The ‘desert island’ question

Disclaimer: Written on a long, cold and boring Monday at work. May not make much sense.

I’ve always found it interesting that people are asked about the things they would bring to or if stranded on a desert island in interviews. I always wonder:
a. If one were stranded, wouldn’t the option of what to bring be off the table?
b. Why would I want to be on a desert island in the first place? It’s DESERTED.
c. Why do people think that it’s one big holiday? If it’s a DESERT island, doesn’t that already mean that it has extreme weather conditions, no people or if at all cannibalistic islanders, no food, and dangerous pre-historic/‘thought to be extinct’ animals like in Ice Age?
d. Who first came up with this question?

All the same, this is a common interview question and it’s probably going to be there for a long while before someone comes up with another one like, ‘What would you bring if you were stranded on the moon?’ which really is a no-brainer, and raises the same questions I’ve asked. I know I’m over thinking this and I do that a lot. In fact, over thinking has inspired a couple of blog posts. Evidently, this is one of them.

Moving along, do you have any idea what a desert island is? According my trusty old Thesaurus, a desert island is a remote tropical island, typically uninhabited. Wikipedia says that a deserted island or uninhabited island is an island that has yet to be (or is not currently) populated by humans. They also say that a desert island is denoted as such because it exists in a state of being deserted, or abandoned and that an arid, desert climate is not typically implied.

This means that, contrary to what I said earlier, a desert island may actually be awesome, with white sandy beaches, an ocean, palm trees, hot bikini clad natives serving cocktails…ok that last one was a long shot, but you get the picture. However, this does not take away the possibility of what I had mentioned earlier, you know, extreme weather, weird animals, and cannibalistic inhabitants.

What to bring to a desert island? Yes, practicality does not apply much here but you have to at least think of stuff that would actually be useful there, right? I’ve observed a number of interesting responses to this question. Here are a few common responses and my thoughts on them:
1. Internet connection- as awesome as it would be to have this, I doubt Safaricom or any other network has a ‘desert island roaming’ package to offer.
2. Lip balm- Will you really worry  about chapped lips on a desert island? Also, you may have to eat the lip balm later, especially if it’s one of those fruity, nice-tasting ones. Or maybe use it to cook?
3. iPod- It will be fun at first, but will run out of charge and become useless.
4. Laptop – Also cool at first but will run out of charge, hence unrealistic.
5. Cellphone – I doubt you’ll have any signal plus you’ll eventually run out of charge, but hey you never know. May come in handy.
6. Guitar – Realistic, even if like me, you don’t know the first thing about chords. Think of the songs you’d write, and maybe later on release a ‘Desert Island’ album.
7. My family – *Sigh* again, being stranded on a desert island is not a holiday. Leave the family out of this. Especially if there are kids.

Some of these things are rather unrealistic. It seems that people did not learn much from watching Lost or reading Robinson Crusoe. So ignoring the fact that you may not willingly take yourself to a desert island and the other fact – that you would not have an option of what to bring if you were stranded- here’s what to say the next time you’re in a high profile interview or someone randomly asks you this question. The list is not in order of importance, and is in no way exhaustive. I guarantee that you will sound smart and cool at least seven times out of ten 😀

1. A pen, and lots of writing material to document your desert island experience, and maybe make a manuscript for a book you may write later on. Something like On The Edge Of Humanity: The (insert your two names here) Story or something like that. I’m sure you have other more creative titles.
2. A couple of books to while the time away plus you can use them to light a fire later on. The Bible would be included in the list of books, but would not be used to light fires.
3. A GPS tracking device or a compass for obvious reasons.
4. Lots of water.
5. A mirror. No, not to make yourself pretty because no one really cares, but you can use this to make some sort of signal for rescue.
6. A torch/flashlight to make signals and also for use at night.
7. Food. I’m thinking canned foods.
8. A rope(s) to fell tree branches to make a shelter, for firewood, make a swing like Tarzan’s or one just for fun. It can also be used to strangle small animals for food.
9. A knife to kill small animals or to sharpen wooden weapons for hunting.
10. A lighter or matches – To provide a source of heat which you’ll need to roast small animals and insects which you will have to eat at some point after your food runs out, and also for warmth.
11. A nail cutter- Can you imagine how long and monstrous your nails would be after a while?
12. Ketchup or some other sauce – If you have to eat gross stuff it’s only fair.
13. An extra pair of converse shoes because your shoes will wear out, and also to at least look cool during rescue 😀
14. A camera to capture a coupla sunsets, take a few pics of yourself in utter despair, plus a few pics with the islanders, if there are any.
15. Board games – Nothing like a game of monopoly with island inhabitants! 😀

In closely related matters, if I were stranded on desert island, I’d hope to run into a friendly desert native, who I can teach stuff like Robinson Crusoe did in that famed Daniel Defoe book. Well, she’d also teach me stuff. I’d name her Girl Thursday (or whatever day of the week I find her). I know that’s not very creative of me but Crusoe kind of set the precedent. I’d however like to point out that I would not treat her like a slave. Though I’m thinking that things may get rather awkward one day on that island when we’ve exhausted all food resources and Thursday and I have to resort to cannibalism. Anyhow, what would you bring to a desert island?

