I Lived Nowhere and With Nothing For the Past Year – This Is What Happened…

then i lived nowhere

A little over a year ago I threw out almost everything I owned. Since then I’ve been living out of a single bag.

And then I took off.

I live in random places through airbnb or other house or room sharing services.

I don’t have a car, I don’t even have a driver’s license. I don’t have any physical books. All of the books are on my kindle.

I take it back. I stole one book. “Life of Pi”. I started reading it in one place I was staying and didn’t finish so I wanted to keep it until I finished. I stopped reading it and haven’t finished it yet.

I don’t have medical insurance. I haven’t been for a regular doctor’s visit in maybe 30 years. So why pay for medical insurance?

Someone told me that is against the law. Ok…Find me.

I have two sweaters. I buy t-shirts or underwear at the pharmacy every few days. I have two pairs of pants. I have two wrinkled button down shirts.

Sometimes my clothes get dirty. I’m a bit disgusting.

When I stay at a place, it’s always furnished. So I don’t need sheets, beds, furniture. I just borrow the accumulations of others.

I sometimes order food by delivery and sometimes get food from the store on a daily basis. I don’t buy any junk food so there’s not any extra food lying around. I’ve lost 10-15 pounds in the past six months.

That’s the only diet that works for me. Don’t eat junk food. Try to stick to two meals. When I say “diet” I don’t mean “lose weight” but just eat healthy. Don’t carry around extra food in the stomach and intestines.

I have a small laptop to write with. If I didn’t write I would have no laptop. I’d just use my phone.

I talk on the phone maybe once or twice a day. I sometimes respond to texts. My phone number is 203-512-2161.

Because I have no address, nobody knows where I am.


I’ve learned some good things and some bad things by doing this.

A) OBJECTS

My relationships with objects has changed. I see how other people mold their lives around their objects.

Their art, their furniture, their decorations. The way they treat their photographs and their books.

People staple their personalities to their objects. Sometimes they staple a personality they want to be. And sometimes they staple who they are. Or in between.

I don’t do any of that. I have no objects. I just borrow the objects and personalities of others for a short time and then I move.

Moving every few weeks means I can’t buy anything new. I only get new skylines.

B) MINIMALISM IS NOT CHEAP

People think if they go totally minimalist they save money.

Maybe this is true in the long run because (as above) I don’t buy the things that many householders buy.

But sometimes it costs to move. And sometimes it costs to buy new shirts and food.

But food and clothing costs and costs of entrepreneurship have gone down over the past 40 years. And insurance and education and owning houses have gone up.

My main expenses are when I buy experiences.

Everything else I can’t buy because I can’t move extra things around when I move from place to place.

C) NO PEOPLE TO DEAL WITH

Because I use platforms like Airbnb, I don’t ever have to deal with humans. No landlords, no boards, no sellers, no real estate agents.

Usually there is a key hidden someplace. I find it, and move in, then leave it where I found it when it’s time to move again.

D) FRIENDS ARE REAL

Nothing in the place I’m staying in right now is real. I don’t own any of the objects (there is a photo of a nude Naomi Campbell facing me right now. It’s not mine but I look at it),

I don’t even use most of the objects since I didn’t pick them out and I don’t even know what a lot of them are for.

But when I invite friends over, I can have a real experience. We’re all in a new place. We can talk.

In the past few months I’ve tried many ways to have experiences with my friends. I rented out a room in a bookstore and spent time with some friends. I invited friends over for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

I visit people although for some reasons I’ve been afraid to fly for the past three months.

I’m going to try and change that.

I have more and more experiences but fewer objects. I give my friends experiences.

E). EXPLORE

I like to get lost. I like to feel, this is the first day I am on this planet.

When I am in a new place, I explore their life. I see their books, the garbage they let lie around. The photos of the past thirty years. Or the telling lack of.

When I walk outside, it’s a new skyline. A new set of places. New people walking around. I take a deep breath. I can explore like when I was a little kid.

I walk around and everything is new.

F) MY NUMBER

Everyone figures out their number. How much they need to retire. Or to live. Or to say “F You” to a boss.

I don’t know what my number is. But it’s less than just about everyone I know. Because I want nothing. I don’t want anything new other than the lifestyle I have.

