Well, next month, nine other adventurers and I will be faced with just such a quandary. We will be spending the whole of April on an isolated tropical island as part of the Life2theLimit survival challenge.
'Shipwrecked' with only what we can each fit into a five-litre dry-bag, we will need to build shelter, find enough food and water and stay safe from wild animals and the elements for a full 30 days. Though we?ve been preparing for months, it's still going to be incredibly tough. Luckily, there are plenty of useful skills and techniques we can put to use that will make our lives a little easier.
If you fancy yourself an outdoor expert, you probably know that dipping the heads of matches in melted wax helps to make them waterproof. Focusing the sun?s rays with a magnifying glass is another useful way to light a fire when you don?t have your trusty Zippo to hand.
Since fire is such a powerful ally in any survival situation, we will be relying on several methods to ensure we have the heat needed to keep warm, purify water, cook our food and frighten off animals. Of all the ways to light a fire, the one I am most looking forward to attempting is the fire bow. This technique, which uses friction to produce flames, has been used for millennia by indigenous peoples around the globe, including the San hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari.
Fishing will (hopefully) be one of our best chances of catching our dinner. As a result, our survival kits contain hooks, strong nylon line and other essentials. But traditional line fishing isn?t the only method for putting seafood on the menu, and as a team we will be experimenting with a number of techniques: traps made from bamboo or other sticks bound together, nets hand-woven from scraps of rope and the use of narcotic plants which stun fish and cause them to float to the surface.
Shelter is also going to be a priority, and several of the team are enthusiastic about their plans to construct a Swiss Family Robinson-style camp. On a tropical island there should be no shortage of materials, though there is no guarantee that the roofs we make out of leaf-tiles and vines will keep out the wind and the rain ? but its all part of the adventure and a chance to use ancient knowledge that is all but forgotten in our high tech world of glass covered skyscrapers!
Survival is also about resourcefulness and ingenuity. The sea, though wild and unpredictable at times, can also be a great source of unexpected treasures. Through regular beach combing, we are hoping to find useful items like rope, driftwood and glass or plastic bottles? who knows, one of them might even have a message inside from some poor sailor who has been shipwrecked for real.
All in all, our month of survival is going to be about making the best of things. Perhaps in this sense, it is not unlike life the rest of the time. Certainly we will face hardship but, by thinking things through and putting our shared experience together, I am confident we are going to come out of it with an amazing insight into just how resilient we humans really are, and how little we actually need to help us get by. Valuable lessons I think in a world and time beset by dwindling resources and mounting challenges.
To find out more about what we are up to and how you can help us to raise money for charity, visit us at www.life2thelimit.co.za where you can register for updates once the challenge begins. In the meantime, why not look into learning a few survival skills yourself. Who knows, one day they might just save your life?