How to Live in the Future?

Becoming independent of oil and money, and getting more freedom in life

My Minimalist Lifestyle Compared

For one year I’ve lived outside with just my hammock and bicycle, which I intend to continue. I’m experimenting with this for increased freedom and enjoyment of life, hoping to inspire others to leave a better world behind. I am amazed with how good it feels when you take away the conveniences of modern life, which are in fact causing more inconvenience overall.

Shelter

A house (or camper) takes an enormous amount of time and energy to finance and take care of, but its comforts only provide a very shallow kind of well-being, and quickly enough you will take it for granted. Your life becomes a never ending list of jobs that need to be done, or messy and disorganized. Real life experiences become a nuisance. Just think of what you could be spending the money from rent and bills on instead. Or the time wasted on your job.

Most people don’t have any outdoor sleeping experience other than a tent, so they think sleeping on the cold hard ground in an uninsulated muddy space is inherent to outdoor living, but it’s not. You just need to understand basic heat flow, use it to your advantage, wear the right clothes and insulation, and plan your day around the predicted weather. The body is well adapted, especially with an active lifestyle such as cycling and growing food. It’s only the contrast with indoor living that makes it feel uncomfortable. The body needs to keep an exact temperature for the formation of proteins and other processes, so the sudden change in temperature when going out of the house causes physical stress, signaled to your brain as feelings of discomfort. When you are always outside the temperature will be steadier and your metabolism has plenty of time to adapt. I never get cold or ill.

My hammock shelter in the mountains.

My hammock shelter in the mountains.

I chose a hammock shelter because it’s the smallest possible shelter that provides full comfort and versatility. It takes minimal time and materials to make and maintain. It doesn’t become dirty but can be washed if necessary. The Mayan hammock provides a flat surface rather than banana shape, you can make as much space as you want, it can be tied out on the sides to hold it open and steady, there are hammock designs for couples, you can put a stormproof tent or tipi around it which also provides privacy, and instead of trees you can use tied down sticks, a bicycle or lightweight poles.

Hammock insulated with 3-layers insultex underquilt. Here I've been camping for 10 weeks or so, close to the center of the city but away from troublemakers and invisible to everyone.

Hammock insulated with 3-layer insultex underquilt

I tied my hammock so it automatically closes at the top, providing a good balance between retaining body heat and letting in fresh air; a mosquito net is not needed. Hammocks need the least amount of insulation material, and it works much better because it’s on the outside where it doesn’t get squashed by your body. The material can be layered enough to keep you warm when it’s -50 degrees Celcius outside, and still be portable. No fuel or technology for heating is needed, and a blanket only in freezing conditions. With an active lifestyle your muscles will also hold the heat for a long time, similar to being warmed up by a shower.

Cooking

The easiest way of cooking is with a solar oven or rocket stove, using (per portion) a handful of twigs, dry leaves or grasses. Both are easy to make; a rocket stove can be made from cob (clay, hay and sand) or a hole in the ground. The most fuel and time efficient way of cooking is to boil water, take it from the heat, add ingredients and cover the pot in a blanket or thick layer of dry grass for a while. It’s best to share a meal with a group of people living together, such as in a community, taking turns in food preparation. Organizing food for bigger groups, such as done in cities, adds too much overhead and stress. Snacking on small portions of raw food picked straight from the garden saves a lot of time as well. Vegetables are more productive when you take small bits and let it continue to grow.

The rocket stove I used to have

My previous rocket stove

Hygiene

You just need to soak your skin with a bit of water to soften it, and scrub it with an old towel. This feels just as clean as soap, but doesn’t dry it out. Hair still needs to be washed with soap once in awhile, or kept short. I brush once every two days, using one tube of toothpaste a year (and my teeth are still perfect); you could easily use something like crushed shells and mint leaves or pine needles. Cold showers or swims are actually very enjoyable after a little bit of physical activity. It stimulates a different blood flow, which is very cleansing for the blood vessels and feels warm afterwards.

It’s not necessary to wash your clothes everyday. Just sterilize them in hot water (with any kind of soap) to remove oils and reset the breeding of smell producing bacteria, and make sure to clean yourself before putting on washed clothes. I spend 15-30 minutes a week to wash them by hand and dry them by wringing them out and wearing them, which isn’t uncomfortable or noticeable at all. After half an hour most of it is dry. Thin swim shorts are great underwear, dry quickly and double as shorts, so you can take off your trousers when it gets too warm.

Fresh air straight from the trees is a lot better than the stale, polluted air in a house. Even a clean ventilated house will still be full of dead skin in places, a breeding ground for parasites. For children it’s good to be exposed to dirt once in a while, so their immune system can develop properly, because after a certain age the body cannot develop new strategies to fight different forms of microbial attacks, resulting in allergies and colds.

Transport

The freedom that a car provides is a complete illusion; people simply don’t get enough time off from their job and lost confidence in their own bodies, so then it becomes their only option for escape. Marketing-based culture associated it with taking you away from the stresses of modern life or giving you an advantage over other people, but of course in reality cars are a source of problems, dependency, overspending and stress. A bicycle gives you more options than a car to go where you want; you can even walk it over piece by piece across rugged terrain; impossible with a car. You just have to slow down your life a bit and enjoy it more.

