Once upon a time, R&B lovers far and wide belted an anthem that hit home:
I’m a survivor (what?)
I’m not gon’ give up (what?)
I’m not gon’ stop (what?)
I’m gon’ work harder (what?)”
While most of the late 90’s used this as the soundtrack to independent people everywhere, I kept it as my anthem this weekend, all the way in 2017 because some things never go out style.
It’s been a solid month since I’ve been surviving the steep prices of New York City. I was just about reaching my limit on $5 coffees and $100/night basement-dungeon Airbnb’s when Damon and I received an email from 20th Century Fox about going on a press trip to promote The Mountain Between Us, a movie about an infamous plane crash in the 70’s that took place in Doubletop Mountain, where two strangers (played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba) had to survive in the middle of the wilderness until finding their way to civilization.
Members of the press, and lil ol’ Damon and Jo, were being asked to take Bear Grylls Survival Academy, where we’d spend 24 hours learning how to survive. We weren’t given much detail, which somehow excited me more – you can’t predict most things in life, so why were we trying to get the sneak peak on what we were about to experience if the point was to react and survive to the unexpected?
After a four hour bus ride from New York City, one night of sleep in a remote log-cabin style hotel, a morning filled with two more car rides, we finally entered the thick “no cell phone reception zone” where I seriously considered establishing “Mountain Mobile,” to bring modern day communication to Frost Valley.
At around 9AM on Saturday, we arrived at our final destination with working plumbing. We were taken to the back field to what looked like the set of a Real World – Road Rules challenge, where the only thing missing was TJ Lavin. In lieu of TJ, we had something much better: a group of dynamic Brits, ready to scream in our faces like drill sergeants getting their troops ready for war. The battle? Survival of the fittest.
We were each paired with strangers from the press, whom we’d have to spend the next 24 hours surviving with. My partner was Chris Van Vliet, an entertainment host from Canada now living in Miami, who luckily had experience fishing among other outdoorsy things. Winning.
Chris and I had never even had a conversation before, but it was pretty clear that by the end of the weekend, we’d have a crap ton of struggle stories to bond over.
(notice the eyes missing… yum)
I’m not going to give the entire experience away, because we’re releasing a video on it in late September, but what I can tell you is the following:
After winning “best fort” from the instructors themselves, eating a fish eye when almost no one else would, and swallowing my fears to go zip-lining over a moving river, it was pretty clear that G.I. Jo was a survivor.
The entire experience got me thinking: what do we even really need to survive?
We talk about the benefits of being a minimalist; how you need to own your shit and not let your shit own you. But really, when it comes down to life or death, do we even think about our appearance? The naysayers? The bad grade or review that we received from our higher-ups? Absolutely not.
The experience not only taught me how to light a fire using a tampon, chapstick, and a knife, but like most travel stories, it put things into perspective.
Sure, it’s nice to have running water, electricity, and WiFi to see what’s happening with your social circle. But at the end of the day, we only need a few things to survive – shelter, water, food, and companionship.
Keep in mind the rule of 3’s
- You can only survive 3 hours without shelter (in extreme weather conditions i.e. winter, rain, etc.)
- You can only survive 3 days without water
- You can only survive 3 weeks without food
- You can only survive 3 months without companionship
So why do we fill our lives with so much crap, if we don’t need most of it to survive?
It led me to the conclusion that the stuff we keep in addition to what we really need to physically survive is to fill a mental void, or to ease our insecurities.
It’s almost as though we don’t trust that we can survive with limited supplies and our smarts.
When we first arrived to pack our backpacks, the instructors warned us to pack light because we’d have to carry everything on our backs for the next 24 hours. Frantically, we stuffed our North Face jackets, and extra thick socks into our bags, only to be stopped, and told to unpack it all. The instructor then told us to put a waterproof jacket, an extra pair of pants, and a third item of our choice in the bag.
“Trust me, you won’t need anything else to survive,” said in a thick British accent.
(leave it to me to be the only one to cut myself with a massive knife)
When it comes to surviving in even the modern world, maybe less is really more.
If we think about filling our lives the same way we had to fill our survival backpack, maybe we’d walk through life with less baggage.
And now, after coming back to civilization with a few bruises and cuts, the greatest imprint left was the thought that I’ve been out of my apartment for a month, and haven’t NEEDED anything in there.
I’d rather wander, gain experiences, and expand my mind, than be held down by the idea that we need things to survive. After all, the weekend and the past month away from home clearly proved otherwise.
And while I enjoy all the comforts that we have access to in 2017, the real comfort is knowing it’s possible to survive with little to nothing.
The real challenge:
I challenge you to think about the top five things you’d need to survive (excluding the essentials), and start making a conscious effort to keep your priorities short.
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see that keeping our list shorter means long term happiness.