taken from a comment he posted on my blog that expressed some miffness with my throwaway line.

And from this professional frisson a beautiful e-friendship emerged.

We emailed back and forth for a few years, realising we have a freakish amount in common (we’re both in the Guinness Book of Records, we’ve both ridden across vast tracts of the world on mountain bikes, we’ve both preferred wandering the planet in search of adventures rather than doing the settling down thing).

We promised we’d do an adventure together.

And, so, a few months back Dan emailed to ask if I’d like to join him and National Geographic in Ikaria. He was returning to dig deeper into the eating habits on the island…to see if a longevity diet could be developed.

I just happened to have JUST booked my ticket to Europe, with no fixed plans.


For seven days we travelled around the island interviewing people, eating, drinking, and eating and drinking some more (It’s called research!). And being challenged by the things I was learning and absorbing. The Nat Geo kids have now left. I’ve stayed. Because it feels good. And I have more to learn…

Is there anything in particular you’d like explained or shared? You might have seen my Instagram photos and have questions?


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