survival retreat bug out location

The Big Move to a Survival Retreat Bug Out Location

Within the survival-preparedness-minded community, there is no doubt a percentage of those who fantasize about living at their own survival retreat (bug out location) full time. To somehow find a way to do it. To get out of the city, the urban sprawl, or densely populated suburbia.

[ I posted this article during 2010, the early years of Modern Survival Blog. It’s a good subject that I’ve written about a number of times over the years. So I’m adding a bit more content to this one, re-publishing it, and looking forward to your opinion and comment. ]

Survival Retreat

Your survival retreat. A location somewhat protected from the chaos that would surely result from a major epic disaster (there are plenty examples to pick from!). Your castle. Bug out location. Ideally your permanent residence to live a bit more self-sufficient lifestyle – while leveraging your self-reliance.

Maybe it’s simply a ranch type property with a decent homestead situated out of sight on several (or more) acres of land. There are all types of people, and I’m sure all types of different visions when it comes to a preferred survival retreat location and home.

Having a vision of your survival retreat (bug out location) in your mind is key to your success. The more that you think about it, and picture yourself there, the more that your conscious and subconscious mind will help you get there. It all starts with thinking.

But how in the world does one actually accomplish this? Getting there is no easy task. Actually purchasing and moving to that survival retreat is quite a lofty goal tangled with many issues to overcome!

Besides the obvious personal commitment to move away from your current location, probably of foremost concern is the cost of purchasing a survival retreat. And how might you earn money there? We all need an income to pay bills, and property taxes…

For some this isn’t such a problem. However I suspect that the percentage of people who could outright afford and purchase such a property is relatively low. Although this obviously depends on many factors.

Since most people can’t afford a second home, all you could do is to actually leave your present location and move to a new location. Meaning that if you already own a home (well, the bank most likely still owns it via a mortgage), you will have to sell it. If you are lucky enough to have an existing home with some good equity in it, then you have something to work with to help you find and purchase your survival retreat.

Like I said, finances will probably be the biggest issue when it comes to successfully making a move. Again, this is why being out of debt as much as possible is so very important. Debt holds you back in so many ways.

Some initial questions while considering a move to a survival retreat bug out location might include these…

  • How much money do I need to purchase that land /property?
  • Does the property already have a home on it? If not, how much will it cost to build something there?
  • What are some of the nice to have features of a survival retreat property?
    – An existing water source on or abutting the property such as lake, pond, spring, or river
    – A well
    – Septic
    – Privacy from the main road and/or neighbors
    – A private road sure is nice
    – Soil that can grow food
    – Favorable climate
    – South facing open area for solar panels near the house?
    – Like minded people in the area
    – Favorable politics and governance
    – there’s more, but those are just a few bullet points…
  • How much can I afford to build?
  • How much monthly income will I need to survive comfortably at this survival retreat?
  • How will I get that monthly income?
  • Are their any jobs available to me in that new location to help with my monthly expenses?
  • What will my monthly expenses be at the new location?

A few more thoughts:

Everyone will have their own unique financial issues to overcome. But a common denominator will definitely be the monthly expenses. That is, how much money do you really need to survive and still live a life style that suits you in your new location. There is no doubt that most of us can live on far less money than we think. A big issue may be any existing debt obligations.

Make a list of what you believe your regular monthly expenses will be at the survival retreat. Really give this some thought because there are categories that may not come to immediate mind. After you total it, add 25%. Once you have a number, then the challenge will be to find a way or ways to obtain that number in your new location. If you’re retired and have adequate source of cash flow, it may be do-able. If you need to work, well, that’s always the challenge and biggest impediment.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that you may be moving away from family and friends (depending how far away you to). It’s a life changing event.

You many find that if you are leaving the lifestyle of the city or suburbs, your new expenses may be much lower and you may be able to work less time for the system (maybe part time? wouldn’t that be nice…) and more for yourself. It will be a challenge however, because a typical rural survival retreat location is not often one that is abundant with job opportunities.

Once you start thinking about it, you will discover the obstacles to getting there. The thing is, if you really want it, don’t stop thinking about it and researching ways to overcome the obstacles.

