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The Island Where People Forget to Die


A memorial service took place on a recent trip to the Greek island of Ikaria. The Pastor lamented how tragic it was that the deceased passed away at such a young age. He was 97. On Ikaria, if you die before one hundred, your life is cut short.

One of the fabled “Blue Zones”—five regions across the world where people are the healthiest—Ikaria has the highest concentration of centenarians anywhere on earth (a centenarian is someone who lives to be a hundred or older). It is also the place of my maternal bloodline. So naturally, I was curious about the secrets of longevity on this mythical island. What I discovered was illuminating, and some lessons learned translate to our everyday living in Western culture despite originating from an obscure Mediterranean island.

For brevity, I will distill the key insights into two broad topics: lifestyle and diet.


Ikaria was once referred to as the “red rock.” The rocky, mountainous island was an enclave of artists, writers, poets, and freethinkers who lived a largely nonconformist, some would say, communist lifestyle (hence the “red” rock label). There was much harmonious bartering between neighbors, and an ethos of honesty and self-regulation pervaded, which carries over to this day. It's not uncommon to walk into a market on Ikaria, and instead of a cashier, there is a basket to place the money in. I once rented a car on Ikaria, and when I asked the representative where I should pick up the vehicle, his reaction was rather stupefied, “It’s at the airport, of course.”
“But where?” I asked.
"In front," he said over the staticky connection, "Just walk outside, and the car will be there."
“But where do I get the keys?” I pressed.
There was a slight pause in the conversation, “The keys are in the ignition,” he seemed perplexed by my question, “How else could you drive the car?”

The people of Ikaria also pay little attention to time. Rarely do you see a clock displayed anywhere. The island’s inhabitants do not stress over meetings and deadlines. Life seems to flow naturally at its own pace. Get-togethers are loose approximations. No pressure, have a glass of wine or ouzo, and take it easy. It’s naive to think this kind of living could fly in our busy democracy, but it's worth contemplating.


The Ikarians eat what they grow. If they can't pick it from a tree, dig it from the earth, or catch it with their hands, it’s not part of their everyday diet. There are many herbs and native flowers used in cooking, and like anywhere in Greece, olive oil is used liberally. The people on Ikaria also consume a lot of local honey. The old men call it "nature's Viagra." Food is minimally processed and slowly cooked at low temperatures. And meals are almost always enjoyed in the company of family and friends.

When I think about how to apply the learnings from Ikaria to my life, I've also begun gravitating toward minimally processed foods. That’s why I love Raw Energy Hammer Bars. They contain simple organic ingredients and provide reliable, long-lasting energy while being easily packable and ready to eat. My absolute favorite for fueling during training and races is Hammer Gel Huckleberry, which comes from locally harvested, in-season fruit. Not only do Huckleberry-flavored Hammer Gels supply ready energy, but the taste brings the palate to life!

So next time you’re stressing out over a looming deadline or running late for an appointment on an empty stomach, try a Hammer Nutrition Raw Energy Bar and let your inner Ikarian shine.

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~Dean Karnazes is a Greek-American ultramarathoner and Hammer Nutrition athlete. He has raced and competed across the globe. He is the author of A Runner's High.

1 comment

Thank you for sharing this story. Great way to better understand the simple life opportunities available to each and every human being.

Douglas Samuels

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