A man who has elevated living without money to an artform, explained his philosophy and modus operandi Wednesday to students at Animas High School.
Daniel Suelo, who lives in a cave near Moab, Utah, was sketchy on details, but his listeners learned that he dumpster dives, hitchhikes, house sits, does volunteer work and accepts only what is given freely and takes no more than what he needs at the time.
“I don’t have a typical day,” he said. “There is no pattern.”
People get angry when questioned about their unwavering allegiance to money, which he called a creed or a religion, Suelo said. But a money-based economy eventually could collapse, he said.
Suelo, 53, is the focus of The Man Who Quit Money, a 272-page book by Mark Sundeen, who met Suelo years ago when they were cooks in a Moab diner. Suelo came to Animas High School at the invitation of Matt Dooley, who teaches freshman humanities.
Suelo – the word in Spanish means earth or soil and by extension the basics or ground floor – was born Daniel Shellabarger in Denver to a family with hard-core fundamental Christian leanings.
As he matured, Suelo read and traveled widely and served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. His experiences and observations left him with a certain anxiety.
“Nature is so balanced, a feeling not common in human civilization,” Suelo said. “When money is introduced, social classes develop, and there is greed and violence.”
Suelo’s nagging qualms about the status quo brought a 180-degree turn in 2000 while he was thumbing rides along the East Coast with a Canadian woman named Lorelei. He left his last $30 in a telephone booth and vowed to have no dealings with money in the future.
The uncertainty of living without money doesn’t worry him, Suelo said.
“I like not knowing what is going to happen,” he said. “We lose our gusto for life when life is routine.”
Life should revolve around brotherhood and sharing, Suelo said. But it requires a change in thinking, a change to become one’s “authentic” self. Authenticity allows one to love oneself and win the love of others. “Our real selves will take hold.”
Hoarding and living for the future won’t lead to happiness, he said.
“The best security is to live in the present and trust people,” Suelo said. “We need incentives outside ourselves.”