Imagine you are already there.

UPDATE since publishing this article during 2010…

I first wrote this while planning to leave California, where I lived for nearly 15 years (career move from my roots in the northeast). I absolutely made up my mind that I was leaving the rat race, so to speak (we, Mrs. J and I). Current circumstances at the time made it easier to make that decision – “I’m doing this”. Without getting into what those circumstances were, I will say that I did a lot of research. Pros and Cons lists. Spreadsheets. Maps.

But the point I’m trying to make is that the transition to my current ‘survival retreat’ full-time bug out location FIRST came from THINKING about it. Regularly. Coming up with a vision of what that place would be like. And now, were’ here.

Left CA during 2012. Was interested to move to New Hampshire (or Maine). After a temporary stay in MA (family there), finally found our survival retreat during 2014. From when I made up my mind that somehow we were going to do this – to actually getting here, took 4 years. But it all started with the mind. Thinking. Deciding that somehow we would do it. Thoughts lead to actions. That’s my simple point.

Here’s an interesting side note… Back during the time period when I was envisioning and researching where we would end up, I had come across a particular photo online. It was a red colored bench sitting underneath a beautiful Maple tree in full fall foliage colors. A perfect surreal scene. I printed and saved that picture for inspiration. Not sure where it is at the moment. Well, all these years later, here’s a picture of my own red bench underneath that formerly envisioned Maple tree, next to my chicken coop…

One last thing… Having lived here so far 8 years, I can tell you that a lifestyle with acreage, a private road, working the land to an extent with gardening, and all the required maintenance — this requires “equipment”. So factor that stuff into your costs! Tractor, Accessories for tractor (e.g. brush hog, rake for road maintenance, etc.). Mowers. Snow plowing. Oh my, I could go on and on… But I’m just saying, it consumes time and money for said equipment.

Got your own survival retreat? Living there already? Do you want one of your own? Lets hear from you…

[ Read: The Most Likely SHTF Scenarios? ]


  1. What will your monthly expenses be when you are in a survival situation and there are no bill collectors, nor utilities of any kind?

    How many people do you need to be focused in the same effort, just to allow everyone to survive at just subsistence level? How many animals must you already own? How many acres of crops must you already have in cultivation? How much wood can be harvested for cooking fires and heat? Where can you get your wood year after year?

    If one is already too old to perform the work required to survive after complete social collapse, why bother to pretend to try?

    Most all old folks …and most everyone else…have no chance of long term survival, whatsoever. Most will die with the civilization’s death.

    1. While some may be getting older it doesn’t mean we should stop trying. I know personally I would rather try and fail than give up. At my age I know I can’t go dig up a bunch of acre’s to grow food but I can still grow some. I can still hunt and fish. I can make a meal out of just about anything.

      There are always ways to get around problems and if not then die I will but I’m not going to go the easy way

    2. Old man said he feels sorry for you but people of his generation (he is 84) know how to do things to survive without any luxuries. And as long as he keeps doing physical things he keeps going. Today he is wrecking out our fireplace in our manufactured home to put in a wood cook stove. When that is done it is finish repairing the back deck and then rebuilding the orchard in our old greenhouse he built a while back. Slow but sure is the way when you are old. Keep it going.

    3. Some old people know how to do things. My brother-in-law knows every inch of land in this area, all the people and their families, how to smoke meat, make something from nothing, garden, and lots of useful things. He can’t walk far, but people listen to him; he organized our Neighborhood Watch. He has plowed with a horse and learned from the old uncles. He can still see well enough to shoot a pretty far piece. I hope this old gentleman will continue to pass down his information and skills.

  2. Ision,
    Take a walk outside. Listen to the birds. Take a strong shot of your favorite beverage. Please, do something to adjust your outlook. We all have ‘bad’ days. Try to find a little sunshine in today.

    I’m no youngster either. Am I done? Hell no. There are things you can/could do. YOU could become a valuable asset to your family/group. You have knowledge and experience of things that will be unknown to youngsters. Stand watch, you can do that. Man the radio(s), you can do that. Especially if ya get your ham ticket. Please don’t tell me you’re too old or feeble to man a radio. Might be a good thing to challenge the old mind with learning something new, ham. Maybe you’re a great gardener, or at least have the knowledge. Organize seeds, do something. Just hate to see anyone give up.