Cycling is the most efficient mode of transport, making optimal use of momentum and balance. When you go at your own speed the muscles don’t go sore and you don’t get tired, while getting a long subtle workout that extends your life and the quality of it. So you actually gain time by taking this slower mode of transport. Your leg muscles will quickly grow and make it feel automatic, as if you were driving a car. The experience of cycling is very meditative, and not just because the runners’ high kicks in.

Bikes do require fuel in the form of food, but you get to enjoy it, and the amounts that we are used to eating are already much more than we need. For some people that “indulged” too much in modern life it might be too late to switch to this kind of lifestyle, but cycling is a very accessible sport.

I ride a front wheel drive recumbent; they started to appear 10 years ago and have a very comfortable position without the downsides of normal recumbents and upright bikes; it’s clearly visible to cars, uses normal bike parts, doesn’t require special clothing, rests your back and optionally your neck, and is more efficient uphill (not putting any stress on your back), although you’ll have to switch to walking on very rough roads. It’s a different way of cycling that involves the arms and shoulders as well, but everyone can do it right away. I made two bike versions like this from old bike parts; it doesn’t need welding, and most cities have a bicycle repair club run by volunteers, where you can use the tools for free or a small donation if you can spare it. I also bought a commercial version of this bike design, which packs down into a suitcase together with the helmet and tools.

Adding the panniers to my freshly assembled Cruzbike Quest.

Adding the panniers to my freshly assembled Cruzbike Quest.

In contrast, driving a car makes you lazy, easily irritated, stressed, fat and in many cases dead or disabled for the rest of your life; for a hitchhiker it’s not much different. Even a bike on the highway is statistically safer than a car. And you have to pay for gas, maintenance, repairs, insurance, taxes, registration, parking and the inescapable fines. It needs regular cleaning just to preserve it, you can’t use it for long-term travel across borders, it’s very difficult to camp for free, you’re forced to use it regularly to avoid damage, and you’re very dependent on repair shops. For a bike you can easily learn and carry all you need to keep it going.

Even if you just have some pieces of wood and basic tools, you can make a bicycle like this to greatly improve transport of goods, taking the load off your back.

Even if you just have some pieces of wood and basic tools, you can make a bicycle like this (without pedals) to greatly improve transport of goods, taking the load off your back and giving you a big smile, for free.

Communication

Phone contracts or prepaid systems are another big money waster; I haven’t had it for years. It’s only needed because of jobs and because people make themselves dependent on constantly changing plans at the last moment, rather than thinking ahead, sticking with it and having a plan B ready. For social interaction it’s much more satisfying for everyone to see people in person, and live in the moment with the people around you. For making plans you can use the internet to avoid interrupting the peace of others, and be able to read back the details later; most places have public libraries with internet close by.

I carry a tablet with full laptop capacity for my computing projects, powered with a little solar charger. It can be used as torch, camera, navigator, media player, book, instrument, art medium, guitar tuner, phone for emergency calls (sim card isn’t necessary), etc. No other electronics are needed, it’s very weatherproof and easy to hide in a double bottomed bag or case.

Work and Family

When living outside you don’t have to be a bum and you’re not lowering your social status if you use your time to volunteer and help others, educate yourself, create cultural or intellectual works, exercise, travel the world, etc. The minor inconveniences of outdoor living are well worth putting up with, to enjoy this stress-free, productive, healthy, social and satisfying lifestyle.

The joys of simple living

The joys of simple living

I saved the money from my job for 1.5 years (at a bank that doesn’t invest in child labor, fossil fuels, etc.) and receive some interest. Together this gives me enough for about 10-15 years with my current rate of spending (traveling the world, including global medical insurance), after which I could repeat it. I’m not worried about retirement as today’s value will be worthless by then. Instead I focus on changing the way people value life, and on self education and building communities, where people have the time and motivation to take care of the elderly they got to know and love. There’s even a chance that new technologies might keep my generation young and healthy enough to make retirement a thing of the past. Another reason why a free, slower way of living is important.

Spending money is in fact the current political system; democracy is just a facade. Only with your purchases you’re casting a real vote. Big conglomerates own every aspect of life and have all the power and motives to corrupt politicians and other people in influential positions. They only have this power because the consumer gave it to them to get the dirty work done without having to feel guilty about it. Any small parties or alternative companies that become significantly influential will be taken over or sabotaged. Buying sustainable products from family businesses might seem to be voting for that kind of world, but with the current consumer culture, it would not be feasible to have companies that are fair and just. Any revolution would result in the same corruption, because people demand purchasing power, which means things have to be produced cheaply, no matter what the cost; just hide it from the public eye so we can continue spending without guilt. People in the west take it for granted that they are able to buy anything they want at any time of their lives, even though most western jobs are useless and only have economical value by increasing consumption even more. No job comes even close to compensating for a basic western lifestyle. This is why I try to avoid using money; I only use a little bit to be able to educate myself and find out an inspirational lifestyle that could work for everyone and restore this physically and psychologically damaged world.

