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Ask ten people what the word survival means to them, and you’re liable to hear ten completely different answers. Some would say survival is you against nature in a desperate, debilitating struggle to make it out of the woods alive. Others would conjure up images of anti-government extremists organizing militias, burying grain and ammunition, waiting for a major catastrophe or global war. The majority would be somewhere in the middle. A few might even define survival as an entertaining show on TV. Maybe one out of ten people would think survival is pretty cool, and that knowing how to live off the land would be a good thing.
My introduction to survival training came 18 years ago when I signed up for a week-long program at Tom Brown Jr’s Wilderness Survival School in New Jersey . After reading several of his books, I took the plunge. I went with the intention of learning how to track animals so I could become a better deer hunter. As a child, I was one of those nerdy kids who caught butterflies, and basically everything else that moved, just so I could take a closer look. Nature fascinated me, and I read everything I could get my hands on about animals and insects. In a nutshell, I thought I knew a lot about Nature before I even went to Toms introductory class. Little did I know, my world was about to be turned upside down. In one week this man showed me that I didn’t know anything about Nature, and what I had learned was superficial at best. I was missing over 90% of what was there to be seen and experienced, walking right past it all. Emotionally, I was crushed. I thought I knew Nature! “Why had I been missing so much?” … It was because no one had ever taught me the skills to be “Aware.” School certainly hadn’t taught me such things. After all, now that we’d become a civilized society, I didn’t need to have that knowledge anymore, right?
So many unanswered questions swirled through my head…