Introducing Survival Sherpa, Todd Walker
Todd Walker runs Survival Sherpa, an educational website that underscores the importance of self-reliance and preparedness. He’s been actively contributing content since 2012 and has amassed tens of thousands of followers. Todd was kind enough to share with me the details about how he got started, his Doing the Stuff Network, and some of the most important DIY projects he’s undertaken over the years. Below is the transcript:
Bob: Within your written posts, you mention that you’re a teacher and you develop Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) for your students. Over the years, you’ve had thousands of people coming to you to educate themselves about survival, preparedness, and DIY projects. What type of feedback have you gotten from students of yours and what do they believe is the most important lesson you have to offer?
Todd: Kids and adults respond so well to learning how to do for themselves. In our push-button virtual culture, it’s so easy to swipe a finger over the screen and get answers. However, there’s a big difference between reading a book or blog and actually experiencing and developing a skill. When a student runs their hand between the bark and wood of a tree to peel bark to make a container, they smell the bark and try to describe the scent. You can’t smell Tulip Poplar bark on the internet. Nor can you notice the prickly points under the bark without holding it with your fingers and palms. These experiences in the real world are what kids, and adults, yearn for, even if they don’t know it yet.
On that note, we have moved more and more from a hands-on society to a virtual one. We’re too clean. Kids aren’t allowed to get dirty much. Watching a video or reading a book can show you techniques to try but the learning comes from doing the stuff.
Bob: You’ve contributed a large and diverse set of content to the community. Has your career as a teacher inspired you to create such a broad, multi-channel presence online to expand your reach? How’d you get started in the first place?
Todd: I started writing my blog in December of 2011. A month later my wife, Dirt Road Girl, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My world crumbled. At that point I decided to keep writing since it gave me peace. And the good news is, DRG is has beaten all odds and and seen two grand babies born over the last seven years. She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known.
My model has never been about making money on my blog or channel. Nothing wrong with making money writing or producing videos, it’s just not my model. I simply wanted to share the stuff we were doing on our journey to self-reliance and preparedness. Of course, this is our journey and may not apply to everyone. I hope some of the principles we teach do resonate with folks. I’m a teacher at heart and enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over the years from my childhood until now.
Doing the Stuff Network
Bob: Would you mind describing it for readers who may be unfamiliar with the Doing the Stuff Network? What inspired you to create it?
Todd: So many things we see online are often posted by third party people, not something they’ve done themselves. We wanted a place to share what we were actually doing on our journey. This encourages folks to join discussions and learn from each other.
Paleo, AntiFragile, and DIY Lifestyle
Bob: You’ve written about the importance of a primal/paleo lifestyle. Some paleo diets require a food intake to consist of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. This isn’t easy, but you’ve convinced me to give it a shot. What benefits have you realized as a result of your primal/paleo lifestyle? Do you think it’s helped you better prepare for a SHTF event?
Todd: I’m not a strict follower of that lifestyle anymore. When I was, it sure made a difference in my physical stamina.
Bob: In one of your blog posts, you mention the importance of becoming antifragile. As a reader of Taleb myself, I recognize the value in antifragility. What does antifragility mean to you and how do you apply it to survivalism?
Todd: The way we respond to life events changes over time. Instead of just learning to be resilient, antifragile people actually becomes stronger when faced with serious challenges. The experience of learning new skills in the real world outweighs reading or watching these skills performed by others. I try not to stay the same after a life challenge. I have to find a way to become stronger on the other side.
Bob: You’ve performed and written about countless DIY projects over the years. What led you down the path of becoming self-sufficient? For those intending to get become more self-sufficient, is there a DIY project you would suggest people start with?
Todd: My father was, and still is, a DIY’er. I picked this stuff up from him. Making stuff with our own hands gives a sense of accomplishment few experience in our modern consumer culture. There’s also an important hand-brain connection missed in our technological age. Swiping a screen all day has shown to decrease dexterity in hands and fingers among surgical students. These young students have a hard time manipulating needles and sutures to close wounds.
I’d suggest folks find something they’re interested in and begin making stuff. Leather craft, sewing, gardening, woodworking, camping, cooking, etc. all have many opportunities to develop the maker-mentality.
Bob: Most of those in the survivalist and prepper communities are concerned about some, or various existential threats. Some fear the next economic crisis while others worry more about an EMP. What, specifically, are you preparing for?
Todd: I’m not a survivalist or prepper. I hate labels and have spent most of my life avoiding them. With that said, my goal is to become as self-reliant as I can be with the resources I have available. I don’t have a specific future event I prepare for, just life. This takes a lot of the fear and paralysis out of the journey which I’ve seen many in our community promote. Fear sales.
Todd’s Favorite DIY Product
Bob: You’ve written about and reviewed a number of products that have helped you with your various projects and in further developing your survival skills. Is there a specific product that you don’t think you could live without?
Todd: Axes. I love axes. The ax is the most underrated tool in our modern world. Our pioneer ancestors placed as much priority on their ax as their rifle. An ax in experienced hands can clear land, build homes. butcher animals, build livestock fencing, and keep a family warm. The chainsaw has replaced the ax for the modern homeowner or homesteader for the most part. But the question we need to ask is, “how long will chainsaws hum along?” Now is the time to learn to safely use an ax, not when you actually need one to keep your family warm.
Community and Following Survival Sherpa
Todd: I’ve learned an awful lot from many in our community. I think the most important people anyone can learn from are people living in your general locale. In Georgia, I’m fortunate enough to call a handful of people mentors. That’s not to say I don’t learn from every encounter whether I’m teaching a class or a class student. I like to think I’m the dumbest man sitting around the campfire. I think this should be our attitude if we really want to expand our knowledge and skills. Always be a student.
Bob: Your internet presence certainly isn’t limited to Survival Sherpa. How can people stay up to date with you on social media and YouTube?
Todd: We’re most active on Facebook and Instagram. I still upload videos on our YouTube channel as well. Over the last year, our channel has been used more for documenting the off-grid log cabin build. FB: https://www.facebook.com/ , IG: https://www.instagram.com , YT: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWVfOHJKdoqKF6Rcu6RrdDg
Bob: Thanks so much for speaking with me, Todd. Your contributions to the prepper community on Survival Sherpa have been incredible. I appreciate you taking a break from it all to chat.
Todd: My pleasure, Bob. Take care and keep doing the stuff of self-reliance!
Want to see more interviews? Have questions for Todd of Survival Sherpa? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.