1) Preparedness is a lifestyle not a “kit”.
I really didn’t start long-term preparation until after seeing the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On the other hand, I have always had an interest in survival and preparation, whether it was for a disaster or it just meant having some simple comforts during life’s unexpected events. I usually bring extra food and clothing when away from home. This not only saves money, but it also allows more control over one’s life. Packing food allows one to not only eat what they want but also when and where they want, all at a lower cost.
One beautiful spring day our family, along with our dog, went canoeing on a remote stretch of river. After paddling for a few hours, the warm sunshine turned into cold rain, and soon everyone on the river was shivering and cold, everyone that is except for our family. I even improvised a rain coat for the dog.
Of course, preparedness is not just food and clothing; it might include transportation, communications, shelter, first aid and medications, and self defense, among other preps.
2) Preparedness relies on attitude more than equipment.
A number of years ago I was a missionary in South Africa. We were trying in vain to cross the South African/Zimbabwe border with a group of (black) South African young people. At the time, the country was deeply divided by racial issues, and there was no way that the (white) border officials were going to allow us to cross the border without specific documentation from the South African government. These documents, under the best of conditions, could take weeks or even months to obtain. Everyone was discouraged, and the American leaders who were with us were ready to quit and return to base in S.A. To make a long story short, we prayed together and did everything we could on our part (such as filling out the paper work and getting ID photos) to be granted Emergency Travel Documents. Ultimately, by asking for God’s favor and by being persistent in the face of adversity, we were given Emergency Travel Documents for every team member within eight hours.
The point here is that despite our best plans and efforts, things do go wrong often at the most inconvenient time, and the difference between victory and defeat is often our attitudes. This, of course, includes our spiritual, moral, and emotional attitudes.
3) You will often have to improvise and think outside the box.
No matter how prepared you are, one day you will find yourself needing something that you didn’t think of storing or that you have run out of. Sometimes you couldn’t prepare for it, because you never even thought of its existence! So how do you develop an improvisational mindset? First, it actually helps to be a bit thrifty (or just poor). We, the poor and/or thrifty, are always improvising to overcome the lack of financial recourses. Another way to develop out-of-the-box thinking is by reading about people who are forced by circumstances to do so or just do so as a matter of life. One website that comes to mind is Low Tech Magazine (lowtechmagazine.com), which is about missionary efforts to use economical, local, and often old technology to overcome physical problems in developing countries. Also, books about people who have had to survive alone with few resources in the wilderness or at sea abound.
4) No one is ever fully prepared, but we can all be heading in the right direction.
When my eyes were opened to the possibilities of national or even global disaster after the 2004/2005 hurricane season, the task of preparing was overwhelming. I am of modest means, I had no one to help me, and I had no plan to get myself to any level of preparedness. Still, I had the advantage of previous hurricane preparation, which gave me a good excuse for prepping and a place to start. If you examine your world, you can find an excuse also, if you need one. You could tell people that you are prepping for: earthquakes, blizzards, tornados, or social unrest, just to name a few. I believe that the best first step for beginning preppers is to research what others have done. James Wesley, Rawles and others have written numerous books and blogs that will help neophyte preppers. The important thing is to get started and make some progress each day.
5) No man is an Island.
Not only will you be unable to go it alone, but why would you want to? If your ultimate goal is to become independent from our complex systems, “Off the Grid”, you will find it impossible to do by yourself. Involving others in your preps is tricky, however. For example, I was worried about what my wife would think, only to find out that she was thinking (some of the) same things. My friends and other family members were somewhat more difficult. I can’t say that they laughed at me, but neither did they get fully onboard, which brings me to the next point.
6) Most people will not see prepping the way you do.
Although my wife sees prepping as important, I don’t think that she is as committed to the lifestyle as I am. She still wants to participate in things that I consider a part of a past life, like beauty pageants, for example. The lesson I have learned is that she is not going to change, and the sooner that I accept that the better. To some extent, I have been able to talk to my family about preparing, but mostly they are too involved in day-to-day cares to do much actual prepping today. I think that mostly they don’t want to think about it, and perhaps they think that they will have more time. Still, we have all moved to a property where virtually every neighbor is a relative. And, though this was not entirely preparation oriented, compromises are an important part of the equation.
