The Wild Route: Leaving Work and Home for a Forest Life | NBC Left Field
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The Wild Route: Leaving Work and Home for a Forest Life | NBC Left Field


I would find myself sitting at my desk, wishing the day was over so I could home. And then I would wish that it was Friday so I could have the weekend off, and I wished my next vacation was coming up, and I realized that I was very literally wishing away my life. Does life ever feel so crazy, so nuts, that you just want to drop your phone into a toilet and retreat to the woods? Confession: I have, and yet I’m still here. But how off the grid can you really go these days? Well, I went to the woods in North Carolina and spent time with some people who’ve left, and are trying to figure it out. As modern people, we’ve evolved to this extent where we’re not capable of feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves, providing our own water, or even getting rid of our own **** and piss. This place is called Wild Roots. I didn’t name it. We don’t have policies, and we don’t have rules. And this is Todd, a former engineer, who’s been living in this community the longest. Even after eleven years, I get a big thrill every time I go to the stream and just take a drink. It just feels good to me. Harvest season is over. There’s hunters that give us meat. We can it. We did a couple hundred quart jars of meat this year. Erica’s my girlfriend, and her eight-year-old daughter, May… What’re you doing? They spend a lot of time here. Smelling it? Then there’s a guy who goes by the name of Whip. Whipporwill! Say what? Awesome. Makes it magical. He’s kind of another refugee from technology like myself. He was working in cybersecurity. There are other things that come with the bear, like, the claws, or special bones that you can use for different kinds of crafts. That’s a bear skull, covered in a huge amount of maggots. Yeah, I can barely even shake them off. Whoa! My God. I can’t keep quiet for that. I miss some aspects of that kind of logical problem-solving, but I feel fully engaged with the problems I deal with here. Then there’s a young woman named Sparrow. Some people come here, say, “Well, if **** hits the fan, we can survive.” I think that’s pretty cool. I’ve also here because I love how it is here. I think it’s really beautiful, this lifestyle. Now, this lifestyle, of living off the grid, as we often call it, might seem like it’s a relatively new phenomenon, especially as we get more technologically involved. After all, just last year, the average American spent eleven hours, basically half a day, in front of a screen. But in fact, humans have been downshifting, or voluntarily living simply, throughout history to refute the norm. Thoreau went to Walden Pond from moral exploration and a rejection of the Industrial Age. Gandhi took his path as a sociopolitical act. And, you’ve got the Epicureans, the Puritans, the Quakers, the hippies… But, what unites all of these people across time is the viewpoint that mainstream culture distracts from what’s most important. Part of my transition is to be embracing an alternative that I feel deeply joyful about. Wednesday, cloudy. A chance of showers in the morning. I really do feel a deep gratitude for for life, you know? For all the trees around and the birds singing… And that the crops grow — I mean the food — it just grows! Money doesn’t grow on trees, but I don’t need it if the chestnuts grow on trees. And what happens when we shift our priorities? Well, two academics found that people who live in a way that prioritizes intrinsic values, like community, relationships, personal growth — are happier than those who focus on extrinsic ones, like money and status and image. Case in point: Todd. It seemed like the more money I’ve had in my life, the less freedom I’ve had. My level of freedom is higher, and I have a lot of joy. Hope for the mass of humanity? I gave that up a long time ago. And I feel like giving up hope is a lot like taking a great big good dump: you just kind of feel clean and done afterwards. Yep. It’s been raining all morning and now the sun’s coming out. There’s a lot of joy in that. You know, it doesn’t matter what Trump’s doing. He can’t take that away from me. We’re not in this bubble, pretending that society doesn’t exist. We’re like hyper-aware that society exists, and we reap the bounty that we can from the scrap yards, the junkyards, from dumpsters. It looks just like Luna. Pretty similar. She’s from a different region, though. I went to town two days ago. It was my first town trip in like a month and a half or something. This is a sheep head. And I see just one person after another person like this: Like I feel like people are becoming robots, you know? I go to town once every week or so. I get online and just sort of check out the ***ed-up state of the world. Then I get myself a latte because I love my lattes. Soy. My mother and father are still alive. And I don’t want to lose contact with these people, so in order to truly escape, I’d have to give up a lot of things that I like. It’s also the fact that as modern people, we have destroyed the ecosystems to an extent that even if we did know how to live off them, there’s just not much left. We can get into this sort of turning the concepts in on themselves, because we’re still completely dependent on, you know, normal industrial society. But I really miss the people. I had good friends. I’m miss, you know, like knowing what my paycheck was gonna be. It was kinda nice knowing I was gonna have a good chunk of change in the next two weeks. And of course, you know, we’re basically wealthy white people living in an area that hasn’t been utterly demolished. You know, being on the fringes, you get away with a lot more than if my skin was darker than it is, or if I wasn’t as well-educated, or if I didn’t have all my teeth, I know that I would be looked at very differently by the police. And I’m gonna try not to use it to anybody else’s disadvantage, except the police. A graduate degree in engineering seems like a speck of **** compared to time to just—instead of sitting in an office, breathing recycled air, and, you know, going clickety clickety click on a computer — being down there, drinking that water and just being free … To me, that feels like a huge accomplishment.

