It all started with a bottle of grocery store wine, a map of the world, and a viewing of 28 Days Later… . Then we wrote our “apocalypse plan.”
A native New Yorker, I’d always assumed I would steal the Staten Island ferry and take over the abandoned military buildings on Governors Island, but aside from half-marathon training and an interest in urban roof gardens, I’m afraid I’m not prepared enough to forge my own way after the madness takes over. And being a traveler, it would be nice if there was some great scenery along the way.
The funny thing about apocalypse plans is that they sound so silly, but the minute you mention them, you realize that everyone has one. Here are the strangest, most fantastical places you can travel to save yourself during the apocalypse.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Most of the world’s food sources are being stored in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, in case of global catastrophe and worldwide famine, all in one secure seed bank. About 1.5 million samples of agricultural crops are thought to be stored in Svalbard since the addition of the very first samples in January 2008, though the vault has the capacity for 4.5 million. Consider also that the vault itself lives 390 feet inside a sandstone mountain on an arctic island 430 feet above sea level, a safe distance to protect against the melting of the polar icecaps. As for scenery, the entrance itself is a work of art, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more Instagram-worthy spot to spend the end of the world.
If you’re going to be fighting zombies, you might as well do it somewhere beautiful. (Courtesy of Svalbard Global Seed Vault)
The Principality of Sealand
Originally built illegally as a World War II fortress by the British government in the North Sea to defend against a German invasion, Sealand has a long history of survival. Other fortresses of this era were taken down, but Roughs Tower, as it was called at its creation, somehow remained intact and was brought back to life in 1966 by a former infantry major looking for a sovereign land from which to broadcast his pirate radio station. Though it’s remote, Sealand has a small but growing economy, and its dollar equals one U.S. dollar. With a football team, passport services, and even coffee mugs, it provides the most common balance of security and life pre-apocalypse for those looking for a total escape. If you can’t wait for world destruction, you can become a lord or lady of Sealand immediately, complete with ID card, a coat of arms, and ownership of a small piece of land.
Bob Dylan fans will recognize this “arrowhead region” from 1963’s North County Blues. The region is often profiled politically as both a triumph and hardship of the American dream. This little section of Minnesota is lousy with natural resources, including four major iron deposits and its close proximity to the largest lake in the United States. Here, you’ll also find Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the oldest and deepest in the region, a U.S. National Historic Landmark and home of the Soudan Underground Lab for physics experimentation, a mere 2,341 feet below the surface of the earth.
The view over Longyear Lake in Chisholm (Courtesy of IronRange.org)
In terms of being remote but easy enough to get to, Rangitoto is a top choice, located just a ferry ride from the coast of Auckland, New Zealand. It doesn’t hurt that the landscape looks like it’s straight out of Lord of the Rings. This uninhabited volcanic island is popular with adventurous day-trippers, and it is the most recent and largest of the Auckland volcanic fields, featuring a shield volcano cone approximately 850 feet high. But it’s the war-time developments that provide added protection on Rangitoto and make this an attractive option for a zombie takeover, including an observation post high on the summit of the volcano and safe storage mines created for the U.S. troops formerly housed there. With a name that translates to “bloody sky” in Maori, creation myths revolving around Mahuika, the fire-goddess, and underground war-time connections to nearby Motutapu Island, aka “sanctuary island,” Rangitoto seems ready to fulfill its destiny as a safe house.
You want isolation? Rangitoto Island has it. (Courtesy of Rangitoto Island)
As far as preparation for the zombie apocalypse goes, you can’t do much better than the KLS International Archery Academies in Sydney, Australia, and Chula Vista, Calif., where the best and brightest train for top careers with a bow and arrow. Lead by Olympic coach Kisik Lee, creator of the Kisik Lee Shot Cycle and the ringleader who won Korea eight gold medals, students learn about the breathing cycle, hydration, and sports psychology, including strenuous physical, mental, and (if warranted) spiritual training. The school has hosted students from dozens of countries, making for a well-cultured internal community, and frequently features seminars for athletes of all levels in cities across the world. The school and the controversial teaching techniques of Lee are thought to have led to the success of several world-class champions, such as world No. 1 ranked men’s recurve archer Brady Ellison. If you’re looking to learn a longevity skill, this is the place.
The idyllic landscape of West Virginia welcomes you to the Forbes four-star, AAA Five Diamond Greenbrier, where five golf courses, luxurious hydrotherapy tubs, nightly movie screenings, and a Victorian writing room have been enjoyed by 26 U.S. presidents among other esteemed visitors. But should worldwide catastrophe occur between your falconry and glass-blowing demonstrations, don’t worry. Just calmly climb down into the Greenbrier’s own Cold War bunkers. Built in 1961, these underground chambers were built 720 feet into the West Virginian hillside to comfortably house a small group of government officials working under the guise of hotel audio/visual staff. Today, this area of the resort hosts a handful of mundane conference rooms and 90-minute history tours, but in the old days, the Greenbrier bunkers were hosts to a powerplant with top-notch purification equipment, decontamination chambers, a lab, and a pharmacy; these areas were completely stocked in the event of a nuclear crisis, but they remained unused before being discovered by a Washington Post writer in the 90s. With a roster of current activities like paintball and hunting and a stable for horseback riding, the Greenbrier sounds like the perfect place to both prepare and wait out a zombie invasion.
The origins of the word Meteora come from “middle of the sky” and “suspended in the air.” That perfectly describes these complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries built on top of natural sandstone rock pillars on the edge of the Pindus Mountains in central Greece. The building seems to completely defy both gravity and logic. The height coupled with the sheer cliff walls will most certainly keep zombies out.
Varlaam monastery at Meteora in the Trikala region of Greece (Thinkstock)
Swallow Reef, Malaysia
Swallow Reef is a small island atoll about 300 km off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia. It’s basically a peak jutting up from a mile below the ocean. Most of the island is devoted to a short landing strip, a small resort, and a small navy base. The Malaysian navy uses the island as a fueling station. There are thus huge fuel containers there, generators, and even a huge wind turbine, which aids in producing electricity for the island. If you travel more than a few hundred meters off the island, there is a sudden drop-off about a mile or so deep. In addition to the extreme depth and currents protecting you from sea-faring zombies, the island is annually surrounded by schools of thousands of hammerhead sharks. There are huge storage tanks for fresh water and even a pool that could probably be converted to a reservoir of sorts. Overall, it’d be a pretty great place to sit out World War Z.
View of the atoll from above (Jon Barkey)