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Is Daniel Suelo an enlightened citizen or a skilled moocher?

DANIEL SUELO, 48, HAS BEEN living without money or any barter system, and no food stamps or government help, for the past nine years. While in Ecuador on a Peace Corps mission, he witnessed a rural community acquire increased monetary wealth through farming and shift their traditional lifestyle towards a diet of unhealthy, processed food and a newfound addiction to television.

The experience led Suelo on a spiritual quest that realized itself in India, where he was particularly moved by the Sadhus, wandering monks who renounce all money and possessions. He made the conscious decision to return home, quit his job, and carve out a life without money.

As he put it, “I simply got tired of being unreal. Money is one of those intriguing things that seem real and functional because two or more people believe it is real and functional.”

Photo: platschi

Today, Suelo lives in a cave in Utah and gets around by hopping trains or hitchhiking. For food he relies on dumpster diving, foraging, fishing, and, occasionally, hunting. From the public library he authors a blog and a website where he discusses his everyday life and offers up deep philosophical musings on why a society based on the concept of money is harmful and contrary to our true nature.

He says he’s never been happier, living like “ants and deer and slugs and sparrows and bacteria and atoms and galaxies.”

Though Suelo’s story is a particularly riveting one, less radical communities of “freegans” are cropping up in places like San Francisco and New York. These groups have risen out of a desire to boycott what is seen as an unethical corporate system and to minimize the waste of resources. To varying degrees, freegans salvage edible food from dumpsters, squat in abandoned buildings, and encourage a reconsideration of the benefits of leisure and play as opposed to excessive work.

These movements have not flourished without criticism. Freegans are often dismissed as freeloaders. Others assess the lifestyle as a way to deal with extreme liberal guilt while still living within the confines of privilege and comfort. Daniel Suelo frequently receives hate mail expounding him to get a job and stop mooching off society.

It’s a valid discourse. It’s nearly impossible to be completely self sufficient. Suelo frequently relies on hitched rides, a library that’s supported by taxes, and the various cast off excesses of consumer society. He dismisses that this devalues his philosophy, asking “Are swallows nesting in house attics dependent upon money?”

He cites that goods flow from producers (laborers) to bankers, brokers, and landlords who produce nothing. He frequently touts his lifestyle as a return to a way of living more in line with the natural world, a way towards freedom from things that don’t exist towards one of generosity and truth.

However, it can be argued that a system of barter is indeed a part of our nature. Our nearest relatives, the chimpanzee, frequently barter food for grooming and sex. Even Neolithic cavemen bartered. A return to a world without money would be possible only if human beings, like bees and ants, decided to utilize our skills equally so that we may benefit from each other freely.

Knowing the history of humanity, however, it doesn’t seem that we can adhere to such noble principles. Furthermore, even without money or a bartering system, human beings could still find ways to oppress each other.

It’s also important to note that Suelo’s lifestyle would not work if he lived in a less monetarily wealthy country. Many people live with virtually no money, and there are no overabundant dumpsters or gifts from generous neighbors to compensate for a lack of “monetary illusion.” In those places, not being a slave to a piece of paper also results in starvation and death.

Many travelers often walk a thin line between admiring a community and romanticizing poverty. It’s possible to question whether Suelo’s motives lie in some kind of imperialist nostalgia towards the communities he encountered on his travels.

However, philosophically speaking it is true that we tend to live in a real-life matrix. Our society as a whole is comprised of things that exist only in our collective consciousness rather than in reality.

“It is interesting to witness someone who disagrees with conventional society to such a degree that he opts out of it completely.”

Take for instance, the idea of borders. In the 19th century, Native Americans referred to the border between Canada and the United States as the “medicine line” because they were perplexed that the American troops would chase them through the land but suddenly stop when they crossed that invisible line. They thought it was magic; to the Native Americans, all of it was just land.

Just like borders, money is a concept that becomes real only because we believe in it collectively. As Suelo says, “If a dollar bill represented itself, it would no longer be money. It would simply be a piece of paper with pretty art on it.” The fact that people will kill each other and ruin the earth for an abstract concept seems almost ludicrous when analyzed from that angle. It’s downright maddening when multiple psychological studies confirm the old adage that money really does not buy happiness.

Who really understands our complex monetary system, other than the few who benefit tremendously from such knowledge? Henry Ford once said, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Rarely do we ever question our entire financial system until some kind of disaster, like the current economic recession, sparks the discussion.

Regardless of any stance, it is interesting to witness someone who disagrees with conventional society to such a degree that he opts out of it completely.

Do you find Daniel Suelo’s lifestyle commendable or outrageous? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Community Connection:

Want to try your hand at some freegan strategies? Check out Matador editor Kate Sedgwick’s Beginner’s Guide to Dumpster Diving and David DeFranza’s Beginner’s Guide to Foraging for Food.

Culture + Religion


About The Author

Gabriela Garcia

Gabriela Garcia is a freelance writer who splits her time between New York, Miami, and, as often as possible, the world. In between pondering the universe, she enjoys Jivamukti yoga, camping, and chance encounters with fascinating people. She loves interacting with fellow travelers on Twitter.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Nice piece Gabriela. Suelo’s lifestyle is unique and certainly commendable in many ways. I don’t believe many people could go as far as he has – he makes it seem so easy! In fact I interviewed him for a piece earlier this year, alongside other proponents of the ‘free’ lifestyle…

  • Ernesto

    Very interesting.

    I think it’s very important to reiterate a point you made: he’s doing this in a first-world country. I wonder if this “model” would work at all here in Brazil (or in other developing nations), where people need to rummage thru trash TO SURVIVE (and not to make a point). He wouldn’t just be able to find a whole, uneaten pizza in the dump behind a Domino’s Pizza; a dozen others will be competing with him for that pizza.

    He’s not an example to follow. Why? If everyone were doing what he’s doing, no one would be able to do what he does today (hitch rides with people who own cars and pay gas; rummage thru food that others discard; use computers/internet in libraries funded by taxes).

    • michael veremans

      It is a little bit ignorant to assume as the above comment and the article do, that living independently is impossible without the rest of society being capitalist. It is true that overabundant dumpsters are a sympton of “civilization” but the article clearly states that the man fishes and forages.

      In early history humans were able to hunt and plant, so why is it unreasonable that people liberating themselves of our monetary system wouldn’t be able to farm just the same? He is producing through the work he does and is enterprising without being intrusive, meaning that even those who don’t invest in our monetary system remain active. There is some weird Reaganistic notion that without debt or money people wouldn’t do anything. That is contrary to the whole principle of human development.

      With the bounty of the earth, we could all live without money, we would just have to switch from the dumpster to the field.

    • Margaret Bartley

      I challenge you to find anyone who is living a lifestyle that would be sustainable if everyone did it. If everyone did anything, our world would grind to a halt.
      Just because everyone can’t be a teacher or farmer doesn’t mean that no one should do it.

      What if everyone became a farmer? Who would pave the roads to get to the food to market? Who would transport the food, process it or sell it?

      Just because a situation isn’t sustainable if everyone does it doesn’t mean that no one should do it, that it’s absence would make our world better.

      We need people like him to remind us of how deep our choices run. To remind ourselves that we are *choosing* our lifestyles. No one is MAKING us do unpleasant, soul-destroying work. If you don’t like your job, you can quit. It is possible.

      • Jane

        If everyone were a farmer, why would we need roads to deliver the crops produced or stores to sell food in? If everyone were a farmer, everyone would farm their own food.

        But that’s not really the issue anyway. It isn’t about the job someone chooses (And why do you need this man to show you that you have a choice? Didn’t you know that already?) but rather the lifestyle. What this man does is his personal philosophy, not his job.

        You’re comparing his philosophy to someone’s occupation, but the apples to apples comparison is to compare what he does to other philosophies on economics, like capitalism, which is sustainable even if everyone decides to participate in it.

