The man who lives without money

The man who lives without money

Irishman Mark Boyle tried to live life with no income, no bank balance and no spending. Here’s how he finds it.

If someone told me seven years ago, in my final year of a business and economics degree, that I’d now be living without money, I’d have probably choked on my microwaved ready meal. The plan back then was to get a ‘good’ job, make as much money as possible, and buy the stuff that would show society I was successful.

For a while I did it – I had a fantastic job managing a big organic food company; had myself a yacht on the harbour. If it hadn’t been for the chance purchase of a video called Gandhi, I’d still be doing it today. Instead, for the last fifteen months, I haven’t spent or received a single penny. Zilch.

The change in life path came one evening on the yacht whilst philosophising with a friend over a glass of merlot. Whilst I had been significantly influenced by the Mahatma’s quote “be the change you want to see in the world”, I had no idea what that change was up until then. We began talking about all major issues in the world – environmental destruction, resource wars, factory farms, sweatshop labour – and wondering which of these we would be best devoting our time to. Not that we felt we could make any difference, being two small drops in a highly polluted ocean.

But that evening I had a realisation. These issues weren’t as unrelated as I had previously thought – they had a common root cause. I believe the fact that we no longer see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment and animals they affect is the factor that unites these problems.

The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that it now means we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the ‘stuff’ we buy.

Very few people actually want to cause suffering to others; most just don’t have any idea that they directly are. The tool that has enabled this separation is money, especially in its globalised format.

Take this for an example: if we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today.

If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior décor.

If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t shit in it.

So to be the change I wanted to see in the world, it unfortunately meant I was going to have to give up money, which I decided to do for a year initially. So I made a list of the basics I’d need to survive. I adore food, so it was at the top. There are four legs to the food-for-free table: foraging wild food, growing your own, bartering and using waste grub, of which there far too much.

On my first day I fed 150 people a three course meal with waste and foraged food. Most of the year I ate my own crops though and waste only made up about five per cent my diet. I cooked outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove.

Next up was shelter. So I got myself a caravan from Freecycle, parked it on an organic farm I was volunteering with, and kitted it out to be off the electricity grid. I’d use wood I either coppiced or scavenged to heat my humble abode in a wood burner made from an old gas bottle, and I had a compost loo to make ‘humanure’ for my veggies.

I bathed in a river, and for toothpaste I used washed up cuttlefish bone with wild fennel seeds, an oddity for a vegan. For loo roll I’d relieve the local newsagents of its papers (I once wiped my arse with a story about myself); it wasn’t double quilted but it quickly became normal. To get around I had a bike and trailer, and the 55 km commute to the city doubled up as my gym subscription. For lighting I’d use beeswax candles.

Many people label me an anti-capitalist. Whilst I do believe capitalism is fundamentally flawed, requiring infinite growth on a finite planet, I am not anti anything. I am pro-nature, pro-community and pro-happiness. And that’s the thing I don’t get – if all this consumerism and environmental destruction brought happiness, it would make some sense. But all the key indicators of unhappiness – depression, crime, mental illness, obesity, suicide and so on are on the increase. More money it seems, does not equate to more happiness.

Ironically, I have found this year to be the happiest of my life. I’ve more friends in my community than ever, I haven’t been ill since I began, and I’ve never been fitter. I’ve found that friendship, not money, is real security. That most western poverty is spiritual. And that independence is really interdependence.

Could we all live like this tomorrow? No. It would be a catastrophe, we are too addicted to both it and cheap energy, and have managed to build an entire global infrastructure around the abundance of both. But if we devolved decision making and re-localised down to communities of no larger than 150 people, then why not? For over 90 per cent of our time on this planet, a period when we lived much more ecologically, we lived without money. Now we are the only species to use it, probably because we are the species most out of touch with nature.

People now often ask me what is missing compared to my old world of lucre and business. Stress. Traffic-jams. Bank statements. Utility bills. Oh yeah, and the odd pint of organic ale with my mates down the local.

Source


Comments

  1. Aaron Fenton says

    Well done mark. It took a lot of conviction to leave your lifestyle and embark on a completely different one. I hope more people do this. Because people are sheep and the more that do it the more will do it

  2. Jairod Roeder says

    Your a real stick in the mud good sir. Anything is possible if you don't sit there and wine about how to.

  3. Anita Valente says

    This scheme is great, but entirely reliant upon good health. What happens if he has a hot appendix or severe injury?

