Moneyless women and men

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Moneyless enclaves still exist amongst the retreating wilds of the world that civilisation has not yet managed to invade. Yet even within civilised, modern industrial society, there are those who have voluntarily given up using it. There are some who have been living moneylessly for over a decade, others who have travelled for tens of thousands of kilometres without money by foot or in vehicles of some sort, and those who have done it in urban and rural settings.

The reasons that all of us do it (or have done it) varies greatly, and our individual POP models would look very different. Yet there is a common thread running through them all – the simple fact that each one of us has observed a world gone horribly wrong on every level of life, and because each of us wants to create new stories to live our lives by, new ways of being that uplift instead of enslave. We want lives based on trust and relationship rather than distrust and impersonalisation.

In the interest of sharing with you as many perspectives on moneyless living as I can, and to show that you can do it in all sorts of scenarios and for all sorts of reasons, here are a few inspirational examples of people who have lived without money.

Peace Pilgrim: up until her death in 1981, Peace Pilgrim spent 28 years walking the length and breadth of the US seven times without a single dime. Her only possessions were the clothes on her back and, if you can believe it, a few small items in the pockets of her tunic. She began walking at the tender age of 44 and vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food”. She has written a book, available for free both in hard copy and online, called Steps towards Inner Peace,(49) translated into 29 languages.

Daniel Suelo: Daniel began living without money in 2000, and is the subject of a book titled The Man who Quit Money. He is of no fixed abode but spends much of his time living in the caves of the Utah canyonlands, where he forages his food from the wilds (and the bins), washes in rivers, and spends his time doing whatever the hell he likes. His blog, Zero Currency,(50) is always thought-provoking.

Satish Kumar: now the editor of Resurgence magazine,(51) Satish first came to the UK by walking from India for over two years without money, on the advice of one of his teachers, Vinoba Bhave (one of Mahatma Gandhi’s closest friends). His experiences, both internal and external, are available in one of his many books, No Destination.(52) He is also a founder of Schumacher College and The Small School in Devon, England.

Tomi Astikainen: this Finn gave up money “in order to see life as it is, without the veil of social conditioning”. To experience this, “he became a voluntarily homeless nomad in June 2009 and has lived completely without money since July 2010”. During this time, he has hitched 30,000km without money, and has written about his experiences in a free online book titled The Sunhitcher.(53)

Jürgen Wagner: as part of the Schenkers (Givers) movement, the man known as Oeffie has been living without money since 1991. As a moneyless German, most of his work is in his native tongue. If you speak German or have access to translation, you can learn more about him and his perspectives online.(54)

Heidemarie Schwermer: having founded a popular exchange circle known as the Tauschring, this psychotherapist has been money-free (with the exception of a few euros she keeps aside for train fares) since 1996. She is the subject of a documentary titled Living with­out Money, and has written a book called Das Sterntalerexperiment – Mein Leben Ohne Geld (The Sterntaler Experiment – My Life Without Money). Heidemarie’s philosophy is often based on exchange, yet I believe there is still lots to be learned from her experiences, both in how it has affected her as a person and the practicalities involved.

Benjamin, Raphael, Nicola, Nieves: this band of moneyless adventurers, part of a project known as Forward the (R)evolution, spent fourteen months hitch- and boat-hiking their way across the 30,000km from the Netherlands to the US and Mexico, without accepting or using money, getting rides on 480 vehicles along the way. When I asked Benji why he lived without money, he said, “simply because it is the best way I have found to open myself to the world and learn how to give, share and love as if everyone was part of my family, the huge human family”. An account of their experiences and inner journeys is available on their website.(55)

Sonja Kruse: On a journey that took one year, and involving 16 different cultures, nine provinces, 114 towns and 150 different families, Sonja – a South African better known as The Ubuntu Girl – went on a quest to find the real meaning of Ubuntu (a Bantu word that focuses on people’s relationships with each other). Her thoughts and perspectives are available on her online blog.(56)

Adin Van Ryneveld(57): Another South African who lives by the same Ubuntu spirit of ‘I am because you are’, Adin gave up money in 2009 as a five year project to, some may say rather ironically, raise money for good causes. I believe that any apparent irony does not undermine his desire to help the world he has been born into, and by pursuing this path he has unique insights into an idea that could be valuable to many.

Elf Pavlik: Living in Europe without money or an identity card, and claiming no nationality, he has been responsible for bringing moneyless people from all over the world together and into some sort of cohesive movement. His website(58) contains some useful information about moneyless people and projects that can help you live in a similar way to him.

Julez Edward(59): Despite living and travelling without money for periods of his life, Julez feels that “world wide travelling is actually completely contradictory to moneyless living, because of the plane/ fuel dependency”. On that basis he is now “working towards finding ways to completely live off the grid and only use what Nature provides”.