The Man Who Lives Without Money

Mark Boyle outside his off-grid caravan. Photograph: Mark Boyle

Mark Boyle outside his off-grid caravan. Photograph: Mark Boyle

By: Amanda Froelich,

True Activist.

Think you couldn’t live without money? Irishman Mark Boyle challenged this notion and here’s how he finds life with no financial income, bank balance, and no spending.

“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.” According to Boyle, the plan back then was to ‘get a good job’, make as much money as possible, and buy the stuff that would show society he was successful.

Like most individuals raised in a consumer-driven society, he never second guessed those goals. For a while he had a fantastic job managing a big organic food company and even had a yacht in the harbor. If it hadn’t have been for the chance purchase of a video called Gandhi, he’d still be pursuing the same life. “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 while philosophizing with a friend over a glass of Merlot. “Whilst I had been significantly influenced by Mahatma’s quote “be the change you want to see in the world”, I had no idea what that change was up until then.”

The two friends began talking about all the major issues in the world – environmental destruction, resource wars, factory farms, sweatshop labor – and wondered which of the issues they could best devote their time to. Mark didn’t feel he could really make any difference, however “being two small drops in a highly polluted ocean”.

That evening, though, a revelation came through: “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.”

Boyle believes that the degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that it now means most people are completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the ‘stuff’ they buy.

It can be agreed that 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 globalized format.

“If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it today” is one of Mark’s examples as to why it’s important a reconnection with natural/source living is established. “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 water, we probably wouldn’t shit in it”.

The above arguments all honestly assess the undervalue most objects now have. With convenience at our fingertips, most don’t consider where their trash product or unwanted items go.

Deciding to be the change, this then spurred Mark to fully dive into his new viewpoint and give up money, which he only planned on doing for a year. “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 are far more”.

On his first day, he fed 150 people a three-course meal with waste and foraged food. For himself, however, he ate his own crops and waste only made up about 5% of his diet. “I cooked outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove”.

The next concern was shelter. He found himself a caravan from Freecycle, parked it on an organic farm he volunteered with, and renovated 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”. Up front and to the point, Boyle clearly understood the necessity of using every available resource to be most sustainable.

“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 I’d relieve the local newsagent of its papers (Once I wiped my arse with a story about myself); it wasn’t double quilted but it quickly became normal”. For transportation, Mark used his bike and trailer, using the 55 km commute to the city as an alternative solution for the gym. Beeswax candles served as his lighting.

Humorously inspiring to some, deluded and anti-capitalist to others, Mark had this to say about his radical lifestyle: “Many people label me as anti-capitalist. Whilst I do believe capitalism is fundamentally flawed, requiring infinite growth on a finite planet, I am not anti anything.” More than anything, Boyle claims to be pro-nature, pro-community, and pro-happiness. How often is that a city dweller’s life philosophy?

“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. (See Documentary: Happy)

Another positive effect of Mark’s unique lifestyle is the joy he has created for himself. “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 interdependent.”

Mark’s example certainly stands as inspiration for those seeking freedom from the fast-paced modern age; most alternative media sources would agree that the more one reconnects to nature, the better their mental, physical, and spiritual health is. However, could everyone live like this? According to Mark, 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.”

The prospect of gradually transitioning to re-localized, small communities is a possibility, though. With greener energy sources and healthier communities being implemented at a growing rate, natural living is already a reality, but may be made much more mainstream in the future to come.

“For over 90 percent of our time on the 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.”

Asked what was missing from his old world of lucre and business, Mark replied “Stress. Traffic-jams. Bank statements. Utility bills. Oh yeah, and the odd pint of organic ale with my mates down at the local”.

It just goes to show, if you are passionate about anything, you can be that change you’d like to see in the world.


World Observer

The Guardian

153 Responses to The Man Who Lives Without Money

  1. I would love to hear his story after 2 or 3 years. The idea is fun, romantic, all the resources are close people are enthusiastic about helping. What about when he runs out of beeswax candles (really – those are NOT cheap unless you make them yourself and that has a monetary start -up I truly doubt that he robbed a wild bee hive only 15 months out of the soft life he had!). I want to hear about when he’s at the desperate point and using old frying oil from a restaurant and a piece of rag he found on the street to light up his evenings. Sounds too romantic right now and not very real.

    • lol..yea its easy to detail the flaws in a story this pointless huh? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? theres always one…..

  2. It’s much greener to ride a subway to a skyscraper than to drive a minivan to a mountain.

    • If i was to ride the subway to a skyscraper I had to take a 3hour flight or a couple days boat trip to a city with skyscrapers. In my case is much greener to take the minivan or climb a mountain myself.
      So don’t forget to contextualize

    • Don’t forget all the energy needed to mantain the city where the skyscraper is.

  3. Wow, finally a person who thinks like me… He did not only think, he did it! That’s awesome. :)

  4. He promotes the idea to live with less and revisit our materialistic ways – I love it and I have been doing my share to waste less, recycle and enjoy what I have instead of running for the next novelty or designer *must have*. No more car, no cell phone, using Craigslist to renovate our house, many ways to consume reasonably.