    You have to do it. No one else can make you an asset. Find something. Here’s hoping you have a better day.

    1. It’s okay. I harbor no fantasies of survival, whatsoever, past a few months, or days, perhaps hours, once the lights go out.

      Heck, this last Saturday, my wife suddenly suffered an Grand Mall seizure next to me, as we were watching TV. Once the convulsions stopped she collapsed, unconscious, into her recliner, not breathing and with no detectable pulse.

      Lucky for her, I am a trained First Responder, so I knew what to do…and yanked on her body to position it to clear her airway…before starting chest compressions to see if I could bring her back. My efforts were failing, and she was not breathing..and had no pulse in her neck, or wrist, but I kept trying. I thought she was gone..and was going to stop..but, then she made a sound and I noticed her body try to take a breathe. I stopped compression, but she did not continue to breathe…so started with the compressions again. A 20 seconds later, she made a squeak..and her I could hear her take a deep breath…then another…and another.

      Once I knew she was breathing on her own, and her pulse was strong, I could allow myself to call for an Ambulance…and got her transported, still the regional hospital’s trauma center…with a stroke alert.

      It was not until I could get dressed and drive myself to the hospital…and got to the emergency room..and found her in a bed in one of its hallways..that I knew she had survived…as she was then conscious and talking, without slurring her words. Up to that moment, I was prepared for the worst news.

      It is okay, not living forever…and it is okay not being able to survive an SHTF event. My sons are both very capable and highly trained…and both are too far away.

      1. Ision –

        This is precisely what happened to me in March. Does your wife have a history of these? I didn’t; it just came from nowhere. You have my rapt attention on this one. Thanks to God and your swift action, she survived it.

        1. Tmac…

          No history. Out of the blue. From her blood work, I immediately determined the cause, however. She was chronically low in her Sodium levels..WAY LOW..and in the “dangerous” zone. This is what sparked all the neurological trauma of the Grand Mall seizure, which left her LOC without vitals.

          All other tests seeking another cause for the LOC were negative. So, I have been packing her with Sodium to get her levels up…and she has no had any repeat spells of any sort.

          Had she been driving…or had been alone that day…she would not be here today. All from the lack of salt in her diet!!

          You hear all about the dangers of too much salt…and not a thing about how dangerous low sodium levels are!

        2. Ision,
          I’m glad that she’s doing well. You have a calm demeanor under stress. That’s quite an attribute. That, and your experience, surely saved her.

          And I have researched (to an extent) about low sodium levels (and electrolytes). Most people are afraid of salt. They should not be. It is quite essential, and the body and brain needs more of it than most may think…

        3. Ision good going, my friend I have for years preached about the benefits of salt to people who were scared to death about salt quantities while as they same time consumed sugar like it was water…..I believe it was last year the OSHA reinstated the salt tablets suggestions for the work place, ironic that after 30 years of condemnation of salt tablets they finally woke up. Salt is your friend never has been your enemy. I buy 25 lb sack of salt at the restaurant supply store for 8 bucks versus almost 2 buck a pound at the grocery store, salt will be a high value commodity during a long term crisis.

      2. Ision
        Glad you had the training to help her get back. I can only imagine the panic that had to be going through your mind.

        1. I do not panic, I just get very seriously interested and focused. Afterwards, or during any period of inactivity, while engaged, I will experience my personal emotions, or ponder the “what ifs.” Just can’t let such things get in the way of doing what needs to be done, when they need doing.

          For me, when the sh.. is flying all about me, and chaos descends, I get real calm, and let other parts of my mind take control…while I just ride along, observing, unless my input is required. Totally involuntary thing…automatic…and instantaneous.

          Get emotional later.

        2. Ision
          That’s how I am. I don’t panic either. Calm, cool, thinking clearly, and acting instead of re-acting. You and I have had some of the same training.