If I wanted to scale down my lifestyle, I could. If I wanted to ramp up, I could. But I don’t want to.

I will never own a house. I don’t want to send my kids to college for all the reasons I’ve discussed before. I don’t think entrepreneurship should cost any money in today’s world of quick entrepreneurship.

I can write and work and live and love from anywhere. Every day I try to reach out to people in order to have new experiences. But that’s it.

If I look back at the past few months, the only money spent has been on experiences and food. Experiences are always more valuable than objects.

People value experiences at almost zero and objects at too much. When, in fact, experiences are the only things that are valuable and objects will fade in your life and eventually become unwanted and boring.

An experience is a story. An object becomes a forgotten memory.

So I like to buy low and sell high.

G) ROOTS

I don’t have roots. I don’t have a place where I can say “this is home”.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

So I decided to change 100%. Why not?

I saw a place that I liked. A new experience for me is to live in a place for more than a few weeks.

The landlord is a well known musician. She is moving to Nashville to pursue her art and leaving behind her apartment completely furnished. Three pianos.

I had to staple myself back to the world.

I had to get two personal references. Two business references. A reference from a prior landlord. Two years of tax returns. Two bank statements. A letter from my accountant.

I had to give not only two months rent in advance but two months security deposit because my credit score is so low.

I had to write a letter explaining why I liked the place. I had to write another letter explaining why I have never owned a credit card. I had to meet the other people in the building (they were all nice so I was happy).

And now I’m scared. I’m scared to commit to a place for a year.

To have a place called home. To start buying things for it. Maybe even some books. Maybe more clothes. Maybe I will identify with the neighborhood too much and be afraid to ever move from there.

I don’t know. Every time I have ever put down “roots” my entire life has changed. To be honest, I am terrified. I’ve always experienced great anxiety when I moved into a place for longer than a week.

I move in on January 5.

And if I know you and you are in the area, please stop by. I miss you.

  • Jack

    What happened to your wife and kids? Just curious. That is what holds me back from doing this…not the wife. But the kid.

    • This was my exact same thought.

      James reminds me a lot of my father. He’d have lived like this had it not been for us kids. But I’m way more rooted than that. I like my roots. This is the one area of Jame’s advice that I can’t relate to.

      • Giraffe Value

        James…. Not again…

    • Curious also; not to pry too much James, but was there a change we missed?

      • Daniel

        I’ve been wondering this for awhile. He dropped his Ask Altucher podcast that he did with his wife suddenly. On the Question of the Day podcast he mentioned fighting or arguing with his wife. Then in another QOD podcast he mentioned that he was spending Christmas alone, but didn’t say why. Now this post. For a guy that is so open and honest with his writing is seems like he’s keeping a big chunk hidden. And that’s fine, it just makes you wonder. Hope all is well.

        • anne lee

          Oh, why are you all interested in the personal private life of other people else? want to earn extra some money from it? or show you all are better than other people else? how better you all are? who are interested in how better you all are? In addition, Open and to be honest doesn’t mean publish all. Open and to be honest is for the faith, for self, for what to say is same as what to do. what to say is same as what to happen… I know you all are very care about James, so please send your best wishes to him, it is enough to show all your kind heart. is it right? :-)

          • Daniel

            This makes little sense. How would I earn ‘extra some money’ from it? That’s such a weird statement.

          • anne lee

            Oh, you are confused what I said such so is like I am confused what you care about the personal private life of other people else. :-) So if you don’t understand why they live such so and you don’t like to send a few nice words to them, my good advice is please you shut up is the best way otherwise what you said show you are like a cicada in summer. is it right? :-)

          • Daniel

            Aside from trying to decipher your words without getting a headache. The main thing that didn’t make any sense was how I hoped to make extra money off asking a question. I don’t know why you insist on white knighting for James. I am not attacking him. I love James. I listen to all his podcasts, read his articles etc.. I almost feel invested in a way because his stuff has become a part of my life. I want the best for him, I want him to win the girl(and keep the girl) and have a happy life.

          • anne lee

            Oh, thank you. send my best wishes to you and your family.:-)

          • foljs

            “””Oh, why are you all interested in the personal private life of other people? “””

            Do you really ask why they are interested in the personal life of someone whose main gimmick is prying open his personal private life and writing about it on this blog?