I spend almost no time to provide my standard of living, and use almost nothing beyond food and some recycled clothes. I can produce most of it myself, use resources that can be shared with everyone in the world (unlike houses and cars), and the few pieces of modern material I use can last a lifetime and can easily be recycled again and again from existing products with minimal effort. At the moment I don’t have land to produce my own food, but I’m plann‌ing to get some; there is still plenty of cheap land available in places. I regularly volunteer on communal farms for food and education. Where possible I recycle the tremendous amount of perfectly fine food wasted by supermarkets.

It’s only the border laws of countries that require me to spend money on traveling; if there was no time limit on my stay I would be able to cycle and sail instead of paying for airplane tickets. The only other things I use are internet and sealed roads; neither costs a lot of money per person and the latter isn’t necessary, although it does conserve a lot of energy.

This lifestyle is also the best you can offer your children. You actually get to be with them and teach them and they can create a deep meaningful bond with other children and adults from the community. They would be able to run around freely without walls, cars, valuables and dangerous objects. Their immune system, metabolism and creativity can develop naturally. Growing a bit more food adds maybe an hour of work per child per week, and they will quickly be old enough to contribute themselves as part of their education.

Communal meals in an intentional community

Communal meals in an intentional community

Many people fantasize about a career and accumulating wealth, not for themselves but their family, thinking this would make them happy. But you can’t get that much money with an honest, satisfying job; you would have to sacrifice your character and health, and you would probably end up alienating yourself from your family. The things you buy will only give them a short lived, shallow kind of happiness, and as a consequence they will have trouble motivating themselves in life, making sense of it all and feeling satisfied.

In fact money is a terrible motivator; only inhuman jobs need motivation that way, and they are only necessary because of the over-consumption of modern unsatisfying lifestyles. You have to realize that all motivation comes from natural chemical processes in the brain: for bonding and security, and to balance creative mind wandering with patient concentration.

Children should be nurtured to find activities that develop a healthy dependence on these motivational drugs made by the brain itself (made for a good reason). For instance with construction toys, artistic pursuits, outdoor living skills, illustrated informative books for children, etc. For me it was computer games and in particular learning myself how to program software that really got me hooked on learning all kinds of things in life. Being somewhat of an outcast but not unpopular, and in a loving environment, I didn’t need to conform and so I had full freedom for my pursuits. Music has also been very central in my life (I carry a small guitar on my bicycle). It’s the only thing that stimulates the entire brain at once. A good balance between social boundaries and freedom of resources is required for children to start a self-motivating contributing lifestyle.

Studies of people over a hundred years old show that they organize their lives around intellectual and physical challenges in a social environment, for instance running creativity classes for kids and going for a daily run in the park, and generally being at peace with their circumstances. MRI scans show that their brains continue to grow on the outside, while people with passive lifestyles such as watching TV, and who feel powerless and insignificant in the world, have shrunken brains with important brain hormone producing parts dramatically smaller, and they are not able to take care of themselves anymore because of this. The same studies show that the brain starts to grow again right away when elderly people change their lifestyle to a more positive one. Brain cells die due to toxins and aging and cannot be repaired by the body; you have to stimulate it to regrow existing memories and skills.

Once children grow up to be motivated adults, they will continue to look for challenges, automatically filling in the gaps in work that needs to be done. They are pleased to help other people because of the bonds they created. Drug abuse will not satisfy them, as it blocks the production of natural chemicals produced by the brain. They would not be able to balance their brain enough to solve challenges that satisfy their natural addiction. I know this works very well for me.

Activities such as crime also provide an interesting challenge for people to get into, for people in ghettos this is usually the only option that could provide a good life for themselves, their mates and family. But currently it’s mostly due to the popularity of it in the culture, especially in minorities that are discriminated against, and impressionable young minds that grow up in a world where money and worldly fame mean everything and can only really be acquired with unfair behavior. Some even believe that criminal music has been intentionally popularized by the companies that have interests in both the music industry and the prisons that were privatized shortly after, which provide a huge slave wage industry.

Crime would be very rare in an intimate environment where deep bonds were created and maintained. Crime against loved ones would soon enough cause withdrawal of the natural drugs for bonding and security, creating a feeling similar to a breakup, loss of a loved one or homesickness; all literally a weaker version of heroin withdrawal. For the same reason it’s important to keep close ties with surrounding communities; conflict is never productive now that we understand our own evolution and don’t have to kill anymore. In modern lifestyles there is no time and energy to create real bonds, and in many subcultures the nuclear family and the country comes first at the cost of other people, which seems noble, but are both very dangerous and stressful ways of thinking.

Many people believe that money-less communal living isn’t possible because there are too many people that would abuse it. Those kinds of characters are often formed during childhood, and there might not be much that can be done about it, except starting communities and preventing the same fate in future generations.

So.. How Do I Start?

