Tales of extreme isolation have always captured the public’s imagination. Perhaps it’s a symptom of our hyper-connected lives to aspire to a life off-the-grid, with greater opportunity for self-reflection and engagement with the natural world.
While there’s been a definite rise in the number of ‘digital detoxers’ – people who refrain from social media and limit their screen time – many couldn’t imagine a life almost completely devoid of human contact, yet are fascinated by those who do. In light of recent political events, a life of extreme isolation might even be considered aspirational.
For centuries, hermits have inspired folklore around the world and their present-day equivalents continue to do so. Devi Asmadiredja, the hermit of Caucasus, is the closest thing the people nestled between Russia, Turkey and Iran have to a modern-day heroine. She survives on a combination of steely determination and the generosity of strangers in the wilds of Georgia’s Pankisi Valley.
Four years ago, Christopher Thomas Knight was revealed to be the ‘phantom’ of Central Maine after he was caught by a home security camera stealing food. He had lived in the forests surrounding North Pond for almost three decades, during which he claimed to have spoken to only one other person.
What these people tend to have in common is a sudden and unexplained disappearance – seemingly vanishing into thin air overnight. But despite the mystery shrouding these individuals, the Austrian town of Saalfelden near Salzburg is actively searching for a recluse to join its ranks.
The mountain town is offering someone the position of resident hermit and the ultimate JOMO – ‘Joy of Missing Out’ – experience. The successful candidate will occupy a 350-year-old chapel-turned-hermitage without running water, heating or Wi-Fi, but will have some human contact when people visit to take in the views or to pray.
They’ll live there from April until November, only returning to civilization in the harshest winter months. Previous inhabitants include a Viennese pastor and psychotherapist and a Benedictine monk who ended up staying for 12 years.
Local priest Alois Moser and Saalfelden’s mayor Eric Rohrmoser will choose the winner. Moser told state broadcaster ORF they are looking for a ‘self-sufficient person who is at peace with their self, willing to talk to other people, but not impose.’ Previous experience is not a pre-requisite.
As the job is unpaid, the chosen person will rely on their own survival skills and the generosity of strangers. The hermitage is part of a Christian pilgrimage, so goodwill should be in abundance even if food is not. However, the job is not without its risks. In 1970, a man believed to be an unsuccessful candidate, opened fire on the hermitage doors.
Anyone interested in becoming a hermit should send their CV, along with a letter explaining why they want the position and an up-to-date photo, to Pfarramt Saalfelden, zH. Herrn Dechant Alois Moser, Lofererstraße 11, 5760 Saalfelden. The deadline for applications is March 15th 2017.