Holmgren Design regularly welcomes interns who come to add their energy to the maintenance of the house and garden systems and experience the Melliodora low-impact permaculture lifestyle first hand. Melliodora interns share with us their permaculture experiences from their own country and from the places they have visited around the globe. Recently two unique young people from Sao Paolo, Brazil, brought a special gift, something that’s difficult to put into words, so let them speak for themselves:
Natale: I’m not much different from anyone else. I come from a traditional middle class family, grew up in a big city [Sao Paulo] and studied Law at university. The only difference I can see is that I’ve always been aware of social and environmental issues which make me feel as part of a small (but growing) minority of young people disillusioned with the conservative consumer society.
When I first thought about living without money I was living in the United States and working for Disney. I had been feeling very uncomfortable with the situation of the world for a long time and already wanted to do some traveling since I finished school. I didn’t know what exactly I was going to do or how I was going to do it, all I knew was that I wanted to travel around the world and spread love.
Just after this I read the books Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein and The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle that I came up with the idea of doing this travel without any money. I still didn’t know what I was going to do or how but I knew it had to be without money.
I had two main reasons to start this journey in Australia. First, because it was here where permaculture was born – I always had a great interest in permaculture as the best way towards a sustainable living. Second, because Australia is 15,735 kilometers away from Brazil and only here I would find the freedom I needed to do what I had in mind.
I didn’t know that one week before I was coming to Australia I would meet someone and fall in love. What I also didn’t know was that instead of changing everything, she was going to make everything happen.
Today I can say that I couldn’t have done these 10 months without money without her.
Marielli: My view and attitudes about money started to change when I traveled to Europe. The first 9 months I was making just enough money to pay for my food and accommodation but all the same I was still doing everything I wanted. It was during this time that I realised how much money I spent when I was in Brazil. In Europe I was consuming less and at the same time enjoying life as much as or maybe more than when I was in Brazil.
The last 3 months in Europe, I had my first experience of living without money. A friend of mine had invited me to live at her family’s hotel in northern Italy. They all knew that because of my visa I couldn’t work, but they insisted that I go and live with them. I had a room just for me, and was eating from the hotel’s restaurant. And in exchange they wanted nothing. I was so grateful for what they were doing that I couldn’t just do nothing so I helped with small jobs when they let me. I have no words to describe how important this moment was in my life.
I came back to Brazil with a different mindset. I was shocked with how much money my family and friends spent. I had decided I would spend only what was necessary.
On the 3rd day after I came back from Europe I met Natale at a music festival happening in a museum (a free-entry event). I remembered we were talking about my trip to Europe, which lead to a conversation about money.
A few days later we were cycling in Sao Paulo and Natale explained to me about his trip to Australia. He said he wanted to spread love to everyone and the best way to do that would be with no money. I thought it was a fascinating idea but I was still asking if it was really possible to live completely without money. Two months later I was in Australia living without money with him.
Marielli and Natale:
To help with this journey we chose to do the WWOOF program. The WWOOF book was the last thing we bought in 10 months. It’s definitely not the only way to do a moneyless experience but it was certainly of great help. By WWOOFing we would cover our main needs of food and shelter and at the same time work at something we really believed in.
When we weren’t WWOOFing we relied on the love and generosity of people who always offered us food; and on the stupidity of a society that supports mass production and wastes thousands kilos of food everyday. To be honest we’ve been very picky in our “dumpster diving” – visiting most of the time local and organic veggie shops. We always find some kind of fruit or vegetables and with luck sometimes we find nuts, cheese [still cool from the fridge], and beautiful loaves of bread.
We never in our whole lives had such a good and healthy diet. We believe that about 95% of the food we eat is organic and most of it comes straight from the garden.
During the last 10 months we passed through permaculture schools, permaculture farms (well developed and on early stages), communities and attempted communities and private homes, all of which contributed enormously to our learning experience.
We also volunteered for a month at the Woodford Folk Festival. Woodford is not only an incredible cultural event; it also gives a really good feeling of community. In total there were 2000 volunteers that lived, worked and shared meals together weeks before the festival had started. We had the opportunity to work in an amazing bamboo construction: a 100m long bamboo tunnel and 20m high log/bamboo tower. All with guidance of the Taiwanese artist Wang Weh-Chi and the team of experts from Cave Urban.
For transport we thought hitchhiking would be the best way to do it and we’ve been proved to be right. Not only because of the environmental issue but also because by hitching we had the chance to meet the most amazing people, each one with a unique story to share. We hitched from Mullumbimby to Sydney, from Sydney back to Mullumbimby and from Woodford all the way to Melbourne.
We have many stories about all these rides but one in particular was very special. We were coming from a Sea Shepherd event that happened at Brunswick Heads going to Burringbar; a thirty-five minute drive. It was late at night and at night is always more difficult to hitch. We were very tired and about to sleep by the side of the road when a car stopped. We told the driver we were going to Burringbar; he didn’t know where Burringbar was but told us to jump in the car. The driver introduced himself as “Cosmic Dave” and he not only took us home but on the way stopped at his place and gave us a bowl of homemade granola bars!
In these 10 months we’ve had the opportunity to do things we had never done before. We lived in a train wagon, in a caravan, in a bus and in a tipi. We went to circus and music festivals, cinemas, theatre, museums and concerts. We went to beautiful beaches, waterfalls and have done surfing, snorkeling and even skydiving. Recently we also did the Great Ocean Road all the way to the 12 Apostles.
Sometimes we don’t believe what’s happening. It’s like we’re living a dream. Everything we wish somehow comes to us. We don’t know why that is, but we think it’s because we’re doing what we were supposed to be doing, because we’re doing everything with all our heart. It’s more about living from love than living without money.
One day we were cycling from Hepburn Springs to Daylesford when Marielli’s bicycle punctured. At this exact moment a truck stopped to check what happened. The driver took her (and the bicycle) to Daylesford, fixed the bike and didn’t even ask for money. We still don’t know if it was a person or an angel.
One very important thing we noticed is the degree of relationship between people. When there is money involved, the relationship can be very superficial or sometimes could be no relationship at all. But when there is no money the relationships are much stronger and true. In what could be considered a short period of time (ten months) we’ve made friends who will be in our lives forever, people we know we can count on whenever we need to.
Living without money also showed us how to value every simple thing in life. We are always very grateful for everything that comes to us. From a simple slice of bread, having a place to sleep, or even looking at a beautiful starry sky.
Living without money is just one way to disconnect from the current system that governs our societies. It’s not about being independent, it’s actually the opposite; it’s about community. All these things we’ve done in the last 10 months couldn’t have been done without the help of many people.
Going moneyless: it’s been a gateway to connection, intimacy, adventure and authentic experience of life. Far from being a path of sacrifice to qualify oneself as good, it’s being a path of joy and – dare we say it – a path of wealth.
See their latest story in hypness (in Brasilian).