Would You Like to Live a Wilderness Life?

by Michael Traynor



Have you wondered what it might be like to live  a wilderness life? A wilderness is traditionally defined as a landscape with a mosaic of ecosystems that function with little influence from human beings.  It is tempting to yearn for the values in doing so: independence, self-reliance, and a deeper connection in nature. And yet a wilderness can also instill a bewildering sense of isolation, inhospitality and loss.  

If you want to lead a wilderness life, how do you go about it?  First off, a wilderness might be defined more expansively than an ecosystem of few humans.  Metaphorically speaking, our current secular, urban, technological society could also be viewed as a form of wilderness living. Modern society may appear to be an ecosystem filled with humans and human busy-ness, but it can easily be experienced as lacking in real humanity.  Perhaps we each live in a wilderness experience of our own design?  Paraphrasing Donne, no man is an island, entire of itself –  until each man fashions their island of choice. 

To learn more about living in a wilderness, I thought to visit a typical one. The choice of which one is made simple by use of the universally accepted method for all human inquiry –  Siri.  Siri told me to visit Patagonia.  Siri clarified that to mean the end of the world, not the clothing store. Patagonia encompasses the southernmost part of South America, spanning Argentina and Chile. The region is marketed to modern tourists as  “The Last Wilderness” lying at the end of the world, with Tierra del Fuego home to the southernmost city on earth. 

Having returned, Patagonia looks like the classic wilderness, but it does not feel like one in the metaphoric context. Patagonia felt like a cultivated area, just cultivated by nature; like an inhabited area, just inhabited by myriad forms of life; and like a hospitable area,  just hospitable to whatever respects its role in nature. The Patagonian wilderness is one in which all life, including human life, seems tightly woven in a unified sense of struggle, intent, and purpose. Patagonia may be empty, but it is not isolated, lonely or unconnected. It may be savage, but it is not angry, resentful, afraid, or ashamed. In this wild, nothing seems lost; nothing is extra. Everything, including humanity, seems essential to everything else. 

Patagonia’s empty landscape works to reveal an ultimate connectedness. Perhaps modern society’s sheer abundance of activity and connection works to reveal an ultimate emptiness. In certain ways, wilderness living may be more prevalent in a densely populated urban center than it is in Patagonia. It seems we are all destined to lead a wilderness life to some extent. Living in a wilderness may even be inescapable, with our choice being confined to selecting a venue, and how satisfied we feel with our choice


Go deeply into every wilderness of your life. You will not become lost! You may become more “found”.  Self-reflecting on your life experiences can seem intimidating, and yet it helps purposefully uncover the kind of wilderness life you truly want to lead.  Modern society offers multiple experiences for this discernment. Patagonia offers some vastly alternative experiences that can offer new opportunities to choose your best wilderness life. Making intentional choices across many alternatives can instill a greater peace of spirit in your life . Greater peace of spirit can cultivate a gratefulness for having been given the entire experience of simply being alive, regardless of whatever particulars unfold.  
Take a look at some of the Patagonian wilderness photos below. Searching out and integrating new experiences like this may make your own wilderness life more full and rich. At a minimum, you can better realize yourself being an essential, connected co-participant in the unfolding of all of this creation.  Enjoy the search. Whatever you encounter, remember that Creation needs you to express itself.  Listen as Creation expresses itself through you, and trust that whatever happens, you will never be lost in the wilderness.


Water and Waterfalls











Lands and Glacial Lakes




Painted Skies



Trees and Plants


Animals and Birds




Religious Spaces




Commercial Spaces