How to Be a Hermit and Live On Your Own Terms

You like to be by yourself. You enjoy the outdoors and you’re good with your hands. If that sounds like you, you might just make a good hermit or more accurately, a recluse.

As a survivalist, the ability to survive alone or at least in isolation, away from society, is a legitimate concern and a test of your ability to make it after a catastrophic event.

You may find yourself the only one who made it out alive, or you may find yourself alone or isolated out of necessity or hardship.

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.

What is a Hermit?

A hermit is someone who lives apart from society, is usually self-sufficient to varying degrees, and avoids the need to have resources from others as much as possible.

This makes the concept of being a hermit not quite so profound. The question here is really whether you can make it in solitude if your life depended on it.

If you were to look the definition up in most dictionaries and via a Google search, the definitions will tell you that it’s a religious experience, getting closer to God via solitude in nature.

A female hermit is sometimes referred to as a hermitess. And this might be true, as many find it to be a spiritual experience – those who are hermits for religious reasons often live most of their life in contemplative silence.

If you’re considering this lifestyle, the biggest thing you’ll have to worry about is that total isolation may not be for you. Humans are social animals, and living without peers have have long-term psychological effects on your mental health.

To see if this life choice is for you, try spending a few days, weeks, or months at a remote summer cabin while retaining your social media privileges, and most of the comforts you have today.

Then you’ll really know if you can be all by yourself for long periods of time.

What is a Hermit in the Catholic Church?

So, by definition, a true hermit is someone who lives in solitude for religious reasons. Some hermits make private vows of chastity and poverty, either with a priest as a witness or on their own.

In the Catholic Church, there are those who choose to take vows of chastity, poverty, or obedience, publicly.

These people are known as Catholic hermits and have canonical status, are part of an order, and typically will wear a habit.

A Catholic hermit is typically referred to as “brother” Smith or “brother” Thomas, and will typically wear identifying garb, including a cowl. For the purposes of this article, we won’t be talking about canonical hermits.

Being a Hermit is Not Easy and Often Not Fun

The popular conception of a hermit lifestyle is that of pleasant anarchy in a quaint cottage or hobbit hole somewhere in the woods.

Tending to simple housework and puttering days away in pursuit of one personal endeavor or another. The reality of being a hermit is quite different.

You will have to work hard every day to maintain your lifestyle. There is no room for complacency or taking things for granted.

Everything that you have you will have to provide: Societal links will be extremely tenuous if present at all. All of the typical survival necessities- air, shelter, food, water, and security- must still be accounted for.

You aren’t luxuriating in some remote villa during an all-expenses-paid vacay! The circumstances surrounding your existence will likely be one of toil.

The isolation alone will prevent or capsize most folks who try: This alone can be taxing on the mental and emotional state and there are few who are genuinely wired to live much less thrive devoid of human contact.

It is also difficult to transition back into society after living as a hermit since you would have become so used to being on your own: our social skills are exactly that, and they only stay sharp from near-constant use!

A “relapsed” hermit is likely to be socially rudderless or overly bombastic at turns and, arguably, could be considered to suffer from mental illness by the rest of society.

There are some definite advantages to being a hermit, however. You will have plenty of time to pursue your interests and develop new skills.

You will also be able to live far more cheaply than most people and you can definitely avoid many of the hassles that come with modern life.

So ask yourself if you think you could hack it as a hermit. If you think you can, you definitely can’t. But if you’re totally sure, then read on!

Do Hermits Live Longer?

There is in fact long-term research that may indicate hermits don’t live longer, though actual hermits were not studied. But according to the American Journal of Public Health, in a study of more than 2,000 women in California, having a large social network made the development of dementia in senior women 26% less likely.

And when it comes to Medicare spending, researchers indicate that $1,600 more on average per year is spent on seniors with limited social connections than on those with more social interactions. This increased spending would imply that social interaction has an impact on health.

In addition, a University of Chicago study, done recently, of men and women from 50 to 68, indicated that lonely people can have higher blood pressure, as much as 30 points higher. Since high blood pressure is a huge risk factor for heart disease, this doesn’t bode well for the hermit.

But, keep in mind that in most of those studies, it’s likely people being studied were not choosing to be alone, but instead were forced into a situation with less social interaction, likely due to being in a nursing home or living alone due to age, not due to a choice.

Difference Between a Hermit and a Recluse

A hermit is as we described above, the term more likely used to refer to someone who lives in solitude due to religious reasons. A modern-day hermit or recluse, on the other hand, is someone who simply chooses a life of solitude because they prefer being alone.

Many people who are reclusive may have social anxiety or be extremely shy around people they don’t know. A person may become a recluse simply because they are fearful of or tired of dealing with other people.

Modern-day hermits as we’re talking about today, often choose to live in isolation for a variety of reasons, including in preparation for an economic collapse or other catastrophic events.

These modern-day hermits believe that living in isolation now, will increase their odds of survival post-SHTF.

