One Prepper’s Journey

January 8, 2014 by | Be the first to comment »

We’ve all arrived at the prepper lifestyle though different paths. Some may have suffered through a natural disaster unprepared, while others might have been the unarmed victim of a violent attack. Those more fortunate may have simply seen the obvious signs, such as massive inflation, decay of society, our national debt, etc., but we’ve all realized  things aren’t right and they’re only getting worse.

I have followed a very crooked path to get where I am today. In high school, I was obsessed with the military; I read Soldier of Fortune magazine and every military field manual I could get my hands on. I taught myself survival skills and trained relentlessly, then joined the Marine Corps where I spent most of my time in the field, both in the U.S. and deployed around the world. I had the opportunity to put my skills to the test while learning even more in every environment imaginable.

When I got out, I put that life behind me and focused on building a business. I gave away or sold all of my equipment and years went by without picking up a weapon or conducting any kind of training. In what now seems like the blink of an eye, I had become rusty, out of shape, and soft. But that was OK because I was a civilian and wasn’t going to find myself in a life or death situation ever again—or so I thought.

I quickly became bored with the path I was on compared to the life I had previously led. Eventually I started carving out time for fitness. I still didn’t do any shooting or restock my gear, and I certainly didn’t store any food or supplies, but I started doing a lot of physical training. I managed to get back into shape and run a marathon, started lifting weights, and even did a little martial arts training. That seemed like enough at the time.

And then got my ass kicked when I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare terminal illness called relapsing polychondritis.

I fought like Hell and pushed it into remission, then foolishly went back to a singular focus on business. As an entrepreneur, this meant continuing to expand my company, which I did quite well. I earned plenty of money and I made my own rules; I couldn’t have asked for more, but I after a series of dramatic ups and downs I started to worry. I had always been able to make things work, but I was becoming concerned that may not always be the case.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that despite being well-educated on many subjects, I was clueless when it came to politics or the economy even though I knew their importance in our day-to-day lives, so I started following the news more closely and paying attention to both. I began reading more about our Founders and their writings. And I scoured the Internet for every piece of relevant information I could find, Maybe I was hoping to find something that would reassure me everything would be fine, but it didn’t happen—instead it made things worse.

For a few years, I thought the Republicans had the answers, but it didn’t take long to realize both parties were pretty much useless and only cared about their own power and wealth even if it meant subjugating our children to a lifetime of paying an unfathomable debt, running our veterans and their families into the ground, or pissing on the Constitution.

Our economy was far worse than most people realized because while the Fed devalued our currency through inflation and propped the whole house of cards up with artificially low-interest rates, the government under-reported unemployment by over 200%, and the stock market was based on nothing more than hopes and unicorn glitter, the media helped them all hide the truth. The wort part was that most people were more worried about how well their favorite contestant on American Idol sang the latest pop song than they were about the future of their children or grandchildren.

I felt disgusted for not realizing what was going on sooner, and dirty for having been a pawn of our corrupt government. Don’t get me wrong—I still love my Marine Corps and always will, but I hate the politicians who pull the strings.

Office Space

In 2009 my first son was born and everything in my world instantly revolved around his future. I’ve been through tough times and I know I’ll always be fine, but I wanted to make sure that no matter what happened, he would always be OK.

I decided that it would be wise to start storing extra food, mostly in case of an economic downturn. My business had gone through some slow times in the past and I figured I could benefit from the peace of mind knowing I could always feed my family.

Survival was something I knew inside and out, but prepping was a different subject, so I started reading How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, by James Wesley Rawles. It was eye-opening, to say the least, and made me realize how much I still had to learn. I picked up a few more books and dove in. Within a few weeks I was well on my way to becoming self-reliant.

The next year was rocky, but we made it through. I worked harder and longer than ever in my business, continued to build up my reserves of food and supplies, and even bought a gun and some ammunition. Money was tight and space was a scarce commodity in our 900 square foot south Tampa condo, but I did what I could one small step after another. Each time we went grocery shopping, I bought a little extra of whatever was already on the list—a few cans of peas here, a bag of dried beans there. It didn’t seem like I was making much progress at first, but my persistence soon paid off and I managed to stockpile about three months worth of canned/dried food in the shower of our second bathroom and proper rotation ensure it was always fresh.

