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September 2017
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Living in no man’s land: Floortje Dessing’s journey to the end of the world

Have you ever thought of living at the end of the world? Floortje Dessing, presenter of TV show Floortje Naar Het Einde Van De Wereld (Floortje To The End Of The World), certainly has. In her show, the Dutch presenter, producer and writer travels around the world in search of people who voluntarily live in the most desolate places on earth, experiencing life at the end of the world herself. Floortje visits people with a strong will and dedication to live in extremely remote areas, far away from civilization. What drives them?  Would you be able to do the same as these unordinary human beings? I try to find the answer to these questions and more, by diving deeper into the inspiring and unique story of David Glasheen.

Restoration Island: Heaven on earth?

During one of her journeys, Floortje travels to the far North-East of Australia by boat, visiting a 70-year old man called David Glasheen. He’s lived on the tropical, uninhabited Restoration Island all by himself for more than 25 years. David, once a successful marketing strategist in Sydney, decided to leave behind his luxury life after he became bankrupt and divorced in 1987. He ended up at the seemingly idyllic Restoration Island. More than 4000 kilometres away from Sydney, he now lives in a self-made wooden house, staying alive by mainly eating fish and drinking rainwater. During her visit, Floortje takes the chance to interrogate her host, in order to find out his reasons for exchanging a luxury city-life for living on an island far away from civilization. ‘’I wanted a relaxing lifestyle, instead of the stress and pressure. We all have dreams, and luckily my dream of living on a remote bounty island came true. Heaven on earth’’, David explains.

Despite all the calmness and tropical beauty, living on ‘Resto’ also entails difficulties. Besides the fact that he is far away from his loved ones – his son only comes to visit him during the vacations – the island is full of dangerous species such as snakes, spiders and crocodiles. The beaches are circumvented by sharks, and the weather can be extremely bad. ‘’There are lots of tropical storms out here. The coconuts are like cannonballs; they smash through the walls’’, David reveals to Floortje. Nonetheless, he prefers his new life to living in a big city: ‘’I feel safe when I’m on the island. Cities are far more dangerous than the wild!’’ David, who already reached 70 years of age, doesn’t worry about getting too old to stay on the island: ‘’When that happens, it happens. It’s the last thing I worry about.’’

David with his ‘soulmate’ Miranda

‘’Not everyone is capable of living here’’

While you are reading this piece, it’s highly probable that you are, just like Floortje, wondering whether David has ever had somebody with him on the island. Apart from his dog, his last (female) company was 14(!) years ago. ‘’Not everyone is capable of living here. Before my last partner left me, there was no shower or hot water’’, he says. Now David has Miranda, his soulmate. She could be described as his imaginary company; she is no more than a doll. This might be the reason why David created a profile on a dating site, surprisingly causing a lot of media attention: ‘’The media picked up the story, and suddenly I had thousands of respondents.’’ However, David explains that many of them had no idea what they were getting into: ‘’Luxuries like hairdressers, beauty therapists and shopping centres are part of peoples’ lives; in a place like this you don’t have those things. The respondents didn’t realize that enough.’’ David adds to that that he would definitely appreciate some company: ‘’Having one or several ladies in and out of my life would be the perfect situation for me. I wouldn’t mind if it isn’t fulltime.’’

David continues by telling Floortje why he thinks he was, in contrast to most other people, able to take such a big step by leaving the civilized world: ‘’Most people have lost their natural instincts to survive, they don’t understand it, they don’t think it is important. Gas isn’t automatic, it comes from a bottle… I have spent my whole life trying to do things that other people don’t.  We all have a reason why we can’t do something, but only a few have the reason why we CAN do something.’’ Lastly, David encourages anyone who’s interested to come over and experience the beauty of Resto themselves: ‘’You can’t appreciate anything in life until you come to a place like this. Anything you get here is precious.’’ So, what are you waiting for?

Floortje enjoying her time on the island

Been there, done that?

Did you get inspired by this Robinson Crusoe-ish story? What about New Zealand’s wasteland of South Island, Norway’s ice-cold high north, the topographic end of the world in South Chile, a 2,5 km2 Faroe rock, a Canadian Eskimo village, an abandoned elephant orphanage in Zambia, or the Afghan capital Kabul?  Or Napoleon’s final resting place Saint-Helena, the remote Scottish Island Canna, the vast Ecuadorian Amazon, the sandy Texan dessert-town Terlingua, an animal shelter in the moist Peruvian Jungle, a Cano in Panama, the chilling Spitsbergen,  a gritty oyster farm in Alaska or travelling around the world with an old car? Been there, done that? Floortje has.

With her show, Floortje manages to produce captivating TV content once again, even after she was forced to stop presenting for quite some time due to dengue fever. Nontheless, this hasn’t held her back from travelling to the planet’s farthest reaches, to learn from and get fascinated by people even more adventurous than herself. For those who are interested in these stories: Floortje’s books 25 Wereldroutes die je gedaan moet hebben (25 routes around the world you have to do) and 100 wereldplekken die je gezien moet hebben (100 places around the world you have to see) might be worth reading. And moreover: In January a new season packed with fascinating destinations at the end of the world awaits us.

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