I was watching the series Where the Wild Men Are, a show about people who have left the modern world behind to live in the most remote areas of the globe. Two of the six men were ex-medical students, and called Robert. What are the chances? So I thought I’d write about it. I also highly recommend the show.
Who are they?
Robert, born in New Zealand, studied medicine in the University of Queensland. Much to his family’s pride. After his first year in medicine he backpacked Europe, and discovered a whole other world existed outside of his own. After his second year in medical school he lived on an island with the aim to live off the land alone. During his third year in medical school he realised that he was more interested in preventing disease, rather than treating it.
His interests included fresh air, environmental sustainability, and eating organic produce. So a few months into his 3rd year he quit. His father wasn’t happy about it, and kicked him out of their family home. Long spent a few months couch surfing, and then eventually wound up in one of the remotest places on Earth.
He now lives with his wife in complete isolation, in a hut two days walk south of Haast in South Westland, New Zealand. They generate energy from solar panels, have a fresh stream for running water, grow their own produce, and catch seafood.
He makes money through selling his art.
Robert Runyon was born in Arkansas, USA in 1949. He was studying to become a doctor when he discovered the counter culture movement of the 1960s. Runyon decided to drop out of medicine and buy 2 acres of land in the woodlands of Arkansas.
Robert has been living in these woods sustainably since the 1970s, earning money through being a specialist wood lodge builder.
Why so many medical students?
The other men in the series included an ex-businessman, ex-farmer, ex-journalist and ex-horse trainer. So why are 1/3 of these ‘counter-culture’ men ex-medics?
I don’t know the true answer, and can only speculate. But maybe there is something in the career of medicine that can awaken something in a person. You see people at their most vulnerable, you see death and illness daily. It can affect you deeply, and change the way you see the world.
You also come into contact with real life doctors as a medical student. Not the way you saw them before, as a distanced infallible worker, but close up. Faults and all.
It could all lead to a sense of disillusionment and inspire self-exploration.