How to Live a Simple Life out of a Backpack
I've always been one of those people who has a romantic infatuation with the idea of living a simple and peaceful life, off the land, with nothing more than a pack full of useful items and a go-getter desire for adventure. I've spent many years plotting and planning for such an adventure, slowly training my body and my mind for it, and writing many many strategic plans.
I've heard all the naysayers and read all of the horror stories, but I've also read success stories and I've come to the conclusion that such a life can be lived. Mind you, I am not talking about a complete and total separation from civilization – that is an impossible dream. I am talking about living as simple as possible, as free as possible, beside civilization, and with the full intent of having contact with it on a limited, but consistent basis.
Why Would I Want To Live Such A Life?
It's not because I dislike people that I would desire such a life, on the contrary I love my fellow man, but rather I am extremely dissatisfied with what most modern societies consider "a good life." I am not one who finds fulfillment and satisfaction in owning many unnecessary possessions, playing with the latest high-tech toy, staring at a lighted box with talking heads, and all the other things which are supposed to entertain my supposedly simple mind.
I am also rather uncomfortable with the concept that I somehow owe society something and that I ought to be a productive member of it, on its terms, or else face the wrath of that supposedly benevolent master! How can you owe society a debt when you never asked for that debt, and what if you do not agree with what it has become and the direction in which it is going?
As far as I am concerned, the only thing I owe the order built by men is a few of my own thoughts, because frankly all that we have been given by the order of men has been built upon thoughts, and I don't have to agree with those thoughts, nor take them for my own. I am as free to have my own thoughts as all of those men and women who have gone before me, and at no great debt to any of them. Now, expressing those thoughts is another matter, but then I have yet to see a society which truly believes all individuals have a right to express their own thoughts, for we are attempting to censor such things at every turn and under every supposed good intent that is imaginable.
I am also offended by the concept that self-proclaimed intellectuals and do-gooders have a right to force my compliance of the way they feel I ought to live: which is within and according to the societal structure they have molded. I just want to be left alone to enjoy God's Creation on my terms and His; if that makes the lovers of this world perceive me as an anti-social then so be it. As I said, I do not have a problem with the people, I have a problem with their master.
Basically, I just don't believe everything that others put themselves through for the sake of a home, a piece of land, a car, a piece of paper that states you've read some books and understood them, and other material acquisitions are worth most of my life and experience in this world. I only get to live this life once, so why am I spending all of my time chasing abstract things like fiat money, or trying to acquire possessions that will only be rummaged through and dispersed or sold when I die old and miserable having seen and experienced one-billionth of what I could have? Am I doing it because society requires it of me in order that I might not be punished by that same society? Yes!
In reality, all I really need to do is grow old and die and maybe even pay taxes if I make enough to have that annoying practice forced upon me. Other than that I only truly require the basics: food, water, shelter, warmth, clothing, hygiene, medicine, security, and some form of social interaction (the nature of man is not one of solitude). If I can live such a life in a self-sustaining manner and supply the ever-hungry modern society with just a little bit of something "extra," then perhaps they will consider leaving this simple-minded soul alone to revel in his own fancies?
As I said, I have been toying with this concept for years and on every level imaginable: philosophical, sociopolitical, spiritual, practical, etc. You name it and I have thought about it in contrast to the subject of this article! That doesn't make me correct, but it does mean I've probably placed more thought into these things than the vast majority have even cared too.
How To Do It
After years of racking my head trying to find a way in which I can live the way I desire without offending the beast of modern society or giving it an excuse to wrap me in its constrictive grip where it might swallow me whole, I have come up with several satisfactory and workable solutions. I am not going to go into details, lest my master squash my plans before I even begin to strike out on my own, but I do have some practical advice for others who have similar feelings as myself.
First, you need to understand that you are not going to live completely off-grid and separate from civilization – it isn't going to happen! There isn't anywhere to go where you will not be invaded by some modern society except perhaps the subterranean world or outer space, so you need to understand that total separation from civilization is not a reasonable expectation. Modern society will encroach upon you and you will encroach upon modern society. You are going to cross paths with the dominant order and there are also some decent benefits to that dominant order that you are going to want to keep at arms length for those times in which you may wish to have access to those benefits (emergency medical help, for example).
You will also want to use common sense when developing your plan. Any plans you may have that include running naked through the woods or squatting in abandoned urban structures are frankly idiotic! If you do illegal things you will get yourself arrested, so you do have to have at least some semblance of what is acceptable to the dominant society surrounding you if you wish for it to leave you alone. If you act like an animal you will be treated as such when others come upon you. Man is a social creature by nature, so you have to accept that there will always be some behavioral expectations of you by others.
Your plan should be one that works within the boundaries of the law and considers avoiding the treatment of those who have been pegged as poor, uneducated, or nonconformist. You have to look like you belong to the club, you are not a criminal, and you don't need help forced upon you to lift you out of the misery you must surely be in. In short, you do not want to give the self-proclaimed intellectuals and do-gooders any excuse to reform you, or to start playing "fairy tale princess dress-up" with you as their featured doll baby!
