Monday, January 30, 2012

Income from tours & classes

A friend and potential tribe-mate sent me a video of an Australian permaculture farm which makes most of its cash income from teaching classes and from tours. My friend wrote:
I know you aren't big on making $ but perhaps once you have a working system in hawaii (or even here) you can have tours which both teach people, inspire people, and maybe make a few dollars per visitor while also inspiring you to keep learning ?

My reply is meant not as criticism of what others do for income, but as an expression of my own approach:

I enjoy giving tours and teaching classes, and have hosted dozens here over the years. I don't like organizing them, and have left much of that up to Tulsey or to other folks who bring their class or a permaculture meetup group or whatever.

I really really dislike the notion of charging for tours. Partly because I dislike engaging in the cash economy in any way, but I have extra resistance to charging for information & knowledge, insubstantial and more or less infinitely reproducable goods. (I recognize that it takes time for someone to reproduce that by writing it down or speaking and presenting it, but I don't think of time as a commodity either.) I feel reasonably happy with my current model of giving information away to anyone who will listen, and having products like plants and books for sale at bargain prices for those who want to spend some money. I *hate* the idea of excluding people based on ability to pay, and I don't feel comfortable with "sliding scale" options because I almost always stay away from such classes myself.

I'm very concerned about the trend for middle class white people to be buying their way into peak oil / climate change preparation by stockpiling goods, buying land, and buying classes & information.  Giving away my knowledge is the least I can do to help counter that.

All that said, yeah, if we're hard up for income in Hawaii, I would entertain tours and teaching as part of our income model. But I'd rather not go into the project planning for that.


Language Guy said...

I know this may be a personal question but an important one when understanding how I could live the lifestyle you demonstrate.

If you do not like participating in the monetary system that we have how do you afford to purchase property and fund the projects that you have?

What is your current work status or history that has allowed you to develop this lifestyle and your future one in Hawaii?

Do you work?
Do you have a large savings from previous work?

I understand how personal a question this is but I can't wrap my brain around how I could afford the initial upfront costs to be able to live. Let alone in an expensive place like Hawaii.

Norris said...

Hi Language Guy,

Excellent question! I'm fortunate to have grown up with white male middle class privilege, making it out of college without debt, then saving about $40,000 after four years of work in a medium level tech support job. I invested that well enough to have $60,000 after working little to none for the last 8 1/2 years. That $60k is more than enough to get enough land and build basic infrastructure to support a community of maybe 10 people in Hawaii...and of course if any of those people also had money, it would expand our budget for more or better land, or savings for health care costs, etc.

Key to preserving my nest egg has been keeping expenses very low, by not having a car, kids, rent payment (this was based on the good fortune of partnering with someone capable of buying a house outright with no mortgage and contributing my labor to the project in exchange for rent). We kept bills low (maybe $50 each per month) by scavenging free wood and food and conserving energy and water use. I've spent about $400-$500 a year on discretionary purchases -- computers, entertainment, travel expenses, etc.

I may be naive at this point, but I don't think it will take much money to live in Hawaii if you're willing to live primitively, bike for transportation, grow food, and hunt and forage. I'll learn more about the reality of that once I get over there. I expect health care to dominate my community's budget once we've acquired land and built the basic infrastructure.

Hope that helps give you an idea of my journey; let me know if you have any more questions!

Language Guy said...

Thanks for your response. I thought the initial investment, especially for land, in a land locked place like Hawaii would be at a premium. At least 200,000.