It’s very simple: start getting rid of your stuff, bills and debt right now, recycle some good gear, save up a bit of money, quit your job respectfully, be grateful for but don’t abuse your western privileges, and do what you want to do, where you want to do it, with the people you want to be with. Slow it down to enjoy the simple life; make learning, sharing, music and helping people a central element. Keep your mind open and your energy positive and inspiring. Live in a way that everyone can live, not just the privileged western people, so don’t depend on houses and cars. Stop thinking about yourself and learn from the African ubuntu mentality: how can I be happy when others are not? Personally, I identify with the experience of universe as a whole, rather than living selfishly just because it appears that my body, the “camera” is the only thing I need to take care of.

In another article I will explain why you need to go this far to be a sustainable pacifist.

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Cycling and outside living

In September I finally managed to finish my gear, get a banking problem sorted and start my journey up through Queensland. It took me three attempts before I trusted my gear and got rid of enough luggage. I cycled along the coast and between green spots on the map for stealth camping.

I ended up staying 6 weeks in Brisbane to wait for my passport extension. This city is probably one of the best places in the world for hobos to hang out. Nice pastry from the dumpster everyday, coffee made on the hotplates while using free wifi, lounge chairs in the public libraries (where you may take a nap), free public swimming pool (warm and quiet early in the morning), flat bicycle paths connecting popular spots, sunny weather but not too hot, and nice scenery along the river. Of course I realize very well this is freeloading, but even so, it would not be more than say $150 a year, because it’s shared with many people. This is well covered by the high price of the Australian visas. It’s not my intention to live like this, but it’s all about hands-on education for me at this stage, and this was a very valuable experience that I will cherish the rest of my life. I ended up only spending money on some wine and chips, and non-dumpster-dived meals that I made for my couch hosts.

I couchsurfed a few times, but it is very hard to find like minded people, and most do not check their messages. Hosting just does not work that well for working people, and often the landlord doesn’t allow it. I slept in unmaintained bushparks 15 minutes cycling from the city center, where no troublemakers hang out at night. The long tropical nights made it easy to hide; the bike being the bottleneck. Opossums are plentiful and I learned the hard way that food has to be properly contained. I went to bed early and woke up naturally with the sun and the birds. I hid my stuff in vegetation on terrain too steep for the casual park stroller. Someone found it a few days before I left though, and cut the vegetation around it. Probably because I got a bit lazy at it, and a dog might have smelled some food. I hadn’t left anything of value, besides a few kilos of dumpster dived coffee, and I spread my stuff over several locations.

After Brisbane I had a little holiday while slowly moving up the Sunshine Coast. After that I planned to have days off from cycling, but the lack of good public libraries kept me going further. After cycling to Maryborough in the rain for a few hours (as there was no shelter), almost getting a heat stroke at Gin Gin, constantly seeing bad weather reports for Cairns and not knowing how to do the remote 350 km stretch between Rockhampton and Mackay at my pace with limited carrying capacity, I decided to quit my tour 1/3 of the way. I was supposed to go in winter, which would be perfect, but there had been just too many delays to make it worthwhile. I continued to Gladstone for a proper library and ended up staying a few weeks to get yet another banking problem sorted and book a ticket to Tasmania.

When I packed up the bike and my already minimized luggage, it turned out to be 42 kg; way too much. Unfortunately in the hurry that followed I threw some valuable stuff away that I later regretted, including my rocket stove and guylines of my tarp.

In Hobart I couchsurfed a few days and even got my own room; this gave me a nice breather from the stress of transporting a bike by plane, especially the dis- and reassembly of my custom bike on its last legs. The +/- 1000 km that I cycled in Queensland had taken its toll on my prototype. I was lucky that it survived the 20 km trip from the airport to Hobart, but then the derailleur broke off and because I didn’t remove or secure it properly, it eventually got stuck in the wheel while walking the bike. This destroyed some spokes and the chain and bent the rim, making my only functioning brake useless. Since the local bike repair club was on a Christmas break, I gave up hope and decided to buy the Cruzbike Quest, which I had been considering for almost the entire year (it’s rather pricey). The ability to fold it in a suitcase is very handy and something I would not be able to match with thrash bikes. It also has the appropriate bike components for a front-wheel driven recumbent, especially the ability to switch gears while standing still, and an elliptical front ring for a smoother feel and better traction uphill.

I stayed another couple of weeks in the city waiting for the imported bicycle; this was nice but rather uneventful. I then put the new bike together, made panniers and went to a community that I was invited to, 80 km into the mountains; a nice maiden voyage. The panniers were supposed to be convertible into a suitcase sized bike box, to save on weight for air-travel and save time getting a bike box, but I had to finish it quickly and will do it properly next time. I also want to make a handluggage-sized box under the seat, which is a better location for the heavier stuff. Since the bike doesn’t have wide handlebars, the smaller wheels make it a few inches lower and the seat is lower on the frame, it doesn’t balance as well, reducing the carrying capacity a bit.

The community where I stayed was basically someone’s large backyard in the mountains, with people going in and out during the summer. It was a lot less developed compared to the previous community where I stayed, which was very educational. It wasn’t oriented around children and work shifts, and many people staying where almost out of money, doing external fruit picking work and didn’t seem to have been very involved in self-sufficient-ish communities before.