  4. says

    that's corrrect life, pro-nature,we cannot even think of being anti-nature,money is a starter of many evils.we can live beautifully live with nature,were not our ancestors (indians) happier with a bicycle,unironed clothes…

  5. Farida Benserghin says

    Absolutely amazing!! I admire you courage for leaving everything behind!! Would you consider travelling without money? I would be interested to know how you would do it…

  6. says

    Well even have been trying to live this life style myself,but the problem is that it seems there is nobody ready to give me a piece of land to live on,or the benevolence is missing among people of Punjab,India!
    I appeal thru this blog to all those people who think they could help to help me get a piece of land where i could grow my own food & being a Holistic healer,i shall pay back to the Society in a way or the other!So all those who wish to help me could also contact me at [email protected]

  7. says

    Good on you mate. I have thought about doing something very similar. I think I'm at the stage where I'd be happy with 2-3 pair of clothes and food. Maybe live in a buddhist temple or some kind of nature reserve and just grow my own fruit and vege. Would like toilet paper though lol.

  8. Deadpool Black says

    dont be ridiculous! he didnt leave everything behind! well he just subscribed an internet in the woods so he can post here about what's happening to him lol and oh a laptop damn and before i forget, how are you gonna charge youre laptop or your tab or phone? lol well i guess he subscribed an electricity too but how come he uses beeswax candle for light? lol

  9. Melissa Cookie Monsterr says

    Also, this is not facebook, this is an article on Banoosh. He is not on here. This is an article written about him.

  10. says

    He travels into the city for supplies, cities have public libraries (another frequently overlooked resource). Libraries often provide free internet access in addition to books. Anything is possible.

  11. Kathleen Greene says

    As he acknowledges, Everyone cannot do this at the present time. He doesn't sound preachy or holier-than-thou, just shining what light he can! He mentions that he has more friends than ever; presumably he's there to help others as others are there to help him! It's called humanity, sharing, community. God, why are some people so unimaginative, blind and small?

  12. says

    When I first started reading this I was sure it was going to end in something unrealistic like, "everybody needs to live off grid". I'm so glad you mentioned the necessity of transition and it will take time for us to move towards this, but to start moving! It is possible to live with less and make your own form of minimalism within the city as well.

    I'm working towards helping people start making a healthier lifestyle through addressing some of the emotional issues caused by capitalism and Western culture. I find this imperative to being able to let go of consumerism… Thanks Mark, for more inspiration to all of us that are trying to work on this. I wish I could connect with you but your friends request has reached it's limit. I'm sure you are swamped.

  13. says

    And a caravan, a bike, clothes, he also didn't made that cooker by himself…People living in the deserts of Mongolia – now thats living without money. This guy over here just wants to be cool and have many likes on facebook. I think that is even more corpo than actually working for one.:D

  14. JD Tiheew says

    well done… you are a great example of this generation! u absolutely have the courage & strength to go beyond your wildest dream! living such as this , as one of the locals, coming from a decent world u live in & leaving everything behind is out of the ordinary!…..not many people do the way u do.. i salute u :))
    keep it up & spread the wordsssss…..

  15. says

    Although brave and admirable for an educated, middle class westerner to choose this life, it's important to remember that a majority of the people in this world live something like this not through choice, perhaps there needs to be a balance struck?

  16. Anita Valente says

    While I applaud his self-reliance, he is also relying on the taxpayer to cover any medical needs which may arise, to keep the waterways and air free from contaminants, to use our military might to ensure that his country remains free from invasion. He might rid his bike on highways kept free of potholes courtesy of the taxpayer, and upon the protection of the law to keep him safe from criminals. None of us think we need the government until we really stop and think how much we are dependent upon it. We could all look to his story to give us ideas on how to become more self-reliant.

  17. Liam Davidson says

    Erm, how about downloading it for FREE.
    The moneyless manifesto has been made available free of charge by mark and his publishers if you bothered to look

  18. Dave De La Roij says

    That's weird, he has no money to live on, yet he seems to be able to blog about things on the internet, has he got free electricity and internet as well?

    Okay I guess we could say that reaching out is a good thing so what the hell if he uses internet and a laptop from time to time to communicate the message, but things get a little tricky when we take a look at some of this man's points.

    To begin with the environmental repercussions and geological and problems.
    Most countries in Europe wouldn't even be able to support their own needs in food or furniture sources, also many of the energy sources we use come from other countries, which we cannot produce ourselves because of lack of space or whatever reason you can think of. We can't expect to just stop using electricity or petrol or other things that run our daily lives withouth falling back into the stone ages.

