Dan Buettner is an internationally recognized researcher, explorer, and New
York Times best-selling author. He founded Blue Zones®, a company that puts
the world’s best practices in longevity and well-being to work in people’s lives.
Dan’s November 2005 National Geographic article on longevity, “The Secrets of
Living Longer,” was the cover story of one of the magazine’s top-selling issues in
history and made him a finalist for a National Magazine Award. His books The
Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,
Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, and The Blue Zones Solution:
Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People have appeared on many
best-seller lists and were featured on Oprah.
In 2009 Dan and his partner, AARP, applied principles of the blue zones in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs by some 40 percent. Dan also works in partnership with Healthways, municipal governments, and various insurance companies to implement the program in nine states and 39 communities so far, improving the health of more than five million Americans to date. Dan holds three world records in distance cycling and has won an Emmy® Award for television production. Dan will accompany the expedition from Seattle to Greece.
Q: Dan, you’ve spent years traveling the world, getting to
know the world’s longest lived and happiest people. How
were you drawn to devote yourself to these twin quests?
A: It all started in the spring of 2000 when I was leading a series of
educational projects called “quests,” in which a team of scientists
investigated some of Earth’s great puzzles. I had heard about Okinawa’s
unusual longevity a few years earlier, and we spent 10 days studying,
exploring, and summing up what we found there. Five years later, I returned
to Okinawa with a new team. I’d just written a cover story for National
Geographic about the secrets of long life, which profiled three areas of the
world we dubbed “blue zone” areas. I was determined to find more areas of
longevity, so we spent the next five years traveling the world interviewing
263 centenarians and sifting through thousands of birth and death records
until we found the other four areas.
Q: This expedition visits a number of the blue zone areas
you’ve identified, the places where the longest lived people
are found. What are some of the secrets of longevity that
travelers will experience with you?
A: The biggest takeaway is that there is not a silver bullet when it comes
to longevity but more of a “silver buckshot.” We found nine common
characteristics in all of the blue zone areas that we believe are the true keys
to longevity. We call these the Power 9®:
1. Move Naturally - The world’s longest lived people don’t pump iron or run
marathons. Instead, their environments nudge them into moving without
thinking about it.
2. Purpose - Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing
your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra
3. Downshift - Stress leads to chronic inflammation,
associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s
longest lived people have routines to shed that stress.
4. 80% Rule - Hara hachi bu—the Okinawans say this
mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when
their stomachs are 80 percent full.
5. Plant Slant - The cornerstone of most centenarian diets?
Beans. They typically eat meat—mostly pork—only five
times per month.
6. Wine @ 5 - Moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers,
especially if they share those drinks with friends.
7. Belong - Attending faith-based services four times per
month—no matter the denomination—adds as many as 14
years of life expectancy.
8. Loved Ones First - Centenarians put their families first.
They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit
to a life partner, and invest in their children.
9. Right Tribe - The world’s longest lived people chose or
were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.
Q: Describe a few keys to a happy life that guests
will witness and learn about during this special
journey by private jet.
A: Happiness is more nuanced than social scientists
previously believed. There are at least three different
genres of happiness: 1) how you evaluate your life, 2) how
you experience your life, and 3) purpose and life meaning.
In this trip, you’ll learn how different environments
and practices produce each of these three in different
measures—and how to set up your own life, for a balanced,
Q: What are some of the highlights of this
expedition, from your standpoint?
A: Being able to immerse oneself in the cultures of the
happiest and longest lived will give travelers a clear
vision that health and happiness is not something these
people pursue but instead is something that ensues from
a well-curated physical and emotional environment. The
locations are also breathtaking.
Q: Is there any brief advice you’d share with
anyone, whether or not they can make this
journey with you?
A: Studies have found that if your friends have unhealthy
habits you are 150% more likely to pick up these unhealthy
or detrimental habits. I truly believe this is a great
opportunity to curate a circle of close friends to enhance
your journey for health and happiness.