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I’ve been a prepper for years, and as I look back over this journey, I can say that there are things I could have done better. When I first started getting into prepping, I would have loved someone to provide some guidance. All of my initial knowledge came from the fragmented and diverse information I found on the web circa 2003. This being said, here are ten things I would have liked to have known about prepping 20 years ago.
This article is a message to my past self – for that handsome, fit young man I was back then. LOL.
1. Start honing basic skills.
Woodworking, metal sheet shaping, forging (a real workout but quite entertaining and rewarding!), car/bike mechanics, welding, plumbing, macramé, or another form of trade, is a great first step. If you are a college-graduate professional in some field and specialty, great. This means you will have a good income.
If you can use your hobby as a side income, that is great, too. Learn to master your hobby well, and get every single tool you may need while abundance exists, and you don’t have someone else to share your life and space with. Afterward, unless you find someone who really appreciates the whole combo, it is going to be more difficult to have a physical space where you can develop your activities.
Survival and prepping are not just about stockpiling stuff. It’s also about using your resources, skills, and knowledge in efficient ways too. Tuning up these skills when you have both the time and energy in the future, can serve as a potential income source that you will enjoy.
2. Set the foundations: invest in a home or bug-out location
Just be realistic, and make sure it is within your means. A mortgage these days is not a piece of cake, no matter what country you’re in. Investing in a suburban property that perhaps will lose value is not an easy choice without previous analysis. However, a good patch of land far away, solitary and peaceful, suited enough for “camping trips” and similar activities is NOT going to take you to bankruptcy at such a young age. Hesitating? Read a little bit about this: 3 Compelling Reasons Preppers Should Buy a Patch of Land.
Everybody has his or her own dreams, and perhaps your life dream is traveling the world. With things as they are, delaying travel plans until the dust settles down would be a much better idea. So, spend that hard-earned money for a dream vacation in a good patch of land where you could go full permaculture mode if you need to!
You could sell this afterwards anyway if you feel like you don’t want or need it anymore, and with some development, like a cabin or well being placed on the property, you will have profit.
I’m amazed to learn how safe the countryside is in some countries. If you checked my last video, perhaps you noticed how secluded and isolated it is. It’s not like we’re battling marauders day after day, but as bad people know that the odds of someone fighting them at gunpoint is quite low, it can be a real hazard.
In addition, here’s a piece of bonus advice: stock up with some stuff you may need. I know this sounds like something someone preparing to hide from the world would do, but, hey, maybe we have to do it someday in the future. This will work as well as a safety net for those periods of life between jobs. If this property is never used as a SHTF refuge, well…
At the end of the day, a wise investment in land will be something that generations coming after you will appreciate. And if you are lucky, with the new online renting trends, you will have way more money to develop your property, expand it, and improve it.
3. Invest in a cheap, reliable vehicle you can use to arrive at your bug-out location or to get back home.
This is not intended to be your main vehicle. If you can afford two of these vehicles, then do it. If your land is properly located, you will need a tough, sturdy and trustworthy vehicle. A bicycle, motorcycle, or even an old Jeep will work. Make sure it is cheap to ride, cheap to repair, low insurance. You know how it is. You could even get some used spare parts, like a gearbox, or brake calipers, wheels, whatever you could find used, in good shape on a bargain, and cache/stash it.
If you are a typical city youngster and feel like getting one of those Toretto-like highly modified race track speeders, then go for it. Just make sure they will make it to your land in one piece (unless it’s paved until your compound door, this is going to be difficult). The good thing is, these should have a high resale value for when you grow up and understand that you don’t need a chick magnet anymore thanks to your awesome personality, or after you have enjoyed enough the thrill of seeing how fast the fuel tank needs refilling. Whatever happens first.
After having two cars and two motorcycles at the same time, I know how it feels to maintain everything in working condition. But, knowing you have a reliable vehicle to get out of dodge provides peace of mind. This could even be an RV if you don’t want to build a cabin or if your BOL is too far away and you need some rest before arriving. It would work as a secondary dwelling, nosy neighbors won’t feel “affected” (like they would feel if you get a used camo army truck from the 70s or 80s), and you could have it already stocked up just in case.
People, I get it. Not everyone is a grease monkey, nor has the desire to grab a wrench and start tinkering with old junk. I myself try to do it as little as possible. But I rather prefer this to the alternative: spending money (which I don’t have an abundance of) and paying someone else to do something that I could do with a workshop manual, some music on my radio, and time.
4. Stop wasting money on fancy electronics.
Sure, it’s important to have some gadgets to be up to date with the technological trends. But in 3-4 years, it will be obsolete anyway. Mind you, programmed obsolescence is the norm these days. Try to overcome it somehow. Educate yourself to get the maximum out of your equipment.
