Most preppers seek to cling to their current lifestyles as long as possible. This is as true of the surgeon with his $500,000+ income as it is an office or blue-collar worker with a $50,000- income.
So people prepare for an alternate life and alternate world that would greet them if/when they ever needed to respond to a Level 2/3 scenario and evacuate to their carefully prepared retreat, while maintaining their current vulnerable lifestyle. Their preparations embody a mix of anxious concern and desire to retain as much of life’s current experiences and perceived benefits as possible, for as long as possible.
Don’t get us wrong. This is understandable. We all have many ties that bind us to our current lives and communities. There are our jobs, of course. Maybe we have children (or, for that matter, aged parents) who also cause us to want to stay in an area. There is our established network of friend and contacts, our current reasonably optimized lifestyle and residence, and, of course, there is inertia, resistance to change, and fear of the unknown.
There is also the fact that most of us currently live in medium/large sized cities, which for all their vulnerabilities and challenges also provide great convenience in terms of a wider range of shopping opportunities, entertainment, health-care, education, and just about everything compared to what we’d experience in the typically much smaller communities we’d move to if bugging out to our retreat location.
We repeat. These are all valid points, and for many people, it makes sense to continue to lead their present life as best they can, while also prudently preparing for a possible future breakdown in current lifestyles.
In these cases, you of course also need to consider how you’ll get to your retreat WTSHTF and what the ‘trigger events’ are that would cause you to start such a process. There’s no point in having a retreat waiting for you if you can’t get to it; and if an EMP disables your vehicle, or if an earthquake or other natural disaster closes the roads, or if a mass exodus of fellow citizens clogs the roads to the point of impossibility, the issue of how to get to the retreat suddenly changes from already potentially challenging to a massive problem (but not one without solutions).
We have an entire section of this site with helpful articles about ‘bugging out’ and evacuating to a retreat.
There is also the consideration that if you did suddenly need to withdraw to your retreat, you’d be arriving ‘cold’. Sure, you might have a supply of long-life seeds to make a start on gardening whenever the next growing season begins, and sure, you probably have plenty of dried and other food stored to tide you over until you get closer to self-sufficiency, but the fact remains that you’re suddenly jumping into the deep end of the pool, with perhaps untested skills, untested resources, and untested just about everything.
This is a bit of a worry. If you’ve not had some seasons of crop planting, you really don’t know what to expect in terms of water and fertilizer, soil quality, bugs and diseases, yields, and so on. You don’t know which crops will grow best and which don’t really work as well as expected. You’re not sure if your projections and assumptions are valid or not.
You’re also appearing ‘out of nowhere’ and hoping to be accepted into whatever local community exists in the area at a time when all such communities will become very inward looking and resistant to welcoming in more outsiders – unless, of course, such outsiders bring with them definite skills or resources that will clearly benefit the community.
There are strategies and approaches to managing these considerations. None of these issues are ‘fatal’ or without solutions.
For example, some people have caretakers already residing at their retreat location, with the caretaker or caretakers managing the farming of the land and other aspects of the retreat, so that you’d arrive to find successful ongoing sustaining operations underway, and an established history and knowledge of what grows and how to grow it best. If a location is well-chosen and being well farmed, these caretakers will pay their own way and maybe even generate a bit of profit too. There’s no downside and a lot of upside to that type of situation.
If you choose the lower cost option of joining a Code Green Community, you’d also be moving to an area that was already underway with farming operations, and you’d simply help ramp up those activities (and possibly also compensate with more manpower due to the use of machinery becoming more constrained). This addresses many of the problems of moving to an area ‘cold’, with no contacts, no community, and no experience and knowledge of what to expect.
Even if you do simply arrive ‘cold’ to your own retreat, that’s not the worst outcome, particularly if you are well stocked with supplies and have been careful in how you’ve projected your future sustainability activities so as to protect yourself from any nasty surprises.
But there’s another alternative too – the one we hint at in our title above and discuss below. Bear with us as we set the scene, then reveal the solution.
A Growing Economic Vulnerability
Many people have never really stopped to question the assumptions that have defined, driven, and constrained their lives to date.
Certainly, our modern society is a self-sustaining and self-reinforcing concept, with huge vested interests urging us to conform and consume. Imagine what would happen if people stopped buying new cars as regularly as they currently do. Imagine what would happen if people stopped eating out as often as they do. If they stopped buying designer clothing and up-market brand accessories. If they downsized their home. If they stopped wasting so much food that is thrown out uneaten. And so on. If they abandoned the siren-call of fashion and wore generic clothing for multiple seasons, repairing as necessary, rather than changing wardrobes every year.
Our lives have become trapped in a spiral of diminishing returns. We have to work harder to pay for the time-saving indulgences we both enjoy and also need due to working so hard. The economy as a whole relies on people continuing to spend, spend, spend way more than they actually need to. If we – and everyone else – stopped spending so much, the economy would collapse like a popped balloon, and rather than all being better off, we’d find our jobs disappearing and we’d end up being worse off.
We don’t wish to sound ‘counter-culture’, and indeed, we engage in many of these activities ourselves. But when we talk about the vulnerabilities of cities and modern society, there’s this underlying economic vulnerability too – our economy, in the US more so than just about anywhere else, is built on this assumption of ongoing conspicuous/unnecessary consumption. We have more retail stores per head of population than any other country in the world, we eat out more than any other country, we have more, newer and larger cars than any other country, larger houses, and so on.
