On The Page: The Man Who Quit Money

Part of why we live on the road is to experience a freedom that working a job, having a mortgage, and living in a house or an apartment just don’t allow. We live in quite a comfortable set up and there are few things that I really miss (besides being close to family and friends). I’m always impressed by those that are more able to sacrifice even more creature comforts to simplify their life.

The Man Who Quit Money

Among the most extreme examples of simplifying life is to quit using currency all together. The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen is about a man named Daniel Suelo (née Shellabarger) who since 2000 has lived a currency-less existence. Born to a fundamentalist Christian family, Suelo (Spanish for “soil”), began to develop his own ideas of religion and spirituality. During his stint in the the Peace Corps, Suelo came out as a gay man leading to tensions with his family, the religion he loved, and ultimately sending the young man into a deeply depressed state.

After returning to the States, Suelo moved to Moab where he worked several jobs, had his first romantic relationships, and began his migration away from money. During his evolution toward his moneyless state Suelo’s goal was to test two hypotheses: “Thoreau’s premise that living in nature made you stronger, and St. Francis’ belief that following chance brought you closer to God.”

I read this book in one sitting, absolutely riveted by Suelo’s spiritual journey and his ability to live entirely without money. (Suelo also avoids bartering.) Suelo is able to make piece with his faith while keeping his distance from religion he explained, “Yes, I decided I’d rather be in hell with Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Mother Teresa, Budda, Kabir, Rumi, Peace Pilgrim, and, yes, with Jesus Himself, than to be in heaven with the tortuous fundamentalist mentality that thinks itself right and everybody else wrong. I decided I’d rather be in hell for love than to be in heaven for bigotry.” Although I am not a religious person, I deeply respected Suelo’s candidness about his faith.

The actual logistics of living without cash—dumpster-diving, foraging, asking for rides, and more—were also really interesting although Sundeen chose to focus more on other parts of Suelo’s journey. This was probably a good choice for the book. Mark Boyle is an Irish activist who published his first book The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living in 2010 (which I plan to read next) which promises to talk more about the how of living without money.

Skipping out on currency isn’t anything I plan to do, however I do hope to live with only what I need:

“I don’t expect everybody to live in a cave and dumpster-dive,” he says. “I do implore everybody to take only what they know in their own hearts that they need, and give up excess to those who have less than they need. If this happened, I certainly wouldn’t have to dumpster-dive.”

I highly recommend The Man Who Quit Money as a fascinating and thought provoking read. I found myself very inspired by Suelo’s story and have added his blog Moneyless World — Free World — Priceless World to my blog reader. If you read The Man Who Quit Money, come back and tell me what you think of it!

4 thoughts on “On The Page: The Man Who Quit Money”

  1. Hey there! Thanks for this review; I’ve been fascinated by Daniel for a few years, but haven’t given reading this bio much thought until now. You “accidentally” mentioned a few things that pique my interest again.

    Daniel’s blog is on my roll, and now so is yours. Roll on!

  2. Although the premise is interesting, I wonder how many of the people who would follow such a path, have given thought to their future. What happens when they are eighty years old and all of the friends and relatives they thought would be there for them are already gone or want nothing to do with them, and they are no longer mentally or physically able to take care of themselves in that lifestyle? That is what the whole point of working while you are young is about, to set yourself up with the funds or systems in place to cover your needs when you no longer can do it yourself. Whether it be with Social Security, or just a home to go to when the time comes, it all takes being involved with society on a normal level to make it happen, whether they like it or not!

    1. I think you missed the point. Daniel doesn’t expect everyone to quit using money, only to evaluate what they actually need finding that they can perhaps live on less.

      Second, I’m not convinced spending all the prime years of your life working to support yourself when your old is the best way to structure our society.

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