Many of us have experienced isolation in one form or another over the past couple of years, but few could compare with what Beatriz Flamini put herself through, spending 500 days alone in a cave. As an elite sportswoman and extreme mountaineer, Beatriz is experienced at pushing herself to the limit, but nothing could have prepared her for the incredible test of willpower and mental fortitude she would face alone in the darkness.
With just the occasional limited message to a team of scientists, Flamini entered her subterranean home outside Granada on November 20, 2021. The cave would become her world for the next 500 days, and she would break the world record for the longest a person has ever spent alone in such isolation.
For Beatriz, being consistent in her thinking, feeling, and behavior was the key to keeping connected with herself, and to staying sane. She focused on reading, writing, drawing, and knitting to keep herself occupied, while also enjoying the here and now of her remarkable environment. She was not distracted by the need to know what was going on outside her cave, not even if it involved losing a loved one.
Asked how she kept fit for so long, Flamini attributes it to the joy she found in the task at hand. “I’m cooking; I’m drawing…You have to be focused. If I get distracted, I’ll twist my ankle. I’ll get hurt. It’ll be over, and they’ll have to get me out. And I don’t want that.”
It wasn’t all clean sailing, of course. She had a troubling invasion of flies, which she was powerless to prevent from taking over and even struggled with an intense craving for roast chicken with potatoes at one point. Despite this, Flamini stayed positive and consistently focused on her self-imposed commitment, doing everything to fulfill her goal.
How did she feel when the time came to leave the cave and re-join the world she left behind 500 days ago? As she finished her book, she couldn’t believe it was actually happening. But when she emerged from the dark cave into the light of day after one and a half years, she appeared satisfied that she had achieved what she set out to do. When asked why she looked happy, she replied: “How would you feel if you had a dream and you fulfilled it? Would you come out crying?”
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