Now I’m preparing to cycle a few days up the east coast of Tasmania, to Jackeys Marsh forest festival where I will be giving a workshop about sustainability and my lifestyle. I’m hoping to place a summary here, since my thoughts have gone through quite some developments.

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On the road I met a bamboo bike maker; he runs a workshop in Vienna. This is the fifth bike he made for himself; it looks as new even though he has already done 1600 km on it.

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Ride to Brisbane

I’ve been staying in Brisbane for a few weeks now, enjoying the city while waiting for my new passport. It took me 5 days to get here from the farm; one of those was wasted on 4 punctures (broken bottles everywhere) and having to walk to the nearest town to get glue, as my glue, spare tube and tools turned out to not work and I didn’t let the glue set long enough on the first few. In total another day was lost finding good camping spots, moving my stuff in and out of there and constantly reorganizing and fixing my stuff to the bike. Mostly because I could not move my bike to a good spot when it had a flat the first time. I stashed stuff here and there to lose weight while walking.

Loaded up and ready to goLoaded up and ready to go

I slept in the dunes a couple of times, feeling a bit guilty for entering this fragile ecosystem, but hopefully it shouldn’t be too bad this one time, walking barefoot and using a hammock (with tree protection straps) rather than a tent. I also slept behind a road wall once, as my planned camping island turned out to be a flooded mangrove and I got too tired looking for alternatives. Got a bit damp in the morning dew there.

dunesSome well earned relaxing on the beach

Australia has a lot of more or less abandoned highways with nice scenery (replaced by straighter motorways next to it), which are very nice and safe to cycle. In the cities I went really slow as I often could not take the proper lanes with my wide, heavily loaded bike. The disorganised, car-oriented traffic signals and my poor navigation skills also led to a lot of delays. I’m using a hacked greyscale ereader with offline street and satellite maps and no gps; I have a gps for my laptop but I can’t really use it practically on the road.

I’ll have to make some decent new panniers and get rid of some more stuff if I am to continue. I also have a problem with my bicycle stem extension getting looser; that might have been from going to hard on bad roads and carrying weight on the handlebars. The bike also fell one time when someone apparently tried to take her for a spin while locked. That’s the major downside of this bike: it attracts a lot of unwanted attention. It is definitely a superior design in every other way; I might even buy a properly built one, like the Cruzbike Quest, which can be folded to fit in a suitcase.

In Brisbane I have been sleeping and stashing my stuff in the bushparks, which works quite well and doesn’t add too much overhead. I am regularly sleepy in the morning still, when I go to bed too late (an hour after sunset is best); I can’t stay longer than sunrise to avoid detection by early dog walkers and Australia’s many joggers. I’ve also been couchsurfing a couple of times, and stashing some stuff there that I don’t use normally. Social connections are very important for a sense of being home. When traveling you break a lot of habits that provide addictive brain chemicals for a balanced lifestyle. Homesickness feels almost like you lost someone, and plays tricks on the rational mind. It’s good to reduce the addictions by living with minimal means, but for the rest you can temporarily replace it by little treats such as coffee, chocolates or taking the time for a swim in the ocean. In an earlier attempt to start the tour, the bad feelings got the better of me and were the main reason for me to return to the farm after just one night. My gear was also disappointing, but no matter how much money you throw at it, it’s either going to be too heavy, too fragile or too impractical (or all of those, in my case).

I have been getting very nice food from a bakery bin; kilos of meat, dairy and luxury bread like croissants. For those who don’t know; each supermarket throws away about 3 big dumpsters full of perfectly fine overstock every day; enough for about 100-200 meals; one of the many revolting practices of capitalism. I only take what I can eat and a bit more to share, but often people are irrationally afraid of things deemed unhygienic by society. I still see myself as vegan, but when animal products are thrown away on landfills to slowly rot to greenhouse gasses, I prefer to just eat it, especially since it enables me to praticipate less in the economy. As long as it doesn’t smell or is slimy, and it cooked thoroughly, it’s fine (although in my student days I ate meat that had gotten to that stage, and I was fine). They have to add nitrates to kill the rare deadly bacteria anyway.

What I carry on my bike is pretty much everything I got, apart from my savings. I realized that I only paid for my ereader, camera (but I got a free camera later on), brake cables and some bike tools. I am not a freeloader, rather a freeconomist: I give and take but not necessarily to the same people or in a quantifiable balance. I give back a lot in the form of volunteering and collecting knowledge about how to live in the future, which I think will be valuable eventually if not already, regardless of how stubborn people are in clinging on to their selfish and destructive ways. I also pay a dollar a day for the visa, which quite covers what I use anyway.

