Top 20 countries for life expectancy

“Old people” – we all hope to live long enough to earn this distinction. In some countries, the probability of living well into your eighties is much better than in others. The worldwide average for life expectancy is just a smidge over 67, with the highest and lowest countries fluctuating by over 20 years in each direction. 39 of the bottom 40 countries are located on the African continent, and 3 of the top 5 are European micro-states. The United States ranks in at number 50, boasting a life expectancy of 78 years old.

At the bottom of the list is Angola, a country in southwestern Africa with a machete on its flag. The average life expectancy in Angola is almost 39 years old. At the other end of the spectrum is Monaco (pictured above). Monaco is a micro-state in Europe with an extremely high standard of living. The average person there lives to be 89 years old. The 50 year gap between these two countries represents the difference between yacht ownership and subsistence farming, and every other country falls somewhere in between. For the full list, check out the world fact book at

20. Bermuda – 80.71
19. Anguilla – 80.87 (at right)
18. Iceland80.90
17. Israel – 80.96
16. Switzerland – 81.07
15. Sweden – 81.07
14. Spain – 81.17
13. France – 81.19
12. Jersey81.38
11. Canada – 81.38
10. Italy81.779. Australia – 81.81
8. Hong Kong82.04
7. Singapore – 82.14
6. Guernsey82.16
5. Japan – 82.25
4. Andorra82.43
3. San Marino83.01
2. Macau – 84.41
1. Monaco – 89.73 (at top)

flickr images via needoptic and adomass

American explorer to cross Africa on foot

Anthropologist, explorer, and member of the Royal Geographical Society Julian Monroe Fisher is preparing for an epic expedition that will see him cross Africa completely on foot. The journey, which is set to begin this spring, will cover more than 4000 miles, crossing the continent east to west, in an effort to raise awareness of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an organization dedicated to removing land mines and other small arms from countries that were formerly plagued with conflict.

Julian’s adventure will get underway on April 26th of this year, when he sets out from the town of Pemba, located on the coast of Mozambique. From there, he’ll begin traveling west, crossing through miles of difficult and varying African terrain, before eventually ending in Lobito, Angola, which falls along that country’s Atlantic coast. Along the way, he’ll pass through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, and Malawi as well.

No stranger to long distance travel, Monroe spent much of his time on the road between 1996 and 2003, crossing through more than 90 countries on five different continents. He has written two books about his travels and was an early adopter when it came to writing about his adventures on the web as well. Last year, he even opened an anthropological research station in the Bunkeye Cultural Village, located in the DRC, which this expedition will help raise funds for too.

This 4000 mile journey is sure to be an amazing adventure to follow, and Julian will be posting updates to his Facebook page along the way. But what he really hopes to do is draw attention to the amazing work that MAG is doing in countries across the planet in helping them to remove old land mines, un-exploded missiles, mortars, grenades, and other small arms that have been left behind following a major conflict. The organization operates throughout Africa and South East Asia, where it saves lives and limbs simply by doing away with old weapons that still litter the landscape.

For me personally, Africa remains my favorite destination, and traveling on foot is truly a unique way to see the continent and interact with its people. I’m sure that this will be quite the adventure when Julian and his team get underway in a few months time.

Luanda, Angola: The world’s most expensive city for expats

London. Tokyo. New York. Hong Kong. Luanda?

When you think of expensive places to live, Luanda, Angola, probably doesn’t come to mind. But according to a recent study by the consulting firm Mercer, the Angolan capital is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates. Why?

Well, it’s the same reason prices are usually high: too much demand, too little supply. Luanda, a city rife with crippling poverty, has seen several multinational oil companies move to town in recent years, but it lacks the infrastructure, secure housing, and affordable services that many of their employees expect.

“To entice talented staff to [African] cities, multinationals need to provide the same standard of living and benefits that these employees and their families would experience at home,” said a researcher at Mercer. “In some African cities, the cost of this can be extraordinarily high–particularly the cost of good, secure accommodation.”

Cheeseburgers in Luanda cost about $15, with haircuts running $150, and one-year gym memberships costing $2,500. Quality housing in a safe neighborhood can cost just under $10,000 per month.

The survey placed Tokyo second for cost of living, with N’Djamena, Chad, Moscow, and Geneva rounding out the top five. Karachi, Pakistan, was the world’s cheapest city for expats.

More here.

[Photo Credit: Embassy of Angola UK]

On the trail of the Kalahari bushmen

A few days back we posted about 18 unique travel experiences that even the seasoned traveler would find interesting. One of the suggestions on that list was to travel to the Kalahari Desert to stay with bushmen and partake in an initiation hunt with the tribes that still wander the remote regions of southern Africa.

Recently, travel writer Sally Emerson journeyed to Botswana to go in search of the bushmen herself. She wrote about her adventures for the Times Online, as she explored the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari, following in the footsteps of author Laurens Van der Post, who published The Lost World of the Kalahari back in 1956. The book has become one of the seminal works on the bushmen and their culture.

Both Emerson, and Van der Post before her, were searching for the San Bushmen, one of five distinct tribes that are spread out across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and Botswana. Today, it is believed that less than 100,000 of the bushmen remain, but those that do, maintain close ties to their culture, and the land on which they live.

Emerson says that the bushmen that she met were able to teach her about the plants and animals of the Kalahari while showing her how to set traps and hunt as well. They displayed a deep understanding of what their surroundings could provide for them, allowing them to survive for extended periods of time in the desert. Many of the tribesmen are now guides, and are eager to share their history and culture with visitors from the rest of the world. Traveling to the Kalahari to spend some time with these guides would indeed makre for a unique and amazing travel experience.

Independence days and elephants

I’ve whipped out my International Calendar to see what might be left to tell about November before it slips away from Eastern Standard Time in a few hours. What I see is a whole lot of independence days and a slew of other politically geared occasions.

  • Nov. 1–Antigua-Barbuda gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1980.
  • Nov. 3–Dominica gained independence from the UK in 1978. Panama gained Independence from Colombia in 1903 and Micronesia gained independence from the U.S. in 1980.
  • Nov. 9–Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953.
  • Nov. 11–Poland gained independence in 1918; Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
  • Nov. 18–Latvia gained independence from Russia in 1918; Morocco from France in 1956.
  • Nov. 25–Suriname gained independence
  • Nov. 28–Mauritania gained Independence from France in 1968 and Albania gained Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, Panama gained independence from Spain in 1821 and East Timor gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
  • Nov. 30-Barbados gained independence from the U.K. in 1966

Other than these, Tonga has had Constitution Day (Nov. 4); Russia, Revolution Day (Nov. 7); Brazil, Republic Day (Nov. 15); and Vanuatu has had National Unity Day, (Nov. 29)

My favorite happening of the bunch of events that occurred this month, though, is the Surin Elephant Round-Up in Thailand.