National Geographic Channel’s new series Live Free or Die explores one of the most remote subcultures in the United States. The show follows the lives of five individuals living in the “country’s backwoods and swamps with few of the trappings of modern society.” The intriguing and self-reliant folks showcased on the new series definitely subscribe to a “do more with less” philosophy – and appear to accomplish their goals nearly flawlessly. The cast feels as if they have been freed from the constraints of modern society and the technology-fueled existence millions of Americans feel bound to every day. “They are modern-day pioneers who rely only on skill and intuition to harness the natural environment,” NatGeo says about the new series.Live Free Or Die takes viewers far beyond the sidewalks of typical daily life. The series focuses on “re-wilding” the human race and getting back to basics – the very basics, of life. The new National Geographic series debuts on September 30
In the premiere episode Thorn struggles to find even a small trace of wildlife while hunting for food in the Blue Ridge Mountains.Thorn built his 50-square-foot hut from scavenged materials in the woods. “This lifestyle that I’ve embarked upon has been happening since I was five. I grew up on a ranch. My dad had cowboyed for years, so I kind of just ran wild,” Thorn says. “I don’t feel like I’m living in poverty. I feel like I’m wealthy, I feel like I’m rich. And you can’t beat that view.”
Not far away, Tony and Amelia battle the elements and make good use of any meat they can find.Tony and Amelia are newlyweds who chose to make the Appalachian hills their home. Tony purchased the land which some would think would not have been habitable, seven years ago. Since the couple lives life without a regular income they have focused upon turning the steep hillside they own into a sustainable homestead. “When you choose not to make very much money, you have the time and imaginative energy to put together a life, put together a home and just be in a place for a long time and just be at peace with what you have and accept what you don’t have,” Tony notes.Tony’s father-in-law travels via horseback to visit and brings a dead bobcat he found on the side of the road as a gift. The young couple quickly realizes all of the potential the bobcat presents. Like any good son-in-law, Tony does not forget to show gratitude to his wife’s father, “Thanks for the corpse,” he says with a big grin.
Gabriel makes his own traps to catch his meals. “I can’t just go to the grocery store and buy whatever I want to survive, you know, so the vitamins and nutrients and minerals are all coming from what I’m eating off the land.” Living a primitive lifestyle would be extremely hard work and require a plethora of skills and deep determination, but the individuals showcased on Live Free Or Die definitely highlight the benefits of their chosen lifestyle quite well. Gabriel and his fiancé Luna have been together for about a decade. In the Live Free Or Die episode, Gabriel is about to embark on an annual 3-month trek in the mountains, with the blessing of his lady.
Colbert showcases his survival skills on the river and swamp regions of Georgia. In California, Gabriel must fight the drought-stricken area to find even small game to put upon his dinner table. “I’ve been studying earth-based skills for almost my whole life. I’ve traveled all over and learned from different native peoples around the world,” Gabriel says. “Learning ways in which to hunt on the land, ways in which to track and move with the land, being in the wilderness for me is being alive,” he adds.
Colbert tells the audience that hunting naked is an extremely amazing experience. Colbert says that he picked his particular piece of land to live on because to him, a mosquito-infest, snake-infest, and alligator-infested local was ideal for him. He left civilization 20 years ago to live off what the swamp provides, even though he lives just five miles from the nearest town. He traps from December to March to garner his annual income. According to the Live Free Or Die star, his annual expenses total about $2,000– “But I have too much stuff,” Colbert jokes. He built his cabin with his own two hands over the course of 14 years after ditching his financial advisor job.
Live Free or Die Series Description
“These five individuals are participating in a lifestyle trend known as “re-wilding” — a new term that refers to the un-domestication of humans and reverting back to our wild roots. They live almost completely off the land, in simple homes without any electricity or running water. The woods furnish their rugged lifestyle, and wildlife populate their dinner plates, bringing significant challenges that often require quick and innovative solutions in their constant struggle to survive. They are faced with natural obstacles like brutal weather and depleted food sources and must find ways to subsist that don’t violate the strict code they hold themselves to in order to remain self-sufficient. It is this very code, the difficulty of keeping it and the potential to triumph over nature that fuels their desire to remain on these modern-day frontiers.”
