The Moneyless Man

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, the words of Mahatma Gandhi, have been an inspiration to economics graduate Mark Boyle. On Buy Nothing Day, 28th November 2008, he pitched up on land at an organic farm on the outskirts of Bristol, armed only with a caravan – courtesy of Freecycle – a wood burner and a simple rocket stove.

Cash was replaced by the lost arts of foraging and bartering and by the newer pursuits of swishing (swapping unwanted clothes) and wwoofing (worldwide opportunities on organic farms, where helpers work in exchange for food and lodgings). Other lifestyle changes included using newspaper as loo roll, creating pens out of wild ink cap mushrooms and making use of people’s unwanted items.

Mark explained: “It all started when I began thinking about all the different problems in the world: factory farming, deforestation, pollution… but I couldn’t decide which one to dedicate my life to trying to change, as they were all pretty important. Then, it struck me, they each had a common thread; a disconnection from the things we consume.”

Despite finishing his challenge at the end of November 2009, Mark continues to live without money, relishing the freedom and simplicity of his new life. He now plans to set up a community of like-minded people, volunteers for which are in abundance. During the last few weeks of his challenge, more than 2,000 people joined Mark’s Freeconomy internet site, which promotes skill-sharing without any money changing hands.

“It’s always hard predicting how big something like this will be,” says Mark, “or even whether it’s going to take off at all. It really exploded when my blog on The Guardian website came out and just spiralled from there. I’m living without money, working 14 and 15 hour days, doing interviews and writing my book. It has been full-on but it’s great because this is my passion.”

Mark’s debut book, The Moneyless Man, is being published in May. The proceeds will go into a trust fund to buy land, on which the freeconomy community will be built. “I’m teaming up with Fergus Drennan – an amazing forager, known as the Roadkill Chef. Ideally, there’ll be a core team of about eight people with a range of skills to start the community.”

The initiative, once off the ground, will encourage the general public to come and experience moneyless living. It will be a place where food, friendship, culture, education, skill-sharing, scavenging and foraging is at the core.

“My ideal vision for the future,” Mark says, “is to have a network of free communities across the UK, each with their own theme, to cater for different people at different stages of their lives.”