Rewilding myself part 1

This is a short article that I wrote at the end of 2017 during a project. The project was called Uncivilization and was meant to see what we could do to become independend from civilization by rewilding ourselves. This is a short article, composing of excerpts from my dairy during my first attempt to rewild myself in 2012 and about why I hitchhiked without money and ate out of dumpsters in 2017:

It is summer 2012, I am sitting with a woman in the sand watching out over a mining zone near Weeze, Germany. I am pouring out my heart over its destruction and why I have to take on this adventure. We talk about how beautiful nature and how destructive technology is. She is listening carefully but does not want me to go. This will be our last stop before we drive to the airport where we say goodbye for an unknown period of time. We stand up for our last drive.

We say our goodbye’s at the airport. She drives away and I walk to the gate. I get on the plane two hours later, and the airplane lifts off. I now realize that I am doing it –I am flying to an unknown country, on a two-way ticket, without money. I am flying to Sweden, where the only safe-zone I have is a friend’s apartment in Nynashamn, 114 kilometers from the airport.

I lived the past ten years in a big town with more than 12.000 inhabitants. I lived a lifestyle that gave me the impression that living without money would not be possible, let alone traveling without it and never thought about hitchhiking. For the past six months I have prepared myself physically and mentally for this journey. A journey that would turn out to be completely different and last for five months, with a too heavy backpack.

I am walking down the road with the intention of reaching Nynashamn within five days, after which I want to live somewhere in a Swedish forests for the remaining time. It is 9:30 P.M. and I have only covered five kilometers when it starts to rain. I take the poncho from my backpack and immediately a van stops next to me “hey, you need a ride?” and I get in. They offer me a ride covering 70 kilometers.

Walking to the end of the parking lot to catch a ride.

After a horrible night on a wet forest floor and poor sleep I walk back to the road. A car approaches and is heading in the direction I want to go in, so I raise my thumb. The car stops. I get in and the man drives me further south where I will get two more rides. I will reach Nynashamn within two hours.

Summer, 2017. It is eight P.M., and my last snack was more than 12 hours ago. I am starting to get hungry and I am in the middle of a city where it is not allowed to fish or make a campfire and I have no money. I see a gas station with a store. I walk inside the store with a medium sized backpack and a large wool sweater hanging on my left arm as if a woman is resting her arm on mine and a smartphone in my other hand, acting busy on my touchscreen of my phone while scouting the room for staff and cameras. There are no cameras and the only available staff is standing behind the counter, helping customers. I walk straight to the shelf with sandwiches. I take a burrito roll and cover it with my large wool sweater.

I walk to the counter and I ask the guy behind it if I can use the toilet, he nods. I walk to the toilet, lock the door and hide the burrito roll in my backpack, refill the water canteens and walk out the store. I walk to the ramp of the highway, sit down and eat my burrito. Phew! That was exciting!

Unfortunately this is just a small meal and I probably cannot keep doing it over and over again. I finish my roll and raise my thumb while sitting on my backpack. A car stops and drives me to the next city. I get out and walk around the grocery store to find myself a suitable place to sleep. I am half way around the store when I see a bridge, close to the backside of the store and nothing but a hill on the other side. I decide to sleep here tonight.

I turn around and see a few dumpsters next to the backdoor of the store. I wipe away all shame and open one of the dumpsters: woha! full of unspoiled food; raisin- and chocolate bread, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. I quickly, not believing what I have just found, grab a hand of bananas with five fingers, a bag of chocolate bread, two apples, a box of strawberries and two oranges, my hands are full but I want to take more. The next morning I bind a bag of raisin- and chocolate bread, a bag of apples, and two oranges inside a plastic bag onto my backpack and head towards the ramp of the highway.

Half a week later I walk into a store where a woman seems to be selling wool. I ask her if she is an expert in wool and ask her a few questions. She asks me what I am doing. “I am homeless because I need freedom,” I say  with pride. Her eyes open in full awe and shoves her hand forward “I am Anita.” Anita and her husband, Yngve, later invite me to stay in their cabin, halfway up the mountains on their land, for as long as I like.

