The Hermit Experience – Alone with Myself in the Wilderness

I started playing with an idea of living like a hermit shortly after I’ve reached an advanced stage of spiritual freedom. I longed for a full on hermit experience – to withdraw entirely from the society and move into the wilderness where I would live completely alone, in complete solitude with nothing but my two bare hands. Surrounded by silence and undisturbed by the messiness of the outside world, I looked to the hermit experience as a means into a deeper sense of my own self.

Photo: I Had My First Hermit Experience in Summer, Yet Morning Temperatures Were Below Zero

Photo: I Had My First Hermit Experience in Summer, Yet Morning Temperatures Were Below Zero

In my case, there were a few additional reasons that drew me towards the hermit experience. For one I wanted to see what I’m really capable of and whether I’m really as tough as I’d like to think I am, but I also wanted to get a taste of what it’s like surviving with absolutely nothing. And when I say “absolutely nothing”, I very much mean “absolutely nothing”.

You can’t truly understand poverty, unless you have absolutely nothing. You can’t truly understand loneliness unless you are completely alone. But most of all – you can’t truly understand what you’re really capable of, unless you have to do it all on your own, with no chance of anyone offering a helping hand or advice.

There was also this fact that many great spiritual leaders went through the hermit experience before reaching their apex as spiritual leaders. Buddha did it, Jesus Christ did it, Moses did it, Prophet Muhammad did it… you can go quite a ways back to understand what profound impact withdrawal from society and return to the simple life had on some of the greatest names from the past.

If these great spiritual leaders did it and considered it one of the most important stepping stones on their path to greatness, it was only a question of time before a desire to enhance my personal growth by seeking simple life and withdrawal from society popped into my mind. It was a natural progression of the things to come.

Know Thyself

We all search for the unknowable – whether knowingly or unknowingly – we all pace the same universal path to the bottom of our hearts, where we hope to find the answers. But as the demands of our daily lives increase, the touch with our otherwise abundant inner nature gets lost and the quest for the answers returns zero results.

My first run at living in solitude exposed me to a different, much truer and more satisfying me. Perhaps it was the silence so deafening I could hear my every heartbeat echo through the woods, perhaps it was the closeness with nature and all of her creatures who embraced me as one of their own, perhaps it was the stars I could see so brightly and distinctly I felt like I’m flying through space, or perhaps it was all of it together that returned me to my original, unadulterated state in which I reconnected with the vital forces of life and creation and experienced feeling of time that expanded to its relaxed abundance, affording me the most gratifyingly ample feeling that there was nothing more I needed to do than just sit and appreciate the beauty of nature and life within it as it was presenting itself to me at that very moment.

The Hermit Experience

I don’t have talent for writing so I’ll just quote Henry David Thoreau because it simply cannot be said any better (you may have heard this quote if you saw the movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams):

I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I went into the wilderness for 3 months without telling anyone. I carefully picked a very remote lake in Northern Alberta and completely disappeared without a trace. I packed my netbook and camera along but didn’t have a solar charger so their power only lasted for initial few days. Learning to slow down was single most difficult part which I’m gonna have to continue working on as I still haven’t mastered it. I returned back solely to clear the path for my next, longer stay away from the consumer society.

I didn’t ask for permission, I didn’t waste time trying to explain to anyone why I needed to do it – I simply did it. To my surprise, after I came clean with my parents, they weren’t mad. Not even after I told them that this was just a warm up and that I will go back after I’ve taken care of a few legal and moral obligations my citizenship requires of me. My dad’s response was that I involved myself in more than too many crazy adventures in the past and many worked out for me, so there was little to raise concern that I’d have any difficulty pulling this one through just as successfully.

Parental Blessings

There was simply no argument my parents could make to counter my intention to leave behind this insane money-chasing, going-nowhere life in a pretentious and superficial world where I was along with other zombies naught more than a living dead in a scheme laid up by power-tripping war lords.

