Wandering in the New World- Part 1, by JMD

Let’s explore the concept of wandering. If you’ve been involved in the world of preparedness for any length of time, you’re familiar with terms like “Bug-Out Location” (BOL) and “Bugging-In”, and you have probably read or participated in discussions about ways to go about securing your house/neighborhood/compound/town. Humans as a species tend to be social animals, and gathering in fixed locations in large groups has always had many advantages, including security, stable relationships, sharing of labor, farming, et cetera. But there have always been individuals and small groups who prefer (or are forced) to minimize their interactions with “society” and not be tied to any specific location.

These have traditionally been called wanderers, travelers, gypsies, nomads, et cetera. While these types of itinerant peoples have existed in one form or another for centuries, the pressures of modern society and the desire of governments to exercise an ever-increasing degree of control over people’s lives has made such an existence extremely difficult. However, in a post-TEOTWAWKI world, those factors would all but disappear, making such a lifestyle much more possible and potentially necessary for some people. This article is meant as a thought exercise in exploring a wandering lifestyle in such a scenario.


The first thing to consider is why you would want to adopt such a lifestyle. Maybe you’ve always been a loner or a wanderer and prefer not to put down any permanent roots. Perhaps the group you were part of (or planning to be part of) didn’t make it through the SHTF event, or most of them succumbed to some type of subsequent disaster. Maybe weather patterns have changed and you can no longer sustain yourself in your current location. Keep in mind that an itinerant lifestyle isn’t necessarily just for individuals; it may involve a small group of people moving around for various reasons. Take a look at the gypsies in Europe and the nomads in middle-eastern deserts, for some examples. In a post-SHTF world, a wandering lifestyle may provide both advantages and disadvantages:


Interactions- While wandering, you’ll most likely encounter and interact with a wide range of people and groups that you never would have if you remained in one place.

Schedule Flexibility – Without fixed houses, farms, gardens, livestock, et cetera to care for, you can pretty much set any schedule you want.

Strategic Awareness – If you’re moving around a large area on a regular basis, you’ll probably have a much better understanding of what’s happening across the entire area than you would if you stayed in one location.

Tactical Flexibility– If you encounter some form of danger, like a group of marauders, you can disengage and evacuate the area and not have to worry about fighting a fixed defense to protect your property. It’s also potentially easier to avoid contact in the first place.

Resources – If resources become scarce in one area, you can move someplace else.


Security – If you’re by yourself or in a small group, it will be harder to maintain security and defend yourself. For example, maintaining a guard watch at night would be tough with a group of only two people.

Mental Health – Lack of regular human interaction can negatively impact some people’s minds. When you start naming the trees in the woods and having conversations with them, it’s probably time to interact with some other people. Even small contained groups of people will start to get on each other’s nerves after awhile.

Support – You may not have the resources or expertise to handle emergency situations. For example, if you’re by yourself and get injured, you’ll have to provide your own treatment, assuming you can.

Resources – You or your group will have to be able to carry all of the tools and supplies you’ll need on a daily basis. You’ll also need to be able to hunt, fish, forage, et cetera in order to get food.

Getting Around

Wandering implies the ability to move from point A to point B; so, you’re going to need some method of getting around.


The simplest method would be walking, assuming you or your group is in reasonable physical shape. The biggest advantages to walking are that you can maintain good situational awareness. You can also move silently and you’ll have lots of options for where you can go and how you get there. The biggest downsides are that you’re limited to what you can carry and how far you can travel in a given amount of time. Plus, you’re more impacted by environmental conditions. You can somewhat alleviate the former by using something like a ***game cart***.amazon.com/Summit-Treestands-85236-Game-Cart/dp/B00JOV1TB0/ref that you can pull along behind you to carry extra supplies.

Physically-Powered Mechanical Transport

An alternative to walking would be the use of physically-powered mechanical transport, like a bicycle. You can potentially cover ground a lot faster than you could walking. However, you’re going to be more limited in where you can go and how much you can carry, although you could add saddlebags to increase your load. As with walking, you could also attach a small trailer to haul additional supplies.