Living on the street in beautiful Brisbane made me feel very good; I have come to realize a rich life is organized around keeping the chemicals in the brain flowing. Not with drugs (except maybe some coffee and a glass of alcohol); mainly just by a meditative kind of attitude. With all respect, I’m personally not so much into joga and that kind of stuff, but I listen to a lot of music that is very stimulating to me (very well depicted in American Dad’s episode about My Morning Jacket), the bike rides provide an unmatched sense of beauty and tranquility and is very empowering, and I am addicted to knowledge. Not limiting myself to a plan also helps a lot, and I realized I have no fear for anything anymore; only caution. Then again, Australia is a very safe country. The video that I produced with a donated (and slightly damaged) pencamera communicates my feeling quite well:

 

It helps that Australia provides plentiful facilities for free: water for drinking and cooling down (although lightly chlorinated), power, wifi, toilets, swimming pool, showers, hotplates for cooking and even lounge chairs and airconditioning in the library, open 7 days a week.

The Community

It has been well over a year since my last writing; I tend to prioritize my never-ending projects..

I have been staying on a permaculture community 30 km inland of Byron Bay, which is mostly oriented around young families and single parents. Meals and most resources are shared. Living on this beautiful land is very privileged, but can also be very frustrating and confrontational. Many people seem to come here to live cheaply and comfortably rather than seriously experiment with self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyles, even though it is part of the vision statement. Most find it sufficient to buy “recycled” toilet paper from 1000 km away, in a plastic wrap with some nice green slogans, even though layered leaves with morning dew are much more hygienic and comfortable, and quicker to pick up. The stuff that is considered rubbish would be a goldmine to the aboriginal people.

Still this is the most serious community I could find in Australia; others tend to be a commercial cheap labor operation, a property division, or just don’t want to be found to share their knowledge and experience.

There is a lot of drama and personal friction. Besides pressing family and financial issues, people get disappointed from not reaching their romanticized lifestyles and from having to deal with inconsiderate behavior from others. The spoiled western attitude seems very difficult to overcome, even in this remote part with low budgets and shared values. For me as well.

Since the relatively young Australian soil is very poor in nutrients, it is not really sustainable to live off the land without industry, unless you have a lot of it and keep the native adapted species in balance. This is pretty much impossible to do in a lifetime, with all the non-native weeds taking over.

It is of course a nice way to live, but in the perspective of creating equal opportunity for 7 billion people in a destroyed ecosystem, you cannot do that and consider yourself peaceful and willing to share.

Bamboo

One of the reasons I chose this farm was to experiment with the many species of bamboo that they are growing, and make a human powered vehicle that would not require an industry for any part. I did not end up making that bike, but I learned a lot about the material and lashings. I almost finished a small shelter with a two-sided bench, but I did not have enough twine, time or knowledge to do it successfully. There were plenty of banana stems to make strong twine, but it takes a ridiculous amount of time without the proper machine. Vines seem to be good, but I did not perfect the technique enough. I ended up trying metal lashings, but it broke easily while twisting and expanded and contracted differently in the weather conditions. It cracked the bamboo or kept on coming loose, so I took the whole thing down again.

I think there is also just too much dew to make a quality building that is worth the time; it would barely last a year without chemicals or rare natural preservatives. Even inside buildings the bamboo deteriorates rather quickly. The wet season soaks all wood and clothes, no matter how well protected, and the smell of mold becomes ever present. I do believe that the Japanese tradition of regularly smoking the bamboo will extend the lifetime significantly.

The frame of bamboo structures has to be made from triangles of overlapping culms lashed together; there is no other natural way to keep it stable. A dome shape could also be made, but the thin flexible bamboo would quickly deform and rot. For simple farm structures we used bolts and cement, but it still needed bracing. In the end I had a great lashing technique, where the rope is twisted at the end to tighten it properly, using a ring of bamboo which is secured afterwards. But then I decided it was time to move on and explore the rest of Australia using my second year working holiday visa.

Cruzbike

The last time I tried to cycle a long distance, my trailer design turned out to be flawed and the tires were worn out after 140 km (from sliding across the road sideways as the bike does not stay in a perfectly straight course). Now I was inspired to do it again, but by placing my luggage in panniers. However, what started out as a simple hammock redesign and bicycle brake repair turned into a five month project.

I decided to try the Cruzbike design, where the pedals are mounted on the front wheel and you sit back in a seat like a recumbent bike. My skin just cannot take a regular saddle for long distance travelling. I also experimented with a lot of other things, like a coroplast rain cover mounted on the bike, but those kinds of things turned out to be useless.

In the end, after one day of cycling, I found none of my gear to be working as expected. Balancing a cruzbike also takes a fair bit of of energy and concentration and quickly wears the bearings. Combined with the tiredness of having wasted too much time and energy preparing, and the usual homesickness of traveling alone without resorting to hostels, I decided to turn back. Any bicycle would need lower gears than a standard mountain bike, and disc brakes to manage the hills when loaded.

Hammock

I slept in my hammock for the first 10 weeks on the farm; a very comfortable and clean way to camp, even in the heavy rains and cold. You feel relaxed and ready for sleep right away. The comfort depends a lot on the size of the sheet and how it’s tied together at the ends. I only had a minor issue with pressure on my shoulder, but soon enough you stop turning and get used to just lying on your back. Getting out to pee is still annoying; later I made a slit 1/3 down the hammock, but it’s still difficult to get out, especially with a sleeping bag wrapped on the outside for insulation. I made a new lightweight hammock from an old ripstop nylon parachute that the owner wanted to get rid of, but the seams started ripping after the first night, and it stretches tremendously.

