Imagine trekking through the Rocky Mountains or following the Mississippi on foot with 30 of your closest family and friends — or, if you’re lucky, traveling with a group of 100 on horseback. The weak and sick are left to perish and the only way to eat is harvesting an animal or collecting nuts, berries and greens.
This was the life of hunter-gatherers who existed until about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago, when farming become prominent. This scenario sounds treacherous without elite survival skills and maybe more importantly, a tight-knit group you can trust.
We can’t go back and live how the hunter-gatherers lived; even a dramatization would fail to replicate the living conditions they faced. However, it is possible to reflect on this part of history by visiting destinations that help you do what they did and see what they saw.
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
It’s hard to find a patch of land that resembles the open pastures and landscapes hunter-gatherers enjoyed more than 10,000 years ago. But the Gates of the Arctic National Park is just that, with 8.4 million acres of uninhabited nature. There are no RVs roaming this land and there are no established roads, trails, or campsites. Use your modern advantage and drop in via air taxi, but then it’ll be nothing but you and the wilderness. Don’t even think about using a cell phone. The NPS recommends any visitors have “proficient” outdoor skills. You’ll join a sparse 10,000 annual visitors if you’re able to traverse this remote oasis.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
The Gates of the Arctic provides seclusion via a vast landscape; Isle Royale National Park provides the same seclusion via a remote island. This 894-square-mile island in Lake Superior can only be reached by ferry, seaplane, or private watercraft. It’s located much closer to Canada than the States, so review boating regulations before planning a trip. The park is one of the least visited parks in the parks system, so you can expect solitude once navigating the territory. The popular 40-mile long backpacking trail runs about four to five days, covers the island’s length, and helps hikers connect with their hunter-gatherer ancestors every year.
Harpoon Fishing in Maine
To invoke your inner hunter-gatherer, you need to do what hunter-gatherers did. If you’re not willing to take your family off the grid and live off the land, harpoon fishing is next best thing. A limited number of harpoon fishing permits are granted by the American Bluefin Tuna Association in Maine. “Crow’s nest” harpoon setups allow fishermen to spear Bluefin that swim near the surface. These fish are required to be more than six feet long, which is around 200 pounds. You can guarantee an adrenaline rush if you’re able to haul in a monster catch like that.
Easter Island, Chile
One amazing trait about hunter-gatherers was their ability to survive. For thousands of years, tribes thrived with basic farming, hunting, and fishing until it was time to migrate. Although it wasn’t inhabited by hunter gathers, Easter Island’s peculiar history will spark your curiosity about our evolution.
A Polynesian tribe settled there around 300 B.C. and the island is known for the 900 statues resembling human heads known as “moai,” and thousands of other carved structures that remain today. The fascinating part of the island is the common theory that the inhabitants suffered a fate of over-consumption, by burning the island’s trees to make room for more crops. Whereas hunter-gatherer societies would perish due to hazardous weather and food shortages, the tale of Easter Island reminds us of the inherent advantages of a society that is always looking for their next meal, instead of having enough leisure time to create miraculous statues. If you’re able to make it down to Chile, it’ll surely help you reflect about human culture and history.