    You might think that we would be off better moraly if we did go back to simpler days or at least use as little as possible harmful resources, but in about 3 billion years or so this planet will be consumed by the sun, and when it does, the only thing that can save our species or any other species living on this planet… Is us!
    So we are responsible for our technological advancements and we would like it rather sooner than later.

    Yes you could say that we could start being more eco friendly, and I think we are, but we don't need to rush it so drasticly that we halt our progress in the advancement of our civilisation.
    If we want to start right now by being radical about the environment we're just doing it for our own morality and not for the good of our species and/or planet, let me tell you why.
    Every single one of us needs space, and something to fill it with, for example furniture. If you take furniture alone most countries wouldn't even be able to supply their own citizens with furniture because of the lack of trees. We wouldn't be able to get enough food to our people because we simply cannot grow anything in our gardens. And the waste we would produce just by inefficiently growing and building everything ourselves would thousandfold compared to the ways we do it now. It would be deevolution. Some people would say that you could get variations of food from locals who grow some different foods than you do, but hey, then we will need transportation again, because we can't all walk to get it and if we would we would be back in the middle ages.

    Now the reality of the economical issue with this. This is harsh and cruel but very true.
    If the western world would stop it's ill gotten consumerism, countries like China an India would be devasted, their economies would be destroyed overnight and many of their citizens would be instantly unemployed and millions would die within months.

    So no, this is not really a great story. I think what we should do is continue the way we do but slowly progress towards a more eco friendly life style whilst helping 3rd world countries towards selfdependency, only then are we able to do things like this globaly. Also this way we are most likely to get eco friendly a lot faster than by doing it the radical way.

    Just my ten cents.

  19. Muhil Ram says

    Many of saints are living in India like this. As far as we are concerned this is a familiar type of living..namaste

  20. Emil Apostol says

    @kymber lee of course you have to pay if you want a hard copy, it's not like the publishers of the book do it for free. you can read it online for free though, so I think when you purchase his book, he won't get profits from it.

  21. Cherie Gaskin says

    And if he did/does get the profits so what? I beleive the point of living without money wasn't to say it's 'bad'. It was to avoid causing harm through spending – if you don't have it you can't spend it.

  22. Gene Barker says

    Wow, this man is so amazing and inspirational, taking peoples waste food and unwanted items and making it his own! Just buy his book and you can be exactly like him!

  23. Henry Taylor-Dening says

    i sense alot of unresolved conflict within your soul gene. maybe you should try and seek out a life without monetary boundaries, like this wise man.

    that advice from me will be $2.30 thanks

  24. says

    “If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t shit in it.” (par. 10) Brilliant phrase!

    Money is an illusion, to make up for our insecurity and our lack of trust in God and the universe.

  25. Deidre Hosterman says

    I think people should live in whatever way makes them happy instead of always thinking of the greater good of their country. If china's economy crashed because people stopped consuming, well, I guess they'd have to learn a simpler life as well.

  26. says

    I have a lot of admiration for a person who dares to live outside the box we call normal existence. I was disheartened to hear about the family who live off the grid facing eviction. Well I wish I had the courage to do so. Maith thú agus cúram a ghlacadh

  27. Marcus 'Sofajunky' McInerney says

    Nilo Sorathia public libraries offer free internet for an hour at a time, sometimes more……Facebook is free!!

  28. says

    The whole point is not to follow his way(a bit extreme for the average person) but to raise awareness about the environment, waste, DIY's, interpersonal relationship, materialism.

  29. Invictus Jo says

    I respect your venture Mark. But What if there was no bike, no trailer and no "local" to unwind.What if the local authorities couldn't care less about your experiment and treated you as they do all homeless in Gandhis India. It's the
    sheer degradation of a soul that kills a man.

  30. says

    This is an amazing story. Me pictures, video, documentary would be cool. Share this story and. I find it humbling and awesome at the same time. I commend you for your courage….

  31. says

    well, wish i could live in some kind of subtropics. if you live on north and a single day without heating can lead you to death – well, good idea, but no, thanks. as long as you cant defeat a wild animal to make yourself a warm shoes from its skin – all this beautiful ideas are just a theory. unfortunately.

  32. says

    Love this. I think people panic about the loss of lifestyle and money in a turbulent economy. What we need to do is become aware of how to live off the earth. Most people won't go to these lengths, but even incorporating growing some of your own food will make a difference. It'd be interesting to hear how Mark manages the winter months as well. Thank you for your bold life style choice Mark!!! It should teach many.

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