    • http://n/a/ Bentonio

      In a monetary based system you’re absolutely right. However, most people don’t wanna live like Daniel so that’s not gonna happen. There’s always been “drop outs” so to speak. I’m not saying he’s a looser, a druggie,or an alcoholic. It’s just that some people have less tolerance for putting up with b.s. than others. I admire the guy. He’s got my respect. It’s not like he’s mooching off the tax payers by getting on food stamps or anything like that. He’s just living his life and enjoying it to the fullest. How many of us can say the same thing? Besides, most jobs no longer pay enough to live on. Long gone are the days the average man (with and without a college degree) could go out and find him a job that allowed him to afford a wife,family,a home of his own with enough left over for savings and entertainment. People are working longer hours and not taking vacations like they used to. We’re on a downward spiral. The more you think about it ….. dropping out makes more sense all the time. Why work your ass off if it doesn’t even allow you to have the basic necessities of life? There’s no job security anymore so it’s not like you’re gonna work your way up. Ha! That’s a joke.

  • Sarah

    I find this interesting as an abstract concept and a challenge to the given ways we often think about society…but as a real political statement with potential to create lasting, positive change, I think it’s fairly useless. I suppose we always need the radicals on the far end of the spectrum to get people talking and thinking (although some people just go straight to the hate mail) but really, is this a feasible or even desirable way of life for the majority of people? Can you raise a family in a cave, dumpster-diving? I think this is part of an American back-to-nature tradition that, in some ways, has been more harmful than helpful. It relies on this wilderness-or-evil cities dichotomy that doesn’t take into account all the subtleties and layers in between, and that adopts the idea of the return to the wild as this panacea for all the evils of society.

  • JoAnna

    I think that in some ways, Daniel is a mooch. Granted, he is living off of “free” items he finds or is able to borrow/use, but his way of life is not sustainable for a society. Someone has to keep the electricity running in the library. Someone had to make the food he digs for in dumpsters. Even if someone else has discarded those items, someone else made them “possible” for Daniel to secure.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Agreed on all the points above. The fact he is one of very, very few people doing this is what makes it stand out and seem unique & thought provoking. He may use electricity and live off other people’s actions, but then that pizza “someone made” was only going to go t waste anyway – so why not? If a small number of people can live off the ‘surplus waste’ of a society in a respectful way, then I personally have no problem with that. But yes: it’s wholly mpractical at a larger level for sure. I’m glad Suelo lives the way he does, because even if we don’t change our lifestyles accordingly, he underlines the fact our values and systems are not the only ones to live by. It’s important to be reminded that there are alternatives and that in a sense we do choose to live the way we do. It should, if nothing else, make us complain less and take more responsibility for our lifestyles.

    • Hal Amen

      Well put, Paul. 100% agree.

    • Branda

      Perfectly put Paul.

  • Damian Nash

    Great article, Gabriela, about one of my oldest and closest friends. Unlike some other pieces written about Daniel, yours gives him the respect and dignity he deserves, focusing on global issues of poverty, wealth, spirituality and human happiness. Daniel has a degree in Anthropology from CU, Boulder, which is where we met in the 1980′s, in a course on the Psychology of Religion.

    My favorite anecdote about Daniel is the way he made it to my wedding in 2001. At the time he was living in a swamp in Florida, rich in wildlife, taking meals with the Hare Krishnas and spending his days doing research in the university library. To get to the wedding in Utah he contacted the Drive-away company and offered to transport a vehicle. They set him up with a brand new Mercedes convertible. Along the way he would park this $60,000 new convertible adjacent to dumpsters so he could rummage for some food “to go.”

    Daniel’s lifestyle over the last decade can be portrayed as anthopological research, living in a fringe subculture of a powerful and wealthy society. What he notices about the rest of us is both intriguing and compelling. But Daniel is also a great biblical scholar who reads Hebrew and other ancient languages, finding profound nuances in scriptural passages, then conveying deep truth in a way that awakens more conventional people like me. His current lifestyle is driven by a passionate, mystical philosophy that will never allow him to feel homeless on a planet that is entirely owned by God.

    Although Daniel tries never to barter, at one level he does participate in the same kind of barter system known for centuries to Franciscan or Buddhist monks. His presence in our house “adds value” to the quality of life experience that my wife and I enjoy. He brings peace with him wherever he goes. We adore him, and so do all of our animals, whom he often “babysits” when we travel. You could even say our many fruit trees adore Daniel. He has helped prune and cultivate them over the years, thoroughly enjoyed many afternoon naps in a hammock in their shade, and savored their bounty with a kind of deep, mystical gratitude that few of us humans ever really feel.

    If anyone could call Daniel a “mooch” it would be me and my wife, because our home (and refrigerator) are always and unconditionally open to him. Yet we have never felt mooched, or otherwise taken advantage of. Quite the opposite, we look forward to his arrivals, feel enriched during his stays, and are saddened by his departures. Daniel is not a weight on society, holding us all back, as the word “mooch” implies. Instead, he is more like an angel who asks for nothing, but lifts us up others with his peace, love and wisdom.

    Perhaps the “mooching” equation should be turned around. How many in the world, who enjoy great material wealth, truly have an endless supply of love, wisdom, inner peace and happiness that they share freely with others around them? In many respects Daniel can be thought of as a saintly leader, one who has made great personal sacrifices in order to develop broadband access to God. Now the rest of us get to “mooch” off of his free internet wi-fi connection to heaven whenever he is around.

    • Julie Schwietert


      Thanks for sharing your personal experiences with Daniel. These certainly give an authenticity and weight to the interpretation you offer, and I appreciate how you encourage us to look inward to see whether we’re being stingy or generous with our non-material attributes.

    • Robyn

      I’ve read a few articles about Suelo and your comment here seems to be the most authentic and valuable. Someone who actually knows him. So many people have been incredibly harsh toward him. I love that he’s living such an authentic life and by that challenging the norm. Thank you for your kind and well-put response.

    • http://n/a/ Bentonio

      Wow. That’s amazing. You’re actually friends with this saintly man. As far as I’m concerned he’s right up there with Siddhārtha Gautama,Lao Tzu,and other great teachers (both real and imagined). I can see myself doing my own version of “dropping” out of the rat race in the not-too-distant future.Why not? The economy is in shambles and society is utterly broken. It makes more sense now than ever.

  • Carlo

    What an interesting article, thanks for this post. Those who criticize him as a mooch and tell him to get a job are quite narrow-minded, unable to see beyond the way they live their life. I think it’s great what he’s doing, and as Sarah said, we need some people to go to these extremes to make us question what we’re doing.

    In such a wasteful society as ours, dumpster divers are important to help offset our waste and help get the most from what we produce. Would someone really rather see their leftover dinner just go to waste?

    Besides, how hard – how much work is it – to live like this? It’s not like he’s cruising through life, just taking. He’s working very hard, so in essence, he does have a job. And as Damian says above, he has the ability to really touch people in profound ways, which is more important than money.

  • William Wallace

    Everyone should be allowed to follow there own path, no matter how far off the road of normality they stray. If he is truly happy leading this type of lifestyle good luck to him. The dam free loading moocher!

  • Ms Lala

    Hi Gabriela Garcia,

    I really liked your article. I think it is SO true from my experience in Hawaii. There are so many people that are living off of other people.

    The truth is: we DEPEND on eachother. Its silly to try to live out of the system because as humans we are interconnected whether we like it or not. To live completely without any help or human connection will end up like…Into the Wild. Have you seen it?

  • dondoca

    After reading this article and comments, Daniel is working. Whether its dumpster diving, (could take hours to rummage through) or looking for transportation. The way I see it, another person’s trash is someone else’s treasure. Food would go to waste, so why not ?Trying to hop on a train is work. He does courier service, a lot of travelers do that. Could wait for hours or days to go on a courier flight or train. Some only leave once a week. So, if he’s not hurting anyone, really leave the guy alone. Does not surprise me he is receiving hate mail, likely from mainstream conservative news. Does money really buy happiness? Depends on definition of happiness. I know of some people who grew up relatively poor, started making money, and have such a snobby attitude. I call it “The rich person’s complex.” Its sad to see, because of all people, they should know how it feels to be judged and looked down upon. Sadly, they would likely be those who would send hate mail. These people may be rich, but they are not wealthy.

