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So many people that I have met in the prepper world mention their dream of having a place away from everything. While this is a nice thought and something that my husband and I have somewhat achieved, when I hear this from others I have to ask if they know what they are saying.
While I understand how home ownership and some personal freedom is a worthy goal, the one thing that people don’t seem to be thinking about is the reality of the isolation that you will experience when moving to a rural area.
During SHTF regardless of city or rural life, if you are going to survive and keep what you have, you are going to have to give up a lot of interaction with others outside of your core group.
You need to ask yourself if you can deal with the isolation now. I speak from personal experience when it comes to dealing with this type of thing. I sometimes do not leave my place for 5-7 days at a time. For me that is okay. I have a ton of things to do. Going places takes away from my work and is expensive. I like this type of life, but it is not for everyone. It is better to think about what is right for you now than to realize your limitations later.
I remember my father telling me that during his time on the Olympic Peninsula a lot of women refused to live there after so long. Imagine living in a place where you get 10 feet of rain a year; the men are all off doing logging jobs, your choices for employment are nonexistent or very limited, and the nearest town has nothing except the basics. Oh and there is no internet, no e-books or other devices, and books are expensive or at the library that is 20 miles away on icy roads of poor quality. Times were different back then, but I am talking about the 70s,80s and early 90s which was not that long ago.
Isolation was part of the reason my mother and father grew apart
My parents bought land on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State before I was born. When my Dad asked if she was sure she was very enthusiastic. 15 acres on the Olympic Peninsula was exciting and it was beautiful. I remember it. My Dad built a house. He had a good job working in the sawmills.
It didn’t take long before my mother insisted on spending more and more time in Hamilton, Washington and would not stay on the peninsula. She took my brother with her. Eventually, we all moved to Hamilton but the damage was done. They stayed together for a while but she made sure she lost that land for us by her various nefarious and terrible actions later on.
To be blunt she could not deal with not being able to talk to a lot of people and about a lot of people. I guess I am doing that too but I just want you to realize that isolation can cause a lot of problems if one person decides they are not on board with it and that damage can affect a lot of people. This bit of my past is used as an example so that you strongly consider if living in the country or very isolated during good times is right for you.
Realize now that even your closest friends may not visit at all or if they do it may be just a few times a year.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I had the delusion that having a bigger chunk of property where you could let loose a little would mean having some friends over once in a while. Nope.
No one wants to drive out very far to visit nowadays. There is social media and people closer in proximity to them. Convenience and being pressed for time is enough to have a major impact on any friendship or even occasional social events.
You need to plan out your household better when stores are miles and miles away.
If you don’t plan, you will be on the road all the time. Online shopping can help with this, but you still have to think about how impractical it is to drive 20 miles to the store for one or two things that you might not need once you think long and hard about it. I only live 5 miles from the grocery store, but we still avoid making trips like this. It takes too much time on top of the expense of gas and wears and tear on a vehicle.
Choosing your property is important. While my place has been in the family awhile, there are a lot of people reading this that are considering where to buy and live for the long term.
There are deals out there for people that are willing or able to live more remotely. Western North Carolina is getting a reputation for being expensive to rent or buy, but it is a little more complicated than assuming the whole area is like that. The closer you live to towns, especially popular towns like Asheville, the more you will pay. If you are willing to live 20 miles or more away, there are a few deals.
Questions to ask when looking for land or house remotely
- Can you make a living? Is it close enough to commute to a job in a reasonable amount of time?
- What type of internet is available? How important this varies. Telecommuting is possible for a lot of jobs today and since there is satellite internet, more areas have at least some access than ever before. I advise looking into what is available to you beforehand so you can understand the cost of living completely. If you have to pay $100 a month for basic internet instead of the $60 you are used to spending. That is an extra $480 per year out of your budget. You may be able to make up for this in another area. For example, you may spend less on the heat in the winter in one area compared to another. Having a reliable internet can help with the sense of isolation.
- What are the property taxes? Is the area growing and attracting more money? I live in an area where the prices of homes have increased dramatically over the years. While property taxes in my county are low compared to a lot of the country, they have gone up a lot over the years.
