vines surviving, wrapped around tree trunk

Survival Training – Take 1

I’ve nestled back into my apartment after quite a weekend adventure. You see, I went through survival training recently. I’m going to be perfectly honest here with you about the experience: I didn’t finish the entire weekend with the rest of the group. It was supposed to be two full days, and I completed one and a half. I went as far as I could go, built a strategy plan, then gracefully bowed out before my body started to scream at me. Given my background and experience, I am so freakin’ proud of myself for everything I accomplished!

Just in case you didn’t know, I am a city girl… actually, a suburb/ocean girl. I never even saw a real tent until my 30s and I’ve never been camping outside of a festival-like setting with support facilities and one glamping experience. It was only in the last few years that I’ve started exploring the woods on my own.

The first time my mother came to visit me in Damanhur, I was living in a treehouse village. She had to stay in the little town, as she couldn’t walk up and down the mountainside every day like we did. She kept looking at me and saying, “…we are city people.” Technically, my mother is from an island, but she likes to remind me that she is from the city of the island! 

When I told her I was going for survival training, you could imagine her response: “Why do you want to go into the mountains?!” My mother is adorable, just so you know. She would never stop me from doing anything. But she always asks me why so that she can learn more about who I am.

Preparation is Key – Have a Strategy Plan

Damanhur encourages survival readiness. You are given a list of supplies you should have in a backpack ready to go at all time. As a Knight in the security division, I’m a coordinator of the readiness plan. And yet… my backpack was mainly empty. I love developing the strategy plan and execution of safety plans in case of major emergencies, but I’ve been so focused on others, I’ve never taken the time to plan for myself.

This training gave me an opportunity to finally fill out my backpack. It turns out, I was way more prepared than I thought. All I was missing from the list of survival items to bring was a cord and rope, two things I will be promptly adding.

Understanding how less is actually more really helped me feel more secure. A good knife, some key clothing items, a sturdy rope, a water bottle, a tarp, a leatherman, a puff of cotton, and a compass go a long way. 

…with only your backpack and what you can find in the forest

I won’t go into all the details of what we did. Suffice to say that I now know how to: 

  • start a fire with flint, 
  • make a trap to hunt small animals, 
  • create a water filter out of sand, stone, and ash, 
  • turn jeans into a backpack, 
  • apply a tourniquet and when, 
  • build a tent out of wood, cord, and a simple tarp,
  • repel down a slope with a makeshift harness and a dynamic rope,
  • create a strategy plan on how, when, and what direction to go,

…in coldish rain, with little food, and constant movement. Without a doubt, this experience has left me feeling much more sure of myself. It turns out, co-owning a circus and dating a circus tech for several years taught me a bunch of useful knots and how to handle a knife. My ex would be so proud of me! Little did he know I was actually paying attention to all those knots he loved showing me! 

If it was going so well, why leave early?

Day 2, we broke camp and prepared to go on a five to six hour walk up to a mountain top and back down again. The night before we studied our various route options, going out to explore possible short-cuts through unmarked, steep trails. In the end, we decided to take a longer, easier trail that zig-zagged up a steep slope instead of going straight up. 

Though I am in pretty good shape, I learned I need more training. Going up and down mountain slopes on day 1, I could feel my body giving out at times. While others were able to easily climb out of our camping area, I was a bit more unsteady on my feet. I’d get winded when the incline was too steep. I need to do longer walks up and down slopes to build up my endurance and foot and leg strength.

Honestly, the thought of walking with a heavy backpack for another full day was overwhelming. As we set out, I started dragging. My overall energy level was high. I had the right type of food fuel to keep me going, but my legs and cardiovascular system would slow me way down with every hill.

Our instructor was great, helping me push through my first wave of exhaustion. But at some point, I started to retreat into my own True Nature and asked for guidance. I was not participating as much because I was too concentrated on my own body’s needs. I asked myself if it was time to go, and when I had an answer, I asked the plants around me to send me a confirmation of my choice or to give me what I needed to go on.

Synchronically, we stopped at a lookout point to grab a bite to eat and to do some map reading training and update our strategy plan. Here, surrounded by lush pines and lots of wild plants, I felt at peace. I knew it was the perfect place to sit and wait for a ride home. I turned my phone on (it had been in airplane mode so I could use it for pictures) and instinctively sent a message out to my partner to say good morning. He pinged back that he was in the car and asked if I wanted a ride home. There was my answer.

Taking Inventory

As I walked back down to where I would be picked up, I felt really proud of myself. This beach girl spent a night in a tent made with her own hands and around a fire she lit. I really love my sleeping bag. And I could easily spend more nights under the trees listening to the rustle of the leaves and the scurry of small animals. What I still struggle with is endurance, but that is just a matter of practice. The more I go out, the more my body acclimates to this time of movement.

With this training, I grew a little more fearless. Going out, I wasn’t sure I would make it through the night. In the end, it was only a mountain slope that kept me from completing the whole weekend. If I were ever in a situation where I really did need to go out on my own, now I know to survive until I can find help. This gives me a confidence boost I take with me into my personal and professional lives. 

So… who wants to come with me on the next survival adventure?!

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