While reading "Shopping List for a Desert Island" I couldn't help thinking that the narrator stay where he is, because he's practically bringing his entire life with him. Except for the people, he's actually the most extensive packer I've ever heard of in my life. I also found myself wondering what sparked his move to a desert island. He sounded a little annoyed with his small town, but why move somewhere where he will be totally isolated? I thought it was interesting when he said he felt he must bring everything in case it ended up being useful. That is something I, and many others, can relate to. I tend to over pack, and never wear or use most of what I pack. It seems as though I'll never figure it out.
But what would I bring if I were going to a desert island? I can't even begin to think. Of course it depends how long I will be there. But I would have to have magazines and books to read. They would keep me entertained and feeling as social as possible even when there is nobody around. Of course I would need food, a tent, a sleeping bag, and clothes for varying weather conditions. But I wouldn't last long. Out of everyone I know, I most enjoy being by myself. Being social is fun, but if I have the opportunity to sit by myself in my room and read or do homework or watch a movie, I'll choose that. I love being with my own thoughts, and writing down whatever comes to mind. But I also do thrive off of the social aspects in my life. At any given moment at home I could be surrounded by upwards of 40 to 50 people. It's usually around 10 or 15, but I'm so used to being able to seek out friends when I want to, that living on a desert island would probably cause me to go crazy...like draw a face and name my volleyball crazy.
Living on a desert island is a hard thing to wrap around your head. Usually, when you hear of a person living on deserted islands, it is because he has been stranded there in some sort of wreck, and not by his own choice. So that does beg the question, if you had to live there, what would you bring? Most people don’t have the choice, since they have been stranded, so it is one I would have to take into careful consideration. The first thing I think is how little can I bring to live with and still be well off? The next thing I ask is just how much can I bring along before it isn’t even worth it and I should just stay home. I mean, ideally I should be able to live off of a knife, some flint, and some sort of tarp, right? But that is only if I were skilled enough to do that, which I am not. What Tom brings in this chapter seems like a ton of stuff when compared to the knife, flint, and tarp. He took several cases, and several hundred pounds of stuff. So I guess I would want to take several tools, such as an axe, knife, saw, flint, net, tarp bowls, pans, clothes for the warm and the cold, rifle, shoes, and lots of medicine. But considering all that, I’m not that far off from Tom in the story then. I should be able to live without any modern technology as long as I know I have a safe way home, like someone coming to pick me up eventually.
While reading this article, I couldn’t help but feel as though I would act exactly like the author if I was moving to a desert island. He seems to want to bring everything with him, even if it isn’t of great importance. At one point in the article, he takes the pump off the crossbar of his bicycle. When his friend asks what he needs it for, the author says “I couldn’t answer. I just felt that I must take everything - just in case it might come in useful.” This seems to be a bit ridiculous at times, to take random bits of things just in case you find it useful for something unexpected. However, I try to think of what I would bring if I was also going to a desert island. Subconsciously, I would know that I should only bring the necessary items so that I didn’t bring more than I could carry. I guess it would depend on how much time I would be spending there and how comfortable with the move I would be. I think I would start packing a few necessary things; like food, medication, water canteens, clothing, shoes, a tent and sleeping bag, hand tools, and a few other extra things. Then as the trip began to close in on me, I can see myself as turning into the author’s character. I would start scrambling around the house and neighborhood to find anything that crossed my mind as being somewhat useful in any given situation. I think I could handle living alone with a few necessary things for maybe a week, but any longer than that I can see myself as needing probably everything you would find in a house. This would include my cell phone because I always feel the need to be in communication with someone, since I'm the kind of person who doesn't like being alone for long. Or, I would need someone to continuously drop stuff off on the island for me when needed. If that’s the case, I just shouldn’t leave home in the first place.
What was most interesting within this piece was how small the discussion of how he was to be alone on this island. His fear surrounding this prospect were there, but were easily subdued by his being a bachelor for so long and his comfort with being alone. Then he spoke of how many friends he didn't realize that he had and appreciated the comfort that this discovery gave him. He filled his trip with so many things, and no people despite the importance of human to human interaction. I personally could never imagine taking on such an endeavor by myself, though this was the point that he was trying to make with his trip. That one could do it on their own. It seemed as if he was using this trip as his own small social experiment, to see how surviving alone was going to play out.
I thought this article was really interesting because whenever I have heard or had a discussion about what would you bring with to a desert island, it had always been just a couple of things. The man in the article is literally bringing pretty much everything that he has now, just less of it. I found it interesting that he thought of everything from gardening seeds for his garden he will grow to things to make his space more "homey", if that's even possible on an island. It sounded like he wanted things that would remind hi of his home and wanted a space that would be comfortable, beautiful, and familiar. I also found it to be interesting that his most luxurious items were books.
I could never move to a desert island, but if I had to I would bring only necessities such as food, water,soap, pictures of family and friends, and a couple tools and minimal amounts of clothing, a tent, sleeping bag/blanket, and medicine. I definitely do not think I would last long unless I had other people helping me. I think it would be really hard for me not to be connected and not to have access to technology. I could do it, but it would be very challenging for me.