  • Ofe

    The Uni-Bomber was an ascetic hermit just like him…. hmmmm…..
    Although, a brilliant article!

    • Suelo

      Wow! I was just thinking of changing careers! Unibomber! Why didn’t I think of that?

      • Damian Nash

        Ofe…. Daniel in NOT serious about his reply to your post! We’re just sitting here at a coffeeshop laughing our a**es off at your comparison. Why is it that people so quickly assume any well-informed and articulate critic of capitalistic society must be a terrorist? We hope you were writing with irony, because we get the joke…

  • 17

    Excellent article, Gabriela. I feel it not only portrays the trials and tribulations and monetary freedom Daniel encounters through his lifestyle, it also sheds light on the fact that we live in a society so besotted by the constructed concept of money, we often forget that people CAN exist without it. And with the current hysteria over the economical climate, it makes it that more relevant.

  • Adam Roy

    Interesting article. His lifestyle is groovy, but his attitude about it is clearly not.

    His comment about the swallow is a pretty good example. No, the swallow living in the house attic isn’t dependent on money. But that’s only because the swallow isn’t dependent on the HOUSE. Big deal if there’s no house, the swallow can go nest in a tree. Big deal if there’s no bird feeder, the swallow can eat tree seeds and berries.

    But if the swallow IS dependent on the house? If the swallow DOES need the bird feeder? Then yeah, it is dependent on money.

    Mr Suelo needs to ask himself whether he’s dependent. Would he be as happy with his life if no one else owned a car and there were no trains to hop? Would he be able to to eat if everyone scavenged pizzas instead of making them? Would he be happy eating nothing but nuts and seeds from trees? Would he be OK with giving up his blog when the library shuts down?

    Maybe the answer’s yes, but it seems a bit unlikely to me. I think that his lifestyle is commendable, but if he thinks he’s any less dependent on the monetary system than anyone else, he’s fooling himself. What he’s doing is more or less Communism minus the work ethic.

  • Suelo

    Thank you, Gabriela. A well-written article that raises thoughtful questions & does not tout assumptions & opinions as fact.

    I’m actually sitting by my friend, Damian in a Moab coffee shop right now. He wanted to show me your article & his comment above, making my head swell ;-)

    To those who assume I don’t work. It may or may not be true! But why do you assume it? Must one toot one’s own horn before work is valid? Must one work for one’s own credit (money), publish it, before work exists?

    About comments on “what would happen if everybody did what Suelo does?” I don’t expect everybody to live in a cave & dumpster dive. I do implore everybody to take only what they know in their own hearts cwhat they need, and give up excess to those who have less than they need. If this happened, I certainly wouldn’t have to dumpster dive. I do envision money going obsolete. I envision communal living, making it possible for families to live moneyless. Communal living already exists in every society, even here in the most capitalistic. It’s called sharing, what we learn in kindergarten. We must cultivate it until it chokes out our selfish system naturally.

    To those who say it isn’t possible to live this way in a poor country. If that is so, why then are there sadhus & monks & bikkhus & faqirs in poor countries, living without money, and they are actually respected? I’ve traveled & lived in “developing” countries. I’ve seen intense poverty. What astounded me was the incredible generosity there. Making sure anybody, friend or foe, has food & even a place to lay a head, when they visit, is common practice in poor countries. It’s called hospitality. It’s not about throwing money at organizations, it’s about actually loving your neighbor as yourself.

    I’ve observed that the amount of waste a region produces is inversely proportional to its generosity. By the grace of God, in regions where people are stingy, I can find food in dumpsters. People who are generous also usually don’t waste, & they don’t question you whether or not you are deserving of their hospitality. The Universe always provides, everywhere, as it has for zillions of years, to the just and the unjust.

    Also, when wasteful people don’t rape the environment, you can actually live off the land.

    Why is it that an American in suburbia deserves his or her opulence, while a child working 14 hours in a sweat shop overseas to support American opulence does not? Who is the mooch? Do you really receive your wealth by your own skill & work or by Grace? Isn’t this exactly what your Holy books (Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Buddhist sutras) say?

    Look up & see. Virtually all energy on earth, including that running this computer, is given totally by Grace from the sun. You can’t even pay the sun back if you wanted to! But a middle man has taken possession of what was free & decided you owe him for what was given freely to him. Every acre of land we think we own was openly stolen, even by our own legal treaties. One day we might get it.

    Yes, every single life-form in the universe is a mooch, dependent upon every other life form. Get that mooch-ness in balance!

    • http://n/a/ Bentonio

      Wow! I admire you.You’re not just talking the talk. You’re walking the walk. What you’re saying makes perfect sense. I’m sure you’ve heard of a resource based economy. It not then I recommend you watch both the Zeitgeist documentaries. However, it’s the second documentary that outlines what exactly a resource based economy is. If you haven’t already heard of him then I suggest you do a web search on Jacque Fresco. Anyhow, stay free and may the universe bless you immensely.

  • Jason

    If, instead of ‘money’, we had a barter system, then people could trade their skills without fear of exploitation. I could mow your lawn, you could design me a website.

    This is a proud tradition that goes back generations. It would create an egalitarian society that allowed everyone an even chance at material comfort. A society free of the corrupting influence of money.

    An even better system would be a pay-it-forward barter system, where you design me a website, I mow Jack’s lawn, and Jack gives you some vegies he has grown.

    A great way to arrange the latter system would be to have a sort of community-voucher system. If I mow your lawn, you give me community-vouchers that I can use to get vegies from Jack, or to get you (or someone else) to build me a website.

    It’d be like paradise. Although the community-vouchers would need to be centrally printed and made un-forgeable, in order to prevent cheating.

    I, for one, look forward to living in a society where this nirvana becomes a reality.


    • Carlo

      Isn’t there already a “voucher system” in place? Called money? :P

      • Jason

        Carlo – you’ve correctly spotted the ironical content of my comment!

        • Carlo

          Haha…me no get it!

    • Gabriela Garcia

      Yes, but imagine if we created a giant reserve of vouchers that the government could use at will. Or if we allowed people to use their vouchers to own a “portion” of our lawn mowing services. Or if we let people use invisible vouchers, provided they would pay us back with their actual vouchers once they obtained them, plus a little extra. Or if we created complex derivatives out of our vouchers…ahhh, just trying to write this analogy is giving me a headache. If only our “voucher” system was really that simple and fair.

  • Damian Nash

    Daniel spent last weekend at our place. For those who are still persuaded he is a mooch, here is a transactional analysis of the give-and-take that happened between us. (A sort of balance sheet for those accountants who measure human worth in terms of contribution to society.) None of this was bartered, in the sense of an agreed-upon exchange of value. Instead, it just happened naturally because it is completely understood between us that, like a brother, he can take whatever he needs, whenever he needs it. He gives back to us not because he has to, as “barter” implies, but because he likes to.


    - a comfy bed with fresh sheets in a cozy guestroom

    - a warm shower and fresh towels

    - two large bowls of home made soup

    - a dozen eggs from our free-range chickens

    - a delicious cup of decaf Guatemalan fair-trade coffee

    - miscellaneous bread, butter, jam, peanut-butter

    - half a piece of Mexican chocolate tort with pine nuts

    - two heads of leaf lettuce that were destined for the chickens

    - two movies on our big-screen, surround-sound home theater


    - a very pleasant house guest who played with our dogs and cats

    - three large watermelons and a pumpkin from a field where everything is going to rot, unharvested (Daniel had been given permission to pick there)

    - a wonderful listener who helped me sort out personal frustrations with the depth and finesse of an experienced spiritual counselor.

    - several puns that were so good they were painful. (For example: Our neighbor is purchasing a house next to a cemetery, so he told her, Congratulations! I hear people are dying to get into that neighborhood!) ”

    - really interesting conversation about the strong relationship between debt and clinical depression, suggesting that those who take far more than they need could literally be sucking the soul out of the country. (Economists and psychologists use the same term – depression – to describe times of great hardship.)

