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The Isle of Rum needed a population boost so they took applications. This guy made the cut


The Isle of Rum is a remote place in the Hebrides, a chain of islands off the coast of Scotland. It has beautiful, deserted beaches, a castle originally built as a hunting lodge and a lot of deer. Rum's human population recently nearly doubled from fewer than two dozen people to about 40 today. That's thanks to a campaign to encourage newcomers. Several hundred applications poured in, and four families made the cut. Among them were Alex Mumford and his partner, Buffy Cracknell. And Alex is on the line with us from the Isle of Rum itself. Hi, Alex.

ALEX MUMFORD: Hi there. Good morning.

PFEIFFER: I understand you moved to Rum from Bristol, which is a city in England with nearly a half million people. What made you want to trade that kind of big urban environment for an island that's barely populated?

MUMFORD: Yes, I think we were chasing adventure. We were ready, I think with COVID hitting, to leave the chaos of city life behind and try and branch out and see whether we could cope with life in Scotland, and especially on a Scottish island.

PFEIFFER: Did you have a job that was flexible enough that you could either do it remotely, or did you get a new job when you moved to this island?

MUMFORD: Both me and my partner left our jobs to come here, and we didn't have any jobs to go into. But actually, we're lucky because a few jobs have come up here. Now I work in tourism and at the local school, and my partner, Buffy, she works for the community trust.

PFEIFFER: And what appealed to you about moving to such a remote place?

MUMFORD: I think it's more, can we cope with it, being here and kind of going back to the basics of life and getting involved in all the small things that you potentially wouldn't be involved with in a bigger place? I think everything you do, you learn something in some form. And it's taught us so much being here, just about how we deal with conflict, how we deal with small issues that we have no idea how to deal with them because we've never experienced them before.

PFEIFFER: Can you give any example of that?

MUMFORD: Today we had a doctor visit coming out on a small boat. They were canceled. So then you kind of deal with the ramifications of that. You never get - you're never going to expect a day just to go perfectly smoothly.

PFEIFFER: I've also read no restaurants, no pubs, not even a church. Without gathering places like that, how do you socialize?

MUMFORD: So we do have a village shop and a cafe attached to that. So they open seasonally. So throughout the season, we do have a - an - almost a meeting space. We're lucky enough to have a food truck come over that makes sourdough pizzas, tacos, paella. So all these things are possible here. It's just - it takes a lot more work to organize them and get them through.

PFEIFFER: There are certainly many people who would have no interest in moving to a rainy, windswept Scottish island. But for other people, it sounds idyllic. But you have cautioned against idealizing the island you're living on. Why do you have that caution?

MUMFORD: Yeah. It is idyllic in its way, but the way is windswept, rugged, unpredictable. You have to be so flexible in what you do. So to picture an ideal life, I don't picture this. But for me, an ideal life isn't as fun as an uncomfortable one, so I'd rather have some kind of uncomfortable parts to challenge myself.

PFEIFFER: That's a nice attitude.

MUMFORD: Yeah. Yeah. And it's one that I haven't lived by as much before here as much as I have here. So it's something hopefully that we can take forward wherever we are and wherever we go.

PFEIFFER: That's Alex Mumford, one of only about 40 residents on the Isle of Rum in the Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland. Alex, thank you. And you've made me maybe not want to move there, but definitely visit.

MUMFORD: Thank you very much. You're welcome any time.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN POWELL'S "ROMANTIC FLIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.