The next step up on the transportation ladder would be using an animal, like a horse, to get around. They’re relatively easy to feed and maintain (depending on your environment), and you can cover ground a lot faster and carry a lot more supplies than you could walking. As with bicycles, you can use a horse to pull a cart or wagon, which could greatly increase your carrying capacity. Horses can also make good sentries, as they can usually sense danger better than most people. The biggest problem would be finding a decent horse, along with the necessary tack, in a post-SHTF world. Riding a horse is also not the best skill to try to pick up on the fly when your life may depend on it.

Motor Powered Mechanical Transportation

The final option would be powered mechanical transportation, such as motorcycles, cars, truck, et cetera. This approach may provide you with the best speed, range, and carrying capacity, but it does have some potentially big disadvantages. First, you’ll be more limited in where you can travel, especially with larger vehicles, and there probably won’t be any Public Works departments to fix potholes, broken bridges, et cetera (so no real change there). Next would be maintenance. You’ll need to be able to fix anything that breaks as well as have a large stock of replacement parts. Your situational awareness will be impacted due to speed, isolation, and noise, and the noise your vehicle makes will also let other people know you’re coming.

Finally, you’ll need to have ready access to a fuel source to keep the vehicle running. While there may be tons of gas left lying around in various tanks and containers after SHTF, most of it will probably go bad after a couple of years. Depending on how the technology improves, electric vehicles may provide a viable alternative, since you could carry solar panels to recharge them and they’re a lot quieter. Keep in mind that using current technology, the batteries will eventually wear out and have to be replaced.

Another approach would be to combine your transport options. If you had a vehicle but were worried about its longevity, you could use it to carry supplies and establish caches around the area in preparation for the day it died and you couldn’t fix it.


Living a wandering lifestyle will require a unique skill set that’s markedly different than the one required for living in a fixed location. Some of the required skills will include:


If you’re going to be moving around over a large area, having a good idea of where you are and how to get to a specific location would be useful. This will be particularly important if you maintain caches (discussed later).


Wandering in a post-SHTF world probably won’t be without its risks. There will always be people that will want to hurt you or yours, or take what you have. The ability to move quietly and discretely through terrain and remain hidden while sleeping could make the difference between life and death. Since humans have a good sense of smell, this includes cooking discipline and good hygiene.

Information Retention

The ability to recall where you saw an important trade item in your wanderings, or where a rock slide has closed off a trail, can have a big impact on your life. You’ll need to either develop a good memory or get good at writing things down.

Mobile Combat

In a post-SHTF world, there will be bad people who wish to harm you and yours, and you may not always be able to avoid them. Knowing how to use your weapons, how to fight, and how to break contact could make the difference between living and dying. This is a different skill set than fighting to defend fixed positions like a home.


Unless you plan on avoiding people entirely, you’ll need to be able to effectively interact with anyone you meet in your travels. This includes not only how you communicate with them through words and body language but how well you can interpret what they’re saying and doing. You’ll need to be able to make a quick “friend or foe” assessment whenever you meet someone new.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with considerations for wanderers.

See Also:

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  1. This was a well-written and thoughtful piece, and I don’t mean to disparage. However to choose an itenerant lifestyle in any sort of upheaval makes you a refugee, no matter what you may want to call it. And refugees are perhaps one of the lost abused and despised groups in world history, wanted nowhere, impoverished and homeless. Gypsies themselves are still treated this way, they are not welcome and distrusted, with a reputation as swindlers and con artists (the term “being gyped” derived from being cheated by a gypsie). Finally, wanderers even now can often not expect, in small and even medium sized towns, the full protection of the law from Law Enforcement. I’ll provide an example. I used to live in a town of under 40,000 people in the Midwest. A traveling carnival came through, and one of the carnies (another semi-derogatory term for wanderer) got caught up with one of the towns men who already had a reputation and numerous legal run ins for drunkenness, drug abuse, and violence, and long story short ended up dead under dubious circumstances. The man, reviled by those who knew him, was acquited by a jury of his peers. Now, if he’d murdered a fellow citizen under identical circumstances, do you think he’d be a free “innocent man” today? And that’s when things are relatively “normal” like they are now. Imagine if there was an SHTF scenario…..

  2. Keep in mind we’re assuming this happens in a post-TEOTWAWKI event. So it may become necessary to move to sources of supplies or food. This is the way many of the western Indians lived, the Apaches and Comanches for example.