Future plans

Once I get back to Europe, I want to make a proper recumbent tricycle and a sturdy ripstop nylon hammock for future travels. For now I am done with bamboo, also because it is difficult to transport it off the island, but I still believe a bamboo bike can be made. It does need modern wheels to travel on roads, and off-road it might not surpass the efficiency of hiking.

Sydney to Newcastle

This is how my last 2 weeks went. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so I don’t have any pictures, which is a real shame.

When I arrived in Sydney I decided to walk the 6 km to the place where I was going to stay, using the free map. Since my navigation skills are lacking, it ended up taking me 5 hours and a couple of phone calls.. It was also quite difficult to find a way out of the airport by foot. At that time I hadn’t slept for 3 nights due to the final preparations, but I still felt great and didn’t feel like taking the easy way by train.

I stayed at a former workshop where squatters and travelers hang out; I had a really amazing time with those guys! They have a free shop and occasional free market with food. They even gave me a good bike, I just needed to add a seat and fill up the tyres. Sydney’s bike club also helped a lot; they have loads of spare parts that you can take for free.

I haven’t bought any food or drinks so far; the cheapest food is still twice as expensive as the expensive food in the Netherlands, but there’s lots of good food in the dumpster still safely packed. During my bike trip of the last couple of days from Sydney to Newcastle, I scored a stack of pizzas still in the box. Although I’m vegan, I decided to just eat meat and dairy when it comes out of the bin, and when there’s no non-vegan around to give it to. I didn’t find any other good dumpster though.

I’ve been working for about 3 days on the bike trailer and got great help from Alan, who has a welder, but unfortunately it was just not stable enough for this amount of weight (30 kg suitcase). I had to cycle really slow, do a lot of repairs and readjustments and walked almost half the time, in cases where I had to take the bumpy pedestrian paths or it was just too steep. At one point I didn’t have a rear light because it had fallen off onto the street and a couple of cars crushed it before I could retrieve it safely. My reflector also mysteriously disappeared. After 1,5 day I had significant saddle pain and my feet and hands were also getting sore.

I expected my 175 km trip to take about 14 hours, but I heavily underestimated the mountains, the instability of the bike trailer, the lack of decent bicycle paths and my tiredness, so I ended up cycling for 3 days, almost without any sleep. It felt like eternity. I had lots of times where I was dozing off when going downhill. Halfway I also got pretty dehydrated from sunburn and because I had forgotten to refill my water bottles in time. From the moment I left I felt quite homesick for Sydney and the Netherlands and missed my friends, family and daily routines. I started at night to bypass city traffic, but that didn’t really make a difference.

I hitchhiked the last 40 km, as the white rubber bike trailer tyres were completely worn down and flat. Luckily a friendly lady stopped within 2 minutes and I could even bring my bike. She’ll pick up the dumped trailer later and reuse parts for the kids or just throw it away properly. She offered me a great vegan soup and I stayed the night at a friend of hers. For the rest of the week I will probably be staying with friends of the Sydney people I stayed with.

I can really recommend cycling through the undisturbed mountains on the Old Pacific Highway, where barely any cars come and some parts are very silent. It’s almost like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie.

The hammock worked well, but I kept on forgetting to use my earplugs and woke up after an hour. One night when I finally used them and slept 4 hours, I also woke up really cold, but I think that was mostly due to the hammock being set up with too much space around my head and the top not automatically closing from the tension. Or I might just need a bigger or thicker or additional fleece blanket.

I have been navigating using the OpenStreetMap on Navit on my hacked ereader. It worked, but it’s a very combersome application, mostly because the search function is stuck on USA, so I can’t search for streets in Australia, and I haven’t yet figured out how to change it. I also don’t have GPS on it and was not able to get my external GPS to work on it.

I will be going by train to a town near the farm and bring the bike. I’m afraid I’ve really had enough of bike rides that take longer than a day or have to be at night.. There was something about this trip that didn’t feel right.

How to Sleep in the Future

During my travels I will be sleeping in a hammock. It’s the ideal portable bed; extraordinarily relaxing, low tech and lightweight. The soil is not disturbed, critters are easily kept outside and you’re relatively safe from flash floods and rainwater runoff. To make it work in all terrains I use my bicycle and an extra pole instead of trees to keep the hammock up; that works remarkably well. They are pegged into the ground with one rope each. The bike stand is only used to prevent slipping, not for support.

Another rope is hung above the hammock to hold a tarp, going all around the hammock, to keep the rain out while providing ventilation room. An insect net is connected to the tarp at both ends. If you sleep on your insulation material, it will be compacted and therefore useless in that area. Wrapping it outside of the hammock prevents this. In addition, you don’t lose your heat by contact with the ground, so you need much less insulation material than you would in a tent. This small weight reduction could save you the calories of an apple a day for instance; more if you go hiking.