100 Comments

  • NemeanLion

    Bah, there’s no reason to go this extreme to live like an animal and sleep in the dirt. There are plenty of videos with log cabin guys self sustaining without depending on the outside world.

  • Sarah Paul

    Don't starve yourself enjoy what God gave u. Live peaceful life. Happiness u won't find outside it is within u. Thank God for all your blessings.

  • svenmega10022

    I love backpacking and I did the entire Appalachian Trail when I was young. I still backpack well into the later stages of my life. Living off the grid looks and sounds like fun but it is not. All it takes is for one thing to go wrong with anyone in the wild far away from any EMS and you are done. Break a leg. You can't walk. Dead. Break an arm. You can still walk but shock could kill you. Skull fracture or closed head injury. You are going to die. Maybe not right away but pretty soon. Broken rib(s). Depends on how bad the break. If one rib punctures your lung you are to die and not right away. Broken
    back. Dead. Broken hip. Dead. Not right away. You will not be able to walk. Heart attack. Dead. Stroke. Dead. Now animals. Animal attacks on humans are rare. If you are living "Off the grid" 100 miles from the nearest road and do get attacked by a bear of mountain lion it will depend on the extent of your wounds will determine if you can make it out on foot. If you can't. You die. Pretty simple. There are a slew of many things that could kill you. A tree falling on you. Falling off a cliff. Extreme heat or cold. Drowning. Getting burned. Lightning. Hail storm. Blizzard. Flood. Land slide. I like the woods and go in for weeks at a time. The thing is that many people know where I am everyday on those trips. Cell phones. GPS. Maps. Pinpoint location devices. Something goes wrong you just stay put and mountain rescue will find you. I get to come home to a nice comfy warm home with my family and dog curled up by the fire. I'll take that any day.

  • Gigi Atkins

    I grew up on a self sustaining commune and as a kid didn’t realize that my life was “different”. To each his own but for ME personally something a little more moderate would be more sustainable…there’s nothing wrong with some creature comforts and modern amenities…

  • Kendall McCann

    I love how eloquent, witty, and educated these people presented themselves as representation for the stereotyped "hippie" lifestyle. GREAT VIDEO

  • Diana Eidson

    Y’all should check out the videos of Bill Bunting. He lives off grid, and he is incredibly well-read, thoughtful, and interesting.

    https://youtu.be/8cjkbt8ilSs

  • welcome2havoc

    "We don't need money or technology. We provide for ourselves." Meanwhile I saw two dozen products that wouldn't be possible if everyone lived that way

  • Amanda Wright

    I still have yet to see any kind of long term "off grid" community of any kind that has options for special needs or elderly care. Anyone who knows about that life?

