One Man's Quest to be Penniless: He gave up money and lives in a cave

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Oct 29, 2011


No place like home: Cave in the Utah desert where man who has given up money lives
Daniel Suelo, 51, left his last $30 in a phone box and walked away

*Friend who wrote his biography, said: 'I first assumed he'd gone crazy'
*Suelo eats roadkill, hunts in dumpsters and relies on generosity
*Pays no taxes and accepts no help from the Government

May 2, 2012 - Footage has revealed the sparse and yet contented life of Daniel Suelo - the man who has chosen to live without money for the past 12 years. Suelo, now 51, renounced money in 2000, left his last $30 dollars in a phone booth and walked into the desert to start a new life in Moab, Utah. His way of life has become an inspiration to thousands of Americans who have suffered in the economic crash and activists like the Occupy movement, disillusioned with a society consumed by avarice and greed.

Mark Sundeen, author and friend of Daniel, has written a biography about his lifestyle after following him closely for several years. Sundeen, whose book is entitled The Man Who Quit Money, freely admits that he had lost touch with Suelo for several years and when he heard that he was living without money, 'he thought he had gone crazy or had some kind of mental breakdown'.

However following the economic crash in 2008, Sundeen began to come round to Suelo's mindset. Sundeen said: "Here's someone who is saying I don't know what the solution is but I'm going to disobey." He continued: "Our financial system is so big we can't control it and in so many ways we feel enslaved by it. Worse, we feel powerless to change it. The fact is, if everyone lived like the average American, the world would actually collapse more quickly than if everyone lived like Suelo."

On his blog Suelo describes his philosophy: "I don't use or accept money or conscious barter - don't take food stamps or other government dole. "

Life lessons: A long-term friend of Daniel Suelo has followed his years without money. "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)."

"Our whole society is designed so that you have to have money,' Suelo added. "You have to be a part of the capitalist system. It's illegal to live outside of it."

As well as quitting cash, he threw away his passport and driving license and changed his legal name, Shellabarger, to Suelo, Spanish for ‘soil’. Ever since then Suelo has lived outdoors, camped in the wilderness, lived in caves, stayed in communes and spent nights in stranger’s homes.
For several years Suelo set up home in a cave, 200 feet across and 50 feet tall, on the edge of a cliff in the Arches National Park, Utah. Here he carved a bed out of rock, foraged for food, drank from springs and bathed in a creek. Any hikers were welcomed to stay with him to share his ‘home’, his books and the wildflowers and cactus seeds that he ate.

Born into an ultra-conservative fundamentalist family, Suelo took his faith extremely seriously growing up. At college, however, he re-examined his beliefs and decided that money and the divide.

"He wants to have the smallest ecological footprint and the largest possible impact at improving the world," his best friend, Damian Nash, told The Atlantic.

"The fact is, if everyone lived like the average American, the world would actually collapse more quickly than if everyone lived like Suelo." Mark Sundeen, author. "His life goal since I met him is to take as little and give as much as possible.."

One serious lapse from penniless living came in 2001 when Suelo was living in a commune in Georgia and he received $500 tax return in the post. Rather than tearing the cheque up he cashed it in and spent it on driving a brand-new convertible Mercedes-Benz 600 sports coupe across America. But it was just a blip and Suelo continues to be one of the few people who live without money by choice.


Q & A With Daniel Suelo