In my experiment with this I had one big issue: I used an old single-person bed sheet for the hammock, which is just too small. You need a long wide hammock so you can lay at an angle of 10-20 degrees from the centerline, like the maya’s did. This is necessary when you want to lay comfortably on your side, which I do. I found out the hard way that you need 2 layers if you use ordinary cloth, otherwise it will rip eventually. The fleece that I used was also slightly too small, so there was too much draft to sleep comfortably, with the clothes on that I intend to bring.

If it rains heavily and continuously and you can’t find a dry place, I guess it’s best to take your clothes off, put the tarp up first, then the rest and then quickly dry yourself before going in. In any other case, it would be smart to find a dry spot or wait for the rain to stop. In thunder it’s probably best to stay away from your bike and just sit it out under a poncho, which doubles as the tarp.

This is an intermediate solution, therefore I may buy parachute cloth, which is superior but completely dependent on the industrial system. My self-designed bike caravan will have an integrated hammock as both a saddle and bed, made from self spun yarn, although saplings and reeds would also work. It will have a waterproof bamboo roof, walls and floor, a mini table for easier reading and a seal-able bamboo bucket toilet so you don’t have to go outside, which is a serious issue in bug infested areas. I’m fairly confident that the bamboo will provide enough insulation, which is good, since it’s very resource- and labor-intensive to make something like fleece yourself. You could use +/- 8 months old bamboo as extra padding on the inside; it has the structure of cotton wool.

I’m experimenting with and designing a new kind of lifestyle. One that will be completely independent of oil and money. One that can be followed by everyone in the world, at the same time and in the future, without reducing global population. One that radically minimizes consumption and uses only truly sustainable food and materials. One that frees up your time so you can focus on the more important things in life without any worries.

I’m already living almost completely without money, bartering or parasitic freeloading. I give more than I receive, although I do receive a lot. I’m vegan and transitioning to raw food and self-sufficiency. I learned to live without heating or warm water in a comfortable way. I do this to get more security in life; uninformed people will not understand this at all, but I’m here to teach them.

For now, there are 3 things I’m not giving up during the transition phase: minimal electronics for the purpose of research/development/knowledge sharing, a savings account as a backup (at a green and ethical bank) and really cheap basic insurance (automatically paid for with part of the interest). Once the lifestyle becomes mainstream, those are not needed anymore. I’m still using things like roads because they cannot be avoided, but tarmac and maintenance are definitely not necessary.

I’m currently switching to a nomadic lifestyle; giving away my things and moving from the Netherlands to Australia on May 1, from which I want to return over land and sea. I will decrease my use of unnatural power as much as possible. I might use solar electricity for my R&D electronics, but not for anything else, since it still depends on oil and money. Even if I quit the experiment at some point, I will likely not connect myself to the grid, keep on living just from a small backpack and use only a bicycle for travel; at least within a continent.

Most people think that this lifestyle is an abuse of society, but it’s actually the “normal” lifestyles that are completely dependent on destruction and unfair exploitation, even when you’re poor. It’s just hidden from view. With my new lifestyle, that’s not the case. When everyone would stop working and destroy everything, I would still be able to live the same way. Not right now of course, because I’m still in the transitional phase (in which I use money if all else fails), but in one or two years time I should get to that point.

When I lose the ability to care for myself, I will need a network of people to look after me. Saving money your whole life made this easy, but it’s already quite unaffordable to go to a place where you don’t have wait for help sitting in your own feces for a couple of days. When I get to that age, my pension funds is guaranteed to not be worth anything, hence this new lifestyle will be more secure. Now I have time to take care of enough people so that some of them may be willing to look after me long enough. More importantly, we should get to a stage where almost everyone is willing to spend a small part of his time taking care of the helpless, even if they never knew the person.

De-specialization is going to be vital when oil becomes too expensive in 10 years or so, when supermarkets are empty and people realize only 5%-10% of their food can be grown locally, and only if they would have taken the years of effort to create a healthy soil. Money is an easy way to add enormous complexity to society; without cheap oil it becomes worthless and that network will fall apart. Suddenly you will have to make your own clothes without machines from a material that grows in your climate, or take the amount of land and water necessary to feed 5-10 people in order to raise 1 sheep. Now is the time to learn to be self-sufficient; I’m basically creating lessons to learn it more quickly.

To be able to use the working holiday visa in time (2 years Australia, 1 year New Zealand) I eventually gave in to the speed and bureaucratic ease of air travel, but it will be my last. In Sydney I hope to make a bicycle at the DIY club, and from there I will cycle to a WWOOF community near Brisbane. At the farm I hope to make a tricycle from 100% natural materials, that is able to single-handedly cross the globe, can be made and repaired without special tools on any continent (except Antarctica), provide shelter and if necessary transport enough food and water for 3-6 months. Garbage is used for unessential improvements. I’m quite far with the design, but I have to experiment with some parts first.

Recently I gave a talk on how to live without money in a socially acceptable way; here is a link to my notes in Dutch: http://nijmegen.transitiontowns.nl/archief/film-leven-zonder-geld (all the way down, expand the 2 links). I will probably mention the most important parts in my posts later on.