  • Joseph Horton

    What a contrast between these folks and Shawn James (My Self Reliance) . They both have the same drive to survive off grid, but they are totally opposites in their living conditions. One group is still complaining why they have moved off grid while the other acknowledges and accepts the stillness of nature and his inner peace. I am going to be on the MSR Team.

  • Balboa Baggins

    It's sad to see they're basically living like animals out there, even eating them.
    What's wrong with technology and prosperity? We just have to use it in a different way than we are now.

  • Xaforn

    I think this is a dream for so many and reality for few. I find the comments about how dirty they are to be so stupid, our skin is a living organ, and our modern world abuses it so much. We don’t need to wash everything all the time, certain place much more frequently yes but not all. If you dig into that and eat healthy food, you find that the microbiome in your body balances out. We aren’t meant to smell like “fragrance” which actually has 4000 definitions according to those who make lotions, perfumes ect.

  • Ronni Hatcher

    Exactly!!!!? Mainstream culture does distract from what's most important. That's what I have been saying like my whole life in varying ways and forms! Hell I only use the net once a week a couple hours and well always have that way or less and I have had long periods of time living without it and a lot of other norm stuff that people thought I died and they we're NOT joking. Like what the duck? (Lol) so now its so bad that if you dont live on your phone people think you die! Get off the phones so much and all the distraction of lots of things and not just phones either this involves the very way people have been told to live. Employment (leave what is truly you and any chance of discovery of yourself and making your way as you and or your family everyday yeah real smart and oodles of fun!) Pay for shit you don't need and lots of it, play games all day that do little to teach or does teach, but the wrong shit and I could go on what isn't value or living fot the human anything body, mind, soul, all of it. Open your eyes to what life really is worth and what makes it value at a base level (hint its the simple things food, water, conversations deep and open, sleep, etc) and there you will more easily see what isn't. (Everything around me became horrendous and plagued my anxiety I didn't feel at home only in places and situations my intuition knew were not good for me or truly valuable like the noises, people with no ambition based on who they are because there not even clear anymore they have been distracted from knowing and delving deeper to know more and so on all around me and I once tolerated it I now could not ignore that I completely couldn't stand it anymore and I was miserable because once you don't ignore and or find yourself everything else is even more distraction, but I knew and every day it was more and more clear what I individually needed to live. Its to live with what I knew as true value and meaningful those true value I wish all could be so clear too on. I moved out to the far edge of my state (where its fields and forest)with a trailer I got for free off Craigslist and building a small (i mean small should be done in 3 months or less) house on land for me while living in mobile home and later plan to bring my parents to live (in the mobile home; its a nice one too)out there days with each other, but still have our own space The land isn't even owned by anyone and I even called the government they don't even claim it. Ha how lucky is that. So totally free land until the house is done then there gonna want taxes I am sure( looking up the legal side as I go) I know what matters and values of life itself is (not reliant on culture especially not the culture of others opinions and strict pressure to mold you into what they want and need even if they don't realize what there doing is that). I tell everyone I meet revaluation is need in life regularly and no you don't gotta live like "so" or like me to know and live with that value hell what do you think most urban gardeners and homesteaders are doing taking there truths and clearer sight on that and applying them where they live if there happy there. Its your mind that matters first. Really have a deep conversation and be truthful with yourself about how you feel you want. Then do it! My parents were worried my whole life because I have always bucked the structures of what thats how it is and it cant change mantality and what you must be to be a productive human/ "society member" They stopped worrying for 7 years when I had a job and I don't regret those jobs they and everything that happen in regards to that in and out of employment really honed what I knew wasn't me. I went against them and there worry and society. They are not worried any longer they see how empty they had been living. They thanked me and I was like thank God for creating me and bringing us together. I am adopted from birth. Without him and the people he brought together at the right time I would not be with my mom and dad, but a dumpster baby who knows after that. The butterfly effect people its real. What you do and others do has effect no matter how small. Be yourself and it could change lives for the better and not only your own sometimes. Life is full of unknown surprise that you can't truly know until you start. You dont know the effects of every tiny act (like being yourself) anyway so be you and there's so many other reasons to be you. Let's not get too quotey here k, but its all true regardless. Sorry for the wordy comment, but this us something I am very passionate about. Bring humanity back some life by recalling getting back to the heart of us.

