Insta-Robinson: 30 Years on an Unpopulated Island
A man who has lived on an unpopulated island for 30 years told Bird in Flight how not to go out of your mind out of boredom and what those who want a lonely existence in the middle of the sea need to prepare for.
At the age of 50, former physical education teacher Italian Mauro Morandi realized he was tired of being in a hurry. Accompanied by several friends, he took a catamaran to Polynesia to look for an unpopulated island where they could live. The trip ended almost immediately after it started: the engine broke, and the group had to land at the rocky shore of Budelli Island near Sardinia.
The group spent the first months strolling along the beach and admiring the scenery. However, not everybody was cut out for solitary life — after several months, three of Morandi’s friends headed back home, in another two years the fourth friend got sick and died, so the Italian remained on the island alone.
He spends two months a year on the continent visiting his daughters. In the remaining time, Mauro lives on the island where he works as a custodian. His life is not like the life of Robinson Crusoe from a book — the island has solar batteries and the Internet. Morandi has an Instagram account and has already published a book of his photographs.
Bird in Flight asked Morandi to tell us about his life on the island and take photographs of the things he couldn’t do without.
Former PE teacher.
— Budelli Island is a reserve. Cattle is prohibited here, that’s why I don’t have a cow. I have several hens though. I also have two cats who protect my stocks from rodents.
I have a tank for collecting rainwater — I use it to do dishes and to take a shower. In the summer, I need to wait for the rain for several months, the water in the tank runs out, and I stay dirty. If you live on an uninhabited island, you need to get used to a shower being a luxury. In winter, you can forget about it altogether because of the cold.
One time, there was a big storm that lasted for 10 days. Because of the weather I couldn’t get to the mainland to buy food. I ate dry bread, apples, and eggs.
I was running out of food. On day then I started getting scared: it seemed that the storm would never end and I would die of hunger. But it worked out fine. Five years ago, I brought a fridge to the island — my friends helped me transport it on a boat. Now, I can store the food that my friend and tourists bring me for a long time.
Budelli has few roads, but many rocks and cliffs. I used to move around the island on a bike, but I had to give it up — it was too dangerous. Before cell phones even a simple walk around here was a risk: if you break your leg, nobody would know where you were. Now, it is different.
In the summer, tourists come to Budelli to talk to the ‘crazy old man who lives on the island.’ A friend sometimes come to stay with me — he brings me food. But most of the time I spend alone — in the winter, I don’t see people at all.
I don’t have too much money: I receive €1,200 monthly in retirement payments, and I earn something by selling my book. Most of the money I spend on food. I eat simple things: pasta, cheese, bread, a glass of wine a day. I rarely buy clothes, and most of it I buy second hand. I live on the island alone, I have no one to dress for.
Communism was fashionable in Italy in the 1960s — in my native town, everybody was ‘red.’ I was also interested in politics. One time, there was a fight at a protest: people with guns turned up in the crowd, someone started shooting the protesters in the legs. It was then that I understood that politicians don’t care about people. The only thing they care about is power. I don’t vote anymore, but I have an opinion: I am for the beauty.
When I just came to the island, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stand the loneliness. However, my fears were unfounded — I feel good being alone with myself. It was difficult to live without a woman — but even this I got used to.
When you live among people, it is easy to escape yourself: you can go to a gym, go to the movies, or take drugs. But if you live on an uninhabited island, you have nothing left but to accept yourself.
It is also important to have a thing that will occupy you every day. Fishing, writing, or painting — it doesn’t really matter. If you don’t have a hobby, you won’t last two months on an uninhabited island.
I have recently realized that it was selfish not to share the beauty that I see every day with other people. Several years ago, one company installed free WiFi for tourists on the island. I registered on social networks and now post my photographs there. I edit them on my tablet, so that the images would convey my mood. I am rarely online — only to post a photograph and answer comments from my subscribers.
I am 79, and I feel well, but I understand that it won’t always be like this. In several years, I will have to move somewhere closer to civilization. I will buy a house on the shore with my savings: after so many years on an island, I won’t be able to live away from the sea.