My own phone, for example. It is almost five years old, and I just found out that it can be rooted and a new Android version reinstalled for free to give it a new second life. I won’t get another one until this one is completely busted, and so far, it seems to be in good shape.
Software is a different thing, though. I bought my current phone in Ecuador just because my other two phones used CDMA technology which is obsolete now. A good milspec tablet could last for five years with good care. Almost all of my equipment is now five years old and without too much chance to be replaced in the near future.
My computing needs are quite basic these days. The most demanding activity I foresee in the future is some CAD design for my CNC machining duties. In the future, sure, maybe some development of narrow AI algorithm, but that is a quite advanced project to be delayed for my Ph.D. thesis. Do you really need a 16Mp or a 24Mp camera? I highly doubt someone would like to see my face with such detail in my videos. Do you need an $800 drone?
A luxury item like a surround sound system is delightful. I got mine in the fat-cows era and have enjoyed it since. It should last forever with good care. There’s no need to update it every year. Just keep it and enjoy it until it ends by falling apart with age.
I’ve seen some 80’s and 90’s sound systems still working perfectly. Sure, a $450 GPS is nice, but if you can go with a used $100 one and use that $350 for something that will generate income instead or put it to a better use, the choice is easy. On the other hand, technology is evolving so fast that devices become obsolete in less than two years. Nowadays, not too many people are going to be able to renew gear as often as they would like.
5. Get fit now, and incorporate exercising into your life as a habit.
Being single 20 years ago and living away from home, I was not exactly living a quite healthy lifestyle. I had a demanding, stressful job that had me running around in every oil facility all over the country. Every chance I had to “rest,” I went to the beach with friends, and on Sunday night, I was usually exhausted. Just to start the routine again on Monday.
This went by for a couple of years. My only advantage was that I was much skinnier because of the long hours in the oilfields without any unhealthy snacks to chew on and the physical demands of the job itself. But the abuse of tobacco “compensated” for that, and I regret it now. Keeping healthy habits in your 20s is much easier than trying to get rid of the unhealthy ones after 40. I could have used my time in more productive activity, improving my health.
6. Learn to preserve healthy food.
And learn how to cook it properly. By doing this 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have to now dedicate my time to learning it when I need to increase my income. I had times in my life that I could have used for this, but I chose to do other stuff instead.
Just building a simple mosquito net box to dry stuff like meat, fruit, and vegetables would mean a good step. Twenty years of stockpiling glass jars to store all that stuff, and I would have had food for my family of five for three years without spending a fortune.
(For more information on learning how to preserve healthy food, check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to home canning.)
7. Start establishing bonds with like-minded people.
This is particularly important if you plan to have a permanent partner in the future. He or she should NOT be exposed suddenly to your man or woman “cave” filled up with metal shelves loaded to the roof with food containers, water barrels, and your AR, AKs, or .50cal scoped Barret hanging from the wall.
The soft approach is the right procedure here.
Maybe cuddling while watching a realistic “apo” movie (choose something with a little romance in it, not a fast-running, flesh-eating zombie movie). Try reading aloud some news of a disaster, and smartly redirect a casual conversation towards the importance of being prepared, what he or she thinks, or would do if “this” or “that” happen.
Instinct is fundamental. However, my own personal experience was a disaster. Learn from my mistakes, young people. Once the moment to execute our Bug-in Plan arrived, it was impossible to move: she wasn’t willing to go to the countryside for an entire year, even when we had EVERYTHING we needed there to make it through for three years. But that’s another story.
Make sure that once you choose that person, you won’t be disappointed later, and the information regarding your preps won’t be made available to the public. It’s not easy to keep a hidden room or even a second house secluded in the mountains filled up to the top with gear and supplies. But this could be achieved with comments like “Oh, it’s just that I always wanted to have a mountain cabin out in the woods ever since I was a kid,” or, “Oh, the city is so far away that I don’t want to be going to buy groceries every couple of days.”
Regarding the other type of relationships, I don’t suggest joining groups online nearby your physical location unless you trust them a lot. I have never been into one of those groups, but in my motorcycle group, flexibility was not a thing. They would ride at the speed they felt comfortable with, and you would get an attention call if you allowed a car to get into the bike’s group and separate it.
WTH? No thanks.
What I do find useful is joining other types of groups that share some common activities: a hiking group and a ham radio group, for instance. It’s very likely you will find discreet but highly prepared older people there. Just keep your eyes open.
I found them even here in this country where prepping is something that (most) people just don’t have a clue about. It’s only with the TV shows and some movies that they’ve been learning about what it means. Being a Gen-X, Red Dawn, The Day After guy, well, you can imagine the rest. Always start with a casual comments approach, and see how people react. “We should meet sometime to get organized just in case things get difficult and plan ahead.”