It needs to also be understood that you aren't going to be able to just jump right into this. If you try strapping a backpack on your back and heading out tomorrow without planning, training, and acquiring the skills, knowledge, and experience you need to succeed in your endeavor, you will fail! You should expect to spend many years planning for your simple life which will give you time to not only prepare for the execution of your plans, but also to discover whether or not you actually want to go through with them. Many people think they want something, but once they find out what all they need to do in order to attain it they quickly become disinterested.
I would also suggest that you take many extended vacations away from the dominant social order to enable you to properly conclude whether or not you truly believe what you think you feel – the heart isn't made for thinking, and your brain might not happen to agree with it. You might just find out that you really do love indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and cheeseburgers more than you love the degree of freedom you are required to surrender in order to have those things.
You will also want to put something into society; society is a thief that must be paid or it will take what it believes it is owed. You've got to have economy no matter how small you can make your budget (and even if it is nonexistent) and you've got to provide the dominating social order with a service, product, or information in order to be deemed a non-threat. You need to be able to show that you are offering something and that you are able to sustain yourself in the way of life you have chosen, or society will deem you a burden or threat upon its existence. If at all possible you want to provide a product or service which makes your way of life a necessity, so that a reasonable explanation can be given for your chosen way of living. You do not want to be seen as a parasite feasting upon the benefits of civilization and taking more than you provide, so you have to give something and you also have to take as little as possible.
Any plans that include staying in one place for too long or building a log cabin in the remote wilderness need to be tossed away right now! No one owns the land that God made, but several billion people and bureaucrats will adamantly disagree with your view. Even public lands are considered to be owned by the whole of a society and are regulated accordingly, so don't plan on building any permanent structures or resting your head in any one spot for too long – you will have to be nomadic by necessity!
Then, there are the basic skills, knowledge, and experiences that you will require. You are going to have to get out and travel, hike, and camp in all weather and seasons, and learn to exist safely and comfortably under such conditions. You will need basic survival skills, rope and thread making skills, experience with tailoring (to mend your clothes), and the ability to procure food and medicine from the land in a free, yet legal manner.
You'll want to become an expert at plant identification, the collection, preparation, and use of plants for food and medicine, and have excellent skills at fishing and the hunting of small game. You'll also need to understand seasons, migratory patterns, and as much about the wildlife, environment, and geography of the region you intend to travel throughout as you possibly can. If you can not provide yourself with free food, clean water, and basic medicine without stealing or relying on the dominant society your plan is doomed to failure!
You want to make sure that everything is done within the law or you are asking for a disruption in your plans. Breaking the law will attract unwanted attention, cause you problems, and maybe even result in unintended injury or loss by yourself or of another. It is difficult to figure out, but there are still ways to live off of and use what God gave us freely without paying man for it and without breaking any of man's laws. Familiarize yourself with the laws of the land!
Next, you need to consider safety and social networking. If you are by yourself then there is no one to help you when you need it most. You either have to find a small group of people (no more than 2-3 individuals) who share your enthusiasm, or you will have to develop some clever alternatives. The very best thing you could do is find others who share your dream as this will increase everyone's chances of success as well as their safety; it will even enable you to divide up learning and then teach one another what you have learned as individuals. Networking with others can also increase the potential means by which to obtain the economic resources required to replace equipment, clothing, and perishable items that would be nice for the group to have (toilet tissue, for example). A community is not a bad thing, especially if you agree with that community's objectives and what it holds dear.
You might be thinking that you will never find such individuals, and you may well be right, but you need to remember that you are not the first individual to conceive of such a wild and daring dream. Many have had these same thoughts on many different levels, and as I said at the beginning of this article...some have already succeeded.
Finally, there is your travel plan. You have to have your travel plans worked out in advance so you know where to be and when. Perhaps you want to hike up and down the Appalachian Trail, shoot across the American Discovery Trail, detour up the Continental Divide Trail, backtrack and then rejoin the American Discovery Trail, before finishing up a lengthy multi-year adventure by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail? Maybe you want to migrate throughout a specific region? Maybe you are even thinking of stopping in at a few spots along the tour route of your favorite band or checking out a few of those festivals you've heard so much about? Whatever your idea might be, you've got to have a detailed plan worked out in advance, or you are going to create problems in addition to the difficulties you would have encountered anyway.
Ultimately, the secret to success is in planning, learning, training, and then testing the practicality of your endeavor. Do lots of research, learn much, gain as much experience as possible, take small steps, do practice runs, and start slowly living the life that you desire until one day you find yourself actually living that life.
I know my suggestions don't sound like what some might call "true freedom," but frankly if you are expecting the freedom enjoyed by wild animals then you had better be prepared to be tranquilized, killed, or imprisoned when you cross paths with those who think modern society is just dandy because that is what happens to wild animals!
If you want to live in peace, you've got to make compromises. The best you can hope for is to live beside the modern world, and if you do it correctly no one is going to think you are insane for doing so because frankly they won't even know that is what you are doing.