Ian Argus Stuart could have chosen a comfortable life but he has preferred to rediscover life by putting himself into extreme situations. He has crossed the Kalahari Desert, Angola’s Skeleton Coast and the Belgian Congo in solitary and in recent years he has become fond of castaway experiences.
Ian‘s interest in this new experiences was raised by Docastaway, a travel company funded by Spanish entrepreneur Alvaro Cerezo that specializes in organizing holidays to remote uninhabited islands. It provides both an adventure mode “for those people who are ready to face the most intense and authentic experiences“ and a comfort mode “suitable for people who lead demanding lives and who wish to have an experience similar to that of a castaway, but desire a certain levels of luxury in order to enjoy their private island vacation“.
But Ian has gone farther and he has lived in the riskier islands in survival mode.
Born in Southern England, he started very early an entrepreneur career and he made a fortune out of buying, refurbish and selling luxury boats. He became an Andorran national in 2000. He and his wife Nuria bought and restored an impressive Andorran borda (rustic house) in the village of Anyós. He is now a kind of a nomad in Asia with no fixed address.
Ian‘s story first appealed to me because he reminded me in a sense to a character I created in a book called Castaway in the Stock Exchange, which was published in Spain in 2005. In the book, a castaway who had spent 16 years on a desert South Pacific island comes back to civilization and he benefits from this survival skills to successfully invest in the Stock Exchange. Ian‘s story is in fact the opposite. He has been a successful entrepreneur and investor before becoming a castaway of his own will.
When he goes to islands, he doesn‘t take food with him. He survives by fishing with a self-made rod using hermits as bait and eating what he finds, as seagulls eggs or crabs. He uses a water capture system out of a plastic sheet and a rubbish bin.
Ian has slept 87 nights on uninhabited islands so far. One of them, the volcanic Devils Island, was so dangerous that a Discovery team didn‘t even dare to land. He has escaped death by inches three times. He once fell down dramatically the side of a volcano when he intended to reach the top of the crater, only to be stopped miracoulously by a ledge.
He has been the first person to sleep on the newest island in the world, which emerged in the South Pacific in March 2015 after the Hunga Tonga underwater volcano went active three months earlier. He risked to be the last as well since the 500 meters long island is quite unstable: it‘s made of magma and it could sink back into the sea. You can feel the surface is still hot there as if it had just came out of the “oven“. And the volcano underneath the surface may not have finished to “build“ the island yet. None of these prospects disturbed Ian‘s sleep though.
Ian says these kind of experiences are open to everybody. You can either go on your own, in couple or with friends and either in adventure or in comfort mode. But even if you choose the comfort mode you will have to survive! For instance, from the need to go shopping and some physical and mental habits.
Ian has been kind enough to answer a few questions for Invesgrama.
You are an adventurer and an investor. How do you manage both challenges?
I am retired from many companies I owned. I decided to sell up and do what i have always enjoyed doing, just living life. I have owned some of the largest houses and largest boats in my time but nothing compares to arriving somewhere, be it a desert island or jungle, and having to survive of the land.
I started life at 15 sleeping on a railway station so from there there was only one way to go. I have always believed in taking risks in life. I have no interest in earning as much money as i can. I have made and lost millions over my life, but have never had to wind any company up as it always comes right in the end.
Do you also have an adventurous spirit when you invest or do business?
I have never brought any of the usual stocks. I remember buying 3 million shares of Bank of Ireland at 10 cents that later sold at 32 when everyone said I would lose my money. Yes, I have had a few companies go broke but that is part of the fun and risk.
Last week i brought a block in National Bank of Greece i am sure they will do the same as Bank of Ireland given time.
You have been the first person to live on the youngest island in the world which emerged near Hunga Tonga from volcano activity. How do you feel about it?
Staying on Nuria Island, as I call it, as in most religions it means gods fire and there is no doubt that the island was formed by fire, was a great experience to see how the planet must have been at the dawn of time.
How does your vision of the world change when you are on a desert island?
Many people think I am mad living the life that I do but I believe that they are mad not trying anything in their life and then growing old saying that they wished that they had done one thing or another.
But it‘s a strange world that we live in, where a sportsman can earn 200 times what a doctor does. And religious and indifference to help each other thus dividing the world. Look at what is now happening around the world.
What‘s your view about the current financial situation?
I did a TV interview a few months ago that they may release soon where I said the world is heading for a perfect storm financially. Well that is happening now but many still don‘t see it.
I ask you a typical question but I certainly won‘t get a typical answer: what do you bring to a desert island?
When I go to islands, and in the last year I went to five uninhabited islands sleeping 87 nights alone, I take only a machete, knife, plastic sheet for shelter and catching rain water, some fishing line and hooks along with a isavi internet up-link but as to date I have never made or received a call on it as I keep it turned off unless I want to check the markets or send pictures to docastaway. I pack it all in a dustbin to keep it dry when landing, then the dustbin becomes my water tank. I never take any food with me as it is not to difficult to find things to eat.