  • James the Truther

    Great! Live off the Grid. And start Murdering indangered Species and innocent Animals! What a complete moron. I actually hope those individuals become extinct. And the sooner the better!. Living similar to Vagrants and Hobos with Zero Career prospects for the poor Child isn't exactly what l would call being Free. Plus the guy probably still has Thousands in the Bank to Rely on!. This is a complete Joke. Nothing but Middle Class Fantasiests..

  • TerroristNeutralizer

    I am all for anyone going to live this way in the forest, living off the land, but if everyone did this there would be no forest. Don't buy into this garbage. These people still depend on the fact many of us do go to work in 9- to -5 jobs, and that is why they have stuff to salvage. But I think taking your kid into the backwoods to live in a pile of garbage is not somehow something to envy or condemn. They will be the ones that suffer should they ever try to re enter society. You can hide away from the world in some back country retreat…..but eventually the world is going to find you.

  • Lord Cow-Tart Bungleturd

    Far more interesting to get a 9-5 commuting job and live for the weekends – a mortgage is great way to stabalise and discipline your life!

  • James Smith

    They are so unclean, I’m all for self sustenance Bt doesn’t make sense for them not to use certain established “civilization inventions”. For instance electricity, pop a couple of solar panels and voila! life’s much better. Besides they using walkmans etc would be dumb to discredit other “civilized inventions”

  • Wb Wb

    There not off grid lol. They still need the city for something. Also no reason to be dirty,, and ack like a sunflower child , so stupid.

  • Rafal Omnom

    sparrow looks cute, where do I sign to have some off grid experience with her? And giving up hope for humanity is the only natural step for everybody, there are people who argue that climate changes on it's own, therefor it's not our fault, SO we can keep littering our planet with plastic, chemicals and all kinds of toxic shit lol. There is absolutely no hope for humanity as a whole, we are doomed. The only option is to clump into likeminded groups, so the climate deniers, polluters and all that crap will die out, and others can live happily, even on other planets.

  • upside down

    This is exactly my dream life. Nobody gets why, but it just feels right for me. Im out of place in this modern world. I just don't want to do it alone, that's what's stopping me. It'd be too lonely.

  • F. B.

    What a fraud this guy is, if he supports STARBUCKS for his lattes every month. LOL. Do they also support Whole Foods or Kroger or Walmart or Food Lion? LOL again. This isn't true living off the grid, it's called white people cheating, pretending to be nomads. Their homestead looks like a homeless addict's encampment. Their sloth is evident. They can't be bothered to keep their home clean or orderly. They live in filth and squalor. Nothing appealing about this at all.

  • The Dark Knight

    Nature is a gift.

    Respect it.

    Be a part of it.

    Take care of it.

    No one is telling you "go into the woods and live there"

    What we are saying is "plant a tree in your garden or several of them"

    Take care of the grass in your yard and feed the animals that visit it.

    Pray for nature and its benefit.

    If you are good to Earth she will repay you a hundred times over or even a million times over.

  • The Dark Knight

    Whatever will be will be.

    Humans will adapt to whatever new conditions arise.

    They will continue to learn and continue to build.

    They will build a much better community then this cursed capitalistic society that only cares about money and things.

    They will learn to love nature once again.

    First and foremost love yourself and then natures love will follow.

    I have my own plans for the world that i will realize very soon.

    It will be the best thing ever trust me.

  • thehomefront

    It sounds an interesting way to live, but being I have shit loads of money I think I'll carry on living in my 6 bedroom house with a snooker table in one room and a 70inch tv screen in other.

  • Ilze Izadora Vidžupe

    Balance, Balanace, Balance. You don't have to give away things and rituals you like about modern world – just find balance in it <3

  • Emilie DeLeon Reyes

    nobody ever tells you how they get the money for food.you can't live on nuts from trees all day. so how do they get money.you can't just go off grid and eat mushrooms.can I be real?

