Well, I watched the final episode of "Out of the Wild" last week. Out of the nine who started, there were five when this episode started. There were only four who made it (yes, some made it!) "out of the wild" and back to civilization. (I blogged about this show here, in case you have not yet heard about it. )
One of the things that was striking to me about this episode is what the woman who left the experience said when she was leaving. The people in this experience were to get no reward (other than personal satisfaction) for completing it, so that was not a factor. And they didn't know when the experience would end. What this woman said (paraphrasing, sorry that I don't have it verbatim) was along these lines:
"People say what if it ends tomorrow? For me it doesn't matter. For me it ends today."
I have to say that I admire everyone who stuck with this experience, and the woman who left (I think there were only like two or three days left in the experience at this point) was an extremely valuable member of the team. She knew how to do things cooking with what they were able to hunt down and eat that I thought were amazing. She stuck it out for about four weeks if memory serves, and then she decided she was done. She didn't know it was almost over. But it was.
For the four remaining people, it would appear to get worse before it got better, and they could easily have just decided to just push their little rescue buttons. Some of the things that happened just previous to their boarding a train that would take them to civilization (My apologies for any inaccuracies--it's not on purpose, and hopefully there are none):
--They hadn't eaten anything substantial for three days when they got their final map, which, by the way, indicated that they had something like 14 miles to hike before they reached their next shelter. For some reason, it seems to me that one of the things they were worried about was the fact that they would have to make a temporary shelter at a high altitude on this particular trek, and hadn't been that successful in that kind of endeavor in the past. They found this out the night before the actual trip, giving them plenty of time to decide to just go home.
--They finally saw some cabins, but there was no one there. If they hadn't been paying attention, they may have missed the fact that railroad tracks were close by. When they saw the tracks, they had another dilemma: would the train come by once a week? Would the train come by once a month? They looked at the tracks and found that they were clean, indicating that a train had come through since the last snowfall. Since this is Alaska we're talking about, it was snowing regularly by this point. I think about that moment a lot--if trains only come by once a week or once a month, would I have stayed with the experience at that point? Or would I have figured that since the tracks were clean, that I had already missed the train, and there wouldn't be another train for at least days, and maybe weeks? I like to think that even if I thought that temporarily, that I would have then decided to perhaps follow the tracks... So there was another point that they could have said they were done, but they didn't. They made a makeshift flag out of a white shirt (which indicated distress) and waited for a train.
A train did come. I don't know how long it took, but it was the same day. The four who remained were transported to a town where their family members were waiting for them. Their attitudes, again, in my recollection, were different, and the one that sticks out to me the most was what one of the men said, along these lines:
"I was never going to quit. That button (that would have immediately summoned a helicopter to take him back to civilization) on my belt may as well have been nothing more than a piece of jewelry."
The other people who made it also gave their reasons, and though I don't remember their words exactly, they all stuck with it, even though it was an incredibly difficult ordeal. It seems that one of them said that there were times when she was so cold she just wanted to go home. And another said something like he was never going to quit as well.
I guess what it comes down to for me in terms of attitude was that they made a decision not to quit, and they stuck with it. This didn't mean that they didn't want to go home. It didn't mean that they wouldn't rather have had nice things, and at the very least would have preferred having the basic comfort of being able to get warm. It meant that they wanted to go home the way that they chose, and they did have the choice. It did matter, to the ones who made it through to the end, that the whole experience "could end tomorrow." They had hope, even though at times they had very little else. It looked very, very bleak before it got better. But it did get better. They won. And the only competition they had was the competition within themselves.
How does this apply to surviving tough situations and preparing for emergencies? I'm sure it varies from situation to situation when it comes to specifics, but having a good attitude, and not giving up, is much more likely to lead you to a positive outcome whether you are dealing with emergency preparedness or actual emergencies. Even preparing for emergencies can seem overwhelming at times, because there are so many things that could happen, and sometimes there are things that we would like to get, but have to wait and save up for. The people on the program would rather have been warm "today", but had to wait as well...
Continuing to go forward is a triumph, even when progress seems slow. You never know what will happen tomorrow, and tomorrow does matter, whether for preparation, or in the midst of emergencies. In the case of the people in the program, attitude appears to have been a major factor. It is a major factor for us as well. My proverbial hat is off to all of the people who participated in that experience.