The Wilderness Survival School That Brings Out Your Wild Side

Reconnecting with nature to survive in nature.


(Creaturart Images /

Humans are always seeking ways to improve relationships. How can we be better communicators? Better listeners? More empathetic? But what about non-human to human relationships? Take, for example, our relationship with the earth, with nature.

Enter the Holistic Survival School: an alternative wilderness survival school  in Grand Rapids, Michigan that helps build participants’ relationship with nature in order to survive in the wild. The Holistic Survival School, or HSS, applies its own unique methodology to wilderness survival.  While most schools are based on an oppositional mindset – humans versus nature – and see “survival” as a fight against the natural world, HSS believes that the key to survival is to bridge the gap between man and nature.

HSS teaches students the physical skills needed to survive in the wild, like how to make a fire with two sticks, and also how these skills can enhance their relationship with the earth. This principle is instilled in all courses, including primitive fire making, sweat lodge construction, wild foraging, basket making, and leather working.

Luke McLaughlin is the founder of HSS and self-proclaimed teacher, mentor, rewilder, survivalist and naturalist. Having spent 21 consecutive days living primitively in the African wild as a contestant on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, Luke has witnessed firsthand the importance of nature connection in wilderness survival.

Luke helps his students develop a relationship with nature and survive in the wild through a practice called “rewilding.” Though the term itself may evoke images of cavemen wrapped in fur and communicating in grunts, that’s not quite the case. Rather, rewilding is a process of reclaiming man’s natural, more wild state of being.  By learning lost ancestral knowledge, shifting from an ego-centric to an eco-centric mindset, and experiencing nature and community, Luke wants people to get in touch with their wild roots.

After three years, HSS is now looking to expand its school and space. Luke and his partner Natalie have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to buy more land. Together with the help of their students, they hope to use the restoration of the land as a means of building the human-to-nature relationship.  Their campaign video highlights the true essence of HSS and is definitely worth checking out.

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