Cut Loose

I just turned the final page on The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology by Mark Boyle (whose experiments in living I’ve blogged about before and also mentioned in Escape Everything!).

The book chronicles his first year of living in a fairly remote and self-built cabin in Ireland from which he subsists on the land without the aid of modern technology. He writes his memoir by hand, chops firewood, grows vegetables, fishes for pike, butchers deer, and tans their hides.

It’s a fine book, a modern Walden really, and served in small morsels, which is reflective of the way he had time to write around the thousand other things he did to stay alive. It also captures his sense of time without recourse to clocks or watches and you end up sort of swimming with him in non-time aside from an awareness of the season.

Thrilling to me and germane to New Escapologist is the following passage from the beginning of the book:

I wake up this morning to two thoughts. The first is that, from this moment onwards, I haven’t got a single bill to my name. I feel free. The second is that, from this moment onwards, all of the toll bridges linking my life to modernity are gone, and that I’m going to have to live on my gumption alone. I am cut loose from the only culture I’ve ever really known.

Just think of it. That sensation of being so dramatically cut loose. One experiences it to an extent when quitting a job–or the entire world of jobs–to go it alone, but to leave modern, technology-mediated society almost completely (he makes friends in the area, communicates by post and sometimes teaches short courses at Schumacher College but he certainly never drives or flies) must be liberating to the point of complete disorientation. For madmen only perhaps.

I remain unconvinced that “to live in the city but not of it,” (see my notes about “the city recluse” in Escape Everthing!) is not the best way to live and, indeed, Mark Boyle himself offers some beautiful thoughts at the end of his book about purist cries of “hypocrisy” and having ideals greater than those you can live by. But, man, what an experiment in living The Way Home turned out to be. I recommend it.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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