Why men love to live on islands

From Robinson Crusoe to modern-day reality, some men love the idea of isolated islands. So what's the appeal of a solitary existence?

The papers are calling him the 'Yorkshire Robinson Crusoe'. But the difference between Brendon Grimshaw, an 86-year-old originally from Dewsbury, and Defoe's fictional castaway is that Grimshaw chose to live on his desert island.

And despite advancing years, Grimshaw has no plans to leave the 22 acres of forest and sand that he has called home since he bought it for £8,000 in 1962.

Moyenne, in the Seychelles, is surrounded by islands housing the luxurious retreats of billionaires and playboys. But Grimshaw is happy with a wooden hut and the company of the 120 giant turtles he looks after.

And he's not the first man to seek the solitude of a desert island hideaway. So why do some men love the lonely island life?

The romance of islands

The fact is, men do love an island, even if they don't intend to live on one. Recently newpapers reported the story of Piers Casimir-Mrowczynski, an IT teacher from Berkshire who snapped up a remote and deserted island off the west coast of Scotland as a final resting place for himself and his wife.

'I love the sea,' said Casimir-Mrowczynski. 'When I found the island just off the coast of Islay, it seemed ideal. The beauty of it is that there's not much there.

'The attraction was the wildlife and the beautiful setting, and the fact it is undeveloped.'

All of which might seem a bit strange, given that the teacher will spend most of his time there, well, dead, but it just goes to show the appeal of islands. Particularly, perhaps, one just off a major Scotch-whisky producing island...

The men who live on islands

These aren't isolated examples. In 2011, for instance, Alex Schibli, 71, bought Rat Island in New York for $160,000. As its name suggests Rat Island is not the most alluring of places, and it's rumoured to have once housed typhoid victims. But Schibli says he's keeping the deserted island just as it is.
On Bing: more about Rat Island

And then there's 76-year-old hermit Masafumi Nagasaki, who lives alone, naked and apparently content on an inhospitable island off the Japanese coast, just as he has for two decades. He braves typhoons and nasty creepy crawlies to live his own personal dream.
On Bing: more about Masafumi Nagasaki

The dream of desert islands

So why do men love the island life so much? Why - when a world of wine, women and song await elsewhere - do some men choose to isolate themselves and live like hermits?

The first reason is the simplest. According to travel writer and editor Charlotte Amelines, desert island life is, 'the oldest and still the most alluring travel fantasy in the book. Having a tropical island paradise to yourself promises freedom, relaxation, beauty and basically represents the ultimate escape from everyday life.'

In fiction, survivors of shipwrecks or plane crashes are often marooned on tropical islands, desperate to get away. But it's amazing how many of them make a decent fist of island life. From Robinson Crusoe to Castaway to Lost, fictionalised islands tend to provide most of what a man could need.

But for those about to jump on the next flight to isolationville, Amelines has a warning. 'Few would be prepared for the hard physical labour and solitude involved in living the dream,' she says.

Why men need space

That so many men fantasise about just such an existence despite the obvious downsides - no pubs, mates, money, girls, flushing toilets - perhaps says something about the male psyche.

The fact is, very few of us would like to live alone on an island, however sandy the beach and clear the water. But according to experts, the fantasy might symbolise men's desire for space in a society where genuine solitude - if only for a few minutes - is hard to find.

'Men need people around them less, have less need or desire to talk about their emotions and tend to escape the pressures of modern life by withdrawing from it, as opposed to the female trait of sharing their concerns to help overcome them,' says behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.

Most of the time, for most of us, that means we go for a long walk or build a man den in the shed where we can escape for a while. Some of the time, for some of us, it means getting as far from the madding crowd as possible.

'So while it's perfectly possible for a woman to enjoy the isolation that living alone on an island brings, it is more typically a male characteristic to want to live like this,' says Hemmings. 'If a man is single - and therefore doesn't have to consider the traditional role of the family provider - living a reclusive life might be the perfect world!'

So is island life for you? If you're honest, you'd have to say probably not. But the island fantasy clearly represents a male need. We might not want a life of isolation, but the occasional half hour might be very nice indeed.

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