    - some fame and notoriety for harboring the infamous Daniel Suelo, including a personal mention in his response to the article written about him at

    - when he realized that I was “feeling stuck” because I had a new starter to install in my car, but couldn’t do it with one hand in a cast, he installed it for me. It took him about an hour and it works perfectly.

    I’ll let the accountants of human value put a price tag on all of the above. My estimate is that he gave back at least twice the value he received. This was a pretty typical visit with Daniel.

    • Carlo

      Thanks for this account Damian. It sounds similar to many experiences I’ve had either guesting or hosting using CouchSurfing, where these complete strangers seem like old friends because both parties are able to recognize that we are essentially the same and have no expectations of each other (other than shelter will be provided and mutual respect will be shown).

      I think people will either get this or they won’t because they’ve been so blinded with how society is “supposed to be”. I personally wouldn’t waste another moment of precious time trying to justify Daniel’s existence.

      • Damian Nash

        Thanks for the comparison to Couch Surfing, Carlo. As a host family for SERVAS, we are familiar with this kind of hospitality to strangers without expectation. When some guests leave after two nights we feel relieved, as if they were “energy takers.” Occasionally we get a guest who is so great to have around that we encourage him/her to stay for a week or longer. These people feel like “energy givers.” One guest stayed over two months and became a close friend. Daniel is a person who scores very high on the “giver vs. taker” scale, which is a big part of his secret formula for living successfully without money. People around here are happy when Daniel shows up. He brings true peace with him, and has plenty to share with everyone.

        It doesn’t feel like a “waste” of my time to write about one of my oldest and closest friends. So many people who have never met him feel authorized to judge him and his lifestyle so harshly, and with such anger. Not so much on this website, but on more mainstream ones, and on his blog. I’m just reporting first-hand evidence of what I have seen and what I know to be true about him. Yes, there will always be witch-hunters, Inqusitors, McCarthys, Pharisees, people eager to burn or crucify anyone who deviates from the norm. But whoever has read all the way through the comments about this article, all the way down to this sentence, those people are still open-minded and learning from Daniel’s experience. So for those few individuals, it is completely worth my extra effort and time to write the truth about him.

        • Carlo

          Yeah, fair enough! Keep on keepin on. I wish you (and Daniel) all the best.

          • Bryan Tang

            That’s very cool. He sounds like a nice guy. The one thing I don’t understand is why people *hate* the way he lives. It doesn’t negatively affect anyone, does it?

  • AJ Williams

    I happen to think what he is doing is pretty cool. He sounds like a man with a good heart and is at peace with himself. I wish him the best.

  • Will

    He is a better man than me. Whatever works for him, has got him in his late forties… Good Luck Brother. If I see someone hitching for a ride, I will think of you my man….

    - Will


    Many millions of people already live like that in third world countries. Do they like it, no? They live that way because of subjugation to an economic system which takes one down that path. There are many reasons but living a life of abject poverty is non unique nor new, simply choosing to do so may be.

    • http://n/a/ Bentonio

      That’s an unfortunate truth. However, a resource based economy can alleviate most of the imbalance that a capital based society imposes on people. If you haven’t already noticed; the standard of living for the average person here in the west isn’t even half of what it was 40 some odd years ago. The rich are getting richer,the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is drying out all-together.

  • Margaret Bartley

    What I like about the man, as described in the above article and comments, is that he followed his inner guidance.

    Several people did the “What If Everyone…” line, but they missed the point. Instead of asking, “What if everyone dumpster dived?”, they should have asked, “What if everyone got in touch with their inner truth, and really followed it?”

    Of course he couldn’t dumpster dive in poverty-stricken countries. Of course everyone couldn’t do exactly the same movements he does. There is nothing that everyone could do that wouldn’t be destructive. Just because everyone can’t be a long-distance truck driver (who would put out the fires, or cook the meals?) doesn’t mean no one should be a trucker.

    But it it too bad that he can’t have a family. I’ve seen families trying to live like that, and it isn’t very nice, and I’ve never seen it done successfully. Maybe he will do it, and talk about it.

    I think that talking about it on the internet is another good contribution. Just to let people know that there are more alternatives than they know about.

    • Carlo

      Wonderful point Margaret. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • Cami

    I think a point that is being missed in quite a few of the comments is the fact that if EVERYONE adhered to this same way of life, we wouldn’t NEED to rely on other people paying for things – there would be no money. In an idyllic society, people would rely on kindness and trade. There would be no need to pay for food – we could grow it, or have a village farm, who supplies some of the food, and houses would be community built, or those that already exist and are uninhabited would be distributed to the homeless.
    Unfortunately, this does sound ridiculous in this day and age. =[

    I love the idea of an exchange system, though. Your carrots for my sewing skills.

  • Jim Kotowski

    Here’s what: the man is living this way within our society because this is his society; in that sense he has little choice. Yes, he could be in India fighting over dumpster pizza (I’m sure some of our pizza joints have made it there), but India is not his country. Just as the Sadhus are trying to get the point across to their people, he is here trying to make a point to us….arguably, given our collective rate of sheer consumption (shall we call it–conDUMPtion?), it is more important to turn this boat around than India’s. If the environment here(meaning, what our civilization has left us with as far as the environment) were capable of supporting 350,000,000 people sustainably, I am sure the man would be doing what all (shiftless, lazy?) hunter-gatherers have done when faced with the ever-renewing bounty of nature: walking into the woods and shoving fruit and roots into their mouths, and carrying some back to distribute to others. Or cooperating to hunt and feed the tribe (your labor added to my labor, and we share the spoils–without a doubt a form of economy). Is that lazy or wise?

    What have all of us industrious United-Statesans been accomplishing with all of our honorable labor, our non-mooching? Trashing the natural order, the balance, which would so generously have given to us IF WE HAD ONLY LET IT ALONE!! We could have played our part of predator, culling the sicker and weaker animals from the herd, adding our manure to the building fertility of our ecosystem. Instead our chemical shit ends up in our own drinking water, and we extinct whole species–locally speaking we have destroyed countless populations of animals. We keep breeding in the face of the obvious fact that our personal life support system cannot handle today’s numbers, we keep driving in spite of glacial melt, we keep trying to ‘grow’ the cancerous economy we have all worked so hard to be a part of.

    You naysayers act like Suelo is doing nothing constructive. He is the most dedicated and self-sacrificial type of investigative journalist–how many so-called newspeople would be willing to do as much (or to be as happy)? And without at least 50 grand a year plus benefits? How many would change themselves so drastically to bring us a look at our only possible mode of survival: a sustainable one, dedicated to walking softly upon the earth, to wounding it as little as possible (actually, at this point, we need to not just stop killing it, but help it rebound ASAP).

    I myself don’t doubt that Daniel Suelo (a surname that can mean “ground”, by the way–earth) would gladly give up his seat at the library computer bank if he felt none of the rest of us needed enlightening any more, if he could walk out of that library and see forest, plains, mountain and water clean and healthy and ready to provide us all with food, shelter and other necessities. If we were willing and able to help him catch a deer for dinner, I imagine he would share it with us–don’t you?

    • http://n/a/ Bentonio

      Well said Jim! I agree. People are so brainwashed into this consumerist mentality that anything outside of the “norm” is automatically scrutinized. I think it’s because they’re jealous of his freedom and lack of attachment. Less truly is more while more is truly less.

  • David Wheeler

    To those who are hung up on trying to negate Daniel’s way of life, I have two observations:

    1) Does one mooch off of a street lamp if one stops to read below it?
    Surely, unless one insists on the street lamp being there, the light is not diminished or used up any faster simply because one stops to enjoy it. One need not extrapolate to some philosophical position of “what if everyone stopped to read under the lamp?” very simply because they won’t (and if they did, one could move on to another lamp or put down the book to enjoy the stars). Likewise, one need not point out that the lamp isn’t free unless the argument was that everyone should live as Daniel. So long as people are making lamps to shine in the darkness, or tossing excess food into the trash, why not enjoy those freebees? If the food is tossed into dumpsters by a wasteful society, it diminishes no one but the maggots to eat it.

