A friend recently said to me, “Kyer, if I were in your financial situation, I’d be freaking out.”
I value my friend’s perspective, and it made me think about some of my decisions in life. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked as a freelance photographer.
I spend more money on travel and camera gear than I do on rent.
Compared to the average American my age, I have almost no investment in my retirement or property, and if I stopped earning money today, in two months I would be broke.
My friend’s comment also got me thinking about how we humans have learned to live and survive.
What were we designed to do? What is natural for us? What makes us feel happy and alive?
Life for our hunter-gatherer ancestors wasn’t always easy. There were real dangers from animals and other humans. We had to be smart and know what to eat—and what not to eat. We spent four to five hours a day looking for and preparing food, and the rest of time hanging out, playing and gossiping. These fun activities were important because they allowed us to bond, which was necessary to our survival.
My friend has been working for 17 years in a good-paying position at a high-tech company. He has a love-hate relationship with his job. He tells me that it’s not good for his mental and physical health, but he wants to be financially secure before he quits. He counts the days to his retirement.
I have other friends who don’t like their work, but they don’t know what else to do. They have a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, the new smartphone or car they “need” to buy. They want more financial security, and they’re frustrated and afraid that they don’t have it.
Most of us no longer live in communal groups like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Instead, we live isolated and surrounded by strangers in big urban areas. We are more concerned about not having enough time, enough money, enough love, or being judged by others, than having enough food tomorrow or that pack of wolves that lives up around the bend.
I live a life of privilege. I am an educated white male and I have skills. I am grateful that my community and family would have the resources to support me if I couldn’t work. I am also grateful that I can make just enough of a living to share my gifts as a freelance photographer and artist.
I sometimes worry about my finances. I don’t know if I can sustain my lifestyle. I don’t have it all figured out or planned, but I have come to realize that I live the life of a modern hunter-gatherer.
Like them, I’ve lived in many places during my 52 years on this planet. I travel a lot, mostly looking for freelance work, and I’m good at it, but I don’t have a steady paycheck (food source). Our ancestors weren’t sedentary, and if I weren’t physically active I’d go crazy.
My mind and body feel best when I eat a modern version of the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Similar to the Paleo diet, this is made up of modest amounts of lean meat, fish, “fruit” vegetables, nuts, leafy greens, all fruits and only small quantities of alcohol, coffee, grains, processed foods and sugar.
We humans have also lived most of our existence in nature, and while a city can be exciting, I feel more at peace and at home in the woods, mountains, deserts, fields, coastlines and uncrowded beaches.
My modern hunter-gather life keeps me on my toes, and it’s not always easy, but it makes me feel alive—and human.
Kyer Wiltshire spent many years educating American voters about the civil wars in Central America, the war on drugs, and the war of choice in Iraq. Kyer has an advanced degree in Latin America Studies from the University of New Mexico and he was professor of Spanish and Latin American Culture for 12 years.
For the last 10 years, Kyer Wiltshire has been a professional travel, festival and wedding photographer. He has been a political junky, activist and passionate anthropologist for over 35 years. Visit his site here.