  3. Lots of things to ponder in this article!
    One thing that is a concern today, and not so much when the article was originally written in 2010 is INFLATION. The article says to allow an extra 25% in your budget, but will that be enough with the Demoncrats and RINOS doing everything they can to make inflation worse!

  4. DW and i have been in our BOL for years now, we were just lucky. there are trade off’s to living this way. as you said Ken, it takes money, a lot of money for the tools and equipment to maintain a place and you still have to farm some of it out, like having gravel hauled to a driveway. it cost me 2500 dollars to have 22 loads delivered last month. it seems to always be something.
    the further out you are the more it costs. its 15 miles to the next closest town with a hardware store and 25 to a larger one with a wally world, one way, gas ain’t cheap.
    but it is worth it. the peace and quiet and security that comes with it is worth all the effort.
    DW and i have always lived fairly simple lives at home. it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy. i think that has been the key to our happiness. getting older is becoming a problem. we can’t rip and run like we used to : )

  5. (part 1)
    30 years ago, after saving every penny for a decade, I purchased some acreage with a couple run down houses on it for my retirement “farm.” Fixed up the houses and rented them out while I spent a career in other places. Within 20 years, the city crept out, surrounded my place, and just kept going. I sold that property a few years ago. 11 years ago I purchased a little place in the suburbs a bit off the beaten path with a little ground attached to it. Planned to have it for retirement and be close to family. Just as the renovation of the “tear down” house was complete a DFM became very ill. They and their family moved into my place to be closer to long-term medical care and family. After the DFM passed, and family members moved on, I rented the place out. Will most likely keep it for its utility being close to good medical care.

  6. (part 2)
    Over the years I became more and more convinced of the need to get as close to a fully sustainable preparedness lifestyle as possible. After DFW moved into my house, I went looking for a larger and more rural place to call home. Serendipitously, I found the farm, after driving down every single road in the area where I wanted to be. That was 10 years ago. For 5 years I was only in the area sporadically but started fleshing the place out. Family and friends used it for get-aways and during the holidays. Retired for the last time 3 years ago and moved here full time. I realize I was fortunate to have 40 years to get to where I am today. Time, however, is shorter now. But the housing bubble of the past couple years seems to have burst and prices are going down again. All this to say, (1) work hard to make your dreams come true, (2) take advantage of opportunity if it comes your way, and (3) plans may change due to circumstances we can’t control but that doesn’t have to alter the dream.

  7. If you are fortunate enough to build a new home in the woods take a look at Hardy Plank for siding and steel roofing.
    The siding while expensive is very close to fire proof and I think the new siding imitates wood.It does eat saw blades.

    A hand pump for the well gives us piece of mind if the power is out. Our is a SIMPLE PUMP and it has never failed.
    I think the company is in Gardnerville Nv.

  8. I just started my new retirement job very near our BOL. Staying in the cabin for the time being. Plan is to build a house in the spring. Then DW will move out and we’ll sell the place in town. Without the mortgage she won’t have to work. My retirement job should be pretty secure for a long time. It just accidentally happened 5 years earlier than I had planned. But I’m ready and going to make it happen.

  9. 16 years and the vision changed from on the lake fun 2nd home to small homestead on a river. We discovered the desired location and spent every single vacation here observing, learning, meeting people, thinking. Most 10 hour drives back home were a free exchange of our ideas. Closed almost 3 months ago. Busy but feeling very blessed. Got big city house sold just in time. Able to pay cash. I have the same part time remote job I’ve been working for several years. DH retired. Penciled no jobs and 4% inflation. So I will keep working for awhile longer. All our friends here are older. Hoping to make some more like minded friends of similar age or younger. We share labor and tools and experience.