    2) I really like Damian’s thoughts. It reminds me of one of Gordon Bok’s songs wherein he says “I’d rather trade a strong hand for a patient ear or a story for a meal: anything that keeps things turning over”. Value can be appreciated in many ways–it’s just a mindset.

  • Gabriela Garcia

    Thank you for all of your insightful comments. As I grapple with my own interpretations of Daniel Suelo’s philosophy and lifestyle, I have enjoyed reading your various perspectives and criticisms that spark even more questions in my mind.

    Daniel and Damian, thank you for joining the conversation and offering your own personal anecdotes–I’m flattered that you felt my article was a fair portrayal :)

    I have to admit I’m usually wary of “voluntary poverty” type schemes (for lack of a better word) that I usually see as a form of imperialist nostalgia, romantization of third world countries, or desire to be the “other” rather than just understanding our own invisible and visible privilege, but there was something about Daniel’s writings and philosophy that really showed a nuanced perspective and brought about deep questions about our society and its illusions. I’m not sure that his lifestyle has the ability to foster any large-scale changes, but it does spark some great conversations and societal analysis such as this :)

  • Mike

    I think what Daniel is doing is commendable. A plus side is that hopefully it will wake up the rest of society to what I would say hundreds of thousands of us around the country right now face daily. Finding a safe place to sleep at night, without having to worry about any sort of predators, human or animal, where the next meal is going to come from, how the next set of cleans clothes can be found. The things most of society takes for granted. Daniel’s situation is one he created for himself. There are many of us out there who did NOT choose this lifestyle. The DEPRESSION we are in chose it for us. I know, I know, the big guys in D.C don’t want us using that word. But hey, let them come out to the real world and take a walk through all the 21st century Hoovervilles (Look it up. Homeless encampments during the Great Depression). I live in Southern Arizona. A buddy and I travel from our campsite in the desert to the computer lab at the University of Arizona every day. We spend most of our day looking for work online. Most of the rest of my time is spent networking and trying to find that ONE online money source that is legitimate and free. I do get foodstamps, though, unlike Daniel.

    Someone asked the question could you really raise a family in a cave? I ask whynot? We used to. Whynot go back to it? As long as you were to decide to totally check out of civilization, it wouldn’t really be a problem. Oh, you’d have to learn how to hunt, also. And build a fire without a FireLog or turning a valve in the fireplace. But if you really wanted to get technical about it, and had the money to do so, you could do it without losing your tv or internet for awhile. Find your spot. Purchase a set of solar power cells and some batteries for night time use and an inverter. Then get a small tv and directv service. Pay for it for as long as you can and off you go! And hopefully you aren’t like me and dependent on caffeine to not have headaches through out the day.

  • Bryan Tang

    Adam has a unique view on the man’s lifestyle. It is true that in a way, even if he says he lives without money, he is still dependent on the waste of others. Without monetary transactions and the wasteful lifestyle of the average person, he wouldn’t be able to live the way he does now unless he is indeed happy to live off the flesh of the Earth. I’d be much more impressed if he lived without using anything created by society.

  • Bryan Tang

    Wonder how things will be when the zombie apocalypse rolls around. People like him would make it a little more bearable, yeah?

  • Gary E.

    I think there is a happy medium between the overly wasteful consumerism of America and what he’s doing…There is a reason why mankind graduated from the lifestyle of foraging, hunting & gathering etc; though that lifestyle seems idyllic when locked in rush hour traffic, it’s not so peaceful when a cut gets infected and there’s no neosporin (sp?) or rubbing alcohol to clean it with…This lifestyle has problems just like a more contemporary take on living. I think that one can enjoy the benefits of technology and capitalism for that matter w.o selling your soul in corporate sharecropping…

    What I’m trying to say is that there are gonna be pros and cons to all lifestyles. Yea he doesn’t have to worry about bills, but if he can’t manage to secure edible food from dumpsters or wherever he doesn’t eat; every meal is a work out (or at least I assume it is).

    That being said, if he’s happy than by all means dumpster dive till your heart’s content. (Like he needs my approval)

  • Jim Kotowski

    Here’s what about the ‘Happy Medium’: it’s location tends to fall in the middle of two arbitrarily defined extremes. What if one of those extremes is defined by nothing more than the status quo? What if the status quo is, as Daniel Quinn phrases it, The Culture of Maximum Harm? Compromise with death, and here you are: half dead. Go for it! Guys like Suelo and Eustace Conway stand a much better chance of surviving when the Zombie Apocalypse (nice turn, Mr. Tang) comes crashing down. Maybe we feel that coming? I sure do. Get away, get far, far away…

  • Ahimsa

    The Walden pond stuff is all well and good, but anyone who can shamelessly pun like that is worthy of respect in my book.

  • Thomas McCampbell

    I don’t particularly agree with the publisher, but a good book on the whole freegan, live with out ties subject is Evasion it is available for free online and it was a somewhat interesting read. It was a journal that was found in the bathroom of a squatter house (i just found that amusing)

  • Douglas J Hill

    i apoligize ahead of time for some of the bad spelling ,keep up the joyfull existence and peace of mind Suelo i cant say that i totally agree with your lifestyl because i only know you from what i have read and so far so good dude pull all the money and the value of services renderd compleatly from society and replace it with a new value ,the value of each other do people really know or understaind that after working 40 or more hrs a week of earning salery ,saving for that new car ,house ,outfit,yaht,or whatever it might be ,dam it feels good when u first get what you have bben working for but sooner then later that exicitement ,that happyness diminishes and its gone ,why is that because no amount of phyisical gratification can replace the gratification found when helping someone in a truly altruistic manner ,mooch off me all you want ,why might you ask because i dont need my excess and it would make me feel far better knowing that it whent towrds helping someone with the need for it then if i just threw it away,and besides ask yourself this queston if the sun blew up and destroyed everything that you know of could you possibly keep any of it your house clothes cars ???? nope didnt think so ,we own nothing not even ourselvs we just posses things momentaryly for just a fleeting moment in time ,want to have a feeling of fullness always knowing that you existence is altruistic or do u want live miserably felling empty not knowing why and never willing to admit that fact because you cant let go of the lie of ownership that has been brainwashed into most ( not all ) free yourselvs truly with love to all Douglas J Hill

  • Sophie

    Unfortunately, in most areas of the world to be able to farm land you must own land.

  • Jane

    I admire the man’s dedication, but ultimately, I’d call him a freeloader as he takes from others (even though it’s often things they’ve already discarded) and gives nothing back unless you count his blog, which is arguable.

    People living a commendable life should be people you could and would want others to emulate. If enough people did what this man is doing, they wouldn’t be able to sustain themselves. If even more people joined this “rebellion” then our own society would be harmed. We’d lose value resources in workers: doctors, teachers, builders, farmers, etc. And without these, our population would shrink quickly, in likely horrific ways.

    • Crystal

      You are speaking on the assumption that people are only teachers, builders, and farmers because they get paid to do those jobs. You seem to think that everyone would just sit around and do nothing if they had no financial motivation. It’s understandable that you would see it that way because we live in a world where money is at the heart of most people’s decisions. However, the laziness and greed most people have today is conditioned rather than natural. In a different environment, we might find that people don’t need bosses to get things done. People can work together for a common goal. I believe that most people genuinely desire to do good deeds and help others. They don’t need to be forced to take orders by a boss to teach and to build – that just happens to be the state of our society today.

      • Jane

        No, not at all. I’m taking this man as the example, and only this man, and simply saying that if people followed his examples that we’d have no doctors, builders, teachers, etc. What is he contributing? What is he doing that others could benefit from?

        Nothing. I’m not saying he’s lazy either, but so long as his energy is wholly spent on things that matter only to him, it doesn’t really matter anyway.

        Of course people will work without money. That’s a given considering money hasn’t always been around. But even before money, people exchanged goods and services for other goods and services, something else this man doesn’t do. And they didn’t do so because they were greedy or lazy but because they had to. They didn’t have time to make clothes tend to a farm with live stock and teach and make buildings and create roads and learn about medicine. With specialization, they were able to concentrate specifically on their skill so that it could be useful to many people, and those people would in return see to their other needs.

