Why a Successful Harvard Researcher Left Everything To Live on a Remote Island

Bethany Butzer, 35, left her prestigious job at Harvard University to live in a small cabin near a remote Canadian island accessible only by boat.

Butzer earned a PhD in psychology at Western University and landed her dream job at Harvard’s medical school doing research on the benefits of yoga for children and teens. Though the Canadian researcher was “at the top of her academic game,” according to an interview she did with the National Post, she simply was not happy with her life. She told the Post:

“I felt that my professional success was flourishing, but my personal health and well-being were foundering.”

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It dawned on her that all her time was spent working or recovering from the exhaustion of working. “It just didn’t really feel satisfying,” she said.

That was when she decided to pack her bags, leave her Boston apartment, and move to a cabin in the woods. She and her husband found a cabin no bigger than 40 square meters near Willisville, Ontario, north of Manitoulin Island. She said:

“I just knew that I needed to spend some time outside in nature.

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“I just took the leap.”

Though she felt restless and unproductive during her initial time there, Butzer began to appreciate the wilderness and the outdoors. She found peace in nature and pleasure in the simplest things:

“As the weeks went on, I was actually amazed at how content I become. I would just stare at the trees, watch the sky, go fishing and read.”

Aside from picking blueberries, dodging bears and watching chipmunks play, she also practices yoga. Butzer has no regrets leaving Boston and Harvard to take time off to herself. She said:

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“I felt my body and mind needed that time to just not be doing anything and not be stuck in this rat race of produce, produce, produce.”

She wrote on her Facebook:

“I was scared to take time off, scared about whether I could afford it, and scared about what others would think of my decision.

“Regardless of whether I go into debt or get behind on work or other people think i’m crazy — it’s worth it.”
She and her artist husband have since moved to Prague, Czech Republic, where she will teach positive psychology at a university.

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