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Four Things You Can Learn from a Pilgrim

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If you’ve never read a first-hand account of what English settlers endured in the first years in North America, you’re missing some important food for thought when it comes to prepping. If we take away all of our modern conveniences and start from scratch, we become pilgrims ourselves because we essentially would be living in a whole new world. History, after all, is the best educator. Here are a few things we can learn from the pilgrims:

A long-term survival plan should revolve around the seasons. Today we don’t change our routines much with the seasons. We may change what we wear or some of the leisure things we do, otherwise, we’re able to get pineapples in January and make ice cream in July. Pilgrims, however, spent most of every season preparing to get through the next season. Spring was for planting, Summer was for tending crops, Fall was for harvest and Winter was for catching up on what could be done inside – making and mending tools, textiles and household repairs. Read a first-hand account of what life was like as families settled any part of North America and you’ll quickly discover that basic survival took the entire day, every day.

You need to become an expert on your region. For example, even though you can get pineapple in January (or any month for that matter), you need to step back and learn what crops and game are indigenous to your region. You need to know what can be grown and harvested when and what’s dangerous or poisonous. You need to know how to prepare soil in your geography so that it’s fertile, then you need to know how to take care of plants during the extremes of your region. Families died (and still do in developing nations) when extreme weather wipes out the crops (or livestock) they were depending on to get through the next season and they don’t have contingency crops, livestock or stored supplies. You’ll also need to learn how to manage the natural resources that are around you so they don’t deplete.

Learn to make alliances. Friendships are one thing, but alliances – mutually beneficial relationships or pacts – help both parties further their goals regardless of how they feel about each other’s principles or worldviews. In modern society we rarely have to make alliances or pacts because we can always just buy what we need (no need to trade), we can sign contracts and then we can sue people if they violate agreements. When you take away these options, the people who come out on top long-term are always the ones who are skilled at negotiating relationships and pacts based on generosity, trust, respect (as opposed to violence and threat), and fulfilling mutual needs.

Groups survive longer than individuals. It may be tempting to isolate yourself or your family in a new world order, but history shows that communities who share skills and supplies are more likely to survive than individuals. In fact, the most successful societies are the ones that encourage specialization – and it’s just common sense. When you consider the vast range of skills required to survive (farming, carpentry, animal husbandry, medicine, textiles, etc.), no one person, or one family, can master them all.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Pilgrims and what they did to survive, here are some good historical references:

The Story of the Pilgrims by Morton Dexter

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Bradford’s History of “Plimoth Plantation” by William Bradford

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