            I dunno, maybe because if they were not interested in that they wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place? Duh!

            “””want to earn extra some money from it? or show you all are better than other people else?”””

            Or maybe they connected through his writings and they genuinely care? You don’t have to know someone in person to care about them!

            I guess you allude to that in the end of your comment.

          • anne lee

            Oh, try to understand what you wrote above.:-) Yes, if not interested in this blog, this blog wouldn’t be read at first time. :-) but this blog is letting you to get to know someone have to live such so, let you to think why they have to live such so, what make them to live such so. who would like to live such so? So if you can give your hands to help them, give your hands, if you can’t help them or can’t understand them, give a few nice words to them. is it right? :-)

          • anne lee

            Oh, thank you. send my best wishes to you and your family.:-)

        • anon1

          :(

        • anon1

          bit worried now

    • anne lee

      Oh, what are helpful for you when you get the answer? :-) or what do you do when you get the answer?:-) or what are harmful for you when you don’t get the answer? :-)

      • Jack

        It helps me understand another human beings decision. James is putting his life out there. I think questioning some of the missing details is acceptable, if not even invited.

    • Tikiri Herath

      Let’s give him time. He will share when he is ready or never. And that’s perfectly fine.

  • Evie Gerontis

    I always find pebbles of me in your writing. Thank you for sharing this…

  • ilan

    This reminds me of my twenties (I’m mid thirties now). Eventually I got tired of the vagabond lifestyle and realized I had to make changes to live a more comfortable life. I don’t regret anything though because I still have more experiences than others my age who never traveled or did anything interesting. Congratulations on your new situation.

  • Very thought-provoking experiment – terrifying and wonderful at the same time! I write for / manage the Pegable blog and one of the topics we address is consumers’ relationships with things. Would you be game for a brief interview? Please let me know (alisonk@roundpegcomm.com). Thanks for making me think :)

  • Tom

    Yes James!

    It just so happens that since May 2015 I have done exactly the same thing, threw away everything accumulated through 3 years of living a corporate life in London.

    Got down to one bag and have travelled through Europe and South America whilst working on businesses online.

    I really resonate with point A as I am currently back living with parents in UK and see how their and other friends lives revolves around their object, when maybe that is not where real happiness can be found.

    Keep inspiring with awesome experiments, books, interviews and podcasts!

    Thanks
    Tom

    • OldIowaGirl

      Tom. I can’t help but point out that while you offhandedly ridiculing your parents and how their life revolves stuff, yet you are living with your parents and using their stuff.

      • Tom

        Haha, great point!

  • I am relocating as well and getting rid of 40 years of accumulated belongings. It is exhausting to sift through it all and retain the few things I truly need in my new locale. I want to stay minimalist and location independent for my work.

    Also selling my house and renting with no intentions to buy another house. Can reasonably expect to do contract work from the rental home.

    As for your laptop James, I encourage you to check out the Alphasmart Neo writing keyboard. Runs a year on 3 AA batteries. You can get them on ebay for $20 to $50. You can write volumes without the clutter and distractions of your laptop OS and internet. Then just upload your writing to the laptop.

  • Nodding my head as I read this since I felt a lot of similarity. I also don’t have a place to call home and I don’t have a slightest clue where to plant my root. There is no right or wrong to that, just very different from a lot of people. This article was very well written and shared a lot of personal perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  • oneteam

    Great article. We did this as a family in Oct of ’14. Got rid of everything and moved to Panama with 13 suitcases. Best decision of our lives. My kids are learning to deal in a world of different people and language. We recently moved on. Now we’re in Cancun, Mexico. Now we have only 4 suitcases (there are 4 of us.)

    Next on to South America. Then Europe. Then Africa, Asia and so on.

    Life is too short and too amazing to live and die on 50 sq miles of the earth’s surface.

    You can follow our journey at letsjusttravel.com

    Hope your family is well.

  • Stimpy

    Wondering if this is really James writing. WTH.

  • James – At some point, would you write more about “I don’t think entrepreneurship should cost any money in today’s world of quick entrepreneurship.” As a broke-for-now-but-hopefully-not-for-always person, this interests me.

    • Brennan

      I think he just means that there’s basically no upfront cost to entrepreneurship these days. You can do a heck of a lot with a $15 domain and a good idea.

