"Journey to the East" is an experiment in the Gift Economy. Please see the essay below for details. In summary, during the pilgrimage, I commit to:
In the Google Doc below, you can find the complete and real-time "income and expenditure" of the Pilgrimage by clicking the tabs. In particular, there's a tab, "Non-financial gifts", where I commit to share a story of non-financial gift whenever I receive a monetary donation, as an exercise to appreciate the "multiple forms of capital".
If you would like to financially support "Journey to the East", you are welcome to read the essay below, and find the "donation methods" at the end.
(English version below. 英文版见下，略有不同。)
奉献经济 与 财务透明
过去两年的多方探索，接触到的最重要的理念之一，就是 Gift Economy。这既是美国最先锋的实践，又是众多传统文化的核心精神。汉语里的相关内容还很少。台湾有的把 Gift Economy 翻译成“礼品经济”或“礼物经济”，有些过于“直译”。这里暂且翻成“奉献经济”，取其“无私奉献”之意。
奉献经济，重视“资本”的多样性，“金融资本”仅仅是其中之一。社会资本、心灵资本、自然资本等，是更不可或缺的元素。当前资本主义，其实是在用金融资本，对其他多种资本进行“私有化 ＋ 破产清算”，侵吞公共资源，变卖青山绿水，侵蚀社会关系，换取纸上富贵。
Nipun Mehta，一位奉献经济的实践者总结说，奉献经济是有四个“转变”：从消费到贡献，从交易到信任，从稀缺到丰富，从隔绝到互通。他还说，“Living with a heart of gift may not always bring you what you want, but it will bring you what you need.”（持奉献之心，不一定总能带来你想要的，但是一定会带来你需要的。）相比物质金钱，我们更需要的，是在不如意时的平常心。
过去两年，在旧金山湾区工作生活，在同一家公司任职。2013年9月上班，2015年10月辞职。第一年算是实习，因为还没办完工作签证。那一年收支基本持平。第二年，正式 H1B visa 的工作，年薪$45,000，外加奖金，15天带薪假期，优厚全额保险，等等，换算成人民币，一年三十多万。每个月，美国各种苛捐杂税有$800朝上，算是给美国破产的社保体系作慈善了。到手工资不到$3,000，花一半，存一半，到2015年年底，全部存款一万五美元，合十万人民币。
分享以上信息，全盘托出，一开始，我心里也犯嘀咕，但是讲完之后，心中释然。不少朋友的回复也让我感动，更坚信，财务透明 ＋ 奉献经济，是这个时代非常需要的一剂解药。
Gift Economy and Financial Transparency
Of all that I have learned over the past two years, one of the most important is Gift Ecology. Thus, a key intention of the Journey to the East is to deepen into the experiments of Gift Ecology.
A dear friend and mentor, Nipun, has courageously lived and thoroughly reflected on Gift Ecology for decades. He often explain Gift Ecology as "a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance, and isolation to community." Gift Ecology recognizes that there are many forms of "capital", beyond the familiar financial value. Ultimately, “Living with a heart of gift may not always bring you what you want, but it will bring you what you need.”
Financial transparency: subversive and revolutionary
I believe, a precondition for a healthy Gift Ecology is coming to terms with the elephant in the room -- Money (financial capital) -- and healing our collective wound around it.
A first step toward healing our relationship with money -- and with each other -- is financial transparency.
Money casts a dark and troublesome shadow on the collective psyche of the industrial societies. They say, "Follow the money", because Money contains the secret source code of capitalism, and reveals the hidden dynamics of our relationships.
Before coming to the US, I was warned by wise ones, "In America, don't ask a woman's age, or a man's income." Underneath this social spellbind, lurks the denial and fear of aging, and the confusion of net-worth with true wealth. (In comparison, nosy aunties -- and even strangers -- in China would often ask you how much money you make, within the first few minutes of meeting you for the first time. And you basically have no other choice but to confess.)
