For seven years, Miriam Lancewood and her husband Peter have lived a nomadic life – she is the hunter and he is the cook. Now they’re walking across Europe to Turkey, with a tent and little else. Stefanie Marsh meets them to hear why.
Miriam Lancewood has been living off grid, in the wild, for seven years now and she can still pinpoint the exact moment she knew she had truly broken with social norms. “It was when the idea was born to wash my hair with urine,” she recalls.
She had just started living wild, in the New Zealand Alps, when she developed a persistent dandruff problem. Luckily, she remembered reading about an ancient remedy. “I sat in the sun for a horrible, stinky half-hour to let it soak in.”
I’d expected Miriam to look bedraggled, maybe with a couple of teeth missing, but she’s immaculate and smiling broadly, her teeth shiny white (she usually cleans them with ash); no dandruff, legs shaven, she smells of campfire. She is powerfully built; almost the double of Sarah Connor from The Terminator. A Dutch Sarah Connor – she was born in Holland. Her husband, Peter, proudly tells me she could beat most men in a fight: “Miriam is the hunter and I’m the cook. She’s much stronger than me. Women are better shots,” he says. “And they’re more careful,” adds Miriam. “They are less driven by trophy hunting. They have less of a need to prove themselves.”
Five years into their nomadic life in New Zealand, Miriam decided to write a book about her experiences. The couple have since relocated to Europe, where they’re spending the year walking to Turkey; part two of their life’s dream of never returning to “civilisation”. So here we are in Bulgaria – three hours west of Sofia, upstream from a river where the couple can bathe, sitting around a campfire in a wood (the photographer met up with them earlier in their journey, in Bavaria). I’ve been invited for dinner and Peter is standing over a cast iron pot containing a bubbling bean stew. There are foraged wrinkly plums to start. It’s an exciting occasion for them: they haven’t seen another human being for 11 days. It’s 5pm. What have they been doing all day? “Nothing much. Waiting for you.” In the first few months of their primitive life, Miriam thought she’d go mad with boredom but she soon fell in sync with nature. Half of any given day is spent collecting firewood. They sleep as long as it’s dark. They’ve never had more energy.
It’s a stark contrast to when Miriam was still working as a special needs teacher in New Zealand. Those were grim days: “I was always stressed. And so bored. And depressed about thinking I’m going to do this forever and ever.” She’s learned so much since she’s been out here but one question remains unanswered: “Where are all the women?”
continued in The Guardian
Photos The Guardian