“I would find myself sitting at my desk, wishing the day was over so I could go home. And I would wish that it was Friday, so I could have the weekend off, and I would wish my next vacation was coming up. And then I realized I was very literally wishing away my life,” said Tod, the longest resident of Wild Roots. 
In the forests of North Carolina, there is a haven for its inhabitants from the rest of modern society. Tod and his girlfriend Talia among others came to this place, believing that civilization was on the verge of collapse. They embraced a more simple, primitive lifestyle.
Living in the Woods
The homes are made of timber, saplings, and clay with bark or metal used for their roofs. The people harvest wild food from the woods, but much of their fodder comes from dumpsters when they take the occasional trip into town, roadkill, and wild game offered by local hunters. Very little animal parts go to waste, and they even use the eyeballs, tongue, and brain. Their sustenance is cooked over a fire that is ignited with friction every morning and evening.
The Philosophy of Wild Roots
Wild Roots began in 2010 with the intention of creating a green anarchist movement. Today, although there may be some guests and individuals with those political leanings, the community prefers to remain unlabeled and out of all political ‘boxes.’
Overall, the community relishes their freedom of living unattached to technology and civilization, and their lack of hierarchy allows them to teach and learn from each other. “We don’t have policies; we don’t have rules,” says Tod. In fact, taking residency in Wild Roots is treated as a developing relationship.
On their 30 acres of land, the community is focused on learning, whether from the forest or each other, ignoring their lack of shared philosophy. What they do have in common is learning and longing for freedom.
“As modern people, we have evolved to the extent that we are not capable of feeding ourselves and clothing ourselves, getting our own water…” said Tod, a former engineer
Tod’s original plan was to live independently, away from any civilization, but that has so far proven unsustainable. The animals in the area were becoming few, along with the native plant life. Even with the game given to them by hunters, which they often preserve, they occasionally ask the butcher in the nearby town for scraps he was going to toss out or dive through the supermarket’s dumpster.
The Upsides and Downsides of Living Off the Grid
When members of the community head into town, they use computers at public libraries to email their families or to catch up on current events. As much as they enjoy forest life, it can feel isolating.
“I really miss the people; I had really good friends. I miss knowing what my paycheck was going to be...” admitted Whip, who used to work in cybersecurity. When asked about what he misses about his old job, he says, “I miss some aspects of logical problem solving, but I feel fully engaged with the problems I deal with here.”
Living in the wilderness allows the residents and visitors the ability to breathe, take in nature, and truly appreciate life.
“I went to town two days ago,” said Sparrow, another resident. “It was my first town trip in like a month or something… And I see one person after another person like this.” Sparrow mimed texting on a phone. “I feel like people are becoming robots.”
On why she chose Wild Roots, she said, “I’m here because I think it’s beautiful, this lifestyle.”
“I really do feel a deep gratitude for life, you know?” said Whip. “For all the trees around, the birds singing…”
Refocusing on What Matters
Stepping away from civilization helped Tod and his community discover what truly matters, relationships, simplicity, and life for life itself, not for the sake of chasing power, clout, or money.
“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,” said Tod.
On their website, they have a list of recommendations for those who would like to visit or join their community, including bringing tools for the activity they would like to learn while they are there (like blacksmithing, open-fire cooking, woodworking, or sewing) and encouraging visitors who are sick to postpone their trip. 
Also, cell phones don’t work in Wild Roots, so many people enjoy visiting for a “technological detox.” For more information on Wild Roots and their visiting recommendations, see here.
- Sky Dylan-Robbins. Wild Roots – Earth skills Community. https://www.facebook.com/WildernessAndUrbanSurvival/videos/1048616141962678/?v=1048616141962678 June 12, 2018
- Mike Belleme. Wild Roots https://www.mikebelleme.com/gallery/wild-roots/#44
- Daniel Stone. Here’s What It’s Like to Live in the Woods, Off the Grid. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/05/mike-belleme-wild-roots-community/ May 17, 2017
- Wild Roots. Visit Us. https://www.wildroots.org/visit-us/