21 Feb 2013

Family Lives Without Money—By Choice—and Thrives

Berlin family of three has been living on practically nothing but love and the goodwill of others for more than two years and counting—not as a victims of the rough economy, but as activists who are on a money strike to protest what they call our “excess-consumption society.”

“As consumers, we support the system, and we are all responsible for making a wasteful society,” Raphael Fellmer, 29, told Yahoo! Shine. “This strike is to inspire other people to reflect about our other possibilities.” 

Fellmer, who said he’d held jobs since he was 12 years old, began his protest after years of working in hotels, bars, restaurants and various offices. In 2010, after graduating from college in the Hague as a European Studies major, he and two friends embarked upon a 15-month “journey of humanity” to raise awareness of environmental destruction and of society’s many wastes, including estimates that about one-third of all food produced worldwide (valued at about $1 trillion a year) gets wasted.

That trip involved hitchhiking from Europe to Mexico without cash, simply depending on the goodwill and excess resources of others. It carried them over more than 19,000 miles on more than 500 vehicles—including a sailboat that took the trio from the Canary Islands to Brazil in exchange for crew duties—and soon led Fellmer to meet his wife, Nieves Palmer, who became pregnant along the way.

Now the couple, along with their 18-month-old daughter Alma Lucia, are continuing to live nearly money-free in Berlin, where they do odd jobs and organizing work in exchange for living space, with roommates, in the Peace House Martin Niemöller, which contains various non-profits. (Though Fellmer uses no money, he said Palmer does use a little, mainly in the form of child support she receives from the government, which is granted to all children.)

Fellmer has become a full-time activist in the name of bringing attention to problem of waste and overconsumption, running organizations and websites including The (R)evolution: In Harmony with the Earth. There is a network of others, too, beyond the two pals he traveled with. A 2010 documentary called “Living Without Money,” for example, profiles a 68-year-old German woman named Heidemarie Schwermer who gave up money 14 years ago. She says she’s never felt freer. 

But Fellmer admits his lifestyle is radical, explaining that it’s to get his message across. “Not everybody needs to do this to such an extreme. This is for protest. We want to inspire people to think about changes they can make. There are so many tools out there, so many ways to reduce one's carbon footprint.” 

One is through the fast-growing German movement of “foodsharing,” in which adherents use the Internet to share edible food that’s been foraged from grocery-store dumpsters. Fellmer founded an organization in which he partnered with a leading German organic-food chain to create an efficient way of “rescuing” food for distribution just before it is thrown away. He's also part of a website,foodsharing.de, which has registered more than 12,000 people across the country in just two months of its existence, he said, and has drawn interest from around the world in more than 20 languages (6 of which Fellmer speaks). In the U.S., where about 40 percent of food—or about $165 billion worth—gets wasted annually, there exists a similar fringe movement of vegan dumpster divers called “freegans.”

Other ways to take part in what Fellmer calls “collaborative consumption” include using popular couchsurfing sites, or finding people with empty homes who need long-term house-sitters. “We have not only a surplus of food but of housing,” he said. “Everything we need is already there. We just need to make the connections.” 

Even as a new parent, Fellmer said he’s been able to stave off money-related anxieties. “Children need from parents love, attention, time. All these materialistic things are really ridiculous,” he said, adding that used baby clothes are as easily had as thrown-away food. Germany offers universal medical care, although Fellmer and his family have managed to find a dentist to give them free services, and did gardening and repair work for a gynecologist when Palmer was pregnant. (They did spend their one bit of money on the overseas journey, however, when Palmer, a former psychologist, used funds she had saved in order to pay a midwife.) 

Though Fellmer’s parents are supportive of his lifestyle and “pretty open,” he admitted to having plenty of critics. “People are very creative with their negative comments. They say I’m lazy, abusing other people,” he said. “But when they talk to me, they learn I’m working 40 to 50 hours a week on projects for the good of society.” 

Mostly, Fellmer hopes his money strike can help change others’ lives. “Money is hampering our dreams. Most people have forgotten it, or are completely afraid of living without money, so they are enslaved by the monetary system,” he said. “I hope to motivate people to believe a little more in their dreams.”


  1. Yeah right. This guy takes advantage of people who have to work for a living. Over here we call them bums.

    1. It says he works 40-50 hours a week. How does that make him a "bum"? Did you only read the headline?

    2. Good on him- understand his message.. we are conditioned to be work slaves for the Government ( not society ) and also we are conditioned to be continuos consumers beyond the day to day real needs

  2. Graduated with a major in European Studies. That explains it all.

  3. In Canada one can get lots of stuff for free because "you don't have to pay a cent for two years".

  4. Yeah right. This guy takes advantage of people who have to work for a living. Over here we call them bankers.

  5. Sooo... who's doing more harm to the others? This guy or those who built Fukushima?

  6. The parasite and the machine:

    money = parasite (the idea money is the problem)

    Stop it. Simple.