I have come to suspect that the collective silence around money that's imposed by a capitalist society, is one of the tactics that the Matrix employs to exploit people. For example, in the white-collar salt mine, an employee of a company is never supposed to know the salaries of his/her peers. Oftentimes, it is even written to the employment contract that one will not discuss salary with colleagues.
In that case, an employee is left alone in the salary negotiation with "the management", hoping to somehow one-up the colleagues by cultivating favor from the boss. One is left to keep guessing: "Is that guy making more money than me?" It creates a culture of separation, suspicion, and negative competition.
Also, your salary never feels "quite right" -- it is either too high or too low. You feel shame and indignation, if you suspect you are earning less than you deserve. You feel guilty and protective, if you suspect that you are taking home more than your due share. Either way, you are not supposed to compare notes or know what's fair.
Such a culture of secrecy -- disguised in the rhetoric of individualism and privacy -- keeps all of us in the dark, pitted against one another, and enables the boss to exploit the information asymmetry to extract the most out of the workers. The secrecy makes room for paying men more than women, and many other discriminations. A perfect case of "divide and conquer".
As an antidote, financial transparency could shine the much-needed sunlight into the black box of money. Thus, during my Pilgrimage, I will adopt financial transparency as much as possible, for my own healing and growth, and to provide a reference point for others.
By "adopting financial transparency", I mean, when it comes to money-related information, I will set my default setting as "share it, as long as doing so would not cause harm", instead of the usual default setting of "hide it, as long as there's no pressure to share." I believe that the more information that's available to all, the better chance we would have to come out of the collective spell of Money. In that sense, financial transparency is indeed subversive and revolutionary :)
On Journey to the East, I commit to share online all the donations and expenses from the journey. The intentions are:
- To demonstrate the generosity of many ordinary people; to showcase the abundance of the universe, and the micro-kindness that weaves together the most secure "safety net"
- To establish trust and accountability with all supporters
- To stretch my muscle of trust and equanimity; to cure my (and our collective) wounds around money
- To show the economic accessibility of a cross-border human-powered pilgrimage, to encourage more people to get on the road
- To share useful and interesting information about costs and prices from various parts of the world
"Budgeting" for Pilgrimage
When it comes to meeting the material needs of the Pilgrimage, at a deeper level, my ultimate "provider" is the generosity and kindness in every person's heart; and its underwriter -- the abundance of the universe.
At the apparent level, I have around $13,000 in savings at the beginning of the journey. I will observe the precept of "no commercialization", hold the practice of no solicitation/fundraising, and at the same time, accept unsolicited contribution of money, resources, and other material support.
Some benchmarking could be provided by my experience two years ago, when I bicycled solo across the US, in 75 days and over 3,400 miles. Here is a rundown of the expenses of that journey:
- Capital (fixed) expenses: $3,500, including biking gears (bike, pannier bags, cycling clothing, etc), camping gears (tent, sleeping bag, water purifier, etc), and other items (website domain registration, MP3 player, etc)
- Operating (variable) expenses: $2,400 (on average $30 per day), including food, maps, supplies, bike repair and maintenance, insurance, cell phone, etc.
That journey was made possible by donations from many people, totaling around $5,200. I actively reached out to fundraise (emailing people I know with an direct appeal for donation) for about 2/3 of all contributions. The rest were offered without me asking, along the way, often by strangers or people I newly met. At the end of the journey, my bank account was just a few hundred dollars lower than when I started -- essentially "breaking even".
To ask, or not to ask…
That was the question. And I had gone back and forth on it for some weeks, until noble friends - and the universe - nudged me to have faith, and "to go all the way in", not wasting the precious opportunity to cultivate. Once that became clear, the question of "to ask or not" became rather irrelevant, if not ridiculous. So, for the upcoming Pilgrimage, I will not fundraise or solicit.
Fundraising (at least the ways I know how) carries heavy karmic residues. When I fundraise, I treat other people as means to an end. I want something from them. If they agree to contribute, I will congratulate myself on my "fundraising skills", instead of fully appreciating the other person's generosity. After I take their money, I will feel obligated toward them, or try to avoid them. If they do not want to contribute, I am putting the awkward burden of saying No on them. Either way, it sours human connection.
