This Q&A features an individual whose work has inspired me for many years: the original Survivorman – Les Stroud.
Stroud’s hit television series Survivorman set off a frenzy of survival-themed reality shows. But unlike all of its copycats, Survivorman was for real. Stroud would strand himself in a remote location for seven days – usually with no food, no water, and minimal gear – and demonstrate how to survive. On top of that, Stroud had to film the ordeal himself.
Stroud followed up the success of Survivorman with Beyond Survival, Survivorman 10 Days, Survivorman Bigfoot, and more. You can watch all of these shows for the equivalent of one coffee per month on Surivorman TV.
However, Stroud is more than just a world-class filmmaker and survivalist. He is also a talented musician whose passionate, heart-felt songs constitute true art. The raw emotion behind his single “Arctic Mistress” knocked me to the floor the first time I heard it.
In addition, Stroud has authored several books. His latest, Beyond Survivorman, sounds absolutely fascinating. It details how some of the world’s indigenous and nature-based peoples survive both physically and culturally in remote locations, and covers the most important topic of all: how to connect spiritually with the Earth.
Connecting with the Earth is also the focus of an upcoming workshop Stroud is hosting at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. From August 24-26, attendees will learn how wilderness survival skills can help them reconnect spiritually with the planet. This workshop is the primary focus of the following questions.
In the event description for your upcoming workshop, you have stated that your mission is to help people reconnect with the Earth. How can learning practical survival skills, such as how to start a fire using a bow drill, deepen one’s connection to the planet?
It’s simple really. It’s about dirt under your fingernails. The feel of trees and plants. The feel of the ground beneath your body. It’s about truly touching the earth: for this is the way to connect to it. Thinking about it – great. Looking at it – better. Being out in it – fantastic. Touching it – perfect!
The aforementioned event description also talks about practicing, “wilderness awareness tools to develop your sixth sense.” What is this sixth sense, and how can wilderness awareness tools help one to develop it?
Actual nature is the original and most potent ‘aroma therapy’ of all. The combinations of aromas, chemicals, and energy exist in the millions and change with each new step through the wilderness. It’s not a vial with 7 different smells from the earth – it IS the earth with a billion different molecules affecting you when you are immersed within it.
All of your senses fire at the same time when you are in nature and when this happens they, working together, ignite our sixth sense: our intuition, our instinct.
What is one key takeaway you hope people get from your upcoming workshop?
There is no true power of existence on this earth without connecting to it in a meaningful way. All of our ills, troubles, pains, and challenges are addressed by time in nature. We come out stronger, smarter, quicker-witted; feeling less pain and on the road to healing faster.
I now want to turn to your excellent series Beyond Survival, in which you spent time with several indigenous groups to learn how they survived. How did you manage to earn the trust of, and befriend, so many people from vastly different cultures as your own?
I simply would sit with the elder of a particular group, ask him to look into my eyes, my heart, and – if they felt in any way that I shouldn’t be there – I would leave. I told them I was there to learn from them, not the other way around, and that I simply wanted to share in their life and philosophies.
In an article you wrote for the Omega Institute in 2015, you said that the production of Beyond Survival served as a year-long vision quest for you. How did this series help you discover your current mission – that of helping people to reconnect with nature?
It gave me a fantastic grounding within my understanding of how to respect and remain connected to the earth. It gave me a very full tool kit so that I could adapt to any nature setting and still find my way to hear it speak to me, and to continue within it knowing I was welcomed and knowing I had honoured the opportunity to experience all a certain place had to offer.
I want to sincerely thank Les Stroud for participating in this Q&A: it has been a true honor. I am also grateful to Laura Bombier for helping to facilitate it, and for her excellent photos.
Please consider attending Stroud’s workshop from August 24-26 at the Omega Institute! While you are at it, why not order a copy of his new book? I have just purchased one of my own, and am looking forward to reading it.