The last time Daniel Suelo pulled out his wallet, he was standing inside a phone booth in Moab, Utah.
He pulled out his last $30, along with his passport and ID, and left them sitting in the booth before walking out into the desert. That was the year 2000, and Suelo says he hasn’t used money since then. That would be a challenge for most of us, but Suelo’s unique lifestyle lets him get away with it.
Suelo, now 56, was born near Denver and was working as a cook when he started to become disillusioned with money and its role in our society. “When I lived with money, I was always lacking,” he remembers. “Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present.”
So Suelo walked out on his old life and left everything behind. Today, he lives inside a cave at the edge of a cliff in the Arches National Park. It’s not exactly a tiny home, but the 200 foot long, 50 foot high rock shelter is enough to keep Suelo warm and dry.
To make it a little homier, he carved his own bed into the rocks. He forages for his own food (including wildflower seeds and cactus), drinks from a nearby stream and bathes in a local creek. But once in a while Suelo wanders back to the real world.
So how does he manage to survive in our society without using money?
Not only does Suelo refuse to carry or spend money, he also won’t barter with things, which he calls a “less convenient” form of money.
“I don’t use or accept money or conscious barter,” he says, “don’t take food stamps or other government dole. My philosophy is to use only what is freely given or discarded and what is already present and already running (whether or not I existed).”
Publishers who learned about Suelo’s unusual lifestyle asked him to write an autobiography, but Suelo insisted they would have to give the book away for free instead of charging for it. He also shares his thoughts on his blog whenever he manages to stop by the local library.