Sunday, April 26, 2015

Six Traits All Survivalists Share

I believe EVERYONE, even in this day of high comfort and vast technology, still has at least some wilderness survival instincts embedded deep within their DNA that has been handed down from our ancestors.   It's our choice to act on those instincts, and for some this may be a bit easier.  For example, if you grew up on a farm, in an off-grid cabin, or spent countless hours sleeping under the stars, your instincts may be sharper  than the average westernized person.  If your idea of spending time outside is laying on a beach or mowing the lawn, your survival instincts might be pretty dull.  If a person decides to hone in and polish these instincts, they can eventually develop into survival traits.  These traits will give them the ability to survive in extreme situations. All true wilderness survivalists share six common survival traits.  These traits are the keys to their survival.

Over the past couple of years, I've read many books and websites on the characteristics of wilderness survivalists.  Even though survivalist's backgrounds may vary, there are common survival traits they share.  Two of my favorite survivalists are Ernest Shackleton and Zebulon Pike.   Ernest Shackleton overcame extreme conditions, not only for himself, but for his team.  Some will argue he put himself and his team in danger, but despite this perspective his story is quite heroic.  I  consider Zebulon Pike the "Ernest Shackleton of the Rocky Mountains" due to the paralles of their stories.  Another story that is quite impressive is that of a 3 year old girl, who survived 11 days in a Siberian Forest by herself.  At age three, she had just enough common knowledge of water, food and shelter to keep herself safe until help arrive.  I honor all of these survivalists and find their stories inspirational.

After a lot of curiosity, research and just plain creative thinking, I decided to come up with my own list of traits found in true survivalists.   Below is a list of Six Traits All Survivalists Share I think are necessary to survive and thrive in the wild.

Going into any survival situation, one needs to prioritize.  Being familiar with the Rules Of Three is a key element into survival.  The rules of three state that it takes an average of 3 minutes to die without oxygen, 3 days to die without water and 3 weeks to begin to die without food (or at least before your body literally starts eating away at your organs).   Some people also say you can't survive 3 hours without shelter.  I challenge this because it depends on the environment in which you are located.  I've survived more than 3 hours without shelter many times.  (My opinion on this will be addressed in a distance future post.)  Another common killer of survival in the wild is hypothermia, which can relate to the shelter piece.  While keeping these four (oxygen, water, food and hypothermia) survival threats in mind, a survivalist will know how to prioritize.  Priorities of survival can change each minute, hour, day or week depending on any immediate threats.  It takes a rational thinking person to prioritize the needs at each moment, while thinking ahead to the future.

Since my recent intentional survival experience in a Central American jungle, I've re-evaluated what survival really means to me and what type of person can truly survive and thrive in the wild.  Some of my thoughts parallel Charles Darwin's famous quote, "Survival of the Fittest".   I grew up thinking this statement  meant only the strongest and fastest survive.  This is a common misconception.  Upon further reading, I found Darwin's quote has a much different meaning.  He defined "fittest" as meaning those that can adapt to their surroundings verses always being the strongest.   After my survival experience,  I consider Darwin's theory to be true.  I may not the strongest or the fastest in any given group of people.  However, my ability to survive in the wilderness is definitely higher than the average person.  Why?  Because I have all six traits listed above.  Some might be more pronounced than others, but I'm willing to strengthen and improve my shortcomings to become an even better survivor!

What survival traits and skills do you have?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Naked Feet

Carl Jung once said, "When you walk with naked feet, how can you ever forget the earth".  This quote has really resonated with me the past six months.  I started walking barefoot last fall to strengthen and toughen up my feet.  It's suppose to be good for long distance runners after all, so why not?   Since then, my feet have adapted to walking on rough mountain dirt roads and pokey pine needle covered ground.  I've fallen in love with being barefoot.  

I encourage everyone to challenge themselves to walking barefoot.  It adds a different dimension to the way you feel things under your feet, and heightens your awareness of touch.  After a few weeks, you will notice your feet muscles and balance are stronger than ever before.  Walking barefoot also forces you to be in the moment.  You will pay attention to where you are walking and how your feet and body move.  The whole process of breaking in your feet is really amazing and fun.  I recommend starting off by walking 10-15 minutes a day outside in natural areas, then increasing the distance to eventually walk 1 - 2 miles every other day.

Even though walking barefoot is my new favorite, I don't walk in town barefoot.   Walking on pavement and public places are really dirty, not to mention the changes of stepping on a sharp metal or class objects are much higher.  Walking on natural ground outside of town is best.

There are many benefits to walking barefoot.  I won't list them all here, but here are some of the benefits I've experienced:
  • Muscle Strengthening - One foot and ankle contains more than 100 muscles.  We need to keep those suckers healthy and strong!
  • Better Foot Balance - This is huge for me because I tore my right ankle ligaments June of 2013.  I love trail running and hiking mountains, so my feet need to be super balanced!
  • Foot Freedom - Socks are limiting, right?
  • Earth's Energy - Seriously! Your positive energy and calmness will increase walking on natural ground.  Give it a try for 30+ minutes a day and you'll notice a difference.
  • Foot Toughness - You'll toughen up your feet and will be less susceptible to blisters.  This is great for long distance runners and hikers.
  • Grounding Your Root Chakra - If you are into that sort of thing.
Since challenges and new goals are my thing, it will be appropriate to set a new goal to barefoot hike a 14,000 foot peak by August 1, 2015.  I am super excited to implement my new love of being barefoot to the test of hiking.  This means I need to hit the hiking trails and practice hiking above treeline in the high country of Colorado!  Can't wait for those trails to open for the season!

If you'd like to learn more about being barefoot, you can visit my Pinterest board, "Being Barefoot".