Perhaps It Was the Water : 10 Unique Islands Around the World to Visit

perhaps it was the water

K. Noel Photography

The island life is one that so many people wish to experience. Every year thousands of people take flight to island destinations for relaxation and adventure. Many times when we think of an island vacation we think of Hawaii or other touristy hot spot. But maybe you are a little more adventurous and want to explore destinations a little less well-known. If so, this list is for you. Here are 10 islands you may not have thought of visiting, but after reading this you’ll definitely want to!

10. Dubai Palm Islands, United Arab Emirates / These are the world’s largest man-made islands and structured in the shape of palm trees located in the Persian Gulf. Yes, you read that right. Man-made islands . It’s an engineering feat to be admired and wondered at. And indeed the website claims it to be the 8th wonder of the world. The Atlantis Hotel is one of the main attractions on the island and should be noteworthy to know you are hundreds of feet out in the ocean on an island that wasn’t there before. But the real view is from up top. Click here for an aerial view.

9. Little Diomede Island, Alaska / Not to be confused with the Big Diomede Island (or Ratmanov Island) 2.5 miles away, which is part of Siberia, Russia. The islands are located in the Bering Straight and separated by country boarders as well as the International Date Line. Although they are only a few miles apart, there is a 20 hour time difference! Locals call them the Tomorrow Island and the Yesterday Island. Little Diomede is inhabited by Inuit Eskimo natives. Population is around 150.

8. Iceland / The country of Iceland is quickly becoming a popular destination. It might not have those warm and sunny beaches, but it has its fair share of surreal beauty. With views of the northern lights, volcano tours, and stunning geothermal waters there is an abundance of adventures to be had. Maybe even climb a glacier if you’re looking for a challenge!

7. The Galapagos Islands / Probably best known for the evolutionary studies of Charles Darwin in the 1800’s, these islands were made famous with the discovery of multiple species of animals and other natural life. If nature and science is your thing, this is mecca. The island is estimated to be 3-10 MILLION years old. Get a look at the world’s rarest animals, like the Galapagos Marine Iguana (the only lizard in the world that can swim in the ocean) and the Giant Galapagos Tortoise (which outlives most human lifespans). If you do visit, please note that this is a very fragile ecosystem and respecting the natural inhabitants of this world treasure is very important for the future of this island.

6. Madagascar / An island nation in the Indian ocean and the 4th largest island in the world is home to forests filled with lemurs, snorkeling adventures and beautiful views. There are many things to do on this island. One unique thing to visit is Akany Avoko, a home and center for 120 homeless children. Children are taught cooking and gardening skills. Public tours are given of the facilities and there is a café and craft store that raises money by selling the crafts that the kids make.

5. The Lofoten Islands, Norway / Located off the main land of Norway are the Lofoten Islands which are filled with fishing villages, classic Norway architecture, and stunning fjords which are narrow strips of water surrounded by steep sides of cliffs. Norway holds some of the world’s most picturesque places, so don’t forget your camera!

4. Hokkaido, Japan / While Japan itself is an island nation, Hokkaido is one of 4 main islands that comprises Japan. Hokkaido is the most rural of the 4 and the northern most island. So prepare for a colder climate. You’ll want to see the annual snow festival in the city of Sopporo, which features some amazing snow/ice sculptures. Or check out the city of Otaru and its gorgeous Canal District!

3. The Falkland Islands, Argentina / Although it is controlled by the United Kingdom, the Falkland Islands have been very diversely populated by settlers from France, Spain, Britain, and Argentina. It is technically under control by the British but Argentina still lays a controversial claim to these islands. Visitors will enjoy the wildlife and terrain. The ecosystem is a unique one, with highly flammable peat moss and an abundance of marine and bird species. Visit maritime and World War 1 memorials.

2. Papua New Guinea /  This place is filled with a vibrant and colorful culture. Check out their many festivals throughout the year, including the Crocodile Festival. To quote the Papua New Guinea Tourism site, “In Sepik culture men and crocodile share a special bond. The Crocodile symbolizes strength, power and manhood.” There are a plenty of water sports and tours you can take here, so surfers and snorkelers rejoice! Just watch out for those fresh and saltwater crocs.

1. Le Mont-St. Michel, Normandy, France / This island is one that will take your breath away. The man made road from mainland Normandy, France to the tiny island commune leads to the high walls and spires of a gigantic medieval castle! Famous for its high tidal variations, every couple times throughout the year the sea engulfs the road and the island becomes truly isolated again. The rich history of the castle and its inhabitants is attention-grabbing. According to the history of this castle, the Archangel Michel requested that the Bishop of Avranches build a small church here in the year 709. Through the years, many different structures where built as well. Anyone interested in history will adore this island.

Now, be well in your travels and find an adventure!

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Empathy: Is It Even Still Alive In Southern California?

kindness

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Empathy is feeling and understanding another person’s emotions. It is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and being able to emphasize with their situation.

Southern California is teeming with homeless men, women and children. It’s hard not to miss them standing on street corners asking for change. Then again, sometimes it’s easy to miss them. They are the invisible, or at least the ones we wish were invisible. Why is it so hard to look them in the eye when your car is stopped at a red light and they are holding their signs up saying “God bless”, “Anything helps”? It’s a societal guilt. We don’t want to look too closely because we might feel something we strive not to feel. A sort of sadness. THEIR sadness, THEIR desperation.

Our current mindset in this modern age is that being happy is the end-all be-all of goals. We read articles on the Top 10 Ways to “Be Happy”, numb ourselves with mindless television, and compulsively buy when we feel upset or bored. So when we see something that makes us uncomfortable, we turn away because it will interfere with the illusion of a continual happiness. This is especially true in California because of the high number of homeless.

But I’m here to inform you, empathy is not dead in Southern California. It is hidden and not always expressed publically, but it’s still here. While walking around in Long Beach, I stumbled upon a delivery boy talking with a homeless man in an alley way. He introduced himself as Robert and appeared to be making small talk. I snapped a picture and passed by. That’s all I saw. Just a glimmer of humanity in an alley. Just someone talking on the same level to another person. A simple act. There are so many organizations and 5k runs to end hunger and homelessness, but we don’t have to interact with “them”. We don’t have to look them in the eye and ask “how are you doing today?” It’s easier to dehumanize than to see them as our brother, sister, daughter, son.

Our society has seemingly put value in narcissism since we are able to post everything and only what we want others to perceive of us on the internet. If we show others that we are happy then maybe we will actually BE happy. Empathy for others does more for our personal happiness than we could ever dream. Being able to connect with another human being’s pain and suffering shifts our perspective away from our own problems and broadens our view of the world. People shy away from suffering because they are afraid that they will take on that other person’s pain. In actuality, by lifting their burden we lift our own.

Everyone has scars. If we can find a way to embrace those emotional scars and share that burden with others, we realize that we are not alone. We are never alone.

One of the most profound things I’ve realized since moving to California is that becoming homeless can happen to anyone out here. Even myself. The next profound thing I realized is that I have a wonderful support system to fall back on and am extremely lucky to live the life I live and know the people I know. Many homeless are mental ill with no support system or endured an extreme situation that landed them in their current position. Even the ones that got there with drugs or crime might have endured traumas in their life that turned into bad choices. Feel gratitude for your life and try not to judge so harshly another person’s experiences.

Find courage to show your empathy and know that this kindness converts directly to the happiness you seek. The more love you show the world the more you feel it for and in yourself.