As a child, many of us dreamed of what we wanted to be when we grew up. We looked up at the stars and thought astronaut, baked cookies with Oma; perhaps a chef, a wounded animal; maybe a veterinarian, or in my case live music; a rock star.
What if from the time you were 8 years old, you knew you wanted to be a castaway, an explorer, a hunter of deserted islands, and those who inhabit them? Introducing Alvaro Cerezo, a man whose livelihood, is just that; seeking out deserted islands, telling the stories of those who isolate from the world, and provide an opportunity to anyone who wants to experience what a castaway life is really like.
Finding his passion, as a child, exploring the secret coves off the coasts of Spain, his love of escaping; becoming a castaway never left him. At the age of 19, he decided he must experience first-hand what being stranded and isolated was really like, but it wasn’t something easily searched out in the early days of the internet.
In 2003, after completing his Masters in Economy Science, Alvaro became a castaway himself; isolating himself on a remote archipelago near India. It was there that he came away with a profound feeling of peace that he knew must be shared.
Feeling that there must be more people in the world wanting to know what true isolation felt like; he founded DoCastaway.
DoCastaway, An adventure in the beauty of isolation
Where did the idea of DoCastaway come from?
When I finished my University studies, I quickly realised it was impossible for me to spend the rest of my life working in an office. Knowing what my real passion was, I did another search on Google and to my surprise, there still wasn’t anyone offering castaway experiences. After locating my first island opportunity, 9 years ago, I started DoCastaway.
Today, we have provided over 800 experiences across a variety of islands around the world.
How many are involved in delivering the DoCastaway experience?
I have a small team for each island. We want our guests to have an authentic experience so the team ensures that they are experiencing what they requested, whether it be the full adventure or comfort.
How do you find the islands (lost paradises) to offer the experience?
Although many are visited by fishermen, thankfully there are still hundreds of desert islands around the world. Finding truly isolated islands is not an easy task, because even if we rent the island privately ensuring the experience is a private one takes considerable care and effort.
How many islands do you have available for getaways?
11 for Adventure and 6 for Comfort at the moment, it varies. We don’t know if all of them will still be there after the pandemic. Some of the owners of the islands are finding alternative ways to generate income, we will have to see how it all unfolds.
Who is a DoCastaway experience best suited for? Who is it not?
If you are someone who can find entertainment and peace in nature, silence, sounds of the wind and ocean with a love for exotic places, then this is for you. People who are afraid of feeling alone, isolated, or get bored easily with nature, may not enjoy this experience as much. Although we have had guests who want to overcome their obsessions with staying “connected”.
What type of visitors book your desert island experiences?
There are many types of clients. There are people who wish to be alone and read. Others want to test themselves and check if they could forage from nature. Others want to spend a romantic holiday away from all. We even have couples who want to break from cultural traditions in private.
What is the most sought-after experience?
In the last few years, it has definitely been a solo experience. But in the beginning of DoCastaway, a decade ago, the most demand was couple in Comfort Mode. People were afraid of surviving on a desert island until they saw on our social channels that many of our clients easily did it.
What are the craziest questions potential visitors ask you?
How much alcohol they can bring is a common one, but I think the craziest was a couple wanting to become pregnant on the island. It logistically meant we had to organise everything around her fertile days.
How do you get permission to use these islands and keep them private?
It is really dependent on who owns the island. On occasions we have had to use the local defence force to patrol from the distance, to ensure the island where the client stays is private and isolated.
Are there dangers on the islands?
In most cases, there are very few. In the ocean, there are stingrays, etc, and centipedes on land, but we make you aware of these in advance. No one has been seriously hurt or injured during their experience.
After the Adventure or the Comfort experience, what is the most common emotion, experience or change visitors convey?
It is interesting as they are two very different extremes, although I guess it is to be expected. After Adventure Mode they are so happy to be back in civilisation. After Comfort Mode, they are sad to be returning to civilisation.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
Considerably. With borders closed since March, we have had to put all our bookings on hold. It’s been quite stressful as no-one knows what is going to happen, but I am hopeful that by the next northern summer we will be back, with affordable international travel.
Have you done anything to re-invent or change your business as a result of the pandemic?
My goal in life is clear: Provide real castaway experiences on real desert islands. All I can do is wait for the pandemic to relax. I like offering the only authenticity, so virtual experiences is not really going to work. It has given me an opportunity to rebuild the website and work on a few areas that I don’t normally have time for.
Any lessons learned personally or business-related as a result of Covid-19?
The world can very quickly but can go on without people moving between countries. The areas we thought would never stop, travel, tourism, and the like, did stop. We were very wrong, it does make one wonder what is out there that we cannot control.
Owning one’s life, to tell the story
You document and tell the stories of castaways; how do you find them?
Word of mouth mainly. When you are 24/7 reading/listening/talking about real castaways, you end up getting to know all of them.
How many are out there? Male vs female?
I think safety plays a big part, there are more male voluntary castaways at the moment. I’m still searching for new castaways.
What is it about telling these stories that is so passionate and important to you?
They have some brilliant stories to tell. They have lived their true authentic life, I have a deep empathy towards that. We also share the same passion for being isolated from the rest of the world, on a real desert island.
Who is your most memorable castaway?
Ho Van Lang. The Vietnamese real-life Tarzan. I have never met anyone so genuinely real and kind; he is a true survivor. He avoided civilisation, at all costs, whereas most others have returned on occasion. I think what I found so enriching about him is how truly genuine he is, there is no pretending, he doesn’t even know what that means.
Video documentary found here.
Amazon book (Kindle) here
Are there fewer castaways or do you think that there will be more given the challenges of the world?
I think it will be more from specific cultures and the need to escape from the craziness of this world, we will see more people stranding themselves.
What is next for docastaways.com? Alvaro Cerezo? Stories to be told (ie: books or interviews)?
New website by the end of the year. Waiting to see what’s the scenario is after Covid. What the demand for castaway experiences will be. We may lose some islands so I will need to explore new ones.
Contact email: email@example.com