Who Becomes a Hermit?

The word hermit is often associated with negative energy in our modern society, usually referring to a person who’s asocial and may be seen by others as an outcast.

But in truth, modern-day hermits can come from various walks of life and may be inspired by anything from religion to de-stressing from a high-speed life.

Sometimes, Buddhist monks will voluntarily become hermits, with a few thousands of them living this lifestyle up in the Zhongnan Mountains.

For the purposes of this article, hermits are people who are looking for a basic life full of simplicity and self-sufficiency, with less reliance on society and other people for resources. 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 few different levels to hermitage – the hermit lifestyle; some will simply live away from others but keep some technology around, while others may be completely tech-free to the point of going without power, without running water, and only eating basic foods grown on their own land.

Some hermits own the land they live on, in order to avoid a variety of legal issues, and they may have their houses custom-made in order to be enough for the life of self-sufficiency 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 is true or false:

  1. I prefer to be alone.
  2. I know how to hunt.
  3. I am a great gardener.
  4. I know how to do basic maintenance and building on my own.
  5. I do not need a vehicle.
  6. Lack of electricity does not bother me.
  7. I don’t need elaborate modern plumbing and water systems.
  8. I can sew.
  9. I don’t need to know the most current news.
  10. I am reasonably healthy.
  11. I know basic first aid.
  12. I can adapt to most situations quickly.
  13. I can entertain myself fairly easily.
  14. I like quiet.
  15. I am physically active.

Now, for how many of these statements did you say, “Oh yeah that’s definitely me!” ? If they all sound like you, congratulations, you will make a great modern-day 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 of modern-day hermitage.

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 with 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 modern-day hermits are couples, some 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 after work they 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 an emergency.

Famous Hermits

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 look 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 hermits, 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. In reality, he’s more of a recluse than a hermit.

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.

Again, she fits more into the definition of a recluse than a traditional hermit.

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.

He’s an example of the protestor category of hermit.

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 due to 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.

Statue of Dame Julian
Poliphilo [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

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, falling into the pursuer category of hermits, 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.

Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher and writer who documented his 2= years of solitude in a book that was published in 1854 titled Walden.

How to Become A Hermit

First, not too many people just decide to become hermits out of the blue. Many people end up living the hermit lifestyle due to gradual changes in their habits or environment.

They may stop going out to eat, stop riding public transportation, or stop joining friends for activities after work. People who gradually become hermits or reclusive may do so out of fear or anxiety following trauma or some other unexpected event, like the death of a child, spouse, or parent.

And in fact, even those people who make a conscious decision to live in isolation, may not think of themselves as hermits at all.

Many may first dream about living in isolation for a few years, then 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.

Genuine Austerity vs. Isolated Modernity

One of the biggest arguments that pop up around hermitism is the lifestyle surrounding isolation. Does a hermit live in a state of austerity closer to our “natural” baseline, or do they merely live on their terms completely isolated from the rest of society and much of humanity?

There are pros and cons to both lifestyles:

Living in Austerity

If you choose to live in austerity, you will have to live very simply and without most of the conveniences that we have become used to. This can be a good thing as it strips away some of the distractions and superficiality of our lives.

It can also be difficult because you will have to provide everything for yourself. You may find that this is more difficult than you thought it would be.

A hermit living in true austerity might live in a simple, primitive dwelling that he built himself, or in a basic fabricated or prefabricated structure. Some even live in caves!

Possessions will likely be only what is needed to survive and enable ongoing survival. This is a radical departure from the standard of living experienced by nearly everyone in the western world.

Modern, Isolated Living

If you choose only to isolate yourself from society but not modernity, you may still have all the conveniences of modern life at your fingertips.

However, you will still be completely cut off from the rest of society. You will have to decide if you can handle being completely alone but at least you’ll have all or most of modern technology and conveniences to keep yourself comfortable and entertained!

It will be up to you to figure out how you are going to provide all those modern amenities- internet, electricity, water, waste disposal- and also up to you to figure out how you’ll construct your home or shelter.

Is it s kit you can build yourself, or can you pay a contractor with the specialized skills and know-how to properly construct your hermitage in a genuinely remote location?

You don’t need my judgment on the matter; I am not the king of the hermits! In the end, only you can decide if being a hermit is right for you and to what degree!

Consider your reasons carefully and make sure that you are prepared for the lifestyle change if you decide to go full-tilt austere living.

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 and live a true survivalist lifestyle?

If you are making a conscious decision to become a hermit, we’ve listed some of the things to consider below:

If you are committed to giving it a go, the following section will help you determine what degree of seclusion and austerity is likely right for you.

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).

Others may live a minimalist or even a luxurious lifestyle but just avoid interacting with new people or crowds of people.

When it comes to living arrangements, ask yourself a few questions, and remember that these only scratch the surface:

  • Do you want a big house or a small one?
  • Will you build, 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, what conveniences you can’t live without, and make sure to have those items or resources 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 the 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 modern comforts and technology but consider how you can reach others if necessary during a disaster or emergency.