- Where is the nearest store to buy groceries and other household essentials? Are the prices of basics a lot more expensive than where you live now?
- How close are your nearest neighbors? What does their place look like? Close neighbors may be seen as good or bad. Even if you have a big chunk of land you are considering, you may think twice about a place where there is a house on the border with a mountain of junk. At least make sure they haven’t dumped a bunch of garbage on your place. If they have, you may be able to argue the price down a bit.
- Where are the nearest schools? Are you going to homeschool? I was homeschooled and it definitely made it harder to socialize. I didn’t mind it as much as some kids but times are different and kids seem to be busy with a lot of different activities.
If you cannot stand minor isolation now, what are you going to do in a major event or a long term SHTF situation?
Going out during civil unrest or any major SHTF even is something that should be avoided unless you need supplies or medical issues that you cannot deal with at home.
Some of you may ask well what about trading? The truth is that ideally, you would be in a position during a major event where you would not need trade during the first stages. Of course, there is a time when supplies will run out or get low no matter how prepared you are. The key is to be prepared enough to avoid trading and interaction until some time has passed.
Trading or exposing what you have is dangerous, and if you are on your own, it is even worse because you have no one to back you up or survey a meeting point. I have gone to meet others during good times for legal sales of goods, and you can bet that I have someone with me and that I am armed in some way. Better to be safe than sorry.
Going out when not needed can be dangerous or fatal during real SHTF
Going out to see how things are during an emergency or civil unrest can lead to you getting caught up in it. Better to stay at home and deal with the isolation than become collateral damage. If you have others that are depending on you as a leader or provide, you need to consider this when making any decision that could put you or them at risk.
If something happened to you because you left when you shouldn’t have or didn’t need to, what would they have to deal with beyond mourning for you? Your decision could mean the difference between their survival or death. Little decisions can have major consequences during any event.
SHTF can mean that you are too busy to even think about interacting with others except when absolutely necessary. Severe situations like war often mean that at least some household members are always working to meet basic needs. Those that are unable may be more isolated.
How work is split up during an emergency or SHTF can mean some are simply more isolated than others. In some cases, this can mean women are more isolated if they are taking care of the household. I have been reading some books by Selco and he indicates that as the war in the Balkans progressed, traditional male and female roles were more common than before.
Try to create a home environment that doesn’t make you want to be away to stay sane.
For more than a decade Matt and I have lived on the side of the mountain and put whatever we could into our place. We have strived to make it a place that is nice to live and play in a while making it pay off too. We have achieved a lot of goals but not all. There are always other things we would like to do. Traveling and going places is exciting for many but there are consequences too.
If I took a trip with Matt and spent $1,000, we might have a week of fun and memories if we are lucky and keep it simple. That same money spent on a greenhouse that helped heat our house and provides food is something that will give back to us for many years to come and make our place more enjoyable. You have to ask yourself what is most important to you and those in your family and offers the best overall value. Sure we have 11 acres, animals, and a house we built ourselves that is comfortable and made well, but we also went on one vacation in 10 years and then one-weekend getaway. We don’t go to restaurants or bars. If we did those things we would have a much better social life but that is not going to help us as much as putting that time and money toward our goals.
You can socialize without spending a lot, but I find that a lot of people want to be seen out and about and plan events that involve spending a day’s pay for an evening of fun. I think this is one of the reasons so many people talk online. Think about what you could do with an extra $50-$100 per week dedicated to improving your long-term life, not your social life.
Experiment with isolation now if you can. It is best to know your weaknesses and work on them during good times, so you are as ready as possible for a true SHTF event.
When was the last time you just went to work and back for a few days? When is the last time you stayed at home and did not go out for an entire weekend? Those with kids may find staying at home even harder but guess what? Your kids need to know how to deal with social isolation when needed too. If they don’t know now, then they are going to be even more upset and hard to manage during a crisis. This means you are going to need to have strategies to keep them positive and entertained, possibly without cable tv and internet.
