If your priority when traveling is to interact with interesting people and stimulate your mind, a trip to one of the earth's Blue Zones should be on your itinerary.
The term was popularized by National Geographic writer Dan Buettner, who wrote a 2005 cover story "The Secrets of a Long Life."
Buettner identified five global locations where statistics and personal observations showed the population to be healthier, happier, and more likely to live longer than the global population as a whole. The five Blue Zones are:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California
While none of these locations are especially trendy tourism destinations, people who travel there say they can be spiritually uplifting.
At first glance, this Mediterranean island looks like a typical European vacation spot. Sardinia’s white sandy beaches, museums, and archaeological sites draw visitors from around the world.
But the inland mountain communities are largely unchanged over the centuries. Here, researchers found an above-average number of inhabitants over the age of 100. The village of Seulo had 20 residents over 100 during a period from 1996 to 2016.
Travelers seeking the secrets to longevity will find a people who have remained culturally isolated, yet closely connected to family and friends. Anthropologists say they have also maintained a traditional, healthy lifestyle.
Getting there is fairly easy since the island has three international airports, served by European and international carriers. Ferries also connect the island to mainland Italy.
Okinawa, a Japanese island in the Pacific, also has a record of longevity, especially among its women. Its citizens also display a strong social network, called a "moai."
Visitors to Okinawa enjoy its beaches and coral reefs, which provide excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. There are also plenty of opportunities to mix with the locals at shops, bars, and restaurants.
Travelers can get to Okinawa through NaHa Airport with connections from Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Latin America's Blue Zone is found in Nicoya, Costa Rica–a small peninsula on the Pacific coast of this central American country. The people of Nicoya are known for their "plan de vida," or "reason to live." Older citizens in particular maintain a positive outlook and active lifestyle.
Barra Honda National Park is known for its dramatic cave tours, including the Cacerna Terciopelo. Nature lovers can book accommodations in the Cura National Wildlife Refuge and take a private eco-adventure tour.
Nicoya is served by Liberia Airport, which is 31 miles away and serves 14 domestic and international airlines.
A tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea, Ikaria is called "the island where people forget to die." Its long history has given it a rich culture emphasizing tradition and strong family values.
Not only do island residents tend to live longer, there is almost no dementia as people reach their 90s and beyond.
For the traveler, Ikaria offers a picturesque landscape with beautiful beaches and small seaside villages. Visitors enjoy the slow pace and hospitality displayed by the locals. Attractions also include ancient caves and thermal spas.
The airport on Ikaria opened in 1995 and has daily domestic flights from Athens.
Loma Linda, California
The fifth Blue Zone is in the U.S., easier and less expensive for Americans to visit. Loma Linda, in Southern California east of Los Angeles, has a large community of Seventh Day Adventists, who live as much as a decade longer than the average U.S. population.
Visitors who get to know the residents of Loma Linda may discover some common traits. The residents get regular, moderate exercise; they find time for quiet meditation; they maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI); and they eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of nuts.
Visiting any of these five Blue Zones may not guarantee a longer life, but you're sure to gain some valuable lifestyle insights from locals you encounter.