“We get a lot of criticism.”

Photo: Getty Images

Petra left her home and job nine years ago and lives with her family in a camper in Portugal. They live entirely according to the giving economy.

Petra (41 years old) lives with Robert (36 years old) and together they have a daughter (6) and a son (3):

I met Robert ten years ago via Twitter. He has worked in the investment world for years and wrote on Twitter that he would live by the “giving economy.” He explained this as a world where everyone gives to each other. In this way, abundance will come naturally and there will be no room for indifference. Equality and crime.To do his part, Robert left his home, his job, and gave up all his belongings.

I found it really very interesting. Since I didn’t always find myself off the beaten path myself, I wanted to know more about him. That’s why I sent a message to Robert. We clicked instantly and after six weeks of chatting, we met up in real life. It was clear to both of us during that date. As soon as we saw each other, we knew: We belong together.

Get energy

Of course, Robbert no longer had a home—since he told of his move into the giving economy online, plenty of people kept offering him a place to sleep—and he soon moved in with me. We lived together in my studio, which I rented for 550 euros a month, but in fact, like Robbert, I no longer wanted to be led by money. Of course, I still need to pay my fixed expenses, totaling 1,200 euros, but what if I arrange my life in a completely different way?

As an independent entrepreneur, I decided to accept only tasks that gave me energy.

Unlike Robert, I did it less rigorously. So I decided as an independent entrepreneur, I was a researcher, to only accept tasks that gave me energy. It immediately strained everything for me, because the tasks that I previously did only for money fell through. So my earnings went down, but I was still able to make ends meet.

home abolition

Gradually, my way of life became more and more against me. Robert let go of all his certainty and saw his vision work. That is why after a year of living together, I also decided to give up my house and give away most of my things. I only kept my phone, laptop, and a few sets of clothes and shoes.

Because I didn’t know what it was going to be like, that was very exciting, but I was pretty confident it was going to work out. Because that’s also what the giving economy is all about: letting go of certainty and trusting that you’ll have everything you need in that moment. And indeed, it happened.

After we posted on Facebook just before summer 2013 that we’d like to take care of homes during the holidays, the offers poured in. As a result, we always had a roof over our heads. In the meantime, we were still working, but we preferred to call them “contributions.” Robbert mainly focused on reporting on the giving economy and created a new economy for the University of Applied Sciences, for example learning community As a result, the students learned a lot in groups.

modern nomads

In February 2016 we became parents to a beautiful daughter, Doris. Because as new parents we had a lot to deal with, we rented a house from someone who had been away for five months in order to settle down. During that time, I really saw our temporary rental house as our home. It helped that I had no real desire to nest. And Doris may not have had her own room, but how much does a child really need? She slept comfortably between us.

After those five months we had some doubts: wouldn’t it be better to settle down somewhere again? But since we were not registered anywhere, it was very difficult to find a house for rent for an indefinite period. And so, with Doris, we moved from house to house like modern nomads.

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While many friends and family were skeptical about our choices at first, they seemed to accept it better when Doris was there. Perhaps because only then did they realize that this way of life was not in fashion for us.

“People who don’t understand our way of life call us parasites”

However, we also get negative feedback. People who resist seeing us only see what we receive, and there is a lot of judgment about that. As if we are taking something away from it being given to us by people who want to support us. We also get a lot of criticism online – terms like egoists and parasites pop up. We will never get into that. They will never understand our way of life, and that’s okay.

give economy

By the way, we also met many people who support our way of life. In 2017, we received a donation of €250,000 from one woman. We thought this was so beautiful, it just confirmed us again that we can really believe in the magic of abundance.

From this sum we rented a farm with a large plot of land for three years where we created a ‘donor economic place’. Everyone was welcome, so people could experience what it’s like to donate everything and live off gifts from others.

Then we bought a used camper van for 12,000 euros. With this we traveled through the Netherlands in the summer of 2020 and in the winter we escaped the cold by going to Portugal. Since then we have been living there in our camper, along with Doris and our son, Isa, who was born in 2019.

in its own way

We are currently tending to a plot of land for seven months that we can park on with our camper. Since there are almost no fixed costs – we grow our own fruit and vegetables and only spend €600 a month on groceries, €20 for our telephone subscription and €50 for mobile internet – we don’t need much for our daily lives. Our solar panels provide electricity and we shower under a shower bag that we fill well.

“Since there are almost no fixed costs, we don’t need much in our daily lives.”

And because we stay in the middle of nature, our children learn in their own way. Perhaps not quite as it should be according to the current system, but since we are not registered in the Netherlands, and we are not registered in Portugal, we have nothing to do with compulsory education. So we teach them ourselves but in a way that meets their needs. For example, Doris wanted to learn to read and write at an early age, so she’s already very good at it now.

We also do not have health insurance. Why should we? Because we live freely in nature, we never get sick. Otherwise, we only pay for a doctor’s appointment. We now have 5,000 euros in our bank account and that is more than enough for us. We are not afraid of this happening. Something will definitely come out. We have every confidence in that.”

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