    The machine: Build in Harmony (Phi) or the machine will dustyPhi YOU.
    Build with your Heart with Earth.

    Or die. Your call...

    May Peace Prevail on Earth

  7. Its caled organic banking, or selfsustaiable comunitys.

    this kind of "banks" are common in Spain right now and the Idea is spredding exponentialy around the suthern part of europa, that part is hitt harder than Germany at the presnet moment.

    They have sett up Food Banks, Jobb Banks(any working hour is traded away, anything from haircutt to carepair, witch both can also be invested in Food Banks, do you see the differnece.

    Of course, if you desperatly needs the lates Flattscreen TV you must work harder ffor it, but this is a fully and a very health in every way a system that bennefits us all.
    This is a bacik capitialisic system, a system where we all can live inn, disabled people can grow food, every where, as long there is space, verticaly or horisontaly.

    This is the sinlge moust devatating wepond aganinst the deplotation and slavebonding the is invented aganist the reality impsed upon us by the MSM and the RoberBarons and their hendgmen(aka: gov and privat banks).

    This makes living in even remote vilages highly valuable and prosperous to you all, reality is changing, and this time We the People can chang it to south our asses, instead.


  8. If everyone thought like him, there would be no 'kindness of strangers' to live on. Not sure what he thinks he achieved with his actions other than to mooch off of other people. To depend on 'the kindness of strangers' one has to ask for it. I doubt people ran up to him randomly. This translates as BEGGING. By choice.

    Intentions are probably pure...but, once again, what is he achieving?

    1. what are you achieving by looking down on him? cause its the kindness of strangers that took him around the world i would help someone get somewhere if they offered to help with my work, your like a book thats been chained and locked up never to be open ha

    2. You are conditioned - wake up

    3. Did you not read about him? He and his wife trade services and barter for goods. They also take cast-off food and clothing. They are not moochers or beggars. I suppose a republican capitalist would think so, but no - they are not. They are living an honest life.

  9. Wow. Reading the comments it is fairly obvious to me that either no one read the entire article or you seriously are all coming from a very beaten down perspective and I am sorry you are so sad.

    He is literally saying that ANYONE and EVERYONE should be helping one another more and that our society is engulfed in excess. He is using his way of living as an extreme example that there is more than enough [insert commodity] to go around.
    We have been lied to and indoctrinated into the belief that there isn't "enough land on this planet for the population", "enough food for everyone to be well fed", "enough water for all to drink", "enough clothes to wear", "enough money in our bank accounts". ALL of these things are methods of control and once they are broken, once the NEED that we create from NOTHING leaves, then and only then can we be free from tyrannical rule.

    So stop being jealous and bitter and talking shit, and start make decisions in your own life that will make you happy like this guy.

  10. I think it's a better medium of exchange when he 'barters' for some services. Don't use the cash. And bonus help others also.

  11. This last comment was the best one. Great feedback. Im sure the rest didnt bother to read the entire article speaking only regarding the first line. Jealousy? I bet, try to work for food and clothes instead of money.... will it bother you? Im sure it will to many who commented here, is all about priorities to yourself and mankind

    1. im glad im not the only one thinking jealous commenters

  12. Respect to Palmer & Fellmer!

    I also planned to live without money for an indefinite time. did this for a while in the 'free world'. Two weeks later I busted my knees, had to come back to the fake world. Luckily there were some friends to help me out.

    6 months later I don't have any income, survive on wwoofing (worldwide opportunities on organic farms), lets (local exchange trading system - semi-barter, electronic 'currency'), dumpster diving and occassionally an interim dayjob. Next to that I invest my time in community food gardens, connecting with people, ... Never felt more happy in all of my life!

  13. There is a way...and this is very close.
    If only we would make a HUGE effort to stop consuming--
    then we would begin to see how little we really need and
    how much stronger and more fulfilled we are! I know.
    Once we start to break away, the temptations will try everything
    to control us once again...not unlike a ruler whose subjects are resisting. Resist!

    For instance and for the most part, I eat one meal a day
    and drink one to two coffees a day (some days nothing at all.)
    I no longer bike, do yoga...or any other form of physical exercise.
    I am slender and fit(I am certain)and am in my 60s. For whatever
    ails me...I have not seen a doctor in 30 years and rarely self medicate. We need to accept that their will frequently be pain in our lives for now and learn to be much more quiet.

