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These two girls traveled around the US without spending a cent

Lilly Quinn and Sarah Little spent 20 weeks on the road in 2016. So what did they learn?

20 weeks. 48 states. 30 cities. $0. Two girls from the UK completed a pretty comprehensive tour of the US in 2016 – without spending any money.

They hitch-hiked, bin-dived, slept in tents, on couches, in trucks, and relied on the kindness of strangers. But why? A sense of adventure, and to find out if we can really live without money, they said.


Lilly Quinn and Sarah Little met in a bar in Delhi in late 2013. In May 2016, they flew to Boston (they did pay for those flights) and hitchhiked their way around the States, searching out free things to do in every city, and meeting people who would help them on their way.

They finished their trip in October 2016, documenting the whole thing on their blog, Pretenniless (which is a combo of pretend and penniless) and social media.

Sounds fun. But what's it all about?

Their decision to embark on this trip was about adventure and challenge, sure, and they say they’ve learned a lot about the kindness of strangers. “It's nice to think we've shown people the world is more friendly than it seems and that travel is something that's open to everyone - but really we just wanted the challenge and to meet as many people as possible,” Sarah told us.

But they also learned a lot about the way we use money. “We learned not to ‘spend our way around’ a problem - it forced us to be creative when money wasn't an option which is hard to do otherwise when you’re living in London.”

Thinking less about money is a way of thinking about the decisions you make every day – like deciding to walk to save money on the bus, rather than just because you like walking – and why you do them, Sarah says.

“I shouldn’t be making choices based on the numbers on an ATM when there are so many better reasons to make that same choice,” she wrote on their blog before the trip.


And actually, by putting themselves in this situation they were basically experimenting with an alternative economic system.

We’re so used to as a part of everything we do in life. Is it really possible to live without it?

Lilly wrote: “This trip is research for me, to see if it is possible to exist outside of this regimented medium of exchange. Rather than working to earn money to give to someone for food, what happens if we remove that middle step? Go straight to someone and ask for food in exchange for work – washing some plates, cutting someone’s lawn.”



Plus, they say, doing it without money means you have to speak to people. “Hitchhiking, couchsurfing and volunteering for food throws you into situations where you really get to know people.”

As much as this is a cool idea, and might seem like an amazing way to travel, money does still have its uses. It allows us to carry out some kind of ‘transaction’, like buying food, or paying rent, without us having to connect directly with the person we’re making that transaction with, for example. It also helps us compare the values of completely different things, by attaching the same unit to them, so we can think about the value of the hours we work in relation to the price of bread, or of rent.

But maybe it doesn't have to be a case of living with the money system we have now, or nothing at all. People are experimenting with different types of money and . Some communities are introducing their own currencies that only exist in a single neighbourhood, for example. Or there’s bitcoin – and other online (or ‘crypto’) currencies, which were introduced as a way of exchanging things online.

For the time being at least, money is the main way we exchange stuff. But even if Sarah and Lilly’s idea of just scrapping it altogether might be more difficult in the long run, as they told us, maybe it’s worth us all thinking about whether it really is the only way. “It's nice - and reassuring - to think about how much we can still achieve without money, when it always seems like life tells us money is the only way,” they said.

If you want to read more about the girls and their trip, take a look at their blog.

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