Whatever the reason, the time to determine if you can make it as a hermit is before the event strikes. If you find that you don’t pass muster though, you can prepare yourself to function better just in case you do end up alone.
So what is a hermit actually? Well, if you were to look the definition up in most dictionaries and via a Google search, most will tell you that it’s a religious experience, getting closer to God via solitude in nature. And this might be true, as many find it to be a spiritual experience – but from a survivalist perspective, it’s not quite so profound. The question here is really whether or not you can make it in solitude.
A hermit is someone who lives apart from society, usually self-sufficient to varying degrees and avoiding the need to have resource from others as much as possible.
There are a few different levels to the hermit lifestyle; some will simply live away from others but still keep some technology around, while others may be completely tech-free to the point of going without power and running water and only eat basic foods grown on their own land. Some hermits own the land they live on, being able to avoid a variety of legal issues, and they may have their houses custom made in order to be sufficient for the life they are in search of.
Those who choose the hermit lifestyle prior to a disastrous occurrence may do so for a variety of reasons – perhaps trying to disconnect from toxic people or from the media, or more complex or simpler issues; it can change from person to person. Many who transition to a hermit lifestyle are trying to get away from the stress of modern life. If you’re sure that the hermit lifestyle is at least worth a shot, you’ll want to prepare a few steps before.
Take Our Quiz
First, take our fast quiz. Just ask yourself if each of the following statements are true or false:
- I prefer to be alone.
- I know how to hunt.
- I am a great gardener.
- I know how to do basic maintenance and building on my own.
- I do not need a vehicle.
- Lack of electricity does not bother me.
- I don’t need elaborate modern plumbing and water systems.
- I can sew.
- I don’t need to know the most current news.
- I am reasonably healthy.
- I know basic first aid.
- I can adapt to most situations quickly.
- I can entertain myself fairly easily.
- I like quiet.
- I am physically active.
Now, how many did you say “Oh yeah that’s definitely me!” to? If they all sound like you, congratulations, you will make a great hermit! But if only a few of them hit the mark, there’s no need to give up your dreams of countryside solitude. The truth is, there are varying degrees to hermitude and hermitages.
If you’re choosing the lifestyle voluntarily, you have options. If you’re a survivalist extrovert and worried about a catastrophic event that might force you into the life though, you may need to make greater preparations than others.
What Type of Hermit Are You?
Michael Finkel, in his book The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, said “There are three types of hermits in the world: protestors, pilgrims, and pursuers.” Protestors go off grid in opposition to something – politics or nosy family, the grind of capitalism; there are plenty of reasons.
Pilgrims are spiritual seekers, the more traditionally recognized hermits who seek solitude for prayer and a closer relationship to God. Pursuers are more closely related to pilgrims than they are protestors, but they may share some characteristics with protestors as well – they are seeking a higher understanding through some art form, be it writing or painting, another traditional artistic medium or a form of expression they’ve reinvented and made their own.
Some hermits are parts of a couple and raise families completely off the grid in the wilderness. Some haven’t seen another person in years and have no idea who’s the current President. Some live in the city and have office jobs but stay in and order Chinese take-out instead of socializing. This all depends on your choices and your options.
Are you a pilgrim, a protestor, or a pursuer? How much disconnect do you want and need, and how much can you sustain? Answer these questions if you’re going off grid voluntarily. And answer them also if you’re preparing to be forced to go off-grid in the event of emergency.
Who Becomes a Hermit?
The word hermit is often associated with a negative energy in our modern society, usually referring to a person who’s pretty asocial and may be seen as an outcast. While this person may become an actual hermit, that’s not quite the type of people we’re talking about here, as you’ve likely already realized.
Hermits can come from various walks of life, and may be inspired by anything from religion to de-stressing from a high-speed life. For the most part, hermits are people who were looking for a basic life full of simplicity and self sufficiency. They may be looking for a better connection to themselves and the natural world around them as well. Hermits can live in complete isolation, in rural areas, suburbs, and surprisingly, even in inner city areas.