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46 thoughts on “The ‘desert island’ question

  1. haha!!

    If I were stranded on a desert island though I would only want one thing: the book boat building for dummies.

    Judge me now… cool post… 🙂

    • It certainly is a surprising turn of events. I think it’s kind of cool. Just not what I expected you to write, as I know your writing currently? But if it’s a carryover from the original story, then that would explain it. I’m really not sure whether it would be better changed or not. *is wiiyw-hashy*Ssnce I never had a chance to read the original work, I’m kind of glad to get to see the ‘old’ concepts, anyway.

  2. ed?
    lol if i was stranded in th desert island ad bring prince harry atleast ad know al have a chance of being the next commoner who finally made it to princess.lol

    • Wendykins! Now let’s carefully analyze your choice. Prince Harry. I assume that as royalty, he may be schooled on certain fishing or hunting techniques which may come in handy plus there’s the possibility of falling in love which may make you the next Kate Middleton. There are however a few holes- what if there are hotter island natives? Thanks for reading 😀

  3. Now Ed…this post right here is a result of what I told you your personality was…I enjoyed, you write like a thinking process…and since I kinda like how you think, I like how you write…
    Me, I would just need a way to make my food, that is all

    • And what is that…that my personality is? Glad you enjoyed it. A way to make your food hmmm…Thursday would approve of that 😀

  4. As always, i enjoyed reading your post! Personally, i’d bring a fruit basket, a Swiss Army knife and a Bible.
    I’d use the knife to fashion weapons and tools, the Bible for spiritual nourishment and as a much needed read, and finally i’d use the fruits for food…obviously, but i’d plant the seeds as well for fruit trees as i have no idea how long i’d be there.

    • Good idea George. Seems quite realistic but I’d like to point out that fruits are perishable. Be very careful on the choice of fruits. Melons are good plus 80% water give or take, but how many of those can you carry…anyhu, thanks for reading 😀

  5. lolest, very funny Ed. seeing that i do not intend to go anywhere near a desert island, this is a very hard question. however, should i find myself in such a situation, i would definitely bring an extra pair of shoes coz i hate cracked heels 🙂 and a book titled ‘dummies’ guide on how to get out of desert island’ .

    • Um that’s kind of impossible since we’re talking of things you can actually carry…for miles. Buuut you can make a raft, perhaps? Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Well you haven’t missed anything. Haven’t posted anything since the last time you were here. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. Your writing always wows me. I enjoyed every bit!

    If i was stuck i would need just 3 things: My girlfriend, tons of food and toilet paper 🙂

  7. Hahaha…now that i will be on the deserted island, then the wikipedia definition of a deserted island is overtaken by events 🙂

  8. Finally! i have managed to read all your posts…and totally liked them zote…

    am kinda inspired by all this…noted u shud be blogging atleast once a week…

    Am inspired!

    On the desert question..i wud definitely bring Sammy my hubby…he is the coolest and bestest person to be stranded with!

  9. first…so many comments I had a scroll of a time getting to my comments space….now that I’m here:
    ketchup, nailcutter(I’d rather bite my nails), converse- you can use yr old converse to boil and make soup-of-converse(a good starter both for conversation and meals)….refreshingly funny its about time we had some female comedians

    • Chanjes, these are life questions that are never asked, our specialty here at ‘Unsaid but written’ 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Killers:
    8. A rope(s) to fell tree branches to make a shelter, for firewood, make a swing like Tarzan’s or one just for fun. It can also be used to strangle small animals for food.
    9. A knife to kill small animals or to sharpen wooden weapons for hunting.
    What?? Ed, you are a special child. Hilarious!

  11. Most people talk about phones, the internet, computers, their family etc because these are familiar things and if they were ever in such a pickle they’d want such stuff around them and so they wouldn’t miss home or wherever they came from so much. It doesn’t occur to them to be practical.. For instance anything battery powered or solar charged would be ideal or a satellite phone..

  12. A similar topic in my previous exam, you can have any 3 items(not necessary to be carried). I will choose a solar-powered mansion that has the appliances found in a modern house, the fastest internet connection ever possible and an airplane. May sound unrealistic, but it one can’t deny these when they are stuck on a desert island.

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