  • Syed Amin

    and you call this….bizarre???? this is like what everybody do at my village ….people work at the field early in the money to collage material to cook in the evening and at night they prepared anything for the next day …repeat the process 365 a day …no internet….no pc but still have phone live in forest with other 200 people …..that my village at malaysia…

  • Simple Dreaming. Soñando Fácil. TTYL

    Hey NBCleftField, I liked MOST of this video.👍🏼…
    1 thing I hope I never AGREE WITH YOU.
    I hope I never LOOSE HOPE for the masses.
    God Bless you. I'm so happy you're out of this bullshit.👍🏼 Oops..I gotta go to sleep. I gotta wake up at 6am to go make fkn money to pay for all this shit that's Not making me Happy. Goodnight.👍🏼

  • Bill Randall

    sooner or later, that water will give you parasites or some sort of chemical. To hell with that. Give me a filter and chemical treatment. I lived in an old minivan for 3 years and loved it. Just move south for the winter and north for the summers, or up and down the mountain ranges, to adjust your temps and keep life simple and livable. There's always free food for the asking, if you know where to go and when to go there. When an area gets messed up (and they always do, and sooner rather than later) Just move a few hundred miles to a better spot (out of the state).

  • The Angry Buddha Official

    " Giving up hope feels like taking a big dump..
    ..You just feel so clean afterwards " lmfao!!
    Fuck yeah down with all of them!

  • Doug Anderson

    "Hurrr hurr hurr.. you don't need to be clean! Being dirty is the natural way of humans DURRR!!" Pretty much half of the comments here.

    Let's just ignore the fact that most humans died of disease and injury before they were thirty for nearly all of our existence. Let's conveniently forget all of the plagues and deadly epidemics that humans have suffered thru for the entirety of our existence. Far better to be some neo-hippy moron spouting off bullshit to feel morally superior.

    These are rich white leftists playing at being spiritual, and apparently they're sticking it to literally hitler(Trump) by following their little fantasy.

  • Josh Pearson

    This is people who didn't know what to do with their money so they locked themselves into a box of convenience addictions and then decided money was bad. When it totally can lead you to freedom just the same, and personal growth  and learning how to engage and survive in your natural environment is a choice, regardless.

  • horizonsblue

    I respect their decisions and if they are truly happy, good for them. But not every job out there chains a person to a cubicle to live out a purposeless life. I joined the military, went to college, found a career I find rewarding, made money, moved to a home in a safe neighborhood with space to raise a family and animals, and I wake up feeling as though I'm making a difference in this world. I hope these people are happy, and they do make good points about the trappings of a world stuck on cell phones….but are any of them actually doing anything in their lives to help anyone but themselves? they are living off the grid and patting themselves on the back for being hermits. Seems egocentric to me, and although I respect their decisions, I'm not sure that behavior deserves a pat on the back. While they are blowing their own horn about giving the finger to the government, many other citizens are working hard, paying taxes, and engaging in charity. I'm not condemning them. But they aren't societal heroes.

  • James Lee

    They're only showing thw work shed and not the main living quarters.

    Thoreau went to Walden for a short amount of time, he didn't move out to the woods. But whatever floats their boat

  • Shamjelan

    Bless you all, when my daughter graduates high school here in Placerville I will be joining you in spirit and the walk here in Northern California. I am scared and elated all at once of the prospect of living off the land and living by myself alone in the wilderness.

  • T12J7

    Two problems I have for this type of like are boredom and cold. I don't like boredom and I don't like cold, and I think there would be some of that going on. Also, I think it would be kind of rude for the adults not to allow those kids to go to school. I hope that's not the case.

  • Nancy Desch

    It's looks like a dream until someone gets sick or gets a tooth ache or something goes terribly wrong like breaking a bone. And he's drinking from that stream but does he know what's in that water like diseases and microbes that can eventually kill you.

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