  3. I second the author’s advice to learn to ride a horse now, rather than after TEOTWAWKI. It takes time to learn to ride well, and time to bond with and teach the horse what you need it to do. For example, horses are skittish around loud noises, like gunshots. But the Cavalry taught their horses to be steady by gradually bringing them closer to the firing range until they could actually mount and fire from the saddle. Depending on the nature of TEOTWAWKI, gasoline and diesel fuels may be non-existent after about 18 months, so horseback is the way to patrol, respond to incidents, and travel.

  4. I like this first part, & look forward to the rest of this series. One image of the Christian life is that of a person on a journey. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were nomads during the time of Abraham thru Moses. In the New Testament, Jesus traveled from one point to anther during his ministry, & later Paul & his coworkers traveled on missionary journeys. That said, I hope not to do much if any traveling, except in our neighborhood, after the world turns very bad.

    1. There you go, now you’re talking. A donkey (or two) was one of our goals this year until I had shoulder surgery instead and postponed everything for this year.

  5. If you are not already a horseman I would rethink the use of a horse you just happened to come across. If you don’t understand the mind of a horse you’re in for a lot of pain and frustration and they will hurt you if you’re timid or too ruff around them. Forget them pulling a cart 99% of horses are not trained to pull and teaching one takes 6 weeks of frustration.
    Do you know how to rig a cart to a horse?
    Doing it incorrectly will lead to a dead or serverly injured horse, or yourself.
    How about hoof care that’s very important part of keeping a horse healthy .
    If you just want to strap on your Gear and have him carry it have a plan for doing without that gear. Horses spook for any reason sometimes for no reason at all good luck holding onto 1200 pounds of panic if you don’t know how.
    I’ve been a horseman for 40 years and they still teach me hard leasons. The biggest leasons is if I go to the back country have good boots because I might be walking.

  6. Wandering can be advantageous for a few, however, a larger group would provide a bit of security. Loners with skills like that of Jeremiah Johnson fame could do well. But those are rare. During most civil wars, uncivil wars and catastrophes the local population will scatter into the woods and near wilderness. This has always proven true, soon, after it is realized they don’t have the skills to live off the land the individuals tend to gather into groups and begin to travel- becoming a Golden Horde. During the time of WW II a Latvian friend said that when they heard the bombers they would run into the woods and try to get at least a mile away, often many would return after and find their homes obliterated. Eventually the whole town was uninhabitable. They organized in the near wood and built a camp to live out the war.
    Wanderers today live in the cities usually. They use the skills to survive that they currently have, usually considered immoral or illegal-though some manage to maintain their dignity. Some have cars they live out of. Some have RV’s they live out of. Some live in boats. All are reliant on fast food or Wally World to eat. Food and medicine will dictate who lives and who does not. I expect families to come together in the future just for simplicity of surviving. They will either learn to grow a garden or slowly parish. Barring radiation hazards most will stay near their homes. Families and individuals that travel to a new locale permanently will suffer anxiety and likely a loss of hope in their new surroundings if an easy lifestyle isn’t attainable in the near future. Loners will always be suspect unless they can provide skills and or a product the new community needs.
    Eli had skills and a destination with purpose (Book of Eli). Gen. Patton once said that “Fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” Meaning that being able to be mobile is the key to avoiding unwanted contact. That means paring down the toys and accoutrements of an over-indulged life to the bare necessities of living. That which one needs to be camp worthy and mobile.
    Eventually any group or individual will need to plant roots somewhere. Even the trappers of old didn’t live off meat alone, they foraged and traded for beans and veggies. Foraging requires a lot of travel and planning the harvest to last the winter. Traveling alone or in a group requires thought and planning, a lot of it.

  7. Wandering is my backup plan in the Florida Everglades. I do not recommend horses, carts, or bicycles. That leaves u wide open & vunrable on a trail. On foot is safest and allows maximum invisability. The wanderer plan does not require you to carry a lot but requires you multiple regional caches. Hope that info helps.

  8. A narrow footprint single trailer that is pulled could work, but in the thick brush, will likely get caught. Carrying water with you would be much easier with one of these contraptions. Look up hiking trailers for ideas.

    Pack goats are an option in the desert. They can provide needed meat and milk. They survive on quite a bit of natural forage. The book GOATWALKING was an interesting read. For some in the desert southwest, maybe a good idea.


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