50 Yr Old Tod Kershaw, was an engineer who gave up a £40,000 salary and a comfortable home in California to move to a wooden shack with no running water in the middle of the Appalachian mountains. Ten years later, Tod says he couldn’t be happier.
“I sold my house, I had a whole bunch of money, I paid off every debt I had in the world,” Todd tells Ben, “I didn’t have a family so it was very easy for me to make the choice to come out here.
“I know a lot of people who would like to do something like this but they have families and mortgages and careers and things like that, and they have a lot more to give up than I did. So many more ties to society.”
His home is now in a forest in Madison County, North Carolina where Tod and the rest of his wild living community are very protective of their privacy.
Tod livesrent-free, only paying £476 a year in tax to the landowner, who is happy for the community to live in the 30 acres of the Madison County Forest.
For food, Tod often “dumpster dives” to collect food; which is part of the “Freegan” movement. “‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If they are happy to throw away food I am quite happy to eat it.”
Tod drives a 26-year-old truck he was given for free and runs it on vegetable oil. Tod and his community do not waste the animals they eat- the skin is used to make clothes, bones are boiled for broth and the meat is distributed to the community.
“I have eaten all types of animals in different states of decay, and never gotten sick from it. All your senses tell you it’s not okay to eat but it probably is.”
Tod made the decision to leave his old life behind, after a brief prison experience. He explains: “I got set up by a friend and wound up going to prison, briefly, I got a year sentence but got put on a programme for first time and non-violent offenders. When I got out of prison I realised I needed to change my ways, and started taking classes at a community college and… got my graduate degree in electrical engineering at 30. I found myself in this laboratory making these electrical devices one day to make cars more efficient. I had these gloves on and a respirator and thought ‘Am I going to save the world with poison? No.’”
Tod, who is a self described scavenger, welcomes people interested in his lifestyle to join his tribe. He says: ‘Everyone has their own dream, their own wilderness, their own form of living”