Therapy of the wilderness

[Note: I wrote the following on 18 February 2015 after thinking about the contents for two weeks. I did not finish the first draft, including at least two more sections “Good, but unintended, side effects” and a section discussing my recently-expanded support network, specific things people have done to help me, why they volunteered to help, and other ways to support the positive changes that have happened recently. This is a raw, first draft, and I did not proofread it at all. I had also intended to divided it into multiple posts because it is so long. I know I will not finish it, so I am posting it in its imperfect state.]

The past two months have been uniquely emotionally-difficult, rationally taxing, and physically challenging, but the general trend has been unusually positive–almost entirely because multiple people have helped me in many ways.

During the last six weeks, I have been implementing a plan to radically reduce my cost of living. Until I can afford to live a more normal life, I will focus on the skills necessary to live in cheap Latin American countries (Spanish fluency), camp in a tent in rural areas (I have little camping experience), fish and hunt for food (no experience), cooking food without a kitchen, hiking (no experience), and hitchhiking (no experience). After learning these skills, my expenses will be limited: the two major costs will be medicine and supplemental food.

Insanely difficult

I knew that this lifestyle change would be difficult, and traveling from Veracruz, Mexico to Chetumal, Mexico proved to me that this is, by far, the most difficult experience I have voluntarily attempted.

(The most difficult thing I have experienced was not voluntary: the United Kingdom government violated its own laws and locked me in jail for five weeks, without access to a lawyer for the first 10 days. As of this writing, the pain of the experience is so strong that I have only been able to write a few post about what happened.)

I am confident that I can learn these skills. Especially because many more people have recently helped me in different ways. I know that, with time, I can completely transition to a life of hiking, camping, and hunting–if a complete transition is necessary before I am able to heal enough to start working again or otherwise do not need to live this way.

There are two significant barriers, however. First, despite my confidence, I do feel fear and some related negative feelings that I am not accustomed to feeling. Other people have helped me deal with this in at least five ways: 1) financial support gives me a safety net, 2) by helping me accomplish some tasks (such as Sam helping me maintain part of my website while I am disconnected from the internet), 3) helping me research (Diana helping me research Spanish-language websites for equipment I need), 4) making suggestions (Jannette, for example, suggested Belize and I had not considered coming here until she told me about it), and 5) talking with people about my fears and disorders–and those people understanding and accepting me–has been incredibly healing.

In addition to strong fears about my new lifestyle, the second barrier is that I have never desired to live this lifestyle. Many people love camping and hiking, I can understand why they love it. Similarly, so many people fantasize about “living off the land” that there are multiple sub-cultures devoted to the idea: off-the-gird folks, survivalists, or do a search for “living off the land” and see the thousands of websites talking about it. I understand the romantic and adventurous spirits of these groups. Furthermore, there are idealists and philosophers, such as Henry David Thoreau, who want to live a simpler life or a self-sufficient life. I understand these feelings and ideas, especially as expressed in the movie (and book) Into the Wild, or the books Walden and The Call of the Wild.

"Laguna de Catemaco" by Gunnar Wolf - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

I do not have hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, or survivalist skills, however, because my dreams, desires, and ideals do not include the above categories. To illustrate, on 9 February 2015, I camped on the beach of the northwest corner of Laguna Catemaco. My view was similar to the picture above. The weather was perfect and the fisherman were exceptionally friendly, and I wrote in my journal, “If this trip were not for survival, I would love it.”

"Bambi (2729601564)" by Roberto Ferrari from Campogalliano (Modena), Italy - BambiUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Said differently, if my dreams included hiking through Central America and eating Bambi for dinner, then this lifestyle change would be much easier. In the year 2000, I owned the first phone that had PDA (personal digital assistant) functions–it was the predecessor of the smartphones that nearly everyone owns today. I mention this not because material items will make me happy or because I want to own cutting-edge technology; I mention it because it helps demonstrate how my life is going backwards right now. In 2000 and again in 2009, I owned every material item I wanted. The few items I wanted were silly luxury items, such as a GPS attachment for my camera. Today, of course, I own very little and there are certainly some things that would make my life more comfortable. Similarly, in 2009, I very much loved the work I was doing as a prosecutor and that I was making real contributions to our society. In contrast, on 9 February 2015, as I was striking camp from in front of a tiny rural store in La Bocana, Veracruz, Mexico (too small to be on Google Maps), I wrote in my journal, “I am useless and ineffective.”

Therefore, the second barrier is that I am radically changing my lifestyle only because I must do this to survive, but I have no inherent desire to live in a tent, hike through jungles, or go hunting.

Good, but unintended, side effects

[Unfinished draft, see note at top of page.]

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