Sharon SullivanFree Press Staff Writer

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March 22, 2012
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'The Man Who Quit Money' author to speak at library

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Twelve years ago Daniel Suelo quit money.He left his last $30 inside a telephone booth and walked away, and he has lived without money ever since.Author Mark Sundeen, who's written a biography of Suelo's life will give a reading from his book, "The Man Who Quit Money" Monday, April 2 at the Mesa County Central Library. He'll be joined by Suelo who will answer questions.Suelo, 50, lives in caves on public lands outside of Moab. He gathers wild onions and berries, scavenges road kill raccoons and squirrels, and dumpster dives, where he finds an abundance of discarded produce, and slightly expired but still good food. He does not accept any government handouts, or payment for work he does voluntarily in Moab.Suelo grew up in an itinerant Christian fundamentalist family - partly in the Grand Valley where his parents still live. Suelo identifies not only with the teachings of Jesus, but also with the Hindu holy men, called sadhus, who wander the regions of India without money. Suelo eventually came to believe all religions teach the same basic truths.Although Suelo and his parents diverge on some issues, they remain close. They welcomed the author who visited and interviewed them in their Fruita home."They were very generous and hospitable. We (he and Suelo) stayed with them for a couple of days," Sundeen said. "They were warm and amenable."For someone who's turned his back on commerce, Suelo eats surprisingly well from America's excess retrieved from dumpsters behind grocery stores, and bakeries. "He does eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables," as well as rice, Sundeen said. " "He doesn't eat a lot of junk food (or consume soft drinks) - that typically doesn't get thrown away because there's no expiration date."Fresh foods are not pumped full of chemicals to extend shelf life, he said. While doing research for his book, Sundeen said he found that America discards as much as 40 percent of the food produced in this country.Suelo drinks water from springs. When he doesn't trust the water source he boils his water on a homemade cooking stove."He stays really healthy," Sundeen said. "He walks so much every day." As far as the future, he believes if he worries about his health he will become unhealthy, Sundeen said. "He seems quite content, and free of anxieties. He doesn't seem to have a fear of death."Some people criticize Suelo's lifestyle and call him a "mooch" - although he only takes what has been discarded or what someone has freely offered. He does not defend himself against those criticisms even though it's not unusual for him to work for free in Moab on various community projects. He's also asked to pet sit, as well as house sit. He never accepts money for payment.Sundeen is the author of two previous books, and has written for the "New York Times Magazine," "Outside," and "National Geographic Adventure." When the publishers at Riverhead Books heard about Suelo they were fascinated. They contacted Sundeen at his Montana home to ask if he knew Suelo knowing that Sundeen had lived in Moab years ago.The two men had actually met 20 years ago while working together as cooks at a Moab diner. In those days, Sundeen was a river guide who lived out of his truck. Suelo remembered Sundeen, had read his books, and agreed to participate in a book about his life.Sundeen follows the journey of Suelo as a young child in an idealistic religious family; as a young adult at college; in Equador while serving in the Peace Corps; and later as a social worker in Denver. "When Daniel agreed to be part of the book he asked the publisher to make books available for free," to the public library, Sundeen said. Penguin Group donated 40-50 books to the Mesa County Public Library. Those books are "flying off the shelf," said library director Eve Tallman."So for free with a library card people can read it before they come, and have more questions," Sundeen said. Suelo is a regular patron at the Moab Public Library where he uses computers and updates his web site, writes a blog, and responds to e-mails from people from all over the world discussing money, God, and the meaning of life."It's important to remember Daniel is not a hermit," Sundeen said. "He's very engaged with the community in Moab, and 46,000 people have read his blogs. Friends post photos to his web site.After their Salt Lake City and western Colorado book tour, Sundeen will drive to California, with Suelo accompanying him for five book events there."What I'm finding as I travel with Daniel, people are inspired by him even if they're not going to live in a cave," Sundeen said."They're learning it is possible to live outside the system. He inspires people to rethink their dependence on money."

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 22, 2012 08:17PM Published Mar 22, 2012 06:03PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.