Lonely Planet Writer

'The less you have, the more free you feel': living a nomadic life in the modern world

A Dutch woman who has spent the past six years living a nomadic life with her husband in the Southern Alps of New Zealand has published a book cataloguing their incredible adventurous life together.

Miriam Lancewood has spent the past 7 years living in the wilderness with her husband Peter.
Miriam Lancewood has spent the past 6 years living in the wilderness with her husband Peter. Image by Lottie Hedley

Written by Miriam Lancewood, Woman in the Wilderness: My story of Love, Survival and Self-Discovery offers readers an intriguing insight into what it takes to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the 21st century, outlining the author’s challenging journey towards being self-sufficient. The couple lives incredibly simply, using either a tent or a hut throughout all seasons. They forage for edible plants and use minimal supplies, and Miriam hunts wild animals while her husband Peter does the cooking. While often demanding, Miriam loves the freedom associated with the life, and felt that sharing her experience with an audience would be an interesting project. “The reason for writing the book is to show people that there are other ways of living. You can live without security, without a job, a house, a cell phone and social media. You can live with nature, harmoniously, primitively and being part of the wilderness, if you make that choice,” Miriam told Lonely Planet Travel News.

The couple lead a nomadic lifestyle, with Miriam hunting with a bow and arrow and Peter doing the cooking.
The couple lead a nomadic lifestyle, with Miriam hunting with a bow and arrow and Peter doing the cooking. Image by Lottie Hedley

The book charts the very practical aspects of Miriam’s life, such as her difficulties learning to hunt with a bow and arrow, the struggle to create a warm environment in which to live, and her attempts to cross raging rivers safely and find ways through the rugged mountains and dense bush. These lessons are interwoven with Miriam’s adjustment to a slower pace of life, her relationship with her husband and her interactions with the few other people that they encounter.

Miriam and Peter live simply, sleeping in either a tent or a hunt.
Miriam and Peter live simply, sleeping in either a tent or a hut. Image by Lottie Hedley

An avid traveller, at the age of 21 Miriam set off for Zimbabwe to spend a year volunteering in a school. From there she flew to India, where she met Peter, and together they spent several years travelling throughout Asia and Papua New Guinea before going to New Zealand. In 2010 she gave up her job as a special needs teacher before starting her journey into the wilderness.

Miriam's book Woman in the Wilderness charts the highs and lows of her adventurous lifestyle.
Miriam’s book Woman in the Wilderness charts the highs and lows of her adventurous lifestyle. Image by Lottie Hedley

“Living like this taught me survival skills – and that we do not need much to be happy. In fact, the less you have, the more free you feel. I feel relieved I do not have a house and a job. I feel completely free while living in nature. The purity of the wilderness has taken away my worries, and I feel my mind is free to observe the beauty of the world. If you do want to live in the wilderness for a long period of time, make sure you are very well prepared and extremely well organised. One mistake in preparation, and it might cost your life,” Miriam said.

Woman in the Wilderness: My story of Love, Survival and Self-Discovery is out now via Little Brown.