        Reciprocation is completely missing from this man’s life. If a large enough group of people decide to live like that, a life without reciprocation, then we won’t have our basic needs met unless we’re able to meet them ourselves.

  • Jim Kotowski

    Dear Jane, et al,
    Here’s a picture of the ultimate freeloaders: everybody, before “civilization” began a short 10,000 years ago. People simply went out and hunted, or gathered, their food. Because there were not too many people, there was enough food around to do so. This was basically a part-time job, with the rest of the time spent resting, recreating, or participating in community ritual, dance and music. It could be difficult, and yes, people got eaten sometimes by carnivores, but then again, we get eaten by cancer. It seems that most people, these days, will suffer a cancer attack, and half will die a slow and horrible death (given a choice, I’d take death by lion)! But overall, uncivilized freeloading was much easier than what we go through, with too many rewards, which we don’t enjoy, to list here.
    And it was sustainable, for 90,000 years–much more, if you count the earlier hominids in our line. There were “doctors”, and I guess we have them to thank for the fact that we are here to debate the relative merit of different lifestyles, since they were evidently good enough at what they did to keep us from going extinct….If our own doctors are somehow able to do so much, I’d like to know how.
    Daniel Suelo is living in a world where it’s almost impossible to live sustainably, since the great, integrated ecosystem that once existed is gone. Let me say that more strongly: the Ecosystem, as an integrated, interconnected entity (free of the dividing force of our roads, and our mass-tilling of the Prairie, to name two examples) is extinct. It exists in only a fragmented form, with many extinctions, many more local extinctions, and even more in progress as we speak–and we have done that, doctors or no doctors.
    Looking at it this way, I can understand why someone, anyone, would want to simply stop participating in this dismantling and contaminating of our planet. He doesn’t pursue activities that dismantle or contaminate–do you? I do.

    • Jane

      Sustainable? Sure in the sense that we’re all here today, but do you even know the average life span of people who lived like this? 20-30, making most of us here senior citizens.

      And it wasn’t just random animals that would eat them. They also had concerns from other people, because without civilization, the strongest were easily able to take over any other group and rape and pillage what’s left. And without basic hygiene that we take for granted today, they developed and died from diseases we can easily cure today.

      I don’t think you appreciate how many people would not be alive today if we lived like that. We currently have 39 million people over 65 in America alone. There’s a reason people didn’t live that long in prehistoric times. Even today, in tribes completely untouched by civilization, there are alarming life spans.

      Even something as common as childbirth can be very deadly if something goes wrong. 500,000 women die each year in childbirth globally. In developing countries (which are still far more advanced than the societies you speak of), one women dies every few minutes while giving birth.

      And none of this even takes into account the dire straits we would be in during an emergency without massive help from technology and easily mobilized people. Just look at what’s happening in Hati right now and just imagine how much worse they’d be off if doctors and nurses and rescue workers weren’t flying in right now.

      Let’s not romanticize the past. I agree that we’re too dependent on money, but the answer isn’t to become dependent on others and their waste.

      • Kas

        On the Haiti disaster: Note that majorirty of the reason why rescue is needed is because of the faulty construction of the buildings. They were fautly because sub-standard products were used. Such materials were purchased to save on the budget so that the savings would go to the pockets of the people who were supposed to make sure that the entire project was done w/ good quality in the first place.

        Had there not been greed for the money and power it brings, the buildings may have been built better and may not have been damaged as much (I say MAY because there would still be damage). If there were less damage, there would be less people to help. I am not belittling what happened in Haiti, but I don’t think it’s a good example for you to use when you’re trying to debunk Suelo’s lifestyle choice because in so many ways, it actually strengthens his argument.

        I live in a third world country, and I see a lot of people who are living in a much worse off situation than Daniel’s. Obviously, I am not one of them as I can afford to sit in front of the computer and reply. FYI, free Internet here is nearly non-existent. Yes, there is free service in malls, coffeeshops etc, but you have to have your own device to access it.

        I understand where you’re coming from, as I work, pay my taxes and live comfortably. However, whenever I see the situation the society is in — corruption, poverty, a lot of deaths just to fight for power — I wonder if it would be better if people try to adapt to a life that’s far more simple.

        For example, people who live in shanties in areas that are dangerous (alongside rivers or railways). More often than not these are people who lived in the countryside and moved to the city because of their belief that life is easier here. Unfortunately, that isn’t so in many cases, thus the live off other people’s land, beg and steal to survive. Believe me, a lot of them are far more nuisances and moochers than Daniel is.

        Ever had a kid come up to you and beg, then hits or insults if he thinks that what you gave isn’t enough? That happens here… a lot.

        We don’t have to go completely back to how it was like in the past. I like my comforts, thank you very much, but a bit of lifestyle adjustment to make the world a better place is possible. The excess of the things we have often become just trash. If these excess would be put to good use — with or without my knowledge and not harming anyone, I’m all for it. Plus with the continuous rising prices of things, the idea of getting down to basics: planting my own crop for example, is very appealing.

        • Jane

          Yes, let’s speak of Haiti. And let’s assume money doesn’t exist. What then is the motivation for creating a building willing to withstand a quake of that magnitude? Someone with an abundance of resources, knowledge and skill and the desire to give all of his stuff away?

          If I can do something you can’t (for this example, let’s say build a safe home), how are you going to compel me to help you out? Do you just assume I’m a nice and generous person, or will you instead try and make a trade, give me something that I want in exchange?

          In a capitalistic society, that thing is, more often than not, money.

          Money itself is completely amoral. It’s nothing but what you and someone else have decided is a fair measure of your work and a fair trade for the thing you want. We could go back to sheep and fruit, but the latter spoils, and the former takes up too much space in an apartment. And neither do anything to curb greed, which would still exist, even in the construction of buildings, as money itself is not the cause of this deadly sin but rather a recipient of its excess. Blaming money for any evil in the world is like blaming a scantily clad woman for her attack, except in the harm caused to the person blamed, as money isn’t sentient.

          Directly relating the seller to the consumer provides a greater incentive to provide a safe and wanted product, especially if the seller is greedy, because the consequences for not doing so mean huge financial penalties in courts of law and in loss of future revenue.

          Capitalism directly punishes greed when it is the cause of harm to a consumer, but this is only true when governments do not intervene.

          I’d also like to note that there is no such thing as free Internet here either. Coffee shops over here also do not provide you with a computer. The only place someone can use the Internet without making an immediate payment is a public library, but libraries aren’t free. Unlike a coffee shop or a mall, I’m forced to pay for my local library whether or not I ever visit it. That’s why I’m allowed to use it without paying an additional fee, but that’s not the same as being able to use something without any payment.

          And look, I’m not at all against individuals trying to live a more simple life. There are plenty of things I’ve done in my own life to keep things simple and more sustainable. I don’t even have a problem with giving up on money altogether even though I disagree that it’s necessary or even beneficial. What I don’t like is taking/enjoying something without also in some way working to keep that thing in its same condition so that others might also be able to take/enjoy it.

          I’m not at all saying Daniel is a nuisance. I wouldn’t have even noticed he was living this way if it were not for this blog. Clearly he isn’t bothering me, and really those who beg don’t bother me either. I don’t have to live like they do, and I don’t have to contribute to their lifestyle either unless I choose to.

          But that doesn’t mean I agree with what Daniel is doing either. If he weren’t putting his life on display in a blog or being written about here, it wouldn’t even be my business, and ultimately except for a few comments here, it isn’t.

          My basic premise is this: if you want to have something, then do your part to make sure others can have that thing too. If you eat an apple, then plant the seeds or water the tree. If you consume a resource, find a way to replace it or come up with an equivalent so that the person whose resource it was could replace it for you. Or even to use one of Daniel’s examples, reading under a street light doesn’t steal light from anyone else, but unless you live there or donate money to those who do, you’re not doing anything to keep the lamp running. You’re taking the free light and giving nothing back to those who made it possible for you to enjoy it.

          If everyone did this, then our life equations would balance out, and we wouldn’t have to worry about what we’re leaving for our children.