My mom’s illogically baseless statement that life in the wilderness could be dangerous was the easiest to counter. I mean, how could life away from drug dealers, rapists, murderers, drunk drivers and other human filth be dangerous? Potential dangers lurk around anywhere you go, but in general terms, it doesn’t get any safer than when you are away from people.

My parents are deeply religious so their main disappointment with me is that I don’t go to church like they had taught me to, but if I were to acknowledge the existence of God, I wouldn’t expect to find him in the filth of the greed-fuelled war machine. I’d look for him in rivers that flow through land, in animals that tread its soil, in rocks that crown proud mountain tops. I’d look for him in flowers that add fragrance to the meadows, in pine needles that soften up the mountain floors, in drops of mist that glide lazily through the shades of endless forests. God is Earth and whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of Earth. We are all Sons of Earth.

My philosophy is kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water. I want to embrace a slow living lifestyle which would allow me to serve the Earth and appreciate her beauty. I want to live in rhythm with nature and her seasons for they each are beautiful in their own individualistic way. I want to take time out to watch clouds glade over the moon, sunrise outline the shape of the mountains and thunderstorm light up the northern sky.

At my first run at living alone in the wilderness, I lived like a hermit. Because I don’t live in a hunter/gatherer society and my country has enforceable laws I as its citizen am subjected to, I’m presently taking care of my obligations so I can return to the wilderness and stay there for a long time. But this time around I won’t live like a hermit, I will live as one.

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6 thoughts on “The Hermit Experience – Alone with Myself in the Wilderness

  1. After so many google searches, I’ve finally found a blog that is talking about reclusive life. I longed for a reclusive life like you do, to live far away from current society, and hardly I found any who shared my interest. I’m tired of people and culture, I just want to be on my own when I retired. Since you are experienced in this, could you suggest me where to travel for a one-man-journey? My promised land is Alaska and I wanna buy a little cottage to live there when I’m getting old.

    • Hello,

      Alaska, in my opinion is a good choice, though I can imagine one could find a reclusive place in virtually any country. Where you choose to go must resonate with you are. You must feel comfortable in that environment and like what it has to offer. For me, mountains are much more attractive than beaches, so Alaska sounds very appealing to me, but again… you must feel the same or else you’re gonna hate it there after a while.

      I explained why I chose Canada for this purpose here:

      http://www.travelingmark.com/canada/why-choose-canada-live-recluse/

      Do a few short stays in the wild first. Make sure you have a mission and stay until you have completed it. If you don’t have a mission, you’re gonna withdraw quickly.

      Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    I came across your blog as I was looking for more information on living a hermit’s life. I read about you on your page and some past posts and thought I’d just reach out and ask you a couple of questions. Since I have a blog, I will try not to be the annoying person that could just google something, or asking you to make decision on how I should live, or for you to predict my future. haha.

    I left the US four years ago with just a backpack and my laptop, sick of the “American Promise” – where basically you are meant to do all this stuff, with the promise that you will be happy / successful – and the reality being that you aren’t. I left for what I thought would be an around the world trip, but ended up settling in in Ao Nang Thailand, for quite some time before I did go the rest of the way ’round, and then came back to Ao Nang.

    The thing that I am going through is something that it seems you must have experienced, having gone from travel life to hermit-dom. It is a cross between general disappointment with society, and an urge to be ever-more self reliant. Generally, I am tired of people’s bullshit, either their selfishness, lack of understanding of themselves, or constant need for attention. I am not upset about this, just tired of watching the ‘B-grade movie’ of life.

    I am not depressed, or angry, I am at peace, but the world around me is not. And it seems that it wants to constantly interfere with that peace — and my solution, lately anyway, has been to just get even further away.

    So, a couple of questions that I am wondering about –

    1. What are you doing now — are you still happily hermiting away in the wilderness? Or did you find that a period of time spent alone was ‘enough’?