  • Captain Mike Rides

    This post makes me feel sorry for James. There is just something that doesn’t quite seem right. Living out of a bag wandering from house to house to me is a sad way to live.

    • Mary Hunt

      I don’t think it’s sad, just – different. Not everyone needs the same mixture of roots and wings.

      • foljs

        If you ever read James, he does. This seems like the times he described of living in the Chelsea hotel all over again…

  • anne lee

    I am writing this for my friend. Outside on my patio in the dark. The sky is clear and my small light does not distract me from the sky. I see a lots of stars. But one shines the brightest right over there……….We will visit at night.

    All will be better and better with time. Take care. 2016 year is a bright and prosperous year to you, James. Happy every day. :-)

  • Is it wrong to keep photographs and books, if they make us feel good? I share an emotion with my CDs collection, it is more of a sense of pride in a way that it reminds me of my capability to save and helps me get closer to music.

  • James Considine

    worrying indeed — wondering if there was/is an issue w sobriety, kids? Not owning a house, or owning much at all isn’t new for JA from what I’ve read – but I recently got a promotional email for the 2500 a year Altucher investing newsletter, which refers to him as a multi-millionaire several times…so not quite sure what to make of it all — hope you’re ok James

  • kanjimanji

    Wherever you go, the sky is the sky and people are people.

  • Mark Lowe

    Wow. great read. I long to do this or something similar.
    http://minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com

  • Tina L

    All fine and good aside from the health care part. I’m sure he will make himself “found” when he falls ill, and the rest of us will pay for his care. Can’t get behind that one.

    • I also thought the health care part was a terrible idea…for most people. James probably has enough money to pay important bills.

      For most people, not having any insurance would be dangerous, because most people couldn’t afford to pay huge medical bills though.

  • TDotty

    I’ve been following the minimalist movement for about two years now and it has really helped me revise my relationship to material things and consumption. Articles like these give me both inspiration and pause. My conflicting relationship with the minimalist movement is how it really is about privilege. How privileged are we that we get to decide not to have medical insurance when there are thousands that struggle to get adequate care. Most of my friends from my working class neighborhood don’t even know what air BNB is. We have to be careful in walking the fine line between sharing about personal transformation and privileged self-righteousness.

    • Anne Brien

      Very good points! Minimalism and simplicity can easily become middle class self-indugence. We need to remember that many people have no choice but extreme simplicity.. I wonder how much of consumerism has come about as a reaction by our parents and grandparents to the hardships of their upbringing, to knowing the bitter truths of having no alternative to a minimalist life (not lifeSTYLE!)? I remember my mother, when things finally got a bit easier finanacially in the 1960s, taking huge pleasure in being able to shop and buy nice things for the first time in her life (she grew up in England in the 1930s and 40s, very poor and then with rationing through WW2). Was this sort of story at the roots of modern consumerism?

      • TracyinND

        Good points, Anne. It reminds me of those who choose vegetarian lifestyles–it works if you can afford it. And our grandparents would never have had to buy underwear every few days. Hand-washing in a bathroom sink takes care of that problem.

    • Umasub

      This response totally nails it – my opinion exactly. To me this feels like self righteousness all the way.You can be a minimalist when you can afford anything but choose not to. I can’t imagine normal working class people ‘choosing’ not to get some “material things” (even if they can’t really afford it) for themselves or their kids.

    • William Brennan

      I believe it may be as simple as choosing experiences over money. Although I haven’t yet finished James’s newest book I do understand how changing one’s environment also sparks new idea’s and also can change our perspective on how we view the world around us. I know that personally living a more minimalist lifestyle has cleared up a great deal of clutter had building up inside my brain.

  • eveh

    I mostly feel sad reading this. I’m all for being free and traveling around but only if you are happy doing it. My husband and I live with very few things. He is a musician so he buys equipment sometimes. I buy plants and paintings because I can’t travel to these places. But we find joy in living without. I’m not sure you do. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you need to be happy. Roots are not always bad. We did travel in RV for 3 years but he missed his family and I missed putting my hands in my own soil..