There are a lot of hermits in the world, and you don’t have to feel obligated to outweird the ones we’re about to discuss. Remember to stand out in a group, you have to make yourself unique, and hermits are already known to be an eccentric bunch. If you feel like you aren’t cool enough to fill the shoes of these guys, you can look to them for inspiration, not emulation.
The Hermit Pope. The most well known hermit may be Pope Celestine V, who was forced out of hiding and into the papacy. He couldn’t hang with the job and quit not long into his reign, trying to return to the hermit life. He was captured though and forced into prison by his successor, who feared a rivalry. He died soon after.
Masafumi Nagasaki. Here we have one of those vacationing hermit types, a former photographer who retired to a deserted remote island off Japan. Once a week he travels by boat to pick up food, water, and a weekly stipend from his family.
Despina Achladoti. A rare female hermit, the Lady of Ro lived on a Greek island with her husband and mother who died shortly after arrival. She moved there just before World War II and died in 1982, becoming a symbol of Greek pride for her heartiness and independence. She flew the Greek flag daily even in the middle of the war.
Noah John Rondeau. He lived in the woods of upstate New York for 21 years until hurricane damage forced him back into the real world. He famously said that he chose to live as a hermit to escape the American culture of long work hours with low wages.
Brendan Grimshaw. A Brit who edited a newspaper for a living bought a Seychelles island for just under $10,000 in the 1960s and lived there until his death in 2012. It was declared a park in 2008 for all of his hard work planting trees and taking care of the local giant tortoises.
Christopher Knight. This Massachusetts native went off the grid in Maine for almost thirty years, but he ended up serving time and probation for all of the homes he burglarized during his time on his own. He did a lot of reading and meditating over the years, but he also stole necessities from neighbors. When he was captured by police in his cabin, he had an impressive library.
Julian of Norwich. This anchoress (a religious hermit who devotes their life to spirituality) lived in the time of the plague and made a practice of writing down her dreams. They were eventually published in a book and she was the first woman to write a book written in English. She did receive guests, but had forced her into a small, enclosed cell.
David Glasheen. A former day trader in Australia, he lost all his money in the stock market crash in the 1990s. He has a bit more technology than most hermits, with solar power and internet, but only leaves home every few months to buy supplies.
How to Become A Hermit
We’re going to save a lot of details for this for a more in depth article coming up soon. But let’s speak in general terms. First, not too many people just decide to become hermits out of the blue. Most tend to dream about it for a few years, start planning the process out (including saving up money for it), find the right place for them to live a solitary life, and then manage to jump in after.
You’ll want to think about how solitary you’re looking to be – do you want to visit family every now and then and have a TV, or are you ready to just drop everything?
What Do You Need? What Do You Want?
Many hermits give up their cars, give up most if not all technology, and are often stereotypically imagined with a pretty basic cabin – some don’t even have bedrooms, just a bed in the corner (or even a pull out couch). When it comes to living arrangements, ask yourself a few questions, and remember that these really only scratch the surface:
- Do you want a big house or a small one?
- Will you create, rent, or purchase a house?
- How much land do you need?
- How do you plan to travel around?
- Will you be growing most of your own food, and what sort of diet will you need?
- How much furniture will you have?
- Do you need any specific medicines?
Decide What Modern Comforts You Desire
Just because you choose to live as a hermit, it does not necessarily mean you must give up such modern comforts and pleasures such as indoor plumbing or technology, although some certainly do. Think about how modern you prefer to live and make sure to have those items when are you ready to venture into your life of being a hermit.
Also consider how technology will affect your ability to connect to your inner self and nature. Will having technology interfere with this, or do you want to remain connected to the world around you? Perhaps having a computer and internet can also help you earn income. That is another thing to consider while you are planning what you want from your life. You may choose to live in isolation from the outside world and free of the modern comforts and technology, but consider how you can reach others if necessary during a disaster or emergency.
Create a Timeline
Most hermits have planned their hermit lifestyle, and if you want to be fully prepped to just jump in, you might want a timeline to stick to. A timeline will help you stay organized and on top of your tasks. Adjust your timeline to your essentials list; for example if you’re building a house you will need to consider how much time the house needs to be built before it’s ready to move in.
