At the age of 21, Peter Rudiak-Gould essentially exiled himself to Ujae, a small atoll in the Marshall Islands. Sounds like heaven, right? But as Rudiak-Gould points out in his new book “Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island,” although you might dream of visiting a tropical wonderland, living on one in a forgotten part of the world (he was 70 miles from the nearest telephone, car or store) does have its challenges.
How did your expectations change once you moved to Ujae?
I imagined a quiet, simple place where people knew little of the outside world, and where the worst I might face was loneliness and boredom. Instead, I found tempestuous family relations, solar panels on thatched huts, and strong opinions on Chinese immigration and nuclear testing. So Ujae was less idyllic, but much more complex and human, than I had pictured it.
What was it that made you stay and tough it out despite the initial difficulties you encountered?
The harder the experience was, the more it became a matter of pride not to give up. So I was like Britain gaining new resolve during the Blitz — that’s right, I just compared my experience to World War II — and the more my expectations of the culture were shattered, the more that culture became a mystery that I felt I had to crack.