Experimenting with social isolation also allows you to plan ways during good times to make hard ones more manageable. Maybe you realize that you would do a lot better if you had a solar charger and battery bank to keep your e-reader going? Perhaps you realize that you have no entertainment options for some members of your family? Take notes and make improvements now!
So what do you do if you go up the wall without social interaction or the ability to leave your home for a few?
There is no one answer that is good for everyone when it comes to realizing you are not cut out for isolated living or if lack of social interaction has a very negative impact on your mental health. It may be helpful to ask yourself if you just get bored easily or if you need a lot of support from others. Is there something at home that is causing you to want to be away more?
Some people try communal living on remote properties thinking that it will help. For a select few this may be okay but I have to say that not many communal type living arrangments and property shares work out in the long term. You need to know people and get along with them very well. Differences and having a very small social circle can be just as bad or even worse for some people in the long term.
In a major SHTF situation, the fear of suffering or dying is probably going to make it a little easier for you to not get excited about social interaction. True danger is quite the motivator to change your personality and desires.
Solutions For Making Isolation More Bearable
Being isolated doesn’t mean sitting around and staring at the wall or your family. There are a lot of things you can do to make it easier on everyone. Of course, some of these are best planned ahead of time as part of your preps.
If you don’t have a hobby now then you may want to think of something you can do to keep busy when not working. If you are living far out and homesteading then your hobbies may go hand in hand with your work. The lines can be very blurred.
During a long term SHTF event, it may be a bit different at times. Some hobbies can definitely result in useful items for your family or for trade when it gets to the point where you are running low on supplies. Here are a few useful hobbies I can think of.
- Knitting, crocheting, and needlework
- Sewing and quilting
Hobbies That Improve Morale
While staying busy is very useful for morale for many people, especially those that are isolated the most, there are some hobbies that others may not realize are very useful for keeping as positive a mindset as possible.
Music and playing musical instruments
When I was little my uncle and his biker friends would jam on the guitar. That sure was nice anytime and it was even better on those dark, dreary, rainy, cold nights in the tiny North Cascades town of Hamilton, Washington. I lived in a town of 300 people for most of my childhood years. No gas station even. Just a post office/liquor store in one building and a general store that was open when it wasn’t too damaged by recent floods.
Today we have the option of using music players that don’t take a lot of power to use. Back then a portable CD player or even a cassette player with headphones was expensive and took a lot of batteries to use. Rechargeable was simply not an option either.
I grew up without cable television or a phone. Storytelling was common in our household. My Dad would read or tell me stories every night before I went to bed even if he was tired from working at the sawmill all day or getting ready to go into work. He tried not to work any nights since he had to raise me too. The role of storytelling in the family can be an excellent role for older members of your group that cannot do as much physical labor. During hard times the older members of a family can become depressed and even feel like a burden so any activity that helps and they can do is good for them too!
Board games are popular but there are plenty of other games that require fewer inputs. Here are a few suggestions for items to put back in a game box. Of course, you may want to add to this or not use some based on the ages of those in your household.
- Several decks of playing cards
- Other card games like Go-Fish
- Paper pads and pens for games like Charades
- Common games like Chess, Checkers, Monopoly, etc.
Remember that the concept of isolation is a bit different now
I am going to be 36 in the spring and it is amazing to me how much the world has changed since living in an isolated town in Washington in the 80s and 90s. A simple e-reader would have changed my world back then. There are so many inexpensive options for instant entertainment.
Even if the power goes out for a while, I have a ton of books on my Kindle. I also have the ability to charge it during a power outage. Solar panels were very expensive back in the day but now they are very affordable. The internet has sure changed everything.
Of course, electronic means of communication and information via the internet is not guaranteed or even likely to be around in a major SHTF situation. It is hard to imagine growing up like the kids today with all the entertainment options at the tip of their fingers. I guess my point is that what most of us consider being cut off or isolated is not the same as what those words brought to mind 25 years ago.
Have you ever spent any time isolated? Do you live a long way from any town with movie theaters, live music, etc.? Have you ever been forced to be isolated with people that you didn’t really know or care for that much? Please share with us in the comments so we can all learn!
Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]