Some of this is benign and good and is a happy result of our nation’s extraordinary economic success and strength over the last 100+ years. But some of it is the result of careful marketing and social manipulation, subtly encouraging us to view things as ‘must have’ items when in reality they are very optional, and then creating huge economic drivers (like the auto industry) which rely on people continuing to embrace the unnecessary levels of expenditure and consumption.
Few people have stopped to question the assumptions that are automatically made about their lifestyles. Whether it is social pressures (‘keeping up with the neighbors’) or personal indulgence or whatever else, we happily follow in step with the rest of society, spending more and working more to pay for the extra and unnecessary expenditures we make.
But all of this points to a growing economic vulnerability – our nation’s overall economic activity these days seems to be in largest part either the government deliberately spending money it doesn’t have or else our own spending money we don’t really need to spend. Things of real value are being neglected, while things of abstract value are being worshipped (Is/was Facebook really worth $100 billion – a website that actually contributes nothing to our essential lives?).
We’ve built a house of cards, and there is a growing risk it could all come crashing down.
Confronting the Uncertainties in Our Current Lives
As we prep for the unknown future, we are thinking primarily in the terms of disasters that are national – or at least, extensively distributed over a number of states – in scope. A complete loss of the power grid. An EMP. An influenza pandemic and the breakdown in society that could follow. An asteroid strike. Or whatever else.
But there is another type of possible disaster, too. A personal level disaster that impacts only on us. The loss of our job, and possibly the inability to get a replacement job. This could happen for any number of reasons, most outside our control.
All of a sudden, we’d find ourselves with the lifestyle that assumes ongoing oversized paychecks every month, but without the paychecks.
Sure, we’d cut back, but we still would be obliged to make the payments on any debt we have (car loans, credit card balances, etc). We’d still have the monthly costs of our primary dwelling. And if we’re no longer working, once the unemployment benefits ran out, we’d have no income source at all until such time as we could land another job.
Can you see where this is going?
Bugging Out Very Early
We’re merely inviting and encouraging you to think about the implications of making a major lifestyle change, on your own terms and timetable, not after it is too late, but when you still have options and can fully optimize what you’re doing.
What say you sold off your current house (if you own one) and moved to your retreat. What say you quit your current job, or at the very least, downgrade it to a limited amount of part-time tele-commute type work from your retreat. What say you cut down or eliminate entirely much of the unnecessary extravagances in your life. Take a zero off your clothing and shoe budgets, for example. Take a zero off your eating out and entertainment budgets too. Swap expensive nights out at restaurants, shows and clubs for inexpensive nights in with good friends and family – the pleasure you’ll derive will be the same, but the cost will be much less. Keep cars for 150,000 miles or more. Borrow books and videos from the local library. Cook food from raw ingredients, rather than buy it pre-processed and pre-cooked.
And what say you become a Code Green community pathfinder now. Or perhaps take up or create some sort of small country business type activity in the nearby town or village your retreat is close to. Or become a farmer and start working your land; maybe growing crops, maybe raising animals (or both).
Your outgoings would massively collapse down, so you wouldn’t need to earn nearly as much to keep ahead of your bills. You could choose to adopt a more leisurely, relaxed type of lifestyle where quality of life becomes more real and possible.
What we’re suggesting you evaluate is creating a sustainable quality lifestyle now – a lifestyle that would change only somewhat if TEOTWAWKI should occur. You’d not only be fully prepped with very little at risk or vulnerable, but you might discover a peace and contentment that has been lost sight of in many people’s lives and lifestyles.
There’s nothing revolutionary about this suggestion or this lifestyle. You don’t need to become a hippy, grow a beard, and wear a peace symbol round your neck. You simply switch from being a city-dweller living a city lifestyle, to becoming a country resident living a country lifestyle.
People have been living semi-self-contained and semi-self-sufficient lifestyles for hundreds of years. It has formerly been the norm that a farmer grows enough food for his own family and some surplus to trade with at the town market for the other things he can’t grow or make himself. It is only in the last 150 years or so, since industrialization and mass production, that people have shifted from directly making the essentials for their life and sustenance, and now working in ‘derivative’ jobs removed from the actual farm land or factory floor. It is still possible to lead a good life with a ‘real’ rather than ‘artificial’ job, creating real goods or providing real services, rather than being some sort of abstract ‘knowledge’ type worker. Oh, we’re not knocking knowledge workers per se (guess what we are!) but merely pointing out that much of our society these days is involved in jobs that don’t actually ensure the strength, security and success of the society.
A Huge Change – But Don’t Dismiss it Outright
We’re not expecting you to stop at this point and say ‘Oh my gosh. You are so right!’ and immediately chuck in your job, and move tomorrow to the countryside. That would be foolish.
But we are asking/suggesting you don’t do the opposite – you don’t instead sneer and say ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read today’ and click away from the site, never to return.
Instead, think about the concept. Let it settle and develop. Occasionally think about how you could change or restructure your life, and then, on a planned basis and on your own terms, you can make the changes in your life to enable this shift of life style.
This could be the best type of prepping at all – changing your life now, on your terms, so that whatever happens in the future, you’ll not be as massively affected by it as you would be with no changes.
This is the ultimate in prepping. It will take time to master. 🙂