  • Suelo

    Jane, it might do you good to study the Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari, before and after they got “civilized.” They practiced gift economy. There’s more documentation on them than most any other “primitive” people.

    We now have overpopulation, poverty, disease and environmental degradation and toxicity more unbearable than ever before in history, all a direct result of our modern “conveniences,” and people have so little time with our labor saving devices that they don’t even have time to sit down and eat a real meal and people don’t even know who their neighbors are.

    I wouldn’t say we necessarily should go back to hunting and gathering, but our world can never, ever be sustainable until we bring the principles of gift economy into civilization and give up the delusion of “possession” and stop hoarding.

    You might also want to check out the FAQ on my website (google “Living Without Money”) before you pass more judgment on me, somebody you have never met.

    • Ernesto

      I’m amused anytime I see responses like this on the internet. :) It’s human nature rearing its very ugly head.

      - If you agree or have positive feedback, the author or subject loves it, even if it comes from a stranger.

      - If you disagree or have some criticism, you are always encouraged to read/research more before passing judgment.

      So it’s ok to form a positive opinion based on a set of information, but it’s not ok to form a negative opinion based on the same set of information?

      Humans. We’re funny like that. :-)

    • Jane

      I’m sure it would do me good to study them. Generally, study improves me no matter what the subject is, and thanks to others’ hard work and contributions, I can do that. It would be completely impossible for me to have studied any of that without others contributing to society.

      I’ve passed no judgment on you. If anything, I said I admire your dedication. Saying I’m going with “freeloader” over “social rebel” is something I’m stating without judgment as nothing more but a statement of fact. The reason I say this is not because you live without money but rather because you take from others (discarded things yes, but you do still take them) without giving anything back in return.

      Though you decry the wastefulness of our society, it is how you live and survive. If everyone lived as you do, there would be no dumpster food to eat. There would be no poor to give our possessions to or people with possessions to give to the poor. We’d all be the same. You would have to learn how to make food and clothes for yourself and would no longer have access to computers, Internet and electricity that are paid for by someone else.

      You can live this way, and I have no personal problem with it. However, society cannot support a large group of people following your example, as you are not self sufficient.

      That said, you do make blanket generalities about entire groups of people (specifically religious and political) on your own FAQ, so you aren’t exactly one to throw stones in regards to my comments about you.

      And you make my own point about the benefits of civilization when you speak of overpopulation as a problem. It is a problem, but it’s not one that leaving civilization can solve, unless by solve you mean lots of people die. You’re willing to accept it as karma if you get hurt, but most people would rather get fixed and live longer instead. If they’re to follow your example, more will necessarily die preventable deaths.

      Again, this is fine for you to do. Our dumpsters can accommodate even a small group of people who live as you do, and I even think it’s great that the waste you consume isn’t going to waste. However, this isn’t something that societies can support if large portions of the population follow your lead.

      • Suelo

        Everything else we can argue about, but at this point I see no worth in continuing arguing. I want to now stick only with what we both know, and the rest of the argument & philosophy will take care of itself. I bring this up because it is key to it all:

        “you take from others (discarded things yes, but you do still take them) without giving anything back in return.”

        I know whether or not your statement is true, and you know that I know whether or not it is true, because it is about me. But do you know that your statement is true?

        This is what I mean by passing judgment.

  • Jane

    As to your question, I read the article, and it asked for an opinion. I gave mine with the knowledge given to me, which is that you’ve opted out of conventional society completely and only take what was already there. The only information I have is that you take, not that you give back.

    That is what I was responding to, this abstract representation of your life. If it’s not you, that doesn’t change my opinion on the abstraction. In fact, you’re completely irrelevant to my point, especially if you’ve been misrepresented.

    That’s a further explanation of what I mean by saying I’m not judging you. I have no means to do so without actually knowing who you are.

    However, you have praised this article and offer no extra information about yourself that would contradict this abstraction in your own blog. It’s one thing to see no reason to applaud your own work, if you do work, but if that’s your philosophy, then why do you feel it necessary to write positively of anything else you do? Why just stop at whether or not you work? Why stop at writing about the one thing that might show that you haven’t completely opted out of conventional society except to use the things inside it at your convenience?

    Do you feel your contributions are less important than what you take? Because that’s the message you’re sending. Whether you mean to or not, you are saying that it’s OK to take things without giving back. You primarily preface this with the idea that it’s only OK to take something that is “freely given or discarded & what is already present & already running,” but you do not counter this with the idea that you must do anything other than take those things in order to possess them.

    There’s no concept of earning or reciprocation in the basics of your philosophy, and that to me, is the entire problem, no matter how you actually live.

    • Damian Nash

      A reply to Jane.

      First, my respects to MatadorChange, which attracts remarkably intelligent and sensitive dialog about my friend Daniel. Unlike other sites where people feel comfortable hurling flaming sound bites at one another, this site attracts people who think and people who care.

      Jane, please read my posts of September 19 and September 29 on this discussion thread. They provide eyewitness reports of Daniel’s non-moochiness from a person who has known him very well for more than 20 years. If you actually knew Daniel in person, you would quickly discover that your assumptions about him not “giving back” are inaccurate. Every interaction with Daniel is a transaction in true and meaningful human value, but not the kind of value that accountants can easily document in ledger books.

      I hope my eyewitness reports can help clear things up for you. Kind regards, Damian

    • Suelo

      “freely give, freely receive.” That’s the very theme of both my website and blog, most clearly stated. It’s the very point of it all. It’s called gift economy, the very law of the universe.

      To quote from the answer to FAQ # 13 “Why don’t mooches like you work?”

      “The point of this path is to relinquish credit for work, as is proscribed in the Gospels, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, the Buddhist sutras, & the Quran. This means doing service in secret. Credit is money. Credit is praise. If I do service work & advertise it, my living moneyless is in vain.”

      To quote from the answer to FAQ # 17 “Do you barter?”

      “I try not to barter consciously with other individuals in this world. But I do barter with the Universe, with God, if you will – as do wild creatures. Conscious Barter is simply money in a less convenient form. . . .

      “Give up all conscious trade. Just freely give what is needed and freely take what you need and don’t think about trade. Let God take care of trade. Give up all consciousness of credit and debt, and only then will everything balance out. ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Universe. . . .

      ” ‘Payback is Mine, I will repay, says Jah.’ What I give to you I really give to Jah, and Jah gives back to me. There is never a mistake in transaction, no getting gipped, no bargain fighting, as in the world of Canaan (literally, Canaan means commerce). How do I know this? Because Nature is in perfect balance, in perfect Justice, perfect payback, while we have yet to witness any commercial civilization that is just, that can even balance its budget. The injustice of crimes, both in politics and in the streets, is only a reflection of the injustice of commerce, the attempt to control payback, which belongs to Jah. ”

      To assume anybody does not contribute because they don’t take credit is exactly that, an assumption. This is why the forests and animals and land are devalued and destroyed, because they do not take credit for what they give. We may never understand what some life-form contributes. But why state what we don’t know as fact? Why? This phenomenon is the very heart of it all.

      • Jane

        “Freely give, freely receive” is nice, but it sounds much closer to “paying it forward” than a philosophy on reciprocation, which seems completely lacking. My problem is more in your stated philosophy than what you actually do.

        You don’t seem to equate what you get with what you have done. For instance, if you stand under a street lamp to read, you’re not taking anything from anyone, that’s true, but unless you contribute in some way, you’re also doing nothing that would ensure that lamp is still there and functioning for the next person who wants to read. The cause and effect relationship between what you consume/use and what you’ve done to ensure that others can have the same things you’ve had, isn’t clear at all in your philosophy.

        And if the counter to this is that it is somewhere in your core set of beliefs, then my complaint is still in how it was presented here, which is the abstraction I have directed my comments to. Explaining to me that it is in your core beliefs only changes my dialog with you personally, not the comments I first left here discussing the article.

        • suelo

          You either get it or you don’t.

  • Suelo

    By the way, Jane, I am pleased that your responses are honestly respectful and well-thought-out. Thank you.

    And thank you, Damian, my dear friend. I think we wrote our responses simultaneously.