  5. Magnus Opus!

    So many people in the domestic world are completely oblivious to humanity’s present, unethical philosophies and unfair system. Brainwashed and enslaved, deliberately bred into society to believe all is good and right. We ALL know only that which we have been taught period. Most of that which we’ve been taught is pervasively governed and implemented to falsely-indoctrinate society via capitalist means, with the ultimate directive to control the progression of mankind. A corrupt system intentionally designed to limit and enslave humanity. It is not the innocent’s fault, nor is it their own downfall, as one can clearly only teach what they have been taught to begin with and by personal choice, obediently trust the source of its prevalent ruling in our world. If one always desires more in life then clearly one does not have enough, truth! This is a diseased belief-mindset, deliberately created to sate the psychological perceptions of humanity, limiting and controlling what we are individually as humans and our innate capabilities. Who are you in domestic society? You have a job or a professional career, money, food and a home? A warm bed, running water, electricity and the ability to obtain these aspects available to civilization? Statistics currently state that 1/3 of food is wasted, yet every single day around the world thousands of people die of starvation and literally millions of less fortunate human beings do not know where or when they will get their next meal from. Is this actually the truth? Take a closer look for yourself, if you truly care???

    So much information is intentionally withheld from society, all by the few whom have the means and ability to do so. It truly is an abomination and is entirely unfair… deliberately setting humanity upon the road to perdition. The global environment and all vital eco-systems are slowly being destroyed as is all sentient life on our planet most certainly is… yet most are again completely oblivious to these truths as so much information is deliberately and purposely withheld and elusively hidden from general global awareness. Wide spread inequality is prevalent around the world and unnecessary death and destruction is happening everywhere to all sentient life every single moment. Materialism and denial, all pervasively presented and purposely prevalent to ultimately limit and digress the progression of humanity by the self-appointed elite, orchestrating the present and future of all life on earth. What you want in life really doesn’t matter only what they want does. To exercise discernment about the possibilities of this statement and if one has concern, do your due diligence and research it yourself to discover an endless plethora of self-education and awareness most have very little knowledge of. By individual choice we are ALL limited and controlled by the present system to our own different degrees. ALL of our individual choices in every moment will always remain available to each of us individually until we die… every single moment. Individual choice is always there and it is our right to utilize this gift as a human being alive and embracing life in this materia-world. To simply accept the status-quo of our existence embracing what we know to be true in our own reality (to just trek along all as usual) is to live a life of limitation and obediently abide to the grand deceptions that we know to be as the norm of humanity.

    Where is the abundance that is so readily available to ALL humanity? Where is the equality and fairness in ALL life around our world? Why is it so limited and controlled in global society?

    Now is the time of no more secrets!

    Be well Mark Boyle, Namaste brother.

  6. It is inspiring, but there are plenty of people around the world who live like this because they haven’t got a choice. For all of you who say “oh how fantastic, I want to be like him”, do you say that when you read about people living in poverty? We should all be able to live comfortably because there are more than enough resources to go around. I totally understand that it is important to set examples of alternative lifestyles to people who may not have thought it possible to live in a non-consumerist way, but what about finding solutions for the failures in our societies that require a need for this return to a non-materialistic lifestyle? Perhaps it is hopeless and we should all go live in caves.

  7. soon many of us will have to implement a lifestyle that uses less electricity or gas. to grow our own food collect water because we cannot afford to buy. am already thinking this way out of a need to survive. started to change habits and lifestyle. problem is at present it isn’t instant to change but looking ahead we will have to

  8. 1860 my great great grandfather arrived in Iowa. It took money to get here and money to get the farm going. There hard work provided the ways and means for my generation to get a college education and live in the city, the farm is long gone. 153 years later , my family needs to go back to life on the farm ,,,,, the circle is complete ! Will still need cash to to do it though.
    but the slave to others will be gone , a slave to oneself will remain.

  9. The problem with his lifestyle is it is at times contradictory. He’s vegan yet he’s using fish bones to make toothpaste and beeswax candles. Both are animal products. He’s using newspaper to wipe his ass. Newspaper has to be produced in factories. It’s not natural. Not to mention his bike and trailer. He’s using human waste to fertilize his crops which is ok for him but if one were to have a family to support, it could spread disease. Even with composting it’s risky if not done long enough. And let’s be real, the minute something happens to him, God forbid, he will be going to a hospital that uses all kinds of resources.
    I appreciate what he’s trying to do. I’m in the process of starting a garden myself, but to say he is completely free from consumerism or that this is a completely safe lifestyle is untrue. There does need to be an increase in self sufficiency, but a balance should be made to allow time and resources to be used toward modern medicine and technology which would be impossible if everyone lived his lifestyle. We’ve made advances in society and those should be taken advantage of along with reducing waste, eating naturally, etc. Not to mention vegans: our ancestors used animal products for many things from food to clothes to toothpaste to home remedies. Modern advances allowed for the use of non-animal products in many cases.

  10. As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can benefit
    me. Thank you

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