BY: Jack M.
Daniel Suelo may be the happiest man on Earth.
He was born Daniel Shellabarger 54 years ago and spent much of his life in Arvada, a mid-sized community near Denver, Colorado. Fifteen years ago, in his late thirties and working as a cook in Utah, Daniel stepped into a world that most of us – perhaps all of us – would consider unthinkable. He quit money. Abandoned it. Completely. Forever. For real.
At the turn of the millennium, Daniel walked into a public telephone booth, took his life’s savings out of his pocket – all $30 of it – and left it there. He tossed his passport and his driver’s license, and he changed his surname from Shellabarger to Suelo, which is the Spanish word for soil. Since then he has become something of a nomad and a free spirit. He has stayed in communes, camped in the wilderness, and occasionally slept at the homes of complete strangers, but his home base is a cave, an hour or so outside Moab, Utah. But make no mistake about it, he is not a hermit, or a hobo, or a derelict. He doesn’t accept charity, government assistance or even food stamps. He is college-educated, and as he says himself, “had a good Christian upbringing.” He neither receives or spends money. He refuses monetary compensation for the occasional odd job that he does, but he will accept food or clothes instead. And dumpster diving, foraging for wild berries in the mountains that he calls his backyard, chowing down on roadkill and picking up other peoples’ throwaways are part of his regular routine. But lest you think he’s disconnected from the world, you can check out his blog, which he maintains by taking trips to the public library in Moab.
Despite living off the beaten path, Suelo’s story has been picked up by a few of the well-known publications, such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian and The Denver Post. And in 2009, publishing giant Penguin Books approached him to write his autobiography, but he accepted Penguin’s offer on one condition, that the book, when published, be given away for free. Needless to say, Penguin turned down the offer, but a close friend of Suelo’s, Mark Sundeen, convinced him to write Daniel’s biography, The Man Who Quit Money, in 2012. Suelo refused any payment, and as requested, a number of copies of Sundeen’s book were given away for free at various promotions. A brief interview with Suelo and Sundeen can be seen here and here.
In retracing the surprising path and guiding philosophy that led Daniel into this way of life, Sundeen raises provocative and riveting questions about the decisions we all make, by default or by design, about how we live – and how we might live better. But perhaps a quote of Daniel Suelo’s sums it up the best: “When I lived with money, I was always lacking. Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present.” It’s enough to give some of us a moment of reflection and question why we have become so consumed by the material rather than the spiritual.
And Daniel is not alone in his quest for peace of mind and what may indeed be the ultimate expression of power. German Heidemarie Schwermer, Irishman Mark Boyle, Finn Tomi Astikainen and many more have joined the ranks of a moneyless world. Could it be that they’re actually onto something?