“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin
I must confess that I stole this philosophy straight out of Burning Man’s 10 principles. I like their wording, and I like the meaning behind it. It also serves as something of an obvious philosophy for me to hold in this vagabond lifestyle of mine, although I really do think that it expands beyond those obvious points as well.
Let’s just get the elephant out of the room on this one. I live a lifestyle of adventure and travel. I am semi-off-grid, relying on my own source of solar-powered electricity. I rarely eat out or rely on anyone for anything. I am alone far more than I am with even strangers. When things go wrong; when I’m lost or something has broken that I depend on. I often don’t have someone else to call on. I just have to figure it out and get myself out. I’m stuck in a ditch? Better figure out how to get the traction under my car’s wheels to get out, because I may not see anyone come by here for the next month! I’m relying entirely on my own resources. My own creativity. My own emotional stability and mental acuity. This is the way of my life on a regular basis.
Let’s just go ahead and throw in another thing in there for me: I’m doing all of this out of an SUV/Station Wagon, and I place an extreme limit on the space that I provide for any useful things in here! Worse yet, I willingly get myself into tight spots, going down roads that push the limits of this vehicle, just to get an amazing camp spot. There’s a lot of danger, and I have to pull from all of my internal and external resources available to me at the time to make sure that I’m always safe. “Radical” seems like it might be a nice word for this self-reliance I practice. Not to “toot my own horn” here!
Now, most people won’t be doing anything like me at all. Most people will take it easier, or live much more comfortable lives. Most people will make themselves an area in the world where others can be relied upon with some guarantee. If they get injured, there’s probably an easy way to take care of it and get help. If something goes wrong, there’s probably someone to help them through it. Which is totally fine, and doesn’t begin to negate radical self-reliance whatsoever, if you ask me!
The much larger point of this radical self-reliance thing is about relying on your own resources.
It’s a wonderful thing to make sure that your water is well supplied and potable and that you have food to last any emergency situation. That’s always important, and I think even under-practiced by many people in the western world. It seems people have gotten comfortable with the benefits of the modern world and are forgetting the necessities of survival in a world that is much harsher than our modern facade has a surprisingly large number of people believing.
I’m even baffled by the fact that most people don’t even have a survival kit anywhere, let alone in their cars–one of the most important places to have one! Even of those that do, many buy them from the store and never open them. Such a thing is breaking this self-reliance rule to me. A survival kit is the difference between life and death. I don’t think everyone needs to go quite as radical as me in building their own survival kit, but having one, and practicing using it, is an absolute must, in my opinion!
Enough about that more obvious physical self-reliance stuff, though. There’s a whole other facet to this thing that I have barely touched on: all of your internal resources.
I set this rule as more than just practicing this off-the-grid, physically surviving in a nomadic, self-reliant lifestyle thing. Perhaps even more important is exactly how Burning Man describes it: “[Encourage] the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”
Your own creativity. Your own emotional stability and mental acuity. I brought those up in passing above. Also, what are your personal strengths and weaknesses? How can you use your own strengths to overcome your weaknesses? Ever discovering this about myself is a big way that I practice this rule.
This is why I included the quotes above. Because it’s not about imitating what I do, or what any survivalist does. It’s about not imitating. It’s about finding what your strengths are. What your internal resources are. Exercising them. Building them. Doing what you’re good at, to make your life what you want it to be.
I’m good at several things to do with hiking. I’m getting pretty good at this living out of an SUV thing. I’m not an amazing artist or anything, but I am good at thinking creatively about problems. At this point in my life, I’m good at keeping myself in a positive, hopeful attitude. I’ve got a wonderful strength in keeping myself self-motivated when I want to–especially when something interests me.
There’s other things I’m good at. And they’re different than what you, my reader, is good at. Which is awesome! This rule isn’t about trying to do everything on our own, even though such a perspective fits in my own lifestyle. It’s more about pulling from what makes you who you are. Uncompromising. Unapologetic. Not imitating others, but just being you, as you are. Embracing it and moving forward.
That’s what this whole lifestyle of mine is about! There’s all of these crazy details about how I do what I do. But they all falter to this. This lifestyle is about being myself. Not asking anyone to forgive me for being who I am. Fuck that. I am who I am, and I’m going to be who I am. I’m going to practice being who I am, and I’m going to go on an unending quest to discover more about who I am. I am going to be radically self-reliant!