Interview with Live Free or Die cast members Tony and Amelia
Why did you move to mountains
Tony: I was born in Omaha and lived there until I was 13 or 14. Then I moved to the DC area and got a job. It was total culture shock. I was there four years and then went to college in Colorado. I got a degree in environmental studies, writing, and biology. Once I had my degree I wound up out here. I wanted a garden and not on someone’s else land. I ate out up dumpsters, I ate dandelions, I refused to spend money on food. I took the first job I could find. I live entirely debt free. Quite simply I knew what I wanted and took the straightest line to get there. H**l the first few years were rough, I had no heat the first winter. It was definitely pretty rough at first but after that … paradise.
Amelia: We live on 1-acre of land and grow our own food. We trade work with neighbors that have livestock and farms to get other food we need that we cannot grow r raise ourselves. We have fruit trees, practice permaculture and raise chickens, rabbits, and goats – perhaps we will also raise pigeons in the future.
What do you have in way of utilities?
Tony: We harvest rain water. We don’t do the electricity thing. We have a rocket stove and a big wood gasifier for heating and cooking purposes. We harvest wood in a sustainable manner. We fell wood in winter without killing it. This process increases organic manner content in soil and for the garden – we use hand tools for the cutting.
How do you garner items you cannot provide for yourself, such as clothing and shoes?
Tony: A lot of our clothes we actually find on the side of the road, there are often free boxes of clothes set out in the area. There are plenty of ways to buy second hand clothes cheaply.
The NatGeo Live Free or Die media kits state that you saw Tony’s primitive home and immediately fell in love with the place and decided he was the guy for you. What appealed to you about the “re-wilding” lifestyle?
Amelia: What inspired to live this way? It feels good and satisfying to be connected with the food I eat and to live down to earth. What motives me mostly, is living in a way much that is much more sustainable. I grew up on an 80-acre farm. When my parents divorced, my mother moved to the city and dad kept the farm. A lot of my free time was spent out on the farm. We [siblings] would ride horses, work with the cows, and had huge gardens, hay pastures, and old log cabin we helped build to enjoy. I learned a lot in animal caretaking. I was obsessed, we had Morgans. After living on dad’s farm then a few other places unusual; a small homestead in Nashville where I had chickens and an organic garden, I met tony. Had original section of house built when we met, it is now twice as big, or more now. He is an incredibly hard-working person – very dedicated.
Do you plan on having children? Would you have to adept your lifestyle to accommodate babies and youngsters?
Amelia: Children? We haven’t decided yet either way. We have talked about benefits and the challenges. Raising children here would be amazing a lot of ways. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a unique environment. Everything takes longer though, it is a lot of work.
Why join the Live Free or Die Cast?
Amelia: I had mixed feelings. I felt kind of nervous about having a crew of people that are from a very different type of lifestyle coming here and having cameras being pointed at me. I just was not really sure what to expect. I am kind of shy and I don’t really do that well with a camera. I think I’m good a hiding nervousness. Looking natural in front of a camera can be difficult. But, I was excited to share what we are doing with the world. What I am most excited about, and the main reason I did it, is because it could inspire people to live in a way that they will feel more satisfied with their life, and bring more happiness to our world. That is, if I can get anything out of this, it is inspiring other people to do what they really want to do with their lives go ahead and just go ahead and do what you want to do – that is the best thing we could get out of this show.
Tony: One sentence sums it why I chose to be on Live Free or Die. I have ideas in my head I want the world to hear. The show will reach most of the world, I didn’t know how many countries would receive the broadcast until after I signed up for the deal.
[All image via: NatGeo]