Petra quit her house and job nine years ago and lives with her family in a camper in Portugal. They live completely according to the giving economy.
Petra (41) lives with Robbert (36) and together they have a daughter (6) and a son (3):
“I met Robbert ten years ago via Twitter. He worked in the investment world for years and tweeted that he was going to live according to the ‘giving economy’. He explained this as a world where everyone gives to each other. In this way, abundance would come naturally and there would no longer be room for inequality and crime. To do his part, Robbert had quit his house and job and given away all his belongings.
I found it really super interesting. Because I couldn’t always find myself in the beaten track myself, I wanted to know more about it. That’s why I sent Robbert a message. We immediately clicked and after six weeks of chatting, we met in real life. It was obvious to both of us during that appointment. As soon as we saw each other, we knew: we belong together.
Of course, Robbert no longer had a home – ever since he had told about his transition to the giving economy online, many people kept offering him a place to sleep – and soon moved in with me. We lived together in my studio, which I rented for 550 euros a month, but actually, like Robbert, I no longer wanted to be led by money. Of course, I still needed to pay my fixed costs, in total about 1200 euros, but what if I arranged my life in a completely different way?
“As an independent entrepreneur, I decided to only accept assignments that gave me energy”
Unlike Robbert, I did it a little less rigorously. So I decided as an independent entrepreneur, I was a researcher, to only accept assignments that gave me energy. That immediately put everything on edge for me, because the assignments that I previously only did for the money fell off. So my earnings decreased, but I was still able to make ends meet.
Gradually, my way of life became more and more against me. Robbert had given up all his certainties and saw that his vision worked. That’s why after a year of living together I decided to also give up my home and give away most of my stuff. I only kept my phone, laptop and a few sets of clothes and shoes.
Because I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, that was very exciting, but I had every confidence that it would work out. Because that is what the giving economy also stands for: letting go of your certainties and trusting that you will get everything you need at that moment. And indeed, that happened.
After we posted a message on Facebook just before the summer of 2013 that we would like to look after houses 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 it ‘contributions’. Robbert mainly focused on informing about the giving economy and I set up a new one for a university of applied sciences, for example learning community as a result of which the students learned much more in groups.
In February 2016 we became parents of a beautiful daughter, Doris. Because as new parents we had quite a lot to deal with, we rented a house from someone who was going on a trip for five months for stability. During that period I really saw our temporary rental home as our home. It helped that I didn’t really have a nesting urge. And Doris may not have had her own room, but how much does a baby really need? She slept comfortably between us.
After those five months we did have some doubts: wouldn’t it be better to settle somewhere again? But because we were not registered anywhere, it was quite difficult to find a rental house for an indefinite period. And so, together with Doris, we went from one house to another 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 a fad for us.
“People who don’t understand our way of life call us parasites”
Yet we also get negative reactions. People who resist our vision see only what we receive, and there is a huge judgment on that. As if we take something instead of it being given to us by people who want to support us. We also get quite a lot of criticism online – terms such as egoists and parasites come up. We’ll never get into this. They will never understand our way of life, and that’s okay.
Incidentally, we also met many people who support our way of life. In 2017, we even received a donation of 250,000 euros from one woman. We thought this was so beautiful, it confirmed for us once again that we could really have faith in the magic of abundance.
From that amount we rented a farm with a large piece of land for three years where we created a ‘giving economy place’. Everyone was welcome, so that people could experience for themselves what it means to give everything away and live on gifts from others.
Then we bought a second-hand camper 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 live there in our camper, together with Doris and our son Iza, who was born in 2019.
In its own way
We are currently looking after a piece of land for seven months on which we can stand with our camper. Because we have almost no fixed costs – we grow our own fruit and vegetables and only spend 600 euros a month on groceries, 20 euros for our telephone subscription and 50 euros 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 in a well.
“Because we have almost no fixed costs, we don’t need much for 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 deregistered in the Netherlands, and are not registered in Portugal, we have nothing to do with compulsory education. We therefore 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 is already very good at that now.
We also do not have health insurance. why should we? Because we live so freely in nature, we are almost never sick. And otherwise we just pay for an appointment with the doctor. We now have 5000 euros in our bank account and that is more than enough for us. We’re not afraid of it happening. Surely something will come up. We have every confidence in that.”
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