The boating community may know Nikki van Schyndel from her survivalist programs presented at Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina and Resort and the eco-tours she gives in the Broughton Island Group. Her story has always been fascinating. A woman in her thirties leaves the city to survive in the wild. But I never knew the full story—how she got into this, her training, her partner on this quest, Micah, and their relationship and interdependency to survive.
Book Review: Becoming Wild by Nikki van Schyndel
In her book, Becoming Wild, Nikki fills in the gaps with her complete life story, from a privileged upbringing filled with pretty clothes and horses to her desire to understand nature all around us. One day, a tree inspired her. She walked away from a normal existence to train and eventually challenge herself to survive off the land for 18 months.
She spent years training and dreaming before taking the plunge. It was not easy. In fact, she almost starved during the first six months in the wild. Readers quickly learn that living in the wild is a lot of work, morning to dusk work, just to survive. Late summer and fall are a marathon effort to gather, prepare and store food for the winter. Firewood must be gathered and stacked. Shelter prepared for the winds and rain of upper BC. Tools and hunting gear all need to be prepared. Throw romance out the window. This is survival. The community around Echo Bay had a betting pool going for how long they would last.
Similar to the stories you read about pioneer families, after the first tough winter, things got easier. They moved their camp to a more productive area. They avoided wolves and bears, and learned not just how to fish, but to catch. They harvested a bear, which nourished them and provided bear fat for cooking and soaps. As the pressure to survive became easier, Nikki describes the natural beauty of nature and how her senses became so in tune to the world around her.
After 18 months she and Micah completed their goal and left the wild, both different people. She moved back to her mother’s home, but only lasted a few weeks. Her senses were overwhelmed with the loud sounds and city smells. After a day or two, she slipped out of her comfy bed to sleep soundly on the floor. A few weeks later, she returned to Echo Bay and the wild.
Today, Nikki offers eco-tours of the area and demonstrates what she learned in the wild. Her tours are highly recommended. She has a natural enthusiasm for the wild world around her and a few hours with her will leave you an enlightened person. Should you have the opportunity to meet her, you will be captivated by her beautiful olive skin and piercing bright blue eyes. Even if you are not able to take her tour, read the book, and you will learn a lot more of what life in the wild is all about.
Becoming Wild by Nikki van Schyndel is available in the Waggoner Store. $24.95