Once We Were Free

A long time ago, there was no money. There were no kings, no rules and no borders. We lived as hunters and gatherers, and we were free. Yes, at times life was hard. Death could come swiftly. But no matter what kind of misfortune life threw in our faces, we were free. And there were times when we thrived and even had time for art and music.

I have been fascinated by this way of life since my early teens. And it was about that time I discovered there is a part of me that just wants to go feral. A few years later, I finally understood that part is who I really am. Everything else is just adaptations to a society whose artificial taste gets more and more bitter as I get older.

Don’t get me wrong. I can dress up in a nice shirt and go to business meetings. I have no problems with that. I even have a tie. But don’t tell me I am expected to put my best clothes on; I will then get into my Viking style tunic and trousers, and I will be carrying an axe. And if you tell me to just be myself, well … I am sure you get the point. I have adjusted to modern society, but it is not really who I am. The real me talks less. He is honest in a way that makes people blush. No rules apply to him.

However socially incorrect the real me can be, he is still my favourite me. After all, he is who I really am. I can not, for any extended period of time, be anyone else. Actually, I don’t want to. You see, being real is a big thing to me. I don’t do well with posers and I have no respect for social constructs like authority. I’ve been told that I’m a pain to be around at religious and national holidays — simply because I don’t relate to them and I would rather be out in the woods or at sea, sailing. I know I can seem hard headed, eccentric and difficult, but at least I am not trying to be someone else. To me integrity is worth more than all the money in the world, since integrity means that you can not be bought. I have the outmost respecty for people with integrity, even those I disagree with.


My hammock is called Draumr – a suitable name. Nothing more is needed to sleep in comfort and dream sweet dreams.

But I get ahead of myself. This blogpost was going to be about freedom. And I would like to suggest that you are meant to be free. Any other state of mind will take away who you really are. And even if you have to go work Monday-Friday, you can still be free. Writing this, I just came back from another overnighter in the woods. Waking up this morning, I was first lying in my hammock listening to the birds and watching the sun rise. No luxury hotel comes even close to that. I then made breakfast and I was on my way again. And I got that familiar feeling that often comes to me as I break camp: Equipped with the bushcraft knowledge I’ve acquired over the years, I would have been able to live off the land. I could have kept going forever, or at least until I’m expected to join the dinner party in Valhalla. That makes me feel wealthy in the true sense of that word.

I know we all need money, and I know I am very fortunate to be able to make a living as a novelist. But still, wouldn’t we be happier if we became more true to who we are and less dependent on the expectations social norms place on us? I wish people would be less concerned about what other people think about them. I wish people would be wilder. I wish people would be more generous and stop trying to show off their wealth. I’m not saying material wealth is bad, far from it. If you want that big yacht (like I do), and you can buy it, do it! But do it for yourself. Do it to cross oceans and see wonderful things.

I know I’m not the only one who see it this way. There are lots of us unruly, wild and crazy people out there. I got a reminder of that when I looked up on the tarp above my hammock last night. Printed there, in bright color, it said: «Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Stay wild.»

Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen (copyright)

Read more: Bushcraft overnighter in the woods

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