7) Moving to Your Bug Out Location
I had to think outside the box to get myself and my family together on the same property. We were all living in Florida when this started and I began looking for a BOL. I looked in Florida but concluded that it was too vulnerable. I found some other locations, but I ultimately compromised on a place that the rest of the family would be willing to move to. Next, I had to build a house there, while continuing to run a small business in Florida. Again, this required compromises, and it cost more than I would have liked. My most outside-of-the-box thinking was to have my wife move to the new house while I worked in Florida and sold our house(s) in a bad market. After 3.5 years of visiting my BOL about once a month, I found someone to take over my business in FL, giving me a small income for a year. I then moved to my BOL. Meanwhile, my hope was that my wife would pave the way for relationships and integration into the new community, but this had only limited success.
8) Integrating with Your New Community
Now that I have moved to a new community, I am a somewhat suspect newcomer and a “Dang Yankee” at that, as I’m originally from Connecticut. (It turns out that the difference between a Yankee and a Dang Yankee is that a Dang Yankee is someone who comes to the South and decides to stay.) The first thing that I did was to try to find a church family. I have to admit that this has been a failure for the most part. Not only am I extremely busy trying to establish our homestead, but I’m not very good at “making friends”. Update: I believe that I have found a church. My next efforts were somewhat more successful. I did my best to get to know my neighbors by helping them. I have taught a firearms class. I mowed my grumpy neighbor’s lawn when his tractor broke down, worked with another neighbor on various mechanical projects, and helped another neighbor cut up some fallen trees. I know I’ll never be a native, but I believe that I am headed in the right direction. Next, even though I’m at retirement age, I joined the fire department as a volunteer and went to rookie firefighter school. Not only am I meeting many community members, but I am learning valuable new skills at no cost to me. I am also developing relationships in the firefighting brotherhood. Finally, I started a part-time business, which brings in some income and introduces me to new people in the community.
9) Everyone has something to teach you about preparedness.
When I lived in Florida, I enjoyed going to garage sales. One group of people that I always saw there were Haitians. Having visited Haiti, I can appreciate their thriftiness and their sense of WTSHTF. I began thinking to myself, “What is it that the Haitians value, and how does that apply to WTSHTF?” The Haitians bought cooking pots and clothing at ridiculously low prices that they then resell in Haiti. These items are part of the vital necessities of food, shelter, and clothing that could become quite valuable and difficult to produce when TSHTF but are inexpensive now.
10) When TSHTF some items will suddenly be hard to find and increase in value tremendously.
Proviso: Before storing “barter items”, be sure to have your own beans, bullets, and band aids squared away. Living through hurricanes and other natural disasters made me aware that some items disappear in the first few days or hours of a disaster. Gasoline was one of those items, but during the hurricanes I was fortunate enough to have both a diesel vehicle and a diesel generator. During the (relatively short) time of the hurricane emergencies, diesel fuel never ran out. Though in a long-term emergency, diesel supplies would run dry. Diesel can be stored far longer than gas. Diesel fuel would be a great item to store right now, as the price has come down considerably. Bread and milk are also in this category, but they are a bit more difficult to store. However, wheat berries to be ground into flour and made into bread are still fairly inexpensive and easy to store. Also, if one had a milk goat, it could more than supply a family’s needs. There are many items that can be bought very inexpensively today (as with the aforementioned clothing) that could be the basis for barter WTSHTF.
Finally and most importantly, the best resources for WTSHTF will be the relationships that can be relied upon, those that you have built with God, friends, and family. As I stated earlier, even if we could go it alone, what would be the point? A pastor once put it to me like this; “If one had all the money and possessions in the world but had no one to share them with, what enjoyment would there be in that?” Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.