  • Heather Carreiro

    Wow certainly an interesting article and string of comments here. A lot of people discussed the possibility of ‘dumpster diving’ in less wealthy countries. After returning to the US after three years in Pakistan, I am really shocked at the amount of waste (food and other things) here in the US. In Pakistan many people were dependent on second-hand items and leftover food. We lived in an upscale neighborhood, and young children came by daily to pick through the trash and collect recyclables.

    After having our trash gone through multiple times (and thrown ALL over the ground), we realized it was customary to separate desirable items like food, recyclable items and anything that could be sold or used (old clothes, broken appliances) and put them on top of the trash container so that the locals could easily pick them up. Many things that we would just throw away in the US were considered valuable by our neighborhood trash pickers.

    What was really telling was when I started putting old appliances outside when we were cleaning house to move back to the US. Our maid complained to the landlady that we were not giving HER all the old broken stuff.

  • Laurie

    I have to disagree with his comment that “bankers, brokers, and landlords produce nothing. They provide a service and while that service may not be a physical object, it is still something that many depend on. You don’t have to purchase their service if you don’t feel its necessary, but it is still a service to others. They also provide jobs to others who provide additional services. Janitors provide a service and do not produce a physical object. Would you argue they don’t deserve to be paid?

    And on a side note I’m not a banker, broker, or landlord.

    • Suelo

      Laurie, you quoted me as saying that bankers and brokers and CEOs produce nothing. Here is the whole context, so folks can get the true gist of what I am saying:

      “Why do goods flow from the poor to the rich, from the workers to the non-workers, from those who produce (laborers) to those who produce little or nothing (bankers and brokers and CEOs and landlords) as it has been ever since the beginning of money civilization.”

      However, you have a good point, so I went back to the website and added “most” (“why do [most] goods”) deleted “or nothing” (“who produce little {or nothing}”], to make it more accurate. The idea I’m conveying is that our nourishment, what we know is most important, sustainer of all our life, is produced by the folks who are poorest, at the bottom.

      We could argue till we’re blue what is “contributing” & what isn’t. We could argue that the Cocaine industry in Columbia, a stalwart of the Columbian economy (or the Opium/Heroine-poppy industry in Afghanistan) provide more jobs, services, and meals on the tables to many families. But does this justify the Cocaine and Poppy industries? Do they really contribute, or do they just manipulate wealth that already exists?

      I would also ask, is a dolphin contributing to the world less than Donald Trump? Is a fern or a cottonwood? Do I breathe out or just breathe in? And what if we’re “contributing” too much? Maybe it’s better if we stop contributing much or most of what we contribute. These are simply questions I don’t necessarily have answers to (yet?).

  • dave

    When people object to his way of life I imagine him finding a pot of gold and just throwing coins at people while yelling,” Am i contributing enough for you?”, and people responding with yesses and ‘a bit more’, then Seulo continuing his way of life unabated. How did he just contribute? Giving people gold is surely the most obvious answer, but what about the exchange of services and community and society building aspects? I suppose you could say ostensibly those who received the gold will do that part for him. But I think more than anything people never consider those aspects of their contributions monetarily or otherwise. I just want mine and anyone involved can have theirs as long as it’s not mine; seems to be more apropos. So we type on our computers which we thoroughly enjoy and realize we payed a price for them, and know somewhere in the back of our minds or bank statements that someone thoroughly enjoys our money. Ah, that unsubstantiated yet oh so enjoyable life of contributing. Makes me feel tingly when I realize how much more important I am than other people

    • Jane

      More important? Only one person commenting here had an article written about him. I know I’m not important. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t waste my time with blog comments.

  • globodave

    Absolutely fascinating article, some very valid points pro and against!

  • Wasim

    Funny how this article came by me today I was just thinking about this today and made a blog post about it. This guy manages to hitchhike for free? But doesn’t this go against what he is trying to do? He hitchhikes which is ok but other people end up paying the petrol bill? I don’t understand how this guys has managed it although I understand that that he says that money is an illusion and that we wern’t born with it.


      Hello Guest, I am living in Switzerland and one day I took the bus to go shopping in another city. After shopping I was waiting for the bus for about ten minutes. Do you have any idea about how many cars passed ( 4 seats cars!) only with the driver inside??
      You judge a wonderful man that is trying to open your eyes…he meant SHARING what WE have EXTRA with others, instead of making it trash.
      Now if we will be ALL united and complete 4 seats in the car, as friends, do you think the price of gas in Switzerland will stay the same?
      That is why mister Daniel Suelo took this way, to boycot a corrupt hidden world where MONEY IS KING
      In my youth,when I read for the first time that tons of coffee were thrown away to keep the price big, I had a shock.
      Today I live very simple for the same reason as mister Daniel Suelo.I use my clothes until they break instead of buying fashion.

  • Isabelle

    From what the article says, I think that what this guy is doing is a form of freeloading. He isn’t paying taxes to build anything onto the library but yet he has the ‘freedom’ of using the internet. He hasn’t paid for the service workers for making the pizza or the fish or anything other kind of food. Every time he goes dumpster diving he is stealing an extra dollar or two from an employees paycheck who do work for their money.

    In all retrospect he could be living without money, but that means truly doing so. That all his food should come from the outdoors such as fish or rabbit. That he shouldn’t have access to the internet because that is a form of capitalism. Either way he has made a mockery of the hard-working citizens of this country. By proclaiming himself ‘better’ because he is a moocher.


      Hello Isabelle,if Daniel Suelo would not use the internet at the library, you would still have to pay taxes and support the library, right?
      If NOBODY would use the internet at the library, is paid in vain, right?
      Would you pay it thinking nobody is using it?
      Why not fighting against the high taxes in the first place?

  • Jim Kotowski


    • Jane

      So we’re bad cause we’re killing animals, but if we actually, directly kill animals, then it’s all cool?

      Look, if you really feel that what you’re doing is harming the planet, then stop doing it. If you don’t, then continue doing what you’re doing, but don’t bother preaching something to others that you yourself don’t practice.

  • D

    i agree with his concept about money. but does he work in any form to create value for the society? in a money free world people exchange home grown veggies for a piece of lamb chop for example…….

  • Sarah

    I dont think this guy is a moocher or anything of the sort. Granted, I would not live in a cave or dumster dive myself, but the concept of living without money is possible for everyone. You can plant a garden for food, maybe raise cattle or livestock for meat or hunt and fish.

    As far as power goes, if you harnessed wind or solar power you could have a completely self sufficient life with modern accessories (minus internet and extra non-needed things). And as far as money goes, if Everything in the world was free, there would be no need for it.

    If you are worried about labor, well some people would work because they love to do it, and other things could be run by computers or robotics, and the worst part about it is that we have all the tools to be that way now, but companies that produce these things want to make money so they purposely make a crappier(for lack of a better word) product so people will have to buy replacements later down the road, therefore they make more money!

    I know some people can’t live without the power of being” better” than someone else, well if you think you have to be more powerful then that would still apply, by how much you contribute to the whole of socitey… power without money.. totally possible if people would work together and concentrate on LIVING instead of money.

    I could probably go on for a while so I will end this here and let people tell their own opinions.

  • Erik

    I don’t understand why anyone would be upset by the way he lives. He does not go around giving speeches about how people should give up their way of life and live as he does. He saw the possibility to live a certain way and he did. Much like an entrepreneur sees a way to make money and takes advantage of that. There is no lifestyle that is right or wrong. If you are willing to make the sacrifices to live a certain way then I see nothing wrong with that. The things he has/uses are free for the taking. Why would it be wrong to take something that no one wants? Do you think animals care if their food is given to them or earned through hard work? Frankly I think many people are jealous of the fact that he doesn’t have to slave away in a nine to five; that he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Those people are too addicted to possessions to give them up, whether they admit it or not. I know I am.

  • Sens Angau

    I have always thought about living a society without money. I can’t see myself because I’m always getting up in the moring working for someone to get paid..Wasted time for something which is not worth life. Money doesn’t build aeroplane and make it fly… does…so why money? We mankind have created poverty among ourselves…

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