Studying the mistakes and misfortunes of hikers' survival stories can...
In Issue 22 of our magazine, we interviewed Megan Hine, a full-time survival consultant and expedition leader from the U.K. Megan has proven her survival skills time and time again in challenging environments around the globe, and led TV crews and celebrities safely through these same environments. She has even worked behind the scenes on adventure TV shows such as Man vs. Wild and Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.
For our full exclusive interview with Megan Hine, pick up a copy of Issue 22, on sale October 6th. After chatting with Megan about her survival skills, life-threatening experiences, and perspective as a female survivalist, we also had the opportunity to discuss her latest venture: her new book, Mind of a Survivor.
For an inside look at Mind of a Survivor and Megan’s motivations for writing it, check out the following OFFGRIDweb-exclusive supplement to our print interview.
RECOIL OFFGRID: Let’s talk about your book, Mind of a Survivor, which is on sale now — what caused you to decide to write your first book?
Megan Hine: I was really fortunate in that I was approached to write the book, and I realize how lucky I was with that now. It comes down to that question: what makes a survivalist? Are these traits that are transferrable from a wilderness environment to an urban environment? I really believe that they are.
I see a lot of people now who are suffering from anxiety and depression, and it seems to be on the increase. I’m sure it’s because our lives are so structured that there’s little room anymore for discovering your identity and building creativity and exploring that side of things.
I think that in the wilderness, it’s much easier. For example, if you’re standing on top of a cliff 50 feet up, and someone is asking you to jump off this cliff into water below, it’s obvious that you’re going to be feeling fear. There’s fear of hurting yourself, fear of exposure—it’s high, it’s not natural to be up there. If you can learn to control those emotions in that position, you can then take the lessons that you’ve learned there back and apply them to everyday life. We’re so overwhelmed by so many different things that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where those emotions are coming from.
In your book, you wrote, “In survival, people often talk about three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food. I’d like to add another: three seconds without thinking.” What do you mean by that statement?
MH: Things go south very quickly. When things go wrong, it happens so fast. Staying alert, thinking — whether it’s thinking through your actions or being alert to the environment around you — could potentially save your life.
I was down in London for the publicity tour over the past week, just walking around the streets, and so many people have their phones in their hands and their heads just locked into their phones. They’ve got no awareness of what’s going on around them. With the way the world’s going at the moment, actually being aware of people’s body language around you or factors changing in your environment might actually save your life.
The title, Mind of a Survivor, clearly emphasizes the psychological aspect of staying alive. How would you compare the significance of mental survival challenges to the physical challenges? Is one more of a threat than the other?
MH: You need your mind and your body working together to overcome something. You could be super physically fit, and you can have all the knowledge on how to survive in the environment, but if your brain’s not on board with that, that’s when you’re going to start making the wrong decisions or giving up. So I think to some extent they go hand-in-hand. The physicality would certainly give somebody an advantage, as long as they’ve got the mindset to pull themselves through.
What I’ve found really fascinating from reading lots of survival stories is just how many people survived extreme wilderness scenarios who have zero outdoor experience — just because their mind does not let them give up.
Your website states, “The principles covered in Mind of a Survivor are just as valid in the jungle being chased by armed men as they would be in an intense business meeting.” How do you relate the lessons in your book to the average person who may not be a wilderness adventurer?
MH: The way I aimed to use the wilderness was not to necessarily encourage people to go out and find themselves in a position where they’re being hunted by bears or lions. It’s more as a medium to be able to get people thinking.
If you can explain survival at the extremes, it’s easier to translate to when you’re sitting somewhere in the middle. At the extremes, it’s much easier to explain my decision-making processes at the time, and what my mind did to deal with the emotions. This could then be relatable back to any environment where you’re experiencing the same emotions. Our animalistic brains are amazing at trying to keep us alive, but they can’t distinguish between different threats. That’s what is so fascinating.
Looking at somebody’s Facebook post of their perfect life can trigger the same reaction as if somebody jumped out at you. It’s a target of your well-being, whether it’s emotional or physical. It’s like your brain has the same stressed reaction and response to it.
It’s about learning to be able to control and stop those emotions, because things like fear and stress are natural emotions. They let you know that something has changed within your environment. But what we’ve stopped doing is listening to those emotions, because they’ve become such a huge part of everyday life. All the stress — we now take for granted that it’s there, and it shouldn’t be. Our animalistic brains were never designed to experience it. Stress should’ve been a passing thing, a protection mechanism that then recovers.
Speaking of which, what are some of the best ways to combat fear in a daunting survival scenario?
MH: What I tend to do in those situations is take a couple of deep breaths, because it gives you something to focus on.
Then I separate out my emotions — I do it automatically now. I put any emotions that could potentially be overwhelming and stop me from being able to focus on the task at hand into what I call my mental box. This is something that paramedics, emergency crew, and doctors do a lot as well. They have to be able to separate out the human emotions from what’s going on, and put them away so they can get on with dealing with these extreme situations.
Have you noticed any common psychological roadblocks or misconceptions among those who you’ve trained to survive?
MH: Well, lack of belief in yourself. As soon as you start doubting yourself, that’s when you lose the will to survive. It’s a good idea to question yourself—I think it’s always a good idea to question what you’re doing. You can only become better or make better decisions through questioning yourself. But it’s really when you start doubting yourself and doubting the fact that you’ll survive that problems occur.
When I’m giving a talk, I would always ask people at the end, “Would you survive?” A lot of people would say no. Well then, you probably wouldn’t survive. You’re already going in with that preconceived idea that you can’t do it and you won’t survive. Whereas if you’re in a genuine life-and-death situation, you don’t have the luxury of making that decision. You have to survive. The other option is death.
The final chapter of your book is titled, “The Selfish Mind”. What does that term mean to you, and how would selfishness affect survival?
MH: “The Selfish Mind” is a chapter where [laughs] there was a question about whether I’d put it in, because the way that I end the book is by questioning — because I don’t know the answer — is there a situation where I might abandon my clients to save myself? And that, for me, was a really interesting question.
Although I have confidence in myself that I can survive a lot of situations, at the same time, survival is on a cellular level. Every part of your body wants to survive and is doing everything it can to survive. If you think about it on that level, it’s all about you and making sure you survive.
We live in this lovely society where you’re expected to help out other people, but when things go horribly wrong, society is very fragile. It breaks very quickly. You see the aftermath of natural disasters or terrorist attacks — a city will just go mental. Things like rape and murder and looting happen. And that’s really, really quickly. That’s in a matter of hours and days, not months and years, which is quite terrifying, really.
So, yeah, that chapter was more about making people question how they would honestly react in that sort of situation.
If our readers would like to find out more about you and your book, what is the best way to do so? Social media?
MH: Yeah, through social media. Obviously, I spend a huge amount of time actually out on the ground, often in places where there is no signal, so it makes it hard to keep my social media channels up to date, but that’s the best way to get in touch with me. [Editor’s note: You can follow Megan on Instagram at @megan_hine or at Facebook.com/officialmeganhine] I find it quite relaxing when I’m sitting in airports to look at other people’s Instagram pictures and adventures as well.