I packed my backpack at an agonizingly slow pace. I was a bit later as usual, but hey. So be it, haste makes waste after all. As usual, I had the remote hiker’s hut to myself. Add a snowy mountain landscape to top off the joy. Easy goes, easy does it. So I took my time for brekky at the lakeside. Suddenly a dinghy emerged at the horizon. The unexpected visitor went straight at me. Patiently I awaited his arrival. The driver warmly greeted me once we made contact. He made a good impression on me, despite his skinny, ragged and bewildered appearance. After some chitchat, he invited me to join him. Uhh…. The stranger almost resembled a serial killer on the run. Yet my intuition gave the green light. No worries, let’s do this! My trust got paid off by a private boat trip throughout the unspoiled Southern Alps. His whereabouts stood out after the ride. It turned out to be an old, run-down and appropriated cabin. Damn, what a shack. Only the boat, chainsaw, generator, satellite phone and hunting rifle were good to go. The supplies of food and petrol were taken care of as well. All the rest was both improvised and worn out. Just as expected. I wondered how he got everything in this godforsaken area. But most of all, I was curious about what drives him to live so isolatedly. And how he manages to keep this up for years on end.
Daily life is hard, time-consuming and laborious without infrastructure and facilities. ‘Self-evident’ matters such as staying warm become a daily chore. Not only by keeping the fire going, but also by collecting enough firewood (he visited the hiker’s hut to take some ‘free’ goodies). This is clearly a hard life to live. There’s nothing and nobody. Luckily he isn’t totally on his own. Once in a while, a helicopter flies over. Supplies were delivered on that very day. The aerial hunt was also opened from up there. The pilot and gunman clearly practiced this air show numerous times. Just two spectators watched it in awe. Wow, three deer carcasses under a flying gunner’s post. Come and see, come and see! The bounty was capture, but the job wasn’t finished. One of the blood-spattering animals kicked around wildly after touchdown. A point-blank head-shot put him out of his misery instantly. I stood there and watched. Some splattered brains. Far out, bloody great. Such a grim sight in comparison to the games I used to play. After that head-buster, they went back to civilization to sell the meat for cold cash. The unemployed bums got nothing. No problem. Fresh fish from the lake will do. We had a great catch. My appetite had survived the disgusting scene, you have to eat something after all.
I offered him a listening ear once our feeding frenzy was over. He eagerly made use of it. That he was fed up with society was plain as day. He’d already made some striking remarks in passing. Now I had to digest supper and his (philosophical) thoughts at once. For hours on end, it was all about the outside world – especially what’s wrong about it. I felt an essential chapter of the story was missing: the man himself. No word was mentioned about his own actions and process. How peculiar. No one simply changes course so radically so instantly. So what’s the story? Which (series of) events were crucial? Has he ever been severely deceived or rejected? Has he lost loved ones? Suppressed specific life experiences? For several times, I tried to (in)directly uncover some background information. Nope. Access denied. The dirty linen wasn’t washed in public. So a – rather smelly – aura of mystery remained around him.
Living alone amid nature is a romanticized boy’s book. Pure yet brutal. You really have to want it, be able to do it. His persistence, improvisational abilities and quest for simplicity are admirable. Mad respect for that. Yet the situation was nonetheless quite ironic. There was no passion, no conviction, no outspoken satisfaction. It was a pretty nihilistic sum without an outcome if you listened well. It seemed like he didn’t support his choice anymore. I struggled with self-conflict, procrastination and escapism for years, and I believe I recognized them in him. Maybe he’d realize that ‘this’ wasn’t ‘it’ while there was no turning back anymore. Simply too alienated, too feral, too ‘far out.’ To remain dependent on the despised society is an uncomfortable given. Even minimal interaction and resources don’t lead to a real exit. Only the most isolated aborigines or survivor experts manage, they are the gatekeepers. He remains a user of the almighty Dollar, modern technology and outside support. It’s using without making, taking without contribution, complaining without providing solutions. Oh well. To each his own, he doesn’t hurt anyone. Yet the message was crystal clear: this goes too far for me. This feels like a phony-independence that’s a few impractical steps back. A leaking roof was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to keep pouring to stay dry. Draught, cold, biting sandflies, stench, itch. A caveman would barely be more uncomfortable. All right, all right. I prefer modernity and its self-inflicted concerns on second thought. I zipped my (underpaid, Chinese sweatshop made) sleeping bag with that conclusion. Tomorrow comes another day to pass. Not within the ‘normal’ socio-economic jungle as usually, but in nature’s dictatorship. Pick your choice and make the best of it, you’ve gotta do something.
Wherever you are, there is no escaping of certain aspects of human life.