Bullish Life: How Much Survivalism Should We All Engage In, Without Building Bomb Shelters?


Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

I once went on a two-week hiking/camping trip over a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I did not train for this trip. I did, however, make numerous trips to Asian grocery stores to buy dehydrated everything (vegetarian squid made out of yam flour, with tentacle-suckers painted on!), enough to feed three people for several days.

The first night out, I made sushi rice with seaweed and sesame seeds over an open fire. It was fun! Then I slept in a sleeping bag on top of a bunch of rocks and roots. Fuck you, roots!

Then we got up, ate peanut butter on crackers, and started walking uphill. It would be hours of this before I got to make shirataki noodle soup with wakame and freeze-dried shrimp. I despise walking uphill! Also, seeing a bunch of treetops from the top of a mountain is not nearly as exciting as they tell you it’s going to be, even if there’s a sunset. The sunset just means that soon you’ll be freezing your ass off on the top of a mountain.

I bailed for the nearest town and hiked to a bus station, leaving behind the groceries (and a world of pain!)

At some point in life, you have to decide whether being able to survive in the wilderness — or a postapocalyptic world — is important to you. If so, you might move to Montana and get a ranch, which you defend with guns, which you obviously know how to shoot. Once you know how to defend yourself with a gun, well, wouldn’t it be ironic if you needed a gun and weren’t carrying one? So then you start packing. At this point, you’re really not going to get a job at Goldman Sachs. You have to make some decisions.

At the other extreme, you have your stereotypical effete New Yorker who has no food in her house and cannot function without a cell phone, the Internet, credit cards, takeout, and a concierge. (She complains that the flooding has ruined her blowout! When she tries to volunteer for a relief effort, she is told that her social media management skills are not needed! Ha ha ha. I exaggerate, of course.)

You can try to play the middle. I am led to believe that a lot of tech people in San Francisco and Colorado do outdoorsy stuff on the weekends (whitewater rafting is an excellent way to escape a terrorist attack). Men who become very, very rich through their business exploits do seem to turn to extreme outdoor sports nearly as often as they turn to, say, cars and classic cocktails as hobbies. (Richard Branson types: either they’re getting hot-stone massages on a boat while drinking sake, or they’ve grown shrub-like beards and are pressuring local guides to climb much further up Kilimanjaro than it is really safe to under current weather conditions.)

If you grew up on a farm and then moved to the big city and mastered all the social and professional conventions, you may have the best of both worlds.

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    • kj

      As a farm-dweller (just outside the city!) we have pretty much a built in bomb shelter, food supply, and natural barriers. My dad being ridiculously cheap and insisting on relying entirely on woodstoves to heat the house actually comes in really handy during power outages…. basically nothing changes.

      At any rate… I am ready to execute my carefully designed plan to create stake-lined trenches around the property at the first sign of zombie apocalypse. All are welcome, as long as you don’t mind helping with the digging :P

    • http://twitter.com/JenAshleyWright Jennifer Wright

      I want to point out that there was actually a time when everyone at Goldman started packing. Really. It would actually maybe be a selling point, still, if you were armed to the teeth. (http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/12/01/goldmans-call-to-arms-bankers-seeking-gun-permits-ahead-of-bon/)

    • MR

      You didn’t use the shelters on the Trail? A bunch of Georgians saved my ass on the dyhydration thing. I started in northern Georgia on my first day – parked my car 2 days ahead and hitch-hiked back to my starting point. I met them sweating to death about a half a day in. They showed me how to do it. Rest from 2pm to 4pm, the hotest point of the day, and hike after until the sunsets around almost 9. Two women and one the women’s husband. Keep calling me ‘Damn Yankee’, I talked the unengaged to come with me north to hike in Tennesee and she did. She drove my rented car back to Atlanta from there. My brother picked me up after she left and we drove back to Raleigh. Road trip. :)

      • MR

        I think you know I’m a Northerner. Survival? I wanted to know what Deep South heat was like in the middle of the summer. It’s cooler in the mountains. But the humidity. Never experienced anything like that before. The woman who accompanied me was a nurse by profession, so I think she was mostly looking out for me. Tennessee was cooler.

    • http://www.shilobyrd.com/ Shilo

      My great grandmother lived through the depression and when I asked her for advice on surviving some sort of horrible event and her thoughts quite applicable to the gentlewoman: Buy jewelry and shoes. Precious metals and gems are the only disaster-proof currency. Buy quality jewelry and ask for it for every gift-giving occasion. You can get simple silver chains from Tiffany for $40 that will *always* hold their value. Also, own high quality repairable leather shoes or boots, because in a disaster-stricken world, we’ll all be on our feet a lot more that we expect.