Becoming Wild

Living the Primitive Life on a West Coast Island

Nikki van Schyndel

Nikki van Schyndel is not your typical grizzled survivalist. She is a contemporary, urban young woman who threw off modern comforts to spend nineteen months in a remote rainforest with her housecat and a virtual stranger.

Set in the Broughton Archipelago—a maze of isolated islands near northern Vancouver Island—Becoming Wild is a story of survival in the pristine wilderness of BC. Sometimes predator and sometimes prey, twenty-nine-year-old Nikki and her companion Micah fend off the harsh weather, hungry wildlife, threat of starvation and the endless perils of this rugged Raincoast. To survive, Nikki must rely on her knowledge of BC’s coastal flora and fauna, and the ancient techniques of hunting and gathering. In this remote world she learns to skin bears, make clothes from cedar bark and take great joy in gobbling a fish tail whole.

Told in a voice that is both familiar and vulnerable, Becoming Wild explores our innate longings to connect with nature and revert to a pure, Eden-like state.

“Becoming Wild is a must read for anyone concerned about the future of people and the natural world. Nikki van Schyndel’s incredible story tugs strongly at the heart of one of modern life’s greatest challenges: the massive disconnection of people from nature. Nikki’s deep calling to ancient knowledge, skills and authentic experience leads to powerful connections and reawakens ancient instincts, sensibilities and perceptions that are now mostly gone from modern people. After becoming wild, Nikki returns to post-modern life to discover how far away her known communities have gotten from this original relationship—as all people realize when they reconnect with nature. Nikki’s heartfelt and transparent self-discovery, reconciliation and renegotiation with self, others and the offerings of our world is a model all can benefit from.”

–Jon Young, author of What the Robin Knows (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and founder of Wilderness Awareness School


“Humbling and, at times, plain jaw-dropping!”

Pacific Nor’west Boating magazine

“An unusual, compelling perspective on 19 months in the bush: by which time you may be ready to venture out yourself.”

–The Vancouver Sun

“By forsaking almost all technology known to modern man, Nikki and Micah have taken wilderness dwelling far beyond the boundaries that most seekers of the wild will ever do. Who could imagine anyone these days building a bear trap with logs tied with homemade twine? As with Thoreau, their wilderness sojourn was not permanent, but they suffered endless deprivation, starvation and extreme discomfort; however the experience was a real eye-opener as to what anyone can do if you put your mind to it. These lessons have enriched their lives in a way that few would understand: this well-written book goes a long way towards enriching ours.”

–Chris Czajkowski, author of Cabin at Singing River (Raincoast Books) and Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog (TouchWood Editions)


“Nikki is the real thing and she is all that you might imagine. Focused, self-reliant, competent and inspiringly alive. Her rite of passage reminds us all of our own possibilities.”

–Wes Gietz, co-author of Peak States of Consciousness

“I have to hand it to Nikki Van Schyndel, she must be tough as nails under that pink toenail polish. She and her companions, a young man and a cat, succeed; and they complete their 19 month retreat in BC’s Broughton Archipelago and return to their friends and family alive and well … fascinating, funny, inspiring …”

–Rebecca Graham, environmental artist, Runnawick.com

Becoming Wild is the kind of book you don’t want to end. When I finished it, I started reading it again.”

–Erik Shou Hammerum

“Not being an outdoors person, I was an unlikely candidate to find this book so captivating! I found it so totally absorbing I couldn’t put it down.”

–JI Boehn

Bumping and grinding along the shoreline, we finally found a safer place to jump from the boat. We scrambled along the slippery rocks, pulling Gribley to safety with only minor dents. About 15 minutes remained before the already dark grey sky would turn out all the lights.

We had entered the second stage of hypothermia, with an increasing loss of motor function, blue lips, and deathly pale digits. We shook uncontrollably. I, luckily, wore a hat, but Micah had left the lean-to wearing only a skimpy amount of winter clothing.

We did a hasty inventory of our supplies. Shivering, I shoved my hands into the pockets of my soaking wet jeans, searching for the survival goodies I should have had. I flashed back to a thought that crossed my mind at the lean-to: “Oh well, Micah has his lighter.” We had agreed to carry a lighter that we would use only in the event of a life-threatening emergency. It became a test of willpower, knowing a quick flick of fire hid in our pockets. However, when we held out our hands now, displaying our offerings, we each held only a knife. No tinder material, no garbage bag, no piece of rope, no lighters, nothing. A deflating silence punctured our shred of gusto.

“Here’s our test of survival,” I thought.

Read another excerpt at 49thshelf.com.