My wife thought I was crazy though. OK, maybe crazy is a strong word, but she sure as hell didn’t understand why this was important to me no matter how many times or different ways I tried to explain it to her. She was content to punch the clock, toss some money into her 401k each month, and read the latest tabloid article about who Kim Kardashian slept with this week. She still wasn’t ready to accept what was going on in the world.

Like most people, she thought prepping was for folks who thought the world was going to collapse and fall into a Mad Max-style war zone any day now. FYI—most of us don’t see that as a likely scenario, but we do acknowledge that anything can happen and something will happen. The only question is what, when, and how severe will it be?

Before long, my efforts started paying off. My business was firing on all cylinders again. I had a large staff, Fortune 500 clients, and had worked my way into the top 2% of wage earners—not bad for a guy without a college degree, business plan, or start-up capital! Just some rolled up sleeves and damn hard work.

Rather than getting comfortable this time, I doubled down on prepping (and saving cash) and before long we had a solid one-year supply of food and hygiene supplies like soap, toilet paper, and toothbrushes. I bought more ammunition every chance I could, and picked up a few more weapons along the way. I was doing almost everything right, but I neglected my health because of the time I spent working. That’s when the other shoe dropped—I came out of remission.

I tried to fight back but it just didn’t work this time. I got sicker each day, and couldn’t eat or sleep. After three-months I had lost over forty pounds from my already light 160 pound frame, and was basically a zombie. I had to close my business and take time off to recover.


I spent the next year just trying to stay alive. Fortunately we had plenty of savings to rely on while I recovered, and even if that ran out, we had at least a year’s worth of food and supplies which would reduce our expenses. This was a perfect example of why we prepare; you never know what’s going to happen, how bad it will be, or how long it will last.

Since I couldn’t sleep and had lots of free time (on the rare occasions when I wasn’t vomiting) I spent a lot of time online. That was a curse and a blessing because it helped me to realize that our country was in even worse shape than I thought, it also helped me find some great resources to improve my self-reliance.

I stumbled upon a website called The Survival Podcast, run by Jack Spirko and over the course of a week or two, had listened to nearly every episode. I was blown away by the quality of his podcasts—honest to goodness “here’s how you become self-reliant” instead of the typical “get your guns and hide in the woods the world is about to end” bullshit that’s typical in our industry.

I had my shit together, but I knew I could take it to another level, so I immediately added gardening to my prepping plan, and shortly after that, added rabbit breeding to produce healthy, organic meat and fresh manure. It was a rough start and I went through a lot of trial and error, which is all the more reason to start sooner than later—it’s OK to make mistakes when you can still run to the grocery store, but you have little to no room for error in the middle of a disaster. Now we produce more meat and vegetables than we can use, while the rabbits produce plenty of fresh manure to keep our garden growing strong year after year. The excess is shared with friends and neighbors to build community and open their eyes to becoming more self-reliant. My goal is to build a network of people who can support each other through any disaster, whether natural or man-made.

My wife wasn’t on-board with this lifestyle from the get-go and even today, she’s still not 100% there, although she’s come a hell of a long way. She’s put up with my political debates that have cost us more than a few fake “friends” and while happy about the fresh veggies from the garden, she reluctantly agreed to try rabbit. Fortunately she liked it (we told my son after he had eaten it a few times, and he’s good to go) so we’ve ramped up production—chickens and bees are probably next. We’ve brought several neighbors and family friends into this lifestyle, and plan to expand that to local churches and even train friends and neighbors to train others so we can develop an entirely self-sustainable community.

Today I’m back in remission and we have plenty of food and supplies stored, while our livestock and garden proved an ongoing, sustainable source of food. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’m humble enough to admit I will always have plenty more to learn in my journey.

I look forward, both to learning from, and sharing my knowledge with, as many people as possible. If you have the same mindset, please share this post—not to convince other people to think like us, but to show those who already do that they’re not alone. I’d love to hear the story about how you found your way to the prepper lifestyle; be sure to share it in the comments below.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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