We drive back from Sweden into Norway towards their farm. I ask them if it is possible to stop at a grocery store so I can check a few dumpsters for food. I check a few dumpsters and jump back in the car with two bags of bread, six peaches and two hands of bananas both with four or five fingers, all stuffed in a basket. We drive to their farm and they guide me to their cabin halfway up the mountain. I jump into bed as they move down the mountain back to their house.

The next morning I scout around and find myself a lake and start fishing. Not more than an hour later I catch two fish and walk back to the cabin. I prepare a coal bed in the stove and boil my fish and add a banana for its flavor and start roasting the bread on the fire. Now this is life, I tell myself…

Obviously my journey would be completely different if I had money on me. When life becomes a little tougher, we have a tendency, like squirrels, to choose the easy way out. Traveling without money forces us to improvise, to hitchhike, and puts us in a position that we have to be patient, we have to choose the right spot to raise a thumb, we cannot just chicken out and take the plane ‘home’ when it is getting colder or when we have not had a meal for 24 hours. We have to dumpster dive or to steal when necessary.

You will also get used to the outdoors, to sleep under bridges or a roof that only sticks out one feet, to take a shit wherever is possible and to wipe your ass with water, sticks, or something else, whatever you prefer. You learn how to be without all these modern technologies. You learn how to dumpster dive. You can also use public transport (if you want to risk getting caught), but most public means of transport will not take you to places remote enough.

Besides hitchhiking, because it is only temporary, one can use a mule, horse, a bike or cart. Dumpster diving for me is not just fun, it is freedom and something that resembles something that we used to do thousands of years ago –we in essence are still hunter and gatherers–, and a tool I can use to learn to be out in the wild for longer periods of time.

The first five days that I was in the cabin I still ate quite a lot of food I got from dumpsters, e.g., potatoes, bread and bananas, but the second week I ate less from my “dumpster food” because I became more sufficient in my ability to obtain food from the mountain forest –I became more sufficient in catching fish. At first I was fishing at one particular spot thinking that fish would roam around, which they do, and not much you can do about it besides luring them with food. Later I learned that if you look at the water patiently, you will see where some fish eat. Of course you can read about it in articles, but I had to learn it the hard way.

One Saturday morning I drove with Anita and her son to the city to dumpster dive, and when I got back in the forest I had been walking past week I felt familiar with its surroundings, I knew what certain trees could be used for and how long it would take for a big tree to let rain pass through, I knew the difference between an animal and a human trail, and I started to learn the origin of particular sounds. For me it became more like ‘home.’ The place you feel comfortable and familiar with, but in freedom.

I started to lay out a few more fishing lines and cleaning fish became a routine for me. Eventually, late evening, I laid out a main line with five shorter lines attached to it with a hook on each shorter line. The next morning I would have breakfast and time to scout around the area, in search of squirrels, berries and worms. Dumpster diving helped me to be out in the wild for longer periods without the use of money. I feel now comfortable knowing that I can find food for a week or two, out of dumpsters, and go into the wilderness to start learning plant identification, trapping, fishing and other necessary skills to thrive in the wild.

But since a nomadic and autonomous lifestyle is an innate need for most of us, we need a bigger area then just a small patch of green. I do not feel satisfied with just a small area of forest or tundra. I need to be able to roam around, in freedom, walk for a few days and to setup camp wherever I feel necessary. A lifestyle in utter wildness, free from artificial systems is the need.

Wildness is my need and rewilding is therefore a must. For those who are interested in rewilding keep in mind the following question: are we trying to rewild or are we trying to look interesting? I believe the two are essentially different from one another and to rewild successfully we have to focus on the increase of autonomy from artificial systems

We can still look cool on social media in one hectare forest and act like we are free from the shackles of civilization, while behind the camera we buy the food in stores and use GPS supported phones to find our way out the one hectare forest, thus in reality we are not focused on autonomy from artificial systems but how interesting we look to others, on social media.

Live wild or die,
Jeremy