Digital Nomadz

living with less money

Since 2009 we have been working remotely and ran our businesses from a coffeeshop or restaurant. In 2011 we decided to sell everything we owned and step into a life of adventure on the road and take our work with us. Somewhere in 2012 we realised that we were participating actively and enthusiastically in a very strange story. A story that we believed in with everything we had. A story that could actually be resulting in the exact opposite of what we are striving for: the story that is our modern monetary economy. We discovered that it is a story where everybody is being persuaded to spent money they don’t have on things they don’t need to create impressions that don’t last on people they don’t care about with products that are destroying and trashing our planet. All in order to keep the economy going. How stupid!

Once we were able to see the direction where this story was taking us we decided to change our lives once again. Because everything that we had believed in and that we thought we were, was so deeply rooted in our old belief system, it took (and is taking) a lot of effort to start seeing the world with new eyes. But confessing this has helped to take a different perspective and suddenly we can see things very clearly and they profoundly changed the way we look at life, business, our world and our role in it. We realised four very important things:

1. The economy is not a thing
2. All money is created out of debt
3. We live on a finite planet
4. Happiness doesn’t come from stuff

1. The economy is not a thing
The economy is not real, we created it! This was one of the discoveries that shocked me the most. We talk about it, fear it and worship it like it is a real, living thing. But it is not! The economy is a human invention and we set the rules by which it operates. All the problems we are now facing economically are man made but they are not real. The planet is still filled with food, water and air. The system we designed makes us think otherwise but it is not true! It has taken a form and complexity over time that makes it almost impossible to manage but is still a human invention. And this invention served us for a very long time but it does not anymore! And because it is our invention, we can and (we should) change it. It is time start asking questions like: what is an economy actually for? Does it’s current for still serve us? When is it enough?

“Economies of scale demands that we don’t share, and that we all have one of everything.. Do we really need one of everything?” Mark Boyle

Check this short video on this topic:

2. All money is created out of debt
Every dollar, euro, yen or peso that circulates on this planet was created out of debt. Somebody had to borrow it from a bank and sign off on paying back this loan with a certain amount of interest. And because all money is created with a certain amount of required interest, this debt can never be repaid. The interest was simply never created. The amount of debt that has to be repaid will always be higher than the amount of money that is in circulation. This means that everybody (governments, companies, private people) is basically enslaved by banks to pay of a debt that can never by fully repaid. This is the reason why we go to jobs we don’t like, fight wars we don’t want and can never be satisfied with what we have right now.

“Money, in itself not feeding, sheltering, nor loving us – has become more meaningful, more valued and more sacred in our lives than trees” Mark Boyle

Pretty hard to believe right? This video explains more in depth about how money is created and what is doing to us because of this:

3. We live on a finite planet
We are going to be nine billion people soon, if we keep growing our ‘economies’ at the rate we currently do (and all the ministers of economic affairs, managers of banks and big corporates want us to), we will burn down our system completely. You simply cannot grow infinitely on a finite planet. If we want to continue and maintain our current living standards on this planet, we already need one and a half Earths to support all our needs (let alone another Earth to dump all our waste). We have reached a tipping point in our development as a species on this planet. After more or less 10.000 years on Earth we have failed to establish an equilibrium we need to survive and if we are not going to do so rapidly, our existence here on Earth might end sooner than we all want it to. Not in a couple hundreds of years but in our lifetimes. We are approaching the point where Thomas Salk is turning out to be right when he said:

“if all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish”.

Tim Jackson wrote a great book on this topic: Prosperity without Growth. This is a presentation by him:

4. Happiness does not come from stuff, it comes from within, it is here and now
How often do you find yourself present in the current moment? Engaged in actively enjoying what is NOW, not what was or what will be, but what IS right now? Because of people like me, we are always longing for something that lies in the future to bring us happiness: new shoes, a new job, a new car, whatever. We forget to be present and realise that this moment, right now, will never ever come back. It will quickly dissolve to be the past and nothing but a memory. But life is now. It is not in the future, not in the past. It is is now. The beautiful, problem-less and peaceful now. There is no stuff involved in happiness, all it requires is to be present.

“The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is” Eckhart Tole

Now what?
So where does all of this leave us? Well, we are still the well-trained and high-skilled marketers that we used to be. Only the angle that we are taking now is a different one. No longer are we involved in persuading people to buy stuff they don’t actually need and make them long for long term happiness. We have decided to start focussing on telling a different story. A story where people will understand that money and our economy are not real and that everyone of us is empowered from within and that our every day decisions determine what this world will look like. We are in control. We believe that as humanity we are awakening to to the simple concept that ‘more for me is less for you’ and that a ‘gift based economy’ is possible.

How we are living with less money
We produced our first WordPress website in Spanish for a hotel in Mexico. Part of that collaboration was an exchange of accommodation and food and for teaching English to the hotel staff, new pictures and a great website. An awesome experience we can recommend to any traveler out there: to create something using your own skills and talents and leaving behind a stronger company. Ever since this first experience with exchanging for skills for a place to stay and food and drinks, we have not paid rent while being in Mexico.

We typically travel and live abroad 10 months a year. As such we do not have any running costs in the Netherlands, like paying rent or a mortgage. We don’t have any kids and we are of good health. We do pay for travel insurance and the obligatory healthcare insurance in The Netherlands. Part of the collaborations we do, is therefore paid in cash to accommodate the money that we cannot replace by exchange.

Both of us were born in the eighties and part of the Y generation and we learnt that if you have a good job, if you make enough money, you are successful. You get that job by studying hard and getting a degree. You are ready to succeed in the money economy. The system that was created around money as we know it, our money economy, did not make us happy at all. We experienced it ourselves: we had a degree, a good job, a ‘career’ even. We felt a relentless urge to make more and more money and some more, and with that a focus on the what money buys: the car, the house, the stuff we collected. We connected the ability to experience things and emotions to having money. You can only do the things you love when you have a million in the bank right?

We believe that the ability to experience does not have to be defined by how much money a person has. We believe it is possible to get access to experiences in a different way. By exchange and by simply giving it away. With this belief and action to live with as little money as possible, to give away whenever we can and to exchange for the experiences we’d love to create, we take the responsibility of our generation and give an example to those to come: we help create a new story of money.