How Human Rewilding Works

Human Rewilding Experiences

People in the rewilding movement take inspiration from Stone-Age man but they insist we don’t have to live like him to gain the benefits of living close to nature.
People in the rewilding movement take inspiration from Stone-Age man but they insist we don’t have to live like him to gain the benefits of living close to nature.
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Image

Even if you're not ready to sell your earthly possessions and hunt squirrels with a handax, there are many ways to add some wild into your otherwise tame existence. You could start by taking more hikes in forests, coastal trails and other pristine natural settings. Pay attention to the animal and plant species you encounter and appreciate the diversity and complexity of the natural world.

If you want to take your rewilding experience a step further, consider taking a class in one of the "primitive arts" like foraging, bow and arrow making, toolmaking, or wilderness survival. Search online for classes or programs near you by Googling "wilderness survival classes" or "survival skills" along with the name of the closest city. If you live in the Portland area, look no further than Rewild Portland.

Some programs also stress the philosophical component of rewilding. For instance, ReWild University's website says, "Instead of leaving with only a set of skills, you'll come away having opened a gateway into your ancestral birthright. What is this birthright? A mindset that is stress-free and aware. An every-moment sense of adventure. A body that is characterized by vital health. And most importantly, you'll gain an understanding of how to integrate your rewilded lifestyle into your everyday life."

If you really want to know what it feels like to live like Paleolithic hunter-gatherer — at least for a few days — consider taking a "survivacation" at one of many wilderness retreats around the world. Celebrity survivalist Creek Stewart coined the term "survivacation" for his three-day survival skills retreats at his Will Haven Outdoor school in Indiana, but you can find similar short-term retreats as far away as Australia (it's called "bush survival" down under) and Sweden (in winter!). You can even be stranded on a desert island in Indonesia [source: Lin]. For serious students, Earthwalk Northwest offers a year-long apprenticeship program in "Primitive Living Skills."

Author's Note: How Human Rewilding Works

My first instinct is to dismiss survivalists as fringe conspiracy theorists stocking up on ammo for the zombie apocalypse. But the more I read about primitive survival skills like fire-starting and rabbit trapping, the more I wonder, what the heck would I do if I found myself in a desperate situation? Wouldn't it be nice to know how to locate fresh water, build a lean-to shelter or be able to identify a plant other than poison ivy? I looked it up and there's a wilderness skills school not too far from my home. Hey kids, we're going on a survivacation!

Related Articles


  • Kolbert, Elizabeth. "Recall of the Wild." The New Yorker. Dec. 24, 2012 (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Lin, Chelsea. "10 survivalist vacations." MSN Weather. (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Moldenhauer, Joseph J., editor. "Introduction." The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau." Princeton University Press, 1983
  • Monbiot, George. "The Great Rewilding." Orion Magazine. January/February 2014 (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Nelson, Bryan. "7 people who gave up on civilization to live in the wild." Mother Nature Network (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Rewilding Europe. "Our Mission." (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Rewild Portland. "About." (Sept. 4, 2014)
  • Tracker School. "About Tom Brown, Jr." (Sept. 4, 2014)