We’d all be a little happier if we didn’t have to pay any bills.
Simply existing with a place to sleep, eat, and shower is more expensive than ever these days. When I moved out after college, I was told my rent would always be my biggest bill.
Of course, once you have a place to live, you also need things like furniture and appliances, and to keep the electricity and heat on. After a few years, you may need to upgrade to a bigger place in a better location with more things. It’s a lot to think about, and not necessarily the cheapest way to live.
But, having a home is an important aspect of our culture. It’s what’s expected. Plus it’s highly difficult to do basic things like get a job or health insurance without a permanent address.
That’s why Camren Von Davis’ life is so interesting. He doesn’t have a specific apartment, house, or city that he calls home. And for almost all of 2015, he didn’t pay for any of his living expenses.
Davis, who currently lives and works with me at the Karmê Chöling Meditation Retreat Center in Barnet, Vermont, calls his method, “eliminating the overhead.” And it has allowed him to live, spend, and save in a unique way that keeps him relaxed and content.
Closing the Gaps
Davis volunteers in the Practice and Education department at Karmê Chöling, making sure all the shrines have the right number of bowls on them, and the staff have ample opportunity to study and practice. Winter is typically his quietest time, because for eight months out of the year – most of the spring, summer, and fall – he helps to produce huge outdoor music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Outside Lands.
It’s this job that has allowed him to create his overhead-free lifestyle.
Davis works mainly in operations, managing things like parking and concessions. Not the most glamorous job at a music festival, but he still tours just like a band does – hopping from one show to the next with as little gap in-between as he can manage.
With each show he gets a new contract, complete with a paid hotel room with internet and gym access, food, socializing, and entertainment. Davis doesn’t pay for any of his living expenses as long as he’s working.
Davis, who is 31, has been producing events on the side for about 10 years. In summer 2009, he went on tour full-time for the first time, without success. He didn’t have a solid plan, and lost money on his endeavor.
In 2012, he tried again. This time, he successfully jumped from show to show, ending the year with more money than he started with. It was at the end of 2012 that he began formulating his bill-free lifestyle.
“It didn’t dawn on me until later that [living overhead free] was what I was going for,” said Davis.
No Place to Call Home
As the tour season ended, Davis needed a place to settle for the winter months. He tried moving to San Francisco for a mild winter, and all the amenities of a major city, but hated it. So, he tried the East Coast – specifically New York City, where he lived with a friend who had two apartments in the Lower East Village.
“She had fashioned this lifestyle where she had both of these apartments and would always be Airbnb’ing one, and then staying in the other,” said Davis.
His friend also produced shows and traveled a lot, so it was easy to be away and rent out the apartments. Sometimes she and Davis would live in the same place, sometimes he would be in one and she would be in the other, or sometimes he would be in one and she would be traveling. It all depended on when the apartments were rented out.
“She had systemized this whole way where we never had to meet any of the people that were coming.”
His experience in New York made Davis realize that he didn’t need to have a home of his own. It dawned on him that he didn’t really care whether he stayed in an apartment or a hotel room.
“There was something very comfortable about knowing I had a place to stay, but not really caring which place it was. It didn’t really have to be my territory necessarily.”
Davis reflected back on when he had been happiest, and thought of his time spent working at Karmê Chöling when he was 18, and when he was on tour – all periods when he didn’t have any bills to worry about.
“I just don’t like dealing with bills. I don’t like dealing with mail. If I get a text that tells me to pay my phone bill, that’s easy,” said Davis. “My head doesn’t work like that. But my head – it’s good with being without overhead.”
“The only thing that I had to loosen up on was wanting things to be mine, exclusively mine.”
So, he started getting rid of all his possessions.
Next week, I’ll conclude Davis’ story of how he’s created a bill-free lifestyle.