    2. How did you financially provide for yourself while gone? I have an online business, and my income is dependent on being online. I’m trying to set up more passive income strategies like niche sites, ads, and courses that require little interaction, but I haven’t been able to sort out how to earn without being there. Wondering what your costs have been, and ways you’ve offset them. Any thoughts?

    I appreciate your input, as it seems we have similar ideas on travel, life, and society. Hope all is well in your world :)

    Brooke
    p.s. I tried to send this to you in a private message on your contact page but your captcha image is broken.

  3. Hello Brooke,

    Thank you for the comment. What you call the “American Promise” is a dream for which people sacrifice their freedom. They live watching celebrities on TV and tabloids and are star struck by their lavish lifestyle and things they own. They keep themselves enslaved in hopes that one day it could be them who live such life. They wouldn’t consider living free because all they care about is a shot at becoming a celebrity and for that they’ll stay where they are and continue doing what they do.

    What you said about going the whole circle and returning back to basics is pretty much how I got to this point. I’ve been out there, seen it, experienced it, and found that people are as selfish and greedy elsewhere as they are back home.

    To answer your questions:

    1. It was not enough. I planned for a longer withdrawal last year and worked toward it. I encountered problems along the way which forced me to interrupt the trip and start looking elsewhere. Canada has too much red tape everywhere and government’s involvement in everything is so deep, one can’t do anything without them having their nose in it. Furthermore, I found that when it comes to the wilderness, me not having any Native American roots, I’m heavily discriminated against. If I were Native, I would have been able to go ahead with my plan here, but because I’m not, it’s impossible to call wilderness my home. I could do it, but I’d be staying in the wild illegally – at least as far as long term stay is involved because going for a month or two is fine, but if you want to stay the winter, you need to build a shelter and for that you’d need a lot of money and deal with a lot of bureaucracy. So I’m in the process of leaving Canada again after this year’s short run as a hermit and this time around I’m not coming back.

    2. When I quit work to travel, I was earning so little money it was ridiculous. By now my earnings are much better but to keep them in that level, I too must work on line. When I was in the wild, I survived on wilderness food so my expenses were none while some income continued being generated from my no input sites. It’s only a couple of hundred dollars a month but it’s still a money in which generates itself without my involvement (reaping fruits of past work).

    I made an elaborate post on true freedom on this blog and am still working on setting myself free from shackles most people do not see. Dependence on the internet is still one of them I’m working on overcoming and once I have this one mastered, I will proceed to the hardest of all – freedom from money. I did not quit work to merely free myself from working for the man. That’s what every other round the world traveller does. I aim much higher but I look so high, it gives people nausea just to hear about it.

    I’m gonna look into the problem with captcha. I think I know what’s causing it.

    Cheers ;)

    Mark

  4. Hi Mark

    Lately I have been taking on a quest to find like minded people and I think you are my best result so far haha.

    I am going to say the urban ratrace farewell on the 25th of may this year to go on a longterm primitive/nomadic trip in the boreal forest. I have been preparing for 2 years.. making plans, buying gear and clothing and the like.
    I realy recognise myself and my situation in your post, the only difference is that you have already lived the life while mine is just about to start.

    I have been keeping a blog on my plans and preperations since november last year and you might like it.
    http://thedutchhermit.blogspot.nl/

    With peace
    Ralph

  5. Great Post,
    Imnot going to repeat anything,as I relate so much to what you have expressed and some of the comments made by Brooke.. I have been considering the solitary life for sometime, which has come about my gradual separation from society and its bullshit. Ive so far spent from 3 to 10 months alone in the mountains of spain and morocco,with occasional contact… Ive yet to pluck up the courage to go and be 100% alone and see how I manage on every level. For me there is a spiritual element and th overwhelming desire to be self sufficient.
    I hope that things are going to plan with you and really appreciate finding like minded individuals.
    Ana Gabriella

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