Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
The coolest week I ever spent in my life was the one on the course with Selco and Toby. Not only did I learn physical skills but I also learned a different way of thinking about things.
First, you get to meet these guys.
Selco and Toby are two of the most badass, ready-for-anything, caring men I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet.
That’s right. Caring.
They really want to help you get ready for anything. The way that Selco will look you in the eye and answer any question you ask about his horrific years during the Balkan War is nothing short of astonishing. He tells his stories calmly and in as unbiased a fashion as possible. He doesn’t talk about “good guys vs, bad guys” – he explains that everyone did good things and bad things both to survive.
Toby is a very personable, funny guy who has an incredible amount of knowledge, both from his background in the British Royal Marines and as a wilderness survival instructor. The man was born to teach. I retained so much from his lessons, not just a hit or miss factoid. He explains, demonstrates, and then provides experiences that reinforce what he’s taught.
There’s classroom stuff and experiential stuff
When you begin the course, you spend a lot of time talking. You learn the basic rules (of which there are few), you learn what to expect, and each day, you spend some time getting prepared for that day’s experience. The classroom time is actually a lot of fun. Sure, we’re talking about serious stuff, but at least with our group, there were also plenty of laughs.
Then you have the experiential section, where you put what you’ve learned to the test.
There are drills and exercises that are absolutely chaotic, with the radio blaring heavy metal so that you are forced to perform under stressful, adrenalized circumstances. (Because the SHTF isn’t going to say, “Oh, I’ll just wait quietly over here while you sort out your thoughts.”
Other drills and exercises required complete silence and stealth. Sneaking through buildings covered with broken glass and debris, checking out all 4 sides of an abandoned building by melding into the brush around it, standing watch, hiding…all of these activities were as silent as you could make them. Your time spent in these drills was slow and patient. (Although, as an impatient person, I found this so much more difficult than the chaos drills.)
The things I understood after the course
Like the rest of you, I absolutely love Selco’s articles and books. His content really feels like it puts you right there in the middle of it with him.
But I can tell you now that I have a far deeper understanding of what he writes about.
When he says it can take you hours to cross 40 feet, I know that it’s because he’s inching along, staying low, waiting for some kind of noise to cover his movement.
When he talks about how all the buildings in his city were in ruins from constant shelling and sniper fire, I’ve been inside those buildings. There are no windows. Holes in the roof. Damage to the walls. I couldn’t keep warm and dry in those buildings on a mild, rainy spring day at 55 degrees. I have a whole new grasp of what it must have been like to be there constantly in the middle of winter with snow drifting in. As I wrote before, every single building I saw in Bosnia suffered damage that is still very obvious.
And I also saw the places where Selco’s SHTF took place. I went up with him to the sniper perches on the mountains above the city. I witnessed the clear line of sight that snipers had when starving people went to a hillside by a graveyard in hopes of getting some of the MREs the US forces were dropping. I saw the clear view of the riversides where thirsty people would go to try and get water for their families. When we walked through the streets of the city, Selco showed us, “Here, it was safe.” Then he took one step forward. “Here it was no longer safe.” And we could see…SEE…the insane danger of simply going down the street to try and haggle for some supplies.
And it wasn’t just the snipers they had to contend with. The enemies within were also starving and would do anything they had to in order to get their families fed. Being right there. Seeing it. Walking in those footsteps.
It all had an impression on me that will always be present.
I saw many foolish mistakes I would have made.
This is going to sound awful but I never would have thought about doing recon for an hour in the pouring rain before entering a building. I would have wanted to get dry and oh lookie, there’s shelter. I would have either tripped a booby trap or gotten shot in the face when I barged right into the front door.
I would never have thought to move across a field from cover point to cover point. I would have taken the easiest route right out in the open. I wouldn’t have considered walking quietly through debris – I would have just crunched my way across.
Sure, after a day or so of realizing “holy cats, this is a bad scene” I would have become more stealthy.
If I survived that long.
I really thought I was a well-prepared person with some skills before this course but the difference between prepping and survival is like the Grand Canyon. If I could stay safely in my house and never leave, sure, I’d be fine. But eventually, your supplies run out or you need something you didn’t stock or someone comes to your door and it’s either run with your family or die.
This changed everything I thought I knew. It cast doubt on some plans of mine that really weren’t good. I know that every other lady at that course said that there were changes they were going to make when they made it home.
These courses are made for anyone.
I wrote before that I was recovering from abdominal surgery when I took this course. This is important to note because I couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds, couldn’t bend easily due to a healing incision, and definitely couldn’t do anything that required core strength. (And basically everything stealthy seems to require core strength.)
To be quite honest, I nearly backed out of the whole thing because I felt I hadn’t recovered enough to do the kind of stuff I knew we’d be doing.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
And it wasn’t just me with some issues. There was a lady with a bad knee, a lady in her 60s, heck, all of us had some “reason” that we probably shouldn’t have been there.
But the guys have something called a “self-select model.” And what that means is that they’ll offer these learning opportunities but if you don’t feel you are up to it, you can opt out of that activity. One lady had to do that when her knee swelled up. As I wrote in my article about surviving the survival course, I developed a horrible cold and chose not to sleep over in an abandoned house in my soaking wet clothing and get sicker.
There’s no judgment. They will adapt to the students.
So if you think you aren’t fit enough/healthy enough/spry enough for this course – how will you be fit, healthy, and spry enough for the SHTF? When you go to something like this, you learn about the adaptations you need to make. You learn what you need to practice.
You learn all that and so much more.