If I do not fundraise, but focus on offering my work wholeheartedly, with no strings attached, and if some people are inspired to help the journey continue, and find themselves contributing financially, then each donation is a vote of confidence, a delightful surprise, a full gift. Both the donor and the recipient are giving unconditionally, owing each other nothing, and connected through everything.
Through creating wholesome and valuable contents and experiences for people -- tangible and intangible -- and offering them with no strings attached, I have faith that the flow of gifts will take care of my needs. And, l look forward to when it doesn't "work out" -- that's when the real tests begin :)
My financial reality, past and present
I think it is valuable to share a bit more about my financial realities up till now. I do so to provide more context, to practice transparency as a way to undo the social programming of secrecy and shame, and to offer a reference point of a 24-year-old, college-educated, white-collar employee. Here we go :)
I graduated from college in Summer 2013, without debt (!), thanks to a full tuition scholarship (covering full tuition and health insurance, at about $45,000 per year for four years) I received from my alma mater, Hampshire College, and to my parents' loving support of my living expenses ($10,000 per year for four years). The $40,000 support from my parents was designated as an interest-free loan, as an incentive for me to develop financial independence after the age of 18.
I started my job in Fall 2013 with less than $1,000 in savings. Over the past two years, I have saved $15,000 from my salary. This amount is also the total balance in my bank account at the start of 2016, as well as my net asset at this point (minus a few possessions).
Most of my savings was generated in 2015, when I had an annual pretax salary of $45,000 (plus full health insurance and a few other perks) from my full time job as an business analyst at a sustainability consulting firm. The year before, in 2014, I was an intern at the same company, receiving a pre-tax income of $2,500 - $3,000 per month, with full health insurance. Living in San Francisco then, although frugal, I was not able to save much money :)
In 2015, after federal and state taxes, I receive a net income of a bit less than $3,000 per month. Of that $3,000, each month, I have about $1,200 of fixed, recurring costs (including rent, food, cell phone, transit, etc), $800 of discretionary spending (workshops and trainings, travels, purchases, donations, big bag of caramel-covered kettle corn, etc), and $1,000 of savings.
I quit my job at the end of October 2015, and have not receiving any income since then. I do not anticipate that I will get a regular-income job during the next two to three years of pilgrimage. Free at last! :)
Sharing the reflections and information above, I was at first hesitant and uncomfortable, but eventually feeling liberated -- as if a magic spell was broken. Readers might also get uncomfortable, judging that it is TMI ("Too Much Information"). But, I hope the intention has come across, that I only wish be in fuller alignment with my values, and to free myself from the socially-imposed silence and paranoia around money -- and perhaps, in the process, provide a point of reference for others. This is among my first steps toward living in Gift Ecology.
Donation Methods 捐款方式
If you would like to contribute financially, here are three ways to do so online.
1. Best option: bank transfer using email address. If you have an existing bank account with most major US banks, you can transfer money for free directly from your online banking, using the recipient's email only. (My bank-associated email is wangzilong8848[at]gmail[dot]com) No account or routing number required. Here is the how-to from Bank of America, where I (regrettably) hold my account :) This is perhaps the best option, as it requires no additional sign-up (if you already have online banking with your bank), and has no credit/debit card or service fees for either the sender or the recipient.
2. PayPal personal transfer. When you use your PayPal Balance or bank account to fund a person transfer on PayPal, there is no fee, but it would require you to have a PayPal account. When you use credit or debit card to fund the transfer, the fee is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. My PayPal-associated email is zw09[at]hampshire[dot]edu , which can be used as transfer recipient.
3. PayPal donation link. I have set up a PayPal donation link for the pilgrimage. It accepts major credit/debit cards, and has a blanket fee structure of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, no matter what the funding source is (PayPal balance, or PayPal-associated bank account, or credit card). You can click on the button below to make a donation.