I’m not rich, but I am the new One Percent

by Alan

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Alan:

At the age of 36 I left the secure world of corporate America and vowed never to return. After purchasing this boat I had exactly .14 cents left in my life savings.


The number one question I receive on my journal is; How do you do it? 10 years into the journey I still don’t have any concrete answers. When I ran out of money just over three years ago I couldn’t imagine doing anything different so I continued on, but in a substantially more frugal manner.


I still manage a few glasses of wine with my dinner and still enjoy piping hot coffee every morning, but these days I have to be an incredibly frugal shopper often buying one to two items at a time in bulk when its on sale. My little boat is a floating commissary.

As of today I have 6 months of all natural grommet dog food, half a dozen cases of wine, 750 pounds of dried and canned emergency food and all the fixings to keep me alive and reasonable well fed. As of today my personal savings is $5.22, but I can live penny free for a good 6 months while I restock my little savings account of what I call freedom chips.

As a true minimalist I own scant few personal possessions other than food and sailing gear. My little boat is warm, safe and dry and also backed up with redundant systems so I can keep moving even if there is no money to be found to replace this or that failed piece of gear. Our batteries died this year and while this would keep most sailors chained to the dock, I have 150 emergency 15-hour candles, so we have been on candle light and paraffin for the last month, it is all quite romantic.

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We barter, do work exchange and buy and sell whatever might turn a tidy profit here of there all resulting in living the life we have chosen working an average of 2-3 months out of the year. Today my neighbors are on a multimillion dollar yacht, but we both share the same beaches and sunsets here in paradise. The only real difference between me and them is that Sunday morning they will have to return to work to pay for their behemoth of a yacht and mine is paid in full. It’s 9 a.m. and a weekday, but I’m not exactly sure what day it is.

My morning commute is a walk with the dog to the park to play and do her business. Sitting in the morning sun with a hot cup of free-trade coffee I feel like I own the world.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not rich, but I am the new One Percent. Actually, I’m broke and should be looking for a few days of pickup-work but sitting here in the sun like a turtle on a log feels like a more appropriate way to spend the day. The marina took the last of my money, but now I have a prime slip in Friday Harbor, one of the most beautiful yachting meccas in the world. Truth be told, my yacht is smaller than most people’s dinghies, but she moves me in style from one port in paradise to another, always providing me with the basic necessities to sustain a fairly comfortable and always exciting life.

According to the federal government, I live in poverty. I worked for two and a half months last year, made just over $11,000.00 and donated a big chunk of that to charity. I strive to live very well off $500.00 a month; it isn’t always easy, but what in life is? A friend recently asked me why it’s always all or nothing with me. Since moving out of my parents house at the age of 17 I have spent my whole adult life in a constant state of absolute wealth of living on the fringe, often exploring the world on a shoe string. I have always considered the middle class to be doomed to a life of mediocrity. I can’t imagine spending my precious life paying a mortgage “translates to until death”, commuting in rush hour traffic and committing 50 weeks a year to a mundane job, only to return to my home prison too exhausted to enjoy it.

Humans are programed for adventure; nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than living a comfortable life. More and more I am seeing my friends who outwardly appear to have very successful lives opting out of the system. But how do you do it? That is at the age old question, how do you pay the bills? Where does security come from? What about health insurance and retirement?

When I opted out I was debt free, a fight worth fighting. I don’t pay a mortgage or rent, or property taxes. I don’t pay for internet services, health care. I don’t have health insurance or car insurance. I have been without a phone for over two years and just recently rented one from a friend for a month for 30 dollars. I don’t have to pay for expensive wardrobes or car maintenance or gas. Each year my life becomes more simple and costs less money, which means I have to donate less of the prime years of my life as a slave to debt as society demands of us.

People are often astounded at the small space I live in, but the truth is I have the largest habitable living quarters in the universe; it’s called the planet earth. Because I can only occupy one space at a time, my tiny boat serves me very well. If I need space to roam, I pack a lunch in my daypack, grab the dog and head for the hills. I spent hours yesterday playing in the tide pools, watching shrimp and jelly fish ebb and flow with the tide. I forage for seaweed and clams; oysters and crab are abundant here and free for the taking. Living naturally in the islands is as close to Tolkien’s shire as anyplace on earth.


We are all born equal in this world, there is no golden spoon. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; in the mind’s eye this is a very true statement. I find my sense of being and contribution to the planet in my ability to consume at an absolute minimum. I treat every person I meet as if they are a long lost friend and look them in the eyes as I listen to their story when they speak. I will happily give the shirt off my back to a complete stranger. I am always the first person to volunteer to help a friend in need and the last person in the food line. If more people would strive to be better people there would be a lot less need in this world. My number one rule in life is pay it forward.

It’s taken me ten full years to simplify my life and at times it has been a struggle. I moved a 600 pound bed through three states paying shipping and storage because I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. Letting go of the past is never easy. In my online journal I have shared this transition for more than eight years. I don’t write for advertisers or any target audience; I simply write the true story of one man’s fight for ultimate freedom. I’m not suggesting that everyone or anyone for that matter live the life that I do, but my journal is a free guide to being free. The choice in front of you is simple: A, your money, B, your life . . . Choose.

I think Jimmy Buffet said it best:

Some people never find it

Some . . . only pretend, but me:

I just want to live happily ever after every now and then.

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Alan a.k.a. Stormy is a sailer and life adventurer. Follow his adventures at Art of Hookie. Photos and article courtesy of Alan.

First published July 01, 2014

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