Are you feeling like the ultimate adventurer and ready to escape the rat race? Surviving as Alejandro Selkirk (inspiration for Robinson Cruse) did for four years and four months stranded on an island will take a bit of study and preparation first. Mariners in the 1700s were a little more hardy and self-reliant than the typical lounge chair quarterback.
Becoming an adventurer
According to legend, Alejandro was concerned about the seaworthiness of the ship he was on and when they stopped for a resupply at what was then Más a Tierra Island, the captain obliged to let Alejandro remain on the island. All he had with him was a musket, gunpowder, carpenter’s tools, a knife, a Bible and some clothing.
Being better prepared
Roughing it and surviving such an adventure shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There are survivalist books, training camps and specific supplies available for such an adventure. Always go prepared or you could wind up severely injured or even dead.
Both the Crusoe version and the real-life version start with the adventurer having access to the tools he needs to survive. Neither is left stranded with nothing to work with but his bare hands. For purposes of our illustration, we’ll bypass the possibility of meeting hostiles and instead concentrate on being totally alone for the entirety of your adventure, be it weeks, months or years long.
Making weaponry and learning how to hunt
Having a firearm available is nice, but with no way to replenish the ammunition, it is of limited use for a long stay. Learning how to make weaponry from what is available is paramount. Making a bow and arrows is your most likely target for any long range weaponry, but a close combat (or hunting) weapon is important too. Find bamboo or some other kind of wood source that you can make a sharpened stick out of into a short dagger or long spear. This will give you a means of hunting small game on the island and even spear fishing in coastal reefs.
The training here is very important. Learning what types of wildlife and fish are edible and won’t make you sick is important. Learning how to prepare the food is important too.
Growing up in the 1700s, you probably had to have a basic set of survival skills from an early age, which included growing up on a farm and growing your own vegetables and hunting for your food. This is simply how life was back in the day.
Today’s modern conveniences have made us soft, and we no longer grow up learning these skills. Well, most of us nowadays anyway. America does have a lot of hunters and fishermen (and some women), but this population for the most part lives in the small towns and suburbs and rural states -- and typically no where near a big city like many of the rest of us live.
So, what about the rest of us, who live and experience life near a major city with little access to either hunting or fishing, including most people we know and spend our time with? Where are we going to learn such essential skills as these? And please don't think you have the skills down simply because you got high score in a first-person shooter. That is just not going to translate into surviving on your own in the wilderness.
Water is a basic requirement for all life. It’s something you’ll need to drink, clean, and grow vegetables with. Finding a natural source of clean water should be very high on your list of survival priorities. On an island, there may be small lakes, waterfalls and streams, especially if it’s a volcanic island and has formed a caldera which will create a natural lake from rainfall. This is also where carpentry tools can come in handy, building buckets to transport and store water; even a natural irrigation system can be devised.
Study and learn these methods in advance, recording your notes on paper, and then storing in a rain-proof container that you'll bring with you on your adventure.
Life in the tropics
A tropical island is very wet. Rain is usually a constant at certain parts of the day and islands are subject to storms and even hurricanes.
Shelter is one of your most important considerations. In the Robinson Crusoe book, the character built a small enclosure around a cave he personally excavated. While there are some things you can do quickly, excavation isn’t one of them.
Building a temporary shelter to keep you out of the elements should be your first priority. You can build a more stable shelter as time goes by. Volcanic rock has pockets of air, making it a little easier to chisel or pick through. You may need to improvise or do as Crusoe did – build his own tools out of wood and stone.
You’ve got all the basic amenities down, but there are some things they don’t quite cover in the Robinson Crusoe book.
There are other natural dangers you will need to protect yourself from. This is where your preparation should be thorough. There will be poisonous plants and insects in a tropical forest type environment. Knowing what’s dangerous and what isn’t can save your life. Missing the clues could end life quickly.
There are dangerous reptiles and animals you’ll need to be wary of too. Even fishing can be hazardous to your health. Lionfish are beautiful, but incredibly poisonous to get stuck by or even to eat. Prepared by a master chef, there is still a slight chance of death with every lionfish consumed. There are many dangers in the deep. Keeping to the shallows may be your best bet; knowing what to spear even more so.
Testing your skills
Want to take a test drive once you’re comfortable with your skills and knowledge? Try the Islands of San Blas. The islands of the San Blas archipelago stretch along the Caribbean coast of Panama. There are 370 islands, 49 of which are inhabited by the natives, the Kuna Indians. You can mingle with them, experiencing the vary basic of amenities or even have someone drop you off at one of the uninhabited islands so you can try roughing it yourself. Some of those islands are owned, so you may get a visit from the owner checking in on you.
Making it happen
If you really are serious about getting away from it all and staying there, you will likely need some other basic tools like a boat to get back and forth from a place to gather supplies. It will also be a means to transport yourself to safety if you do get injured too badly. A short-wave radio will also come in handy. Nowadays we increasingly have radios, lighting, and other electronics being made to run off small solar or even wind-up power. Which ones are durable, easy to transport, and don't cost too much? The right ones could make survival on a tropical island more pleasant. Who said that you have to suffer to get the most out of this experience? In fact, learn how to build a surf board like many native people do in other places, including Hawaii and nowadays South Africa. When you're not hunting or spear fishing, you can be surfing. Guess what? Now a friend or two may want to make the escape with you. Post that on your online dating profile and just maybe you'll find someone of the opposite sex to enjoy the adventure with.
Or maybe this is an adventure that you simply want to make alone.
Well, there are places you can go to literally remove yourself from any human contact if you want to.
So, if you’ve got the skills and expertise to make it alone on a tropical island, you may have an incredible time in what is probably one of the most beautiful spots on earth. But do your homework and put yourself through some serious self-training before hand, or that beautiful spot could end up becoming a painful and lonely end to your life and what could have been an experience that makes a bestseller book and gets you on the cover of National Geographic magazine.
History is full of people who have set off on great adventures and experienced success. It's also full of people who have failed. Those most likely to succeed were likely those who were the best prepared. So be prepared!