That sort of thing will involve people and motivate them to participate once the habit is present.
8. Avoid spending money on “empty calories.”
Restaurants, discos, and other forms of entertainment are important, sure. (Yes, we have discos here.) I’m not saying to avoid these things entirely! I have my own quota of healthy fun every now and then.
Not participating in fun activities would only make life miserable and would isolate you from your friends and family. This is not what I’m talking about here. Recent events have caused me to realize that life is too short for that.
But maybe cutting the frequency of these events to half of what you’re currently used to, or skipping a week, and using that money for some preps, will work. One tends to appreciate a good dinner even more when going out less.
If you can save $200 a month by optimizing your dinners out, in three years, you would have $3600, which could be the down payment for a piece of land or some used bug-out vehicle in good shape. With that, I could find a good number of 21-foot containers or a classic all-terrain bike and a toy hauler trailer to convert.
You get the idea. Just by doing so, I could have avoided using my vacation money and saved a lot…because I already had a land patch in Isla Margarita, where we usually went vacationing.
To answer a question that some readers may be tempted to ask, I should say, yes: this was indeed a good way to store wealth as Venezuela collapsed. I should have invested a little more, but…do you have any idea how hard it is to find PM to invest these days around here?
Unless one is willing to sacrifice a little of the OPSEC, this takes some special measures to stay safe. Bartering with it, however, is not easy.
Let’s see an example: I need to repair my SUV engine, but the mechanic wants cash USD. If I pay him in local currency, he’s going to charge more. Venezuelans are used to doing things like that because of the hyperinflation effects (although that is seemingly over, the currency has been sort of stable since my arrival), and yes, it’s one of the reasons our economy went down the toilet.
But, this puts me in a position where I can take the maximum advantage: hardly anyone else will pay the guy with such valuable coins…and I can get a good edge. If the exchange partner is interested in saving for a rainy day in a valuable coin in PM, you could get a good deal. One of my pre-collapse intentions was to bring a Peruvian gold and silver coins collection, bought straight from their Central Bank. However, the crisis hit too soon, and this was not possible.
This should be done just with caution, and confidence in the exchange partner is key if the rule of law is…not exactly solid, so to speak.
However, it is risky because one can’t possibly know if the person is going to accept the silver coins (I like to call them doubloons) as a payment, and, after that, he will pass on the information to a gang and raid one’s home. If you believe I’m exaggerating, then you should learn more about how things are when people get desperate.
Hoping that something like that is going to be “investigated” by the “police” is something that anyone NOT from this country would think. Our society down here is just not wired that way. By investing in PMs 20 years ago, my stash would have increased its value, and, according to my calculations, I would have only used 20% of the initial investment to pay for our mom’s meds and care when she got the Wuhan Virus. Go figure.
10. Study about how to diversify your income in the future.
The thing with getting a romantic partner on board once you’re fully committed to prepping, even if you’re not constantly working on it, is not easy. Maybe some people have already learned that prepping is going to be a need rather than an eccentricity and will make things easier. 1940-1950s boomers seem to have been too hardened to teach properly the generations they left behind about what they went through in the Cold War, psychologically speaking.
Should I have learned more about all of this, I could have retired much earlier from my day job and started a business that could have surfed the crisis. I found that smoked products like cheese and meats always have a market here. I can’t say if this is just in Venezuela, but people who won’t stop living the good life no matter what will find it pleasant to have snacks to wash down with their beer or whiskey.
Wisdom often requires mistakes.
Just by getting a few cheap acres far away from any neighbor and a good, simple, reliable vehicle of any kind, you will be way ahead of people your age have that don’t have a clue of what they are going to do with their lives.
I met a kid I worked for a couple of weeks while I was working in the refineries, who told me his story. He was a single dad of a few months old baby and got a well-paid job for six months in a plant shutdown. With his first salary, he bought some stuff for the baby to keep him for the next six months. He could buy an old car in good shape, patch it a little bit here and there, and there was the daily ride.
Saving the most of his salary the next three months, he could afford a small house and some acres for cattle raising! He knew about this business because his grampa taught him these skills and “secrets.” One of the grampa’s friends got sick and couldn’t work the land nor take care of the cattle anymore. They settled down on an arrangement: the old man could live alone and peacefully in a separated little house already in place that was used by the laborers, and the young man, wife, and baby in the little main house.
In just six months, this financially smart young man without too much specialized education was MUCH better suited than I was, me being an engineer, but with an old car and living in a rented home…hoping the day I could save enough to buy a good (used) motorcycle.
Enjoyed the article? Are there things you wish you knew when you started prepping? Share your advice and let me know in the comments section!
Stay tuned. Much more to come!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
10 Things About Prepping I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago is written by J.G. Martinez D for www.theorganicprepper.com