Stripping down to only the essentials: Living a minimalist life in the forest calms down the former elite soldier Lars Møller

As a former elite soldier, Lars Møller has experienced and endured more than the human mind can imagine. After 25 years of service he has retired and is now finding his new purpose in life by detaching from a consumerist lifestyle and looking inwards and outwards instead.

By Emma Kjær Lauridsen and Mads Hemdorff

Nature can calm a restless soul - even one that has seen things you really ought not to. Being surrounded by natural, ancient forests makes everything seem more real and meaningful to Lars Møller, a former soldier from an elite special operations force in the Danish military called The Jaeger Corps.

He lives in Northern Jutland in an old house surrounded by nothing but trees, a calming river and wildlife. The solitude and closeness to nature has been a conscious choice from the beginning, but over the years he has been detaching himself from major everyday expenses that most people see as a prerequisite to maintaining their normal lives.

His small house has cost him roughly a fifth of a standard city house and he sold his Audi Q7 to replace it with a VW Up - just to be able to afford writing books without the stress of having to earn a high income every month.

Lars is different in many ways, really. His way of living and his views on life are a product of the moment he entered the toughest admissions test the Danish military has to offer. He applied as a complete greenhorn, only 20 years old, when most of his fellow applicants were either sergeants or much older, more experienced soldiers. Despite that, he succeeded and in the process pushed his psychical and mental limits only to discover things about himself that completely changed his perspective of life.

At one assignment all the soldiers, including Lars, were covered in human droppings up to their knees and elbows because they had crawled through sewers in Northern Basra to find a weapons depot – but everyone had the biggest smiles on their faces while doing it. But why?

- Because right there, right at that moment, you had proven that you are the world’s best buddy. The best soldier. We were proud, felt powerful. What we had just done seemed purposeful on so many levels, Lars explains.

Engrained in that seemingly simple task for an elite soldier lies a testament to what it means to do some for other people and with friend you really care about and respect.

"The feeling of a purpose, a deeper meaning, is essential to all human lives."

Seeking danger in a snoozy suburbia

Lars became fascinated by everything military early in his life. As a boy he sought danger as any young boy would do, mainly because his childhood was spent in a snoozy suburbia near Copenhagen.

He tells a story of how he and his friends hunted animals with bow and arrow in the marsh to create some sort of excitement in their lives. Applying for The Jaeger Corps was a part of his need for excitement and eagerness to experience both psychical and mentally demanding challenges and tasks that he could not experience elsewhere.

To Lars, taking the admissions test was the world’s best thing, and becoming a Jaeger one of the highlights of his life. He discovered that the tasks have as much to do with one’s inner strength, as it has to do with the outer resources. It’s not about what you have read or studied, it’s about what you want.

- When you become a Jaeger you start building a certain character, a certain way of thinking and a new way of being a human, Lars points out.

He has brought all this with him to his civil life. Succeeding becoming a Jaeger and the different types of assignments they had to go through. The boundaries they had to cross and the minimalist life they were living all gave him insights and experiences that only few people get – but far more people should, Lars believes.

Cut downs in turn for life upgrades

According to Lars, the feeling of a purpose, a deeper meaning, is essential to all human lives. However, the reality is far more complex, he acknowledges. It is hard for humans to break the illusion of what we believe to be right, since we’re constantly influenced by everything around us –and we see these perfect lives all the time and think life should look in a certain way.

- The past 10 years I’ve met many successful people who are unhappy because what they’ve been chasing has no fundamental meaning or purpose. They have expensive cars, valuable businesses, are top executives, but the bottom line is that they lead boring lives.

They have lost touch with the basics in life. So, despite success or money, their big city houses and their big Land Rovers have brought them to a place where they’re simply not content with life. It hasn’t brought them the kind of happiness they might have thought it would.

- Today, the mentality is that we’ll rather suffer at a company, which we don’t really like working for, to earn money that will help us maintain a life we haven’t even decided for ourselves, because we just drift along.

His kind of happiness, living a minimalist life in the middle of the undisturbed and untouched forest, hasn’t always been his dream. He had to go through a series of existential thoughts and reflections while being a soldier to figure out what brought him happiness. More people should do that, he thinks.

"It costs something to pursue your goals. And often we’re just not willing to do what it takes."

Why am I not happy?

Everyone else could copy what he has done and strip down all the clutter around them to a minimum. He would encourage everyone to do the same mental exercise that he has basically done, not everyone has to go be a soldier for more than 25 years to do so, however.

- If you want a different life for yourself, you simply have to make a choice and cut certain things away. It costs something to pursue your goals. And often we’re just not willing to do what it takes, Lars explains.

It often starts with people admitting they’re not happy with their lives.

- People end up asking themselves; “why am I not happy? I have it all.” Well, maybe they don’t have it all. They don’t have what matters. They only have stuff. They have what they’re expected to have: status, a position of power, money, cars, fashionable clothes. They get recognition for a what is ultimately a shell.

- Whereas what’s inside is what they should be working much harder to improve - simply by asking that very same fundamental question of how they want their lives to be.

He knew exactly what he wanted with his life when he applied for The Jaeger Corps and nothing could stop him from achieving that. Just as he knew that he wanted to cut down all expensive expenses and live a minimalist life in the middle of nature – nothing could stop him from doing that either. If you want to quit, you can. You should.

Lars is wearing