    Look around. Need and greed ave consumed us. We buzz around our offices, streets and homes; our skies and our waters.
    Most of us need to listen to noise or be noisy. We do not
    care where we make our phone calls..or how loud we are...even
    if the place was quiet before our arrival. It is as if it has
    all been orchestrated in an anti-peace movement...and it has.
    Let's change it now! Let's be much more considerate!

    It might just happen that when we have this lack of "need and greed" in common, we will have so much more to give...without the need to barter!

    1. Yes, you are absolutely correct. I find myself at present rapidly reentering the same quiet space as if there's no other WAY to honestly BE genuine. This is really all I can do for the moment although I've a growing feeling of an imminent application in terms of some higher vocational calling?
      Thank you for your comment.

    2. Most welcome and delighted you feel this calling too! In my past travels of around 40 countries and hundreds of cities, I have noticed some extremely noisy cultures. Now America is one of them. Our libraries, restaurants, coffee houses, buses, airports, airplanes, etc. are noisier than ever. It seems like videos (including documentaries) need to have music and flashing lights and colors in order to make a point. Well they do...the wrong one! I know. Many parents allow their children to talk loudly, scream and run around while the parents engage in loudly talking as they try to "solve" the world's problems. "I'm an artist--I must create; I'm a musician--I must make noise; I'm a singer--I must sound out; I'm a mother/father and I must create; etc." I guess I was all of the former (not the latter) and I can tell you it is manifesting in ways you cannot yet fathom! I know. It hurts me to approach others and kindly ask them to be a little quieter--they always reply by yelling at me. So now I spend nearly every hour at home...alone and quiet...very far from the maddening crowds! You might hear the "warbeat" as I have. If "as above, so below" there is a calling for each of us who seeks peace--and do not be fooled by those who do not comply because they are not like us; they require drama...and lots of it!
      ...I know.

  14. I can't believe that there are actually people that think this is okay. It's not peace. It's people living off of others. I'm not sure about all of you, but I work hard for my money, and while I'm all about helping those less fortunate, I don't feel the need to help a psychologist and her idiot husband who can help themselves just fine and choose not to. That lady needs to see a psychologist. Maybe she can clean a toilet in exchange for some counseling.

    1. obviously your mind is ruled by picture of the queen, ha i bet you clean your own toilet for nothing so who really is the fool if someone would clean mine for some bacon i would say yes

    2. "That lady needs to see a psychologist"--OUCH!!!

  15. My mind is ruled by what? Better lay back a little on those drugs - clearly your mind is ruled by some sort of hallucinogen. I'm in America. We don't have a queen. And I do clean my own toilet - the toilet I paid for.

  16. Feel empathy toward such misguided souls. They are being tricked into advocating a regression toward primitive society for the benefit of fraudsters pretending to be philosopher kings.

    Money is not something that a group of ancient criminals invented and inserted into the economy for domination & control. Everything is potential money. Within a direct barter system, that chair you own is a functional chair until you decide you want a bicycle and have among your property only a chair that you're willing to exchange. Once you find someone else who owns a bicycle but wants to own a chair, both the chair and the bicycle can fill their role as money until the exchange is finished, at which time they revert to being a chair (with a new owner) and a bicycle (with a new owner). Some variations are possible (e.g. finding someone who wants a chair, hates bicycles, owns a piglet, and knows someone else who wants to exchange a bicycle for a piglet), but the gist is that during each exchange the items being exchanged act as money -- which is the only valid definition for money: a medium of exchange.

    Over time, some items tend to get recognized for their transportability, divisibility, and for the way they become accepted as a thing that can be exchanged for all sorts of other things -- which is to say, the thing is widely accepted as a "Sure, I'll take that for this" kind of item. Everything else remains potential money as well, of course, but eventually one or two things (e.g. gold and silver) begin to dominate all other things as items accepted for exchange. This is known simply as a more sophisticated form of barter, and it is every bit as valid as any other.

    Legal tender and fiat money are another story altogether -- basically fraudsters trying to convince you that a political promise is worth as much as gold or silver. Remember: you are being expected to believe that a political promise is seldom broken.

    Bottom line: anyone who works 40-50 hours per week within a direct barter system is still using money as much as anyone else, and they do society a greater benefit by working those hours within an economy featuring open competition among popular currencies (which might be a chair during one exchange and "booked hours" during another -- but mostly would end up being exchanges of gold/silver for desired goods/services).