  10. Ken,
    You make a very good point in the article about “thinking how it could be”. I believe that visualization with the conscious mind triggers the subconscious. I have used this technique for years as an engineer to solve complex, sometimes seemingly unsolvable problems. The power of the subconscious mind is amazing, yet most people don’t utilize it. If you can actively visualize something, your subconscious works out many of the hidden details so you can make those dreams reality.
    Funny, this place was a barren field when we bought it 14 years ago. Now it looks just like I visualized it would become.😉

    1. definitely a great technique. When we sold our mountain in 2019 to move closer to services, I outlined a very specific set of needs. then framed that picture with dollars available and fortune smiled on us and brought the whole to reality. Yes, the timing was just right….but planning played a large part…and visualizing the NEEDS, then wants really put it in perspective.
      DH and I are young old people. yes, have to have a few reparations now and then, (like my shoulder), but I WILL NOT give up. I keep telling folks I still have 30 years of retirement ahead of me…and I plan on making at least 20 of those!

  11. Did the ‘Bug Out’ years ago, moving down from New England.
    Bought swampland really cheap, slowly improved it over the years, and now have a very nice set-up.
    Now, land all around here is very expensive. I beat the rush !

  12. We moved from a large city that was quickly becoming dangerous and extremely noisy (Austin). Moved to the Ozarks. Now on a mountain top. Stocked up, stacked deep. My wife is a full blown prepper now.

    We worked hard and paid off the house and cars. Credit cards are for my business use only. Debt reduction/elimination brings us peace.

    I do have a question though. We have used some modest amount of funds to buy some silver and gold, understanding that it is simply a means of preserving some wealth. We also know having some cash will be useful for a while. However, keeping money in a bank seems on the verge of bring dicey.

    We’ve looked at real estate or land, however not much available up here right now.

    Anybody else wondering what to realistically do with money in the bank that could easily disappear?

    Beautiful chicken coup scene, Ken.

    1. Ask yourself, “What would the people living around me need the most, or desire the most, once their ATM cards no longer work, and the stores have all been looted clean?” Food. Ammo. Adult Sanitary Handy wipes. Booze. Aspirin. Antiseptic. Bandages. Soap. Cooking oil. Fuel. Light. Books/Games/Cards.

      Then try and get the best deals on the best bets. After all, even if you never trade, or barter, a thing…you can use it all…yourself.

      Having land you cannot HOLD…is not having land.

  13. We relocated from a home in the suburbs in California to a home in the suburbs in Oregon. I never really wanted to return to the off grid cabin that I lived in as seasonal quarters as a ranger or a caretaker. I discovered something about myself in those days: I like being around people most of the time and I have and continue to make my living reading people to this day. (thus the transition from cop to RN working the floor). Having worked a good number of years in hospice, my wife and I have seen many people wait and save for too long for their dream home only to enjoy their new home for less than 5 years before one or more develop cancer or have a sudden, final cardiac event. Those years working with hospice patients including several of my relatives taught me several lessons:
    #1. If you are not happy about something, work to change that thing today. Do not put it off. This involves being brutally honest with loved ones at times. Life is too short to put up with another person’s crap or a bad neighborhood for very long.
    #2. Prepare your home and yard such that it brings you joy and it becomes a place of refuge and energy restoration. I enjoy reading about all the folks growing their own crops and harvesting and canning. My yard has mostly flowers, a flowing fountain and several bird feeders visible from the windows in my living areas. When I water the grass and raised beds in the shade after a hot day, the space becomes alive with birds eating seed, drinking from the sprinklers and fountains and the hummingbirds will follow me scolding me as I move the sprinkler. Inside, the dog and 4 cats wait to take turns sitting with me when I sit down on the couch. After a shift working with the terminally ill, you need a place where you can decompress without using alcohol.

    1. Good morning Calirefugee –

      For some reason I just decided to leave work a coup[le of hours early yesterday; it felt good to ne a slacker in that moment. Then I went home and enjoyed the longest sleep I’ve had in fifty years, woke up and saw your post. That’s powerful advice. Whole house is torn up now for re-pipe and new main line. Since we seem to be stuck here, new pipes and a megabuck whole house water treatment means at least we can bathe and boil food without poisoning ourselves. As long as some kind of water flows anyway.

      Put up with people’s crap? I’m over it. Both of my kids are being little sh*ts right now. Hey, at 24 and 28… mom still coddles them and kisses their ass; I won’t. Since it seems we are stuck here, the next big project will be to convert our moonscape into a front and back yard, I’m not seeing any 5 year dream home in our future, no debt is my goal. It’s rather odd how certain people with the most debt are loudly critical that I should be living in a bigger and better home.

