Budgeting my money for the summer, I left my job of fourteen years to embark on a journey into what the downfall of society might be like.
I have had this idea in my head for a few years now. During that time, aspects of my employment changed enough for me to consider leaving my job. As with the rest of corporate America, I have seen the loss of a pension plan and raises along with cuts in benefits. Needless to say, my career path was going nowhere fast. I finally decided to do something about it. Budgeting my money for the summer, I turned in my notice to work. Fourteen years at the same job is a long time, but like I told my boss “I’m making less money than I was two years ago.”
He told me. “Technically, if you included inflation, you are correct. It’s tough being at the top.”
If that was the definition of being at the top, it was time to find a new mountain to climb. I had some previous success with Amazon.com and my fiction works, so I set forth on my first nonfiction adventure. The Collapse Experiment would be my journey into what the downfall of society could look like.
I split my experiment into two phases. The first will be “hunkering down,” also called bugging in. It’s the idea that you stay in place and wait out whatever horrible event is happening. With a little food storage and my garden, I’ll see just how well I can do in this category.
The second phase is bugging out. The idea behind this phase is to see how well I can travel by bike and on foot around the surrounding area. A few years ago I attempted to hike the Kal-Haven Trail, a 32-mile bike trail from my home town of Kalamazoo to South Haven, MI. I made the unfortunate mistake of thinking it was okay to walk the entire distance in one day.
The one-way trip from my house to the beach was forty miles since I hiked to the start of the trail. I set up camp, only slept for four hours, then attempted to hike back home. Halfway back, my feet were blistered and raw to the point I couldn’t walk on them. I went through the four pairs of socks I brought with me. A friend had to pick me up to take me home. That was my first attempt at bugging out on foot, and I hope to learn from those mistakes. I will also experiment with how well a mountain bike does with various trips.
Why would I choose to live like this you might ask? My books on Amazon are post apocalyptic science fiction. These books are based on the idea of society collapsing after a horrible event. So far, my books have been regarded as “realistic”, and I would like to keep them that way. The interesting thing about these comments is that I was able to write these without going through any horrible event like a natural disaster. People have lived through events like this, or worse, and could write a better book than me because of that experience.
Personally I hope to gain some insight into who I am and what I am able to accomplish if I am put in a tough place. The knowledge I gain from this will hopefully put my books apart from the rest of the bunch.
When one thinks about the apocalypse, they often focus on chaos and crime. I live in the highest crime neighborhood in my city. When it comes to simulating a collapse, I can’t think of a better/ worse place to do it. Two weeks ago a man was arrested on my street at 2:30am. The police were called for “shots fired”, and when they arrived the man fled on foot. He threw a semi automatic pistol into a neighbor’s yard and was arrested shortly after. Along with the pistol, he had cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine on him. If this doesn’t fit the idea of a collapse situation I don’t know what will.
The details of this experiment will be posted on my WordPress.com blog titled “The Collapse Experiment.” I haven’t thought about everything that I want to do with this project yet. The mini experiments I have planned include: eating everything that comes out of the garden, cooking on my small charcoal grill as much as possible, only using my car when absolutely necessary, not buying gasoline, fishing for a protein source, unplugging my television, long distance hiking, biking for transportation, doing laundry by hand, doing dishes by hand, and making my own alcohol with the materials I have on hand. I’m certain more suggestions will pop up along the way.
In the meantime, I still prepare for the task at hand. I have my garden going. Security is always an issue around here. My library is full of books for entertainment. For the most part I will try to go without electricity. The complicated part will be recording everything on my laptop (electric) and then posting it on my webpage (electric). I don’t have cable or Internet at home except for my cell phone. When it comes to posting on the website, I will be making trips to the library every other day to use the Internet and catch up on what is happening in the world. It may sound like cheating, but in a world that has gone to crap, one needs to go out and gather information.
When it comes to the use of electricity I know that I will miss my washing machine. I remember the year after my last one died. It was interesting washing everything in the bathtub, but it became old quickly.
It’s no secret that I live in a bad neighborhood. Some people have shown concern about security while this experiment is going on. Not much changes for me concerning security. I still have my phone, and my house is already secure out of habit. Self-defense and physical fitness is already a part of my experiment. The concern about safety is no more of an issue now than it has been for the last ten years that I have been here. The only thing that has changed is that I will be home a majority of the time instead of going to work and giving somebody an eight hour time period to take what they want. If the world was collapsing around me, I would already have an advantage over the people who are not currently concerned about this.
You might be thinking to yourself this sounds like the most boring job in the world. You would be correct. The idea that the apocalypse would be exciting is something for Hollywood to make up. Imagine I Am Legend without the vampire/ zombie guys. That’s the extent of it.
I hope along the way I gain some insight into things I still need to learn. I’m sure I’ll meet people along that way. The smallest events will feel large at times. Life will become simple. That could be the greatest gift the Apocalypse has to offer, a long-term vacation.
Image credit: Robbt/flickr