My experience running 16 bushcraft and wilderness semester courses has taught me the value of taking a time-out from modern life and living more simply. I’ve seen the positive effect the experience has had on course participants. I know the effects it has had on me. Some of these include:
- Separating needs from wants. Living a low-tech existence helps to isolate what is needed to simply live.
- Eliminating the extraneous.
- Disengaging from being wired in order to meet yourself. Many in our modern world move from one distraction to another (internet to tv, for example), without ever pulling the plug and getting some time off. When you’re lying in a shelter that you made yourself in the forest, or even in a tent beyond the reach of cell coverage, such distractions are gone and you’re forced to deal with yourself.
- Learning to meet your basic needs with no infrastructure. How to provide for yourself the things that you need such as shelter, heat, water, and cooked food.
In his chapter on Economy in Walden, Henry Thoreau wrote:
It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them; or even to look over the old daybooks of the merchants, to see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man’s existence: as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.
Ultimately it’s not about going back to living in the forest; it’s about moving forward with the wisdom of the past in mind, taking into account the ancient aphorism that was carved into the temple of Apollo in Delphi in ancient Greece; “Know Thyself.”