You may have seen a wonderful inspiration series of articles in the Guardian by Mark Boyle – a man who has spent a year living without cash. This doesn’t mean he’s just put it all on his credit cards like other recession-struck folk. Mark has given up money in all its forms. He lives through a combination of self-sufficiency (growing food, making his own natural toothpaste etc) mixed with bartering, scavenging, skill sharing and volunteering.
Naturally, his artlcles provoked flack from the usual string of cynical Guardian trolls who were dying to catch him out. "Wait! He has a mobile phone! Cheat!" they cried. He then came back with a follow-up blog, pointing out it’s a solar-powered, salvaged handset which he uses only for incoming calls. No contract involved; no money changing hands.
Personally, I’m in awe.
I don’t care if it’s partially a stunt. After all, it’s clearly something he strongly believes in – he’s not just sitting in a glass-box, David Blaine style.
I don’t care if one dark night sitting in his caravan he sneaks out, borrows 50p and buys himself a Kitkat. The crux of the experiment still stands.
And I don’t even care if, in an ironic twist, he makes millions through book sales. Besides, if he does he says he won’t pocket any of the proceeds himself.
Actually, I take that back last one back. I do care about the book sales. I’d love to see his book become a bestseller and for us all to readdress the way we live. Maybe not so drastically, but just a few tweaks here and there would do us all, and the planet, a whole heap of good. Trolls will hrumph that that sound twee, but screw them. The same prejudices and jealousies would be on display if the Guardian had profiled "The Cash-Loving Man" or "The I-Want-to-Give-My-Cash-to-the-Guardian-Trolls-Collective Man". They criticise him for putting himself on a pedestal, but is their any pedestal higher than that belonging to a holier-than-thou, pseudonym-protected troll?
Anyway, this is my shout out in praise of Mark Boyle and what he’s doing. Three cheers also for his Freeconomy community that I’ve since been reading up on online.
This post may not seem travel related, but I think travellers can relate to his quest. Most travellers value experiences over objects. Most soon realise they can live with just a backpack’s worth of gear. (The test is when you try and think what stuff you left at home a year ago and can’t remember.) Also travellers often get to meet people who live much more frugal lives (not by choice), which is the ultimate time to re-think priorities.
This isn’t to say non-travellers can’t relate and I’m not putting travellers on that same cursed pedestal. I merely wanted to find a travel angle so I could cover Cashless man’s story and actually the link is easier than I first thought.
It turns out the cashless man has some interesting ideas on the internet and social networking too. More on that to come…