Wye Island shore

Wye Island shore (Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo.com)

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation”

                                         – Henry David Thoreau 



I moved all of the belongings of my former life into a storage bin and loaded the essentials into the trailer and my pick – up truck.  There were a few comments about this being very different from the return to nature described by Thoreau, but I brushed them aside with the statement that every man must make his own way, and I did not seek to be exactly like Thoreau.  I needed to be me.  Thoreau was not a part of the modern world, but I still wanted to be.

I did not want to shun society; I just wanted to see if a person could be still be free.  Freedom is the ability to do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.  This is the great contradiction since freedom and security do not see eye to eye.  Freedom is chaos, security is order, and life is a balancing act between the two extremes.

People often seek the freedom of a lawless life in exchange for a dismissal of acceptance within the security of society.  We become outlaws and fugitives in the eyes of the society and our inability to reconnect to the world leads us to commit even greater acts of lawlessness until we are met with death or incarceration.

My experiment is about living between the two extremes of freedom and security.  Friends have told me that isolation and loneliness were all that waited for me in the wilderness, but all I have to say that the loneliest I have ever felt was in the heart of a city surrounded by millions of strangers.

The belongings I took with me from my former life were as follows:

About thirty books: each one of these was a thick deep reading compilation of works that I felt I wanted to read if I ever got the time, they included the following:

The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche

The Self – Sufficient Life and How to Live It

The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Works of Henry David Thoreau

The Collected Works of Eastern Philosophy

Dialogs Concerning Natural Religion

The Complete Fairy Books by Andrew Lang

The Complete Stories of H.P. Lovecraft

The Complete Works of Mark Twain

Selected Works of John Steinbeck

The Complete Works of Jules Verne

25 Classic Westerns of Zane Gray

Maryland: A Middle Temperament

The Yukon Writings of Jack London

Selected Works of Ernest Hemingway

The Complete Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Art of Campfire Cookery

The Ball Blue Book of Home Preserves

The Complete Book of Gardening

The Bird Lover’s Guide to the Eastern Shore

Fish and Wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay


The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Open Hearth Cooking

Weird Maryland

The Complete Works of Plato

The Complete Works of Socrates

Selected Writings of Emmanuel Kant

Atlas Shrugged

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I figured this would give me a wide enough selection of material to read while I try to come down from a hard day’s labor.  Each trip I took out to the island, I had brought fewer things with me, to see whether or not I could live without them.

I also included several sketch pads as well as one case of computer paper as well as ten composition notebooks.  I was not bringing a computer with me, but the paper would serve for rough sketches and kindling if I needed it.  I also brought a dozen composition notebooks and 40 automatic pencils in order to keep a running log of my experiment in progress.  The idea was to chronicle life on the island on a daily basis, including weather, animal life and any and all complications which I might encounter.

I also packed my old camping tent and clothes for every season.  I thought that I might use the tent in order to make excursions around the island and follow the course of nature throughout the seasons.  The camper was equipped with a propane stove, but I deliberately left the tank off so I would not become dependent on a luxury I could not produce myself.  I wanted to avoid the modern world’s habit of turning luxuries into necessities.  It is easy to become acclimated to the modern luxuries, even to the point where we can’t return to the more primitive state of living.  The skills themselves becomes lost to us and we become the poorer for it.  This loss of acclimating ourselves makes us ever more dependent on things we can’t manufacture for ourselves and our reliance on nameless and faceless entities to provide us with the basic necessities of life.  We wind up surrendering more than money in this exchange; this reliance also forces us to surrender the power of control over our own lives, our very independence.


I filled the bed of the truck with coolers for the food I would be purchasing on my way to the island.  I would need to set in a small larder in order to get myself started.  I filled several of the coolers with my clothes as well as several cases of canning jars to preserve the harvest.

I packed in several kitchen tools such as large metal pots and cast iron skillets.  I avoided all the high end chef tools and just went with heavy steel and iron tools which would hold up under constant outdoor use.  I removed the wire racks from my oven to serve as grates that I could use over a fire.  This was one of the tips I had read about in a self – sufficiency guidebook.

There was a great deal of material tugging along behind my truck, but I felt confident that I could make a life for myself with all of these things.  I also picked up three zero degree all weather sleeping bags to serve as blankets and linen.  I wanted everything to have a necessary practical purpose.  I wanted to be able to use everything that I was taking with me, nothing was to be frivolous.  As much as I brought with me, it was a small lot compared to the things I left behind.  There would be no more random acquisition and impulse shopping for me.  What I now possessed in this truck was what I was going to have to live off of for the rest of my life.  I would be stopping at a Home Depot for gardening tools as well as hand tools for chopping wood and other projects like building a root cellar for storing my canned goods, but beyond that, everything I now owned was all that I was ever going to possess.

So with my truck and trailer packed tight, I set off to my island to see if the old saying is really true.  No man can be an island onto himself.