In November 2008, Mark Boyle gave up money for more than two years. The business and economics graduate quit his job with an organic food company and set up home in a donated caravan on a Somerset farm.
He volunteered at the farm, grew his own food, cooked on a wood-burning stove and generated electricity through a solar panel, bought for £360 before the experiment started.
“I got to the point when I was looking at all the big issues in the world, such as deforestation and sweatshops, and I realised they are all symptoms of a deeper cause; a separation from what we consume. The most potent tool we have in terms of separation and an illusion of independence is money,” he said. “I wanted to see if it was possible to live without money, and how it would affect me.”
He admitted that when he started he was seen as “a bit of a joke”. “I used to get a lot of criticism,” Donegal-born Mr Boyle said. “When you challenge money, you challenge a lot more than notes and coins. You challenge a whole perspective on the world.”
However, the 34-year-old said support had increased over the past few years. “I’m sure some people still think it’s a bit of a joke,” he said. “But when I started in 2008, just before the financial crisis hit the headlines, I was mostly taking criticism. But since then most people are incredibly positive about what I’ve done…..
He said the first few months of living without money were “definitely the hardest period”.
“I came from a very conventional background and everything was new to me,” he said. “How I eat, how I get from A to B, and how I brush my teeth. All these things were new, and I felt the lack of perceived security that money gives us.”
He cooked food – grown, donated or foraged – on a rocket stove outside the caravan. He bathed in a river with soap made from the plant soapwort, and made his toothpaste from washed-up cuttlefish bones and fennel seeds.
He travelled around on foot or by bicycle. Instead of a flush toilet, Mr Boyle had a compost lavatory – still one of his top tips for people wanting to emulate his moneyless lifestyle.
“After two or three months I just started to trust that everyday my needs would be met somehow,” he said.
“The time I lived without money, I’ve never been happier or healthier,” Mr Boyle said. “It had its ups and downs but it was a whole new way of being in the world. I want to get back there as quickly as possible.”
see also “The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living” by Mark Boyle (2011)