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Survival School
Jul 14, 2007, 10:57p - Life

[Note that this post has been back-dated, for reasons that may become apparent. This post was really written on Dec 29, 2007.]

It's been nearly half a year since my last post, the longest period of serenity this blog has seen since 2002. A lot has happened in the last 6 months, so much so that I'm not quite sure where to begin. It's nice that time only moves in one direction, as it helps me keep my memories in order...

For 28 days in July and August, I lived in the deserts and mountains of southern Utah. Arranged through Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS), I joined 11 other students and 3 guides to experience a life very different from the one most of us live, the life we actually evolved for. I kept a journal during this time, and what will follow for the next month or two will be pages out of that journal. I've tried to keep the online transcript as true to the original as possible. We were allowed to take a camera with us, so I'll be including photos as well.

Why did I decide to do this? After graduating from college in 2002, I didn't really know what to do with myself. With my newfound free time, I read a lot. Specifically, I read 2 things that encouraged me to question whether the modern notion of progress, embodied in the technology-accelerated spiral of consumption and production, was better than a simpler, more primitive lifestyle. Those 2 things were "Into the Wild" and the Unabomber's Manifesto. Most will consider questioning the modern notion of progress as just plain stupid, some will reject it after a bit of thought (isn't medicine good?), and fewer still will leave it open as a curious possibility. For whatever reason, I fell into the last camp.

Fast-forward to 2006, when Sachin told me about an interesting thing he read in Money magazine. In an article about "good ways to spend your money", he learned about BOSS, the oldest survival school in the US. I was intrigued. Not only was I ready for a radical change after 4 years of working, but maybe, just maybe I was ready to finally test that nostalgic belief that a primitive lifestyle might be a better one.

I decided to do their longest course, the 28-day field course. Basically, you're dropped off in the middle of the desert in southern Utah, near the small town of Boulder (different from Boulder, CO). You get to take very little: long underwear, 2 shirts, a jacket, a hat, a pair of shorts, a pair of pants, shoes, a knife, an enamel cup, 2 Nalgenes, a wool blanket, an army surplus poncho, a compass, a journal, a pencil, a toothbrush, some baking soda, a book, parachute cord, seatbelt webbing, and a camera. A long list, but that's pretty much it. No tent, no sleeping bag, no flashlight. You find all of your water in the bush, and use this magical stuff called Aerobic Oxygen to keep your body in a condition that prevents it from getting water-borne diseases. Hard to believe, but it worked. After an initial starvation period, they give you food rations of about 1000 calories a day. You can read a more detailed overview of the course here: 28-day field course.

What's listed on that web page is pretty much all I knew going into it. After several months of anticipation and a bit of rescheduling so I could go to my brother's college graduation, I was off. On July 14, I flew from Oakland to Salt Lake City, then took a couple trains and a bus to Provo, where I spent the night at a motel.

Outside our home in Walnut Creek


Read comments (1) - Comment

lilly - Jan 5, 2008, 3:23a
hey! We are fellows in our reservations about modernity. Well, I guess yours are really reservations about post-hunting-gathering existence. I'm actually starting to read a lot of STS and anthro stuff and get interested in "development," questioning the notion of economic and technological development that Western policies have sold. Many people in the so called developing world have done a better job of living a sustainable life than we have -- why are we trying to sell them our techno-capitalist consumption culture?

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