Shore as HellHow to survive a vacation.

Shore as HellHow to survive a vacation.

Issue 52

, Starters

  • Words Tom Faber
  • Photo Kate Berry

A typical idea of the perfect vacation might be an expensive luxury hotel with an infinity pool and private beach—somewhere you barely have to lift a finger. An increasing number of people, however, are paying the same sum to be marooned, naked and alone, on a tropical island. Introducing the growing demand for desert island tourism.

Aspiring Robinson Crusoes often contact Alvaro Cerezo, whose company, Docastaway, has organized over a thousand such trips since 2010, whisking visitors off to remote, uninhabited islands in Southeast Asia or Central America. Prices range from $100 to $400 a night, depending on the location and whether you choose “comfort mode,” where food and accommodation is provided, or “survival mode,” where you are abandoned with little more than a lighter and a machete.

The majority of Cerezo's clients choose the latter. “Most people want to test themselves,” he says. “They want to know they could survive the end of the world.” It’s a curiosity sparked by the popularity of reality. shows like Survivor and Alone, which promote the art of “bushcraft.” Viewers watch and wonder: Could I make a fire? Hunt fish with a spear? Live for a week without electricity? 

Desert islands have long called to something deep in the human psyche. They recur as motifs in Greek myths, blockbuster movies and newspaper cartoons. They are invoked as a blank slate for thought experiments—as in BBC Radio classic Desert Island Discs, where guests discuss the eight songs they would be cast away with—or the more philosophical concerns of Lord of the Flies or The Tempest, where an island strips characters of the trappings of the civilized world, exposing the essential, innate qualities of the human experience.1


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