Eustace Conway IV is an American naturalist who is known for living in the woods like a stone-age man. His life-long experiences of being close to nature earned him the attention of author Elizabeth Gilbert, who penned his life story in the book 'The Last American Man.' He is a showman, an educator, and a communicator, too, and strives to bring people closer to nature. Eustace shares whatever he has learned over the years by living in the wilderness through his 'Turtle Island Preserve.' The preserve provides an infrastructure where people can feel the beauty and adventure of being close to nature. Eustace began his tryst with nature at 17. Eustace's experiences in the wilderness include canoeing 1,000 miles on the Mississippi River, walking across America on the Appalachian Trail, and kayaking among icebergs and whales to cover the entire southern coast of Alaska. He has also made a world record. From rough deserts to dense jungles, Eustace has lived in all kinds of geographical conditions. He has learned a lot from his experiences in the most extreme conditions offered by nature. He is proud of his mountain heritage and the ideology of self-sufficiency.
Childhood & Early Life
Eustace was born Eustace Robinson Conway IV, on September 15, 1961, in Columbia, South Carolina, to Dr. Eustace Robinson Conway III and his wife, Karen Conway. He has two brothers, Judson and Walton Conway, and a sister, Martha Conway.
Eustace holds a bachelor's degree in English and anthropology from the 'Appalachian State University.' At the university, he was honored as the "Most Outstanding Anthropology Senior.''
While growing up, Eustace would often accompany his father for hikes and outdoor activities, which led him to develop a passion for adventures.
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Eustace was 17 when he left home to explore life in a tipi, a tent made of animal skin, in the woods. He had previously spent a week in the mountains when he was 12. He lived like a caveman, making fire by rubbing stones or sticks and bathing in icy cold streams. He has hiked over 5,000 miles in North America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Additionally, Eustace has experienced the lifestyles of different Indian tribes.
Eustace is known to have hiked through the entire Appalachian Trail and holds the world record of crossing the US, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, on horseback, in just 103 days. However, the authors of the book 'Bud & Me,' Bud and Temple Abernathy, claimed that they had crossed the North American continent on horseback in 62 days, a record they had made when they were 11 and 7, respectively, in August 1911.
In 1987, Eustace founded the 'Turtle Island Preserve,' an environmental education center spread across lush 1,000 acres of pristine wilderness located near Boone, North Carolina. The primary idea of the center was to help people get in touch with nature. He initiated the idea on a small piece of land, and over 20 years, he accumulated acres of land. The name 'Turtle Island' originated from a Native American legend of a turtle carrying the Earth on its back.
On September 11, 1998, Eustace's record-making cross-continent journey was recounted in an episode of the weekly radio show 'This American Life,' titled 'Adventures in the Simple Life.' The episode featured some footages recorded by Conway and his crew.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert has chronicled Eustace's adventurous life in his biography. The biography began in 1988, as an article for 'GQ.' In 1993, she met Eustace through his younger brother, Judson, who was her good friend. Elizabeth had a long in-depth conversation with Eustace that day, and she immediately decided the title of the biography, 'The Last American Man.' It released in 2002.
The following year, director Jack Bibbo released Eustace's biopic, 'Full Circle: A Life Story of Eustace Conway.' In 2012, Eustace was featured in the documentary film 'Reconvergence,' directed by Edward Tyndall. He has also been featured in the 'History' channel reality series 'Mountain Men.' The segment featured his daily routine in the woods, along with his legal battle for the ownership of the land.
In November 2012, Eustace had to discontinue public access to 'Turtle Island' after the courts sent him a legal notice for violating building codes. The following month, he went to the ‘North Carolina Building Code Council’ to figure out a solution. The progress with the code council was interrupted by Eustace's arrest for trespassing a neighborhood property.
The ‘North Carolina General Assembly’ soon intervened in Eustace's tiff with the ‘North Carolina Building Code Council’ and proposed an exclusive exemption to building-code requirements, but only for primitive structures. The ‘H774 Bill’ was then passed by both the House and the Senate, and Governor Pat McCrory signed it into a law on June 12, 2013. The whole legal trial was chronicled in the 'Fox News' segment 'War on the Little Guy.'
Eustace has served as a federal interpreter at the 'Chaco Canyon National Park' in New Mexico and as a state naturalist at the 'Crowders Mountain Park' in North Carolina.
Family & Personal Life
Eustace's grandfather, Chief Johnson, is the founder of 'Camp Sequoyah' and came to be known as one of the "fathers of American camping” and “a great American." The camp later became the founding stone of his 'Turtle Island' program.
Eustace has been inspired by his mother, who grew up in a 'Sequoyah' camp log house that had a big stone fireplace. She passed on her learnings about nature to her son. Eustace's mother was an educator. His father was a chemical engineering professor.
Eustace has earned a lot from his father too. His father was a great hiker who would cover 50 miles of mountain trails in a day. Eustace was just 4 when he had his first thrilling whitewater canoe trip.
For 27 years, Eustace used leaves instead of toilet paper, as he thought using toilet paper was a crime against nature.
While living in the woods, he once severely cut his thumb, which he stitched back together with 12 stitches. He also used plant-based medicine for healing.