While being a hermit is mostly about physical distancing and isolation, you can’t really be isolated if you keep checking your Facebook and Twitter.

The point of leaving away from society is to keep all your time to yourself. You can’t really do that if you check your message 20 times a day…

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.

If you intend to live without power, you’ll need to make certain you’ve planned for fresh water, food storage, and other personal hygiene tasks, such as laundry.

If you intend to take some of the modern day comforts, such as the Internet, television, radio, indoor plumbing, or refrigeration, you’ll need to plan for resources to make that possible.

Practice Homesteading

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:

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 to 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 and gradually build a stockpile of stored and preserved foods that will sustain you in difficult times!

Study the area you plan on moving into – is there often too much rain, or snow? Dangerous animals? Other people?

You should also focus on your home and travel ability. If your house is built solid and you can still contact the outside world when you have an emergency, you’re probably fine.

Explore the Outdoors

Hermits frequently need to 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 a while, 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.

Consider a Plan to Get Debt Free

If you’ve been living within society for any amount of time, it’s quite possible that you have accumulated some amount of debt in your name.

Before you make the move to live in isolation, as a modern-day hermit, and especially if your goal includes being self-sufficient and free from dependence on society or government services and resources, you need to get debt free.

Your income will likely go down when you make such a change in lifestyle. Consider what debts you have and include a plan for paying them down in your timeline.

  • Do you owe for an existing mortgage?
  • Is there an amount left to be paid off on your vehicle?
  • Are there any belongings that you can sell to help pay off your debt?
  • What can you do to earn additional income to help you pay down your debt and get an emergency fund in place?
  • How will you handle expenses if you become ill or get injured and can’t work?
  • What about your work now will change when you move or make this lifestyle change and how will it impact your income and expenses?

1Moving In

Okay, so you’ve planned as much as you can, have your house ready to go, and now you need to 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 sunburns 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.

Ready to Become a Hermit?

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.

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6 thoughts on “How to Be a Hermit and Live On Your Own Terms”

  1. Interesting article but please don’t confuse a true eremetical lifestyle with the usual 21st century dream of just getting away from everything in the prepper sense. The real eremetical life is not something that you just decide you’re going to do for this, that or other reason. A true Hermit in the eremetical sense is compelled by God /The Holy Spirit and really has no choice but to take up that lifestyle and give oneself entirely to serving God in a consecrated way of life. Without God as the centre of your eremetical lifestyle you cannot be a true hermit. The word “Hermit” being used in a frivolous way by people who just want to be alone or preppers who think that they can survive self sufficiency is to dismiss the true purpose of the consecrated eremetical life and the seriousness and difficulties faced by us. I would bet that 99% of people who consider themselves preppers would not survive 12 months living a true hermits life. A “hermit ” living in a town or city is known as a “solitary”. Not the same thing. This is coming from a real, consecrated female hermit, having lived the life for nearly 45 years. I would suggest that no one would be able to survive the isolation, the deprivation, the cold, the heat and the etc etc daily grind of sheer survival if the spiritual side is not there first. The call from God comes first –the learning basic survival skills comes second. All that said, good good article, useful and may many more people learn to put themselves into a position of having some plan and knowledge of survival. Preppers are going to be essential to the survival of many in the near future. It’s not the threat of war or emp or economic collapse we should be preparing for, although they are likely due. I say we need to be prepared to learn a new “old fashioned ” way of life because God is going to shake the world and its inhabitants up. Soon. Very soon. God bless you all.

  2. Sandi Bird Aldridge

    Interesting article. While I’m not looking at a solitary or “hermit” lifestyle at this point, there were some good takeaways for possible future use. Thanks for taking the time to write good, solid articles, not just fluff. You are appreciated.

  3. I guess I’m basically a ‘solitary’ person. I live in a small town to which I moved into knowing no one. I met the woman who sold me my home & we are good friends. However, we rarely see each other … maybe 3 or4 times a year. I rarely go out; dr’s appts when necessary (1 or 2 times a year), otherwise, I am at home, alone. My famiy vists abt once every year or two, but that’s about it. I get most of my food & supplies online so I rarely have the need to get out. I love my isolation. I grew up with a fairly large family & usually hid in a corner to read without interruption. Later on, I had 3 children of my own and there was always confusion or arguments. When I retired, I seized the opportunity to get away & have some peace & quiet. I love it! Maybe some day I’ll want to rejoin my family … when I’m too old to live alone. But until then, I’m content to be a ‘solitary.’

  4. American hunting, survivalism, and ‘canning’ ??etc! Understandable. But. Misses the point for many readers here!. Other sensitive reasons: Gina, and the Holy Spirit closer, for me.

  5. Love this article, so inspiring… regardless we as human that said as a social creature, to live out of our two feet and hardship and to trouble some others is just… amazing…!!!

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