      1. I love this comment… “It’s rather odd how certain people with the most debt are loudly critical that I should be living in a bigger and better home.”

        During the height of my previous career, the years while making good money, I never gave in to buying the bigger and then next bigger house – like so many others were doing. I could have easily done it. And ‘pretended’ that I was ‘rich’, even though the bank would have owned it and I would have had a much bigger debt burden.

        However, by being happy with the small house, it was a major part of being able to eventually get out, and to my present location debt-free. So many people do not realize this, or don’t care (apparently appearances to be rich are more important than actually being debt-free).

    2. Calirefugee,
      Wise words, the sanctuary is a big one IMHO.
      Live in the now,

  14. I bought my parents house in 2010, so when Dad passed away I had a start. I have no debt (never have) and if I can produce most or all of my own food, with some kind of off grid power and a water supply, I’ll be fine.

    Part of the plan is to put away the cost of whatever property I end up buying as a hedge for property taxes, which rather limits the property I can buy but I think it’s well worth it in the long run. If I can get 2-5 acres I can put in windmills or solar, a full season greenhouse and water catchment.

    Wherever I land, I plan to be there for the rest of my life, so I need to set up the systems NOW so I can continue when I’m 110. Design it for 0 to low maintenance, walkout (no steps), flat and level paths. Raised bed gardens, trees maintained at below 8 feet, water systems, permanent and temporary greenhouses.

  15. My back yard is chemical-free relatively speaking. In doing so, I have a lot of weeds compared to my neighbors. I have several tomato plants, squash, lettuce/chard barrel. The grass is a run for my dog and it doubles as her bathroom. once a year or 2 we get a swarm of honeybees in our backyard seeking a new home. I have the Willamette Valley Bee Keepers phone number on hand to remove the swarm and relocate to a new, clean hive box. I get bee swarms in my backyard because we are one of the few yards in my area that is chemical free. Removal of noxious weeds and tree branches is done by myself on days off. During hot days, I like to sit beneath the plum tree branches eating the fruit. It is now 2 stories tall. (it was labelled as a dwarf, non-fruiting plum tree when planted 10 years ago)

  16. Reply to Tmac: On landscaping the yard in Southern California: I lived several counties north of you on the inland side of the Coast Range. My backyard was mostly rocked over with a single sycamore tree planted. It was surrounded by cinder block walls and a wood fence on one side. On the days I was not fishing, hunting or working, I was working in the backyard to create a habitat that would draw in birds, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. The walls and fence acted as a wind buffer and the tree added some shade. I built more shade and planted flowers and some vegetables in large containers beneath the shade-cloth panels. After watering the plants and spraying water onto the shade cloth, the temperature beneath the shade dropped by 15 degrees. I planted a banksian rose along the cinder block wall and set up some bird feeders and a fountain. It took years for this transformation to take place but the birds and butterflies came in followed by the cats watching the bird feeder. The front yard was left low maintenance and appeared neglected to convince the water cops that we were in compliance with saving H2O. The water cops did not look over the fence into my backyard. Most of my Japanese relatives did the same thing in their backyards in and around Gardena, CA.

  17. I feel like it’s very difficult to get remote in much of the country. We live 6 miles outside a town of 1,300 on 20 acres. the nearest “metro” area is Fargo which is 95 miles west. I don’t really feel remote, but I know there are a lot worse places to be if the SHTF. We have 400 lakes around, a creek running through land and plenty of hunting options. To me remote would feel like 30 miles from a town at all with very few people around. I think we are safe from Minneapolis as its 220 miles south, I don’t think people would head north as it gets pretty cold here. I just feel like out in the country there will still be issues with those who haven’t prepared which is most of them. Am I wrong?

    1. I agree many people will not head north because of the cold. Although time of year could affect it. Minneapolis had really high temperatures recently. If a grid down event occurred, some may head north rather than south. Geography plays a role too. If you’re right on or visible from the road is different than really off or not visible from the road. We’re debating whether to do more than minimal maintenance on road entry to further obscure our place.

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