I found Neale’s account of his shopping and planning to be quite humorous. It seems like he would list a huge assortment of purchases that he made, and then he would follow this list up with a comment like “There was very little else I needed, save….” after which he would include another huge list. I found his most humorous items to be the volcanic rocks that he dug up (this would not be the first thing I would think of to bring with me to a deserted island). I also found it funny when he thought about acquiring a native wife who could assist him, but he was too afraid that she would annoy him. At least he was weighing the pros and cons! I was most surprised by the quantity of each item that he brought (six pairs of shoes?). This made me wonder exactly how long he was planning on staying. I think that most of the time when people imagine being placed on a deserted island, they make their list of necessities based on the idea of them staying for a week or so. If I was to be deserted for only a few days, I would back some non-perishable food, a few books, a sleeping bag and pillow, and an iPod. Another big consideration would be to think about whether or not you would have an internet connection (sounds dumb to assume you would have internet, but most people include items on their lists that absolutely need electricity and WiFi to work properly). If I knew I would have to stay longer, my items would be much more survival centric.
Reading the chapter from Tom Neale’s memoir really made me want to read the rest of the book! It’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of giving up one’s entire way of life to live alone on an island (though Neale does say he is adept at living in nature). At least in Neale’s case, he makes the choice to go on the trip and can prepare for it, as opposed to some events or stories where people have been shipwrecked without supplies and are forced to make do with what they have. (i.e. The Swiss Family Robinson). What struck me most while reading the chapter was that Neale literally needed to think of everything he would need to survive – food, clothing, tools, leisure items. As a child of the 1980s, it’s difficult for me to fathom a world where there isn’t at least a gas station convenience store within walking distance from pretty much anywhere, or as the saying goes, “a Starbucks on every corner.”
I found it interesting that Neale considers books to be his “greatest luxury” (p. 7 of the PDF). It got me wondering what I would consider to be luxuries in that situation. I’m usually the first to admit that I sometimes feel I couldn’t live a productive life without the Internet. If I were on a desert island, there would be no way of connecting, so I’d have to occupy my time another way. I would definitely follow Neale’s lead and bring some books because they don’t require any power to use. I would also bring along writing materials so I could journal and write stories, and a camera (one that used film, not digital). There are countless items I would need, obviously, from food to medicine to clothes, but in terms of technology, the aforementioned items are the ones I would bring. If there was some way to harness solar energy as well, that would open up the possibility of using items requiring power. Overall, reading the chapter made me realize how dependent I’ve become on modern conveniences like electricity, computers and easy access to shops.
When I began reading the story, my initial thought was that I would never bring THAT much. I like to think that I am rather responsible with my consumption habits, I wear clothes until they wear out, I try to only buy essentials when it comes to technology, etc. But as I continued to read I realized he wasn't be extraordinarily frivolous. It was because he was traveling to an uninhabited island that he was forced to buy for many years to come. When he began discussing how he had initially planned on buying two pairs of shoes for when he went fishing but ended up with nine, I stopped seeing his purchases as frivolous and began thinking about how much I would have to buy to compensate for such a long trip. My pride in my frugalness/lack of consumption began to dwindle as I realized that I would also have bought at least 9 pairs of shoes, and had I not, it would have just been a matter of poor planning on my part.
I found it interesting that though his own health was a concern it was one that he did not dwell on. I had a hard time understanding how that was not a bigger concern for him. If I was in his shoes I would find myself a 'wife' to bring with me. Not out of a fear of solitude but a fear unknown health issues. I fell ill last summer and became completely depleted of energy. It was necessary for me to reach out and rely on my close family and friends to take care of me because I was unable to take care of myself. A situation such as this would be my biggest fear when moving to a deserted island.
It is amazing the amount of work and preparation that one needs to go through if they want to escape civilization. I do not know the length of time that Tom Neale wanted to stay upon the island, but I know that I would be absolutely terrified at the prospect of forgetfulness. It is this forgetfulness of life's necessities that comes as an effect of living within civilization and modern society so long, where if I am missing something crucial to my life, it is not more than 30 minutes until I can purchase it during the day. My forgetfulness and my desire for humanity would be my biggest stopping points before attempting something like this, for I am not used to living by myself; of course I physically live fairly solitarily during the week when I am dealing with classes, but I am always in a level of contact with my friends and acquaintances and I can't imagine a life where I wasn't able to physically interact with my friends and family, much less be unable to contact them.
As far as my survival itself goes, with planning I feel I could at the very least subsist on what I purchased and what I would be able to grow, but I don't know if I would ever be able to call my life comfortable or without fear of illness. Illness would be the great debilitating factor of this and it is surprising that for a 50 year old he doesn't focus as much on this issue as I might. Perhaps he trusts his health and ability not to be hurt or perhaps he is a more coordinated person than I, but that would be one of my primary concerns.
I don't believe I could live on a deserted island, no matter how sick I was of society and modern life, for I am too dependant upon it to leave, though losing that dependance is part of the goal of such a trip. For I don't mind this dependance even as I live how I live because of it.
This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on May 3, 2013 11:34 AM.
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"Not Just One Future" - David Nye; The Corrections (a selection) - Jonathan Franzen is the next entry in this blog.
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