What's your retreat mindset - Castle, cabin or cave?

By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner

What do you think of when you consider a place to relocate family for safety and security in the event of a natural disaster or major regional emergency?  Is your ideal retreat location an underground bunker carved out of a rural mountainside, a secluded 700 s.f. off-grid cabin in the woods, or a scenic mountaintop lodge in a fortified compound?  Your attitude about surviving a major disaster has a lot to do with what your ideal safe house might be.  And what’s in your wallet.

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Depending on your budget, your location, your health, your family considerations and your desire for security and sustainability, most everyone has a different vision of what their perfect retreat looks like.  The very first task that retreat seekers need to come to grips with is what - exactly - do they really want, as well as what can they afford to purchase and maintain over time.

Why buy or build a retreat?

Let’s back up a notch.  Why do you want a retreat in the first place?  Nearly everyone who understands the changing world we live in yearns, to some degree, for independence from that nagging feeling that things are getting out of control.  You might not be able to put your finger on it, but every time North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un launches another missile, you get that yearning.  Regardless of your political leanings, if you live in a high density, major metropolitan area, you may have a more acute sense of uncertainty about the long-term safety of your surroundings.   With global economic instability rising, and personal security issues taking center stage in the US, consumer demand is increasing for remote properties that offer security and the ability to be self-contained. Does this describe your mindset?

If it does, you’re in the company of a growing constituency of people – from every walk of life and every age group - who seeks sustainable living and refuge from the thin veneer of civilization that can disintegrate within days when an unexpected disaster occurs.  You remember Hurricane Katrina, right?  How about the collapse of Venezuela?   No country is immune from natural or man-made disaster. 

The vast majority of the population is unprepared. We’re not talking about top government leaders who would be safely ensconced in deep mountain bunkers with massive food supplies or billionaires who’ve constructed their own island fortresses in New Zealand with plush accommodations and para-military protection to ride out any catastrophe.  We’re talking about normal folks who see the writing on the wall and have begun to live what some might call a strategic lifestyle. They know when DHS tells Americans that FEMA has a national “PrepareAthon” program and suggests guidelines for long-term family food storage, it’s just a starting point. Everyone needs to prepare for the worst and live for the best. 

What are your choices?

Without getting into the “shelter in place” versus “get out of Dodge” debate, let’s assume that you’ve made up your mind – you just can’t defend your metro location and ensure the safety of your family.  You have stockpiled substantial on-site supplies of “beans, bullets, and Band-Aids” in case of disaster, but you know the chances of you or your neighbors defending your families and urban property against armed bands of evil-doers is slim at best. You know your better option is to secure a remote go-to location – in advance -  far from the point where gas tanks run dry and desperate walking refugees run out of water and food.

If you have a secure, well-stocked retreat that you either live at full time, or can access with one normal tank of fuel, you have a distinct advantage over 97% of the unprepared population that has three days of food and a half tank of gas.

As the sad reality sinks in, you begin to think about where and what your retreat should be.  Where do you start?  Do you want a cabin, castle or cave?  Dozens of books have been written on these subjects; some are useful and others not so worthwhile.  Some popular books often generate more questions than practical answers.  Choosing a retreat location is a daunting task that first and foremost, requires careful consideration by all your family members and it requires some thoughtful prayers for guidance. 

The wise choice

If you are really serious about finding a retreat property, some basic questions need to be truthfully answered at the outset. How far away from your local “ground zero” do you want to be?  Where exactly is that? Will you live there full-time or will you need to escape the city to reach your retreat?  Do you have the financial resources to purchase rural property and build, or to buy an established homestead or secure retreat?  Is your health and that of your family members such that you can handle the agrarian lifestyle and steady maintenance chores that off-grid retreat living often requires?  These are just a few “starter” questions; there are literally hundreds more to answer.  You might review the three-part series “Stuff you ought to know…” before you make any decisions about acquiring a retreat property.

Here’s another real-world aspect to consider. Most rural off-grid retreats are very rustic, and require considerable work by everyone involved just to maintain a low standard of living. You may be dreaming of a beautiful castle on a forested mountaintop, but few people have the financial resources to secure that dream.  Most of us are in the cabin or cave category. In many cases, retreat living conditions will not even come close to how you are used to living in the city.  Rural living is hard work – a very manual lifestyle. Most people buy or build a retreat with basic family survival in mind. Survival is not easy, but neither is living in a city that has collapsed where criminal gangs freely roam the streets. Keep your expectations in check and don’t be put off by a “fixer-upper.”  Many times a rough cabin with good bones can be a diamond in the rough if you don’t mind putting in some sweat equity.

Don’t give up the search

Finding a suitable retreat may seem like an overwhelming challenge at first, very similar to the feeling you had when you first realized you needed to prepare for a coming disaster.  You can overcome this challenge with the same fortitude and determination that got you to this point in the first place.  Additionally, there are resources available to guide you around the pitfalls and minefields that others before you have encountered and surmounted.

Do your own research.  Identify a geographic region that’s affordable and practical for you.  Look for properties that meet your family’s specific needs.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew if your experience and skill level is limited. Reading about sustainable “green” living isn’t nearly the same as actually living an off-grid lifestyle every day.

If you feel the need for some helpful guidance about where or what your retreat property might be, help is available.   Useful information about buying or selling sustainable properties on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau in the Southern Appalachian Redoubt, can be found at www.basiclifetraining.com  We’ve been where you are, we took “the plunge” and we continue to enjoy a sustainable rural off-grid lifestyle today.  If you plan and prepare properly, you can do the same.