  • OldIowaGirl

    I’ve been on the minimalism bandwagon for a couple years and still purging. Sounds like you’ve taken minimalism to the extreme. Is any “extreme” healthy? I always believed that home is where you keep your stuff. So what if you don’t have any stuff? Feels kinds of isolated to me. I don’t think owning a coffee pot or toaster is an extravagance. Good luck as you figure life out.

  • I just don’t Know. I’m not sure I believe a word of this post. Where is Claudia? And listening to the podcasts, our James is no fool. Every title of his blog posts is a “Headline-grabber”. His readership is big enough to call his blog extremely successful. He has expert knowledge on the subject of money and according to another post online is worth millions. That may be irrelevant. But James implores readers to look after their health and if there is any truth to this post it is coming from an unhealthy man. Sometimes I think he’s just an excellent bullsh***er.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    I wandered in here from a link someone posted, so I don’t know who “James” is beyond reading this post. I do find it interesting, perhaps more interesting than the post itself, to read the comments and the judgments that people make. My only question reading it was, ‘how the hell does he afford to do this?’ Apparently many of you know, that’s fine, he has bucks. Bucks are important, whether you have things or not, because without bucks there is no food and there is no shelter – or at very least you’re dependent upon the charity of others to provide you with such things, which is not an ideal way to live from any sane person’s perspective. However, if he does have the bucks and this is how he chooses to live, if he’s not asking for anything from anyone except company and experiences, then all the power to him.

    To the person that says, “is any extreme healthy?” I’m not entirely sure this is so extreme, it’s only extreme in comparison to something else. Willful poverty is extreme, he’s not poor (from what I can gather) so if he’s buying what he believes he needs, if he’s able to maintain his physical health, then I don’t think it’s extreme enough to qualify as unhealthy. It’s easy to draw a picture of physical health, there are standards for that, but the standards for mental health are a lot more subjective and arbitrary. The DSM keeps changing, things are added and taken out and it will continue to go on that way – unlike the definition of say, cancer, which has stayed the same for pretty much since scientists and doctors figured it out. Sanity and mental health are social constructs and dependent upon an accepted social norm, nothing more. I might go as far as to say that delusional disorders are excepted, but, we are all deluded in some way, maybe not as profound as a schizophrenic, so a line really does need to be drawn because our brain is built to be deluded and none of us are free from it. The author here, seems to be attempting to be as un-deluded as possible by removing the material objects from his life.

    The one consistent thing in the DSM is the caveat that the issue or problem must be getting in the way of someone’s life, it must be a barrier to living life the way they want to live it. If this is the way he wants to live his life, it can’t be a definition for mental illness.

    In any event, I wouldn’t personally have the guts to do this – but then I also don’t have the money. If I did, then perhaps this would be desirable. Maybe it wouldn’t be, see, I have a dog. The dog is dependent upon me, like a child, and while I think it’s perfectly ok to lead a singular and nomadic life like this – I wouldn’t think it was perfectly ok to drag a child along. We are pack animals and they deserve to be raised with their pack. So are dogs, and they are innately territorial. I owe it to the dog not to do that kind of thing. However, forcing myself to always find new perspectives by never remaining in the same place is alluring. I think it rocks, what he’s doing.

  • This type of life sounds really lonely to me. I love my roots, family and friends and even though traveling is great it is also great to have people around who care for you.

  • Dee

    I’d love to be able to do this!

  • Tikiri Herath

    All the best to you James! I’ve been an accidental traveler of sorts all my life living in four continents since I was a baby. I did settle down as an adult on a water-front beautiful dream home but am now back to being a nomad, back to traveling, and back to experiencing life. Not things. I’m lucky I have no dependents and am free to do as I want. But this may not be forever and certainly not for everyone. To each his/her own I say.

  • Cat Volz

    I’ve lived this way my whole life. I am squatting in a Silicon Valley office right now. Hope you are okay, Mr. James Altucher. Your health is outstanding. happy birthday! 🙏

  • Itsonreserve

    “I don’t have medical insurance. I haven’t been for a regular doctor’s visit in maybe 30 years.”

    I fear you will come to find this has been huge mistake someday. Do you have insurance for your children? Do they have regular doctor’s visits? There is a false bravado that people cloak themselves with when bragging that they “never go to the doctor,” that is never healthy.

  • Can

    James you really need to get some therapy soon.

    Readers of this article, please google “Borderline personality disorder”.