Reading up on homesteading will give you a lot of great information for living a hermit lifestyle! You can learn how to make various foods, easy and cheap ways to grow your plants, and even more. If you don’t already have a green thumb, it’s time to start practicing your planting and harvesting skills. Knowing how to sew clothing is also an important homesteading skill.
As a hermit you will likely have a lot of do it yourself projects going on. Though some are extreme for those who just plan to be urban recluses, here are just a few areas you’ll probably want to build some skill in if you’re very serious about a countryside secluded hermit lifestyle:
- Growing your own food
- Making and using compost
- Animal care
- Long term water storage
- Tool usage
- Canning and preserving
- Outdoor cooking
- Heating a home with wood
- Basic vehicle maintenance
- First aid
Develop Necessary Skills
In addition to practicing homesteading, you will want to know how to make yourself less dependent on others to be a hermit. This means you should know how to fix things around the house and other things that will keep you independent. Basic things you should know how repair or build are structures, plumbing and electricity if you choose to live a more modern hermit lifestyle. If you own any means of transportation, you should also know how to fix those as well.
In addition, you may want to take time to learn how to build your own furniture. Being able to make furniture could become a relaxing pastime, and it could even earn you a buck or two. Think about what tools or machinery you will need to build or repair your belongings and living structures while you are still in the planning stages of becoming a hermit.
Now you don’t have to go to extremes – remember even introverts who just want to be by themselves in the middle of the city can call themselves hermits. If you don’t want to build your home from earth or take out the power lines, you don’t have to! You can develop a resource network of people who help you with whatever your limitations may be.
Figuring Out What You’re Going to Eat
This might seem like it’s not a big deal, but think about it. Most of us can already go out and buy whatever fast food we want, or have a close-by corner store to buy from – but we still don’t know what we want to eat.
In order to live a hermit lifestyle and get the correct amount of nutrients (or at least eat on a regular basis), you need to think in advance about what you’re going to eat. Depending on the area you will be living in you will have different access to different foods. Plan your menu according to your location, and remember that although, you will be taking very few trips to the store, you’ll mostly rely on things you can hunt, grow or forage yourself.
Plan For Emergencies
Now this is what seems to get preppers and hermits alike – natural disasters happen, and very likely will kill off your crops. What are you going to do? Plan ahead!
Study the area you plan on moving into – is there often too much rain, snow? Dangerous animals? Other people?
Go ahead and set up a plan on how to handle food resources in an emergency. You should also focus on your home and travel ability. If your house is built pretty solid and you can still contact the outside world when you have an emergency, you’re probably fine.
Explore the Outdoors
Hermits actually do a good bit of work outside, and if most of your entertainment is going to come from the natural world around you, you should get to know it before moving in. If you have interest in the hermit lifestyle you probably already know a good bit about the outdoors, but it’s never a bad time to study up!
Especially if you have a specific area you want to move into, you may have a good time exploring the area beforehand and finding out some of its secrets – it may help you in the future! Learn how to be alone for awhile, or if you have a partner that will be tagging along, explore the area together and get to know the great outdoors.
This is also a great time to look for any natural craft materials around you – what can you do with some of the plants, the wood, or other natural junk that’s around? Learn to work with it, you will save a few bucks and might even make one or two as well.
Okay, so you’ve planned as much as you can, have your house ready to go, and now you need to actually move into the space. On day one you should just focus on settling in, but within the first week you will want to get your garden and kitchen as set up as possible. If such a thing is of interest you it may be time to start getting your own mini apothecary setup for any possible bee stings and sun burns that may be coming your way too.
Get a few cleaning tools – you like low effort but not dirty dishes. Bring in your furniture, and set it up as needed. Your setup will really depend on the hermit intensity you’ve chosen – are you setting up a landline and television or just a sleeping mat? One important thing is that while you don’t want a ton of visitors coming through at every moment, a few close and understanding friends or family members should know of your new location or how to contact you, for safety reasons.
Being a hermit in the modern age is a great mind and soul refresher, but does come with a few costs and challenges. Now that you know if you’re cut out for it, you can begin to transition with more confidence and knowledge. With a bit of planning though you can be well on your way to a new, simpler life.