People often dream of what life would be like without money. People would trade things, give things. Generosity might rule, even as technology and development took back seats. Since we all have grown up in a society where money is really the driving force behind everything, it is very difficult to remove ourselves from the allure, the prestige, and the convenience which money offers. Maybe it’s not possible to live without it.
Travelers often have to worry about money. Immigration officials may want to see that you have enough money to support yourself before you are allowed entry. Lodging and transportation can cost a bundle, and even food and water may not be cheap. We bring cash, we bring checks, we bring debit cards. We exchange our own currency for the local paper at terrible rates. We stash our money cleverly in hidden pockets and money belts. We are scammed, we are robbed, and we call home and ask our parents to send us money afterward. Surely it is impossible to travel internationally without money!
Wrong. I met a guy the other day, an Italian named Giuseppe. He’s got dark, curly Italian hair, and has as much to say as a morning talk show host. He and I were sitting in a small local restaurant owned by a Ugandan woman who offered us both a place to stay in Masaka town. Giuseppe has been traveling for eight years. In that time he has visited 68 countries on four passports (you burn through visa pages quickly when you travel like that). The kicker? He has no job. He has no business. He has no money. Okay, he has some money. To stay out of trouble, he pays visa fees like the rest of us do, and he occasionally has to buy an airplane ticket. But otherwise, he refuses to interact with money.
Giuseppe does this because he has decided that he is against money at a fundamental level. He does not believe that money, a fabrication of humanity, should be something we strive for, and he does not believe that money can bring happiness.
It is not hard to imagine that thousands of years ago before money arrived, people may have been happier living in their tribes giving and trading their bare necessities and getting by in their merry way. But how does he survive in a world where the Dollar is almighty?
Providence is the word for “god will provide.” Believing in providence is to have faith that a deity or nature or human kindness will provide food, shelter, water, and any other needs which a person may have. Giuseppe, a born catholic, now christian, giving and providence and God are big on his list of priorities. He is no monk, however. “I believe in God,” he says, “but I do sometimes sin!”
Not the really bad ones, of course.
He quotes Ghandi. He loves Jesus, who in his time was little different than Giuseppe in that he was a vagabond relying on providence. He idolizes the American Daniel Suelo, who has lived for twelve years without any kind of financial transaction (though he never leaves the USA).
Giuseppe shares his skills, his food, his knowledge, his work. He offers these things for free to people and businesses as he travels and says to them “if you want to give me a meal or a bed, it is up to you.” For example, he is something of a computer whiz, so he often offers to fix broken computers or networks at internet cafes. In return, managers may offer meals, or a stay in their homes, as well as free internet so he may update his blog, GaiaTrotter (language translation is available).
The reward is not only in food or lodging, but in friendships and involvement. He has thousands of friends all over the world now who he has helped in one way or another, after showing up in their town and giving a helping hand. He earns respect in a community by simply showing up and working, talking up a storm, and sharing his stories.
As for occasions when he actually needs the money, say for border crossings, Giuseppe, sociable and humble as he is, always manages to find someone to give, or some way to earn just enough cash to traverse our planets imaginary political boundaries.
Travel Without Money
Nobody said it was easy, and Giuseppe would be the first to tell you that while traveling and living without money is fulfilling, it is certainly challenging. He doesn’t always find places to sleep and he generally does not eat three square meals a day. His skin tone, hair color, and all around appearance, coupled with the suspicious fact that he has no money or bank account, often causes problems at airports or borders: He’s been called a terrorist and sent away (from the USA, no surprise). He’s been called a CIA agent, a Mossad agent, and finally a destitute before being kicked out of Tanzania.
But still he makes it around. When traveling alone he must offer his work or humbly ask for help. When with a group, he and his companions may play music in exotic town centers for food and beer money. And despite having no money, he maintains a high hygienic level, bathing daily and always wearing clean clothes.
So if you were ever wondering, as I surely was, if it is possible to travel the world with no money, stop wondering and pack your bag. Giuseppe is proof that it is possible. You may sleep anywhere, from under a bridge to a fancy villa, and you may eat only one meal a day. It comes down to your own comfort and pride. Can you accept sleeping in some unsavory places? Do you really need to eat three meals a day? Do you really believe that conserving your cash is going to help you in the long run? Are you willing to clean dishes and dig potatoes?