A look into the practice of Voluntary Simplicity

FB’S NOTE: This is a guest post done by Cawdjer, who practices something called Voluntary Simplicity.
I entered Minimalism or I suppose what could be called “Voluntary Simplicity” now, as a by product of getting out of debt and selling off my possessions to raise money, but I eventually embraced it as a lifestyle and cannot imagine living any other way.

Whereas, Cawdjer entered it for entirely different reasons which is why his story is such a fascinating one.

It’s a look into a whole different world of which I have absolutely no experience or prior knowledge about, whatsoever, and I found myself soaking up the experience.

Everything is in his words, and nothing has been changed except for the occasional bolded statement here and there (my own).


Oh, and he does read the blog regularly, so please leave your questions or comments directly for him if you wish.


I’m a former construction worker, but now I am just a cawdjer with an adequate passive income, and I practice Voluntary Simplicity.

If your cave lacks internet, maybe you haven’t heard of the Voluntary Simplicity concept yet.

Let me tell you what it means for me.

It’s the ability to spend when it is necessary by consciously restricting your possessions and limiting expenses to just what you need to exist with a minimum degree of comfort that you define for yourself.

Voluntary Simplicity is a simplified life style that allows for more options of every kind.

Fewer missed opportunities and less stress.

I practiced this for years without knowing that it even had a name.

Being frugal has always been my nature and although never in the high wage brackets, I’ve never been really forced to pinch pennies. The reason is that I learned early that careful money management was going to be an important aspect of my career.

I was a member of a rather clannish group of industrial construction workers. There are lots of individual trades but they can boil down to either locals or travelers.

Most local workers have some degree of resentment toward travelers, but not all do. Some of the younger local Journeymen always seem to maneuver conversations into questions regarding our minimalist nomadic life style.

The derogatory name used by locals for a traveler is “tramp“.

(FB: I did something similar to becoming a modern nomad (urban tramp?) when I was a consultant. But I daresay, it was probably much more posh, as I lived out of decent motels, hotels & had much compensated by my clients.)

So, naturally we’ve adopted it into our clan slang. “Go’in tramp’in” means hitting the road after a job ends or a period of unemployment and looking for the next project. Being “tramped” means a pink–slip or layoff.

Since industrial construction schedules are notorious for either being erroneously ahead or disastrously behind; frantic hiring or too aggressive layoffs are unfortunately frequent and sudden occurrences.

The constant possibility of a layoff slip gives locals ‘conniption-fits‘, but most travelers take them if they come and just wait for the bean-counters to go into hire-mode again or just hit the highway for the next big construction project.

Because construction contractors think nothing of handing out layoffs to workers with no forewarning, travelers retaliate by gathering up their tools and foul weather gear and quitting employment with the exact same suddenness, frequently without giving the employer their reasons.

So, it works both ways.

(FB: Which is what I’ve always believed, that Job Security is a myth, at all levels)

The common term for quitting is to “drag” or to “drag-up“, another is to “pull the pin“. The terms come from the barge-canal, and logging (namely – setting chokers) and the rail-car industries long ago.

An often cynical phrase by a traveler who is already thinking about looking for the next construction project even before the current one is completed is, “I love tramping, but I don’t like loving it !

We are the first to get laid-off and we know that.

Out of necessity, most industrial construction travelers eventually practice some version of a Voluntary Simplicity type of life style.

It takes a big project to last a year and the layoffs start before the actual completion date, In the beginning of a highway, pipeline, bridge or industrial plant project, local workers are hired first. The hiring for travelers starts when locals can no longer man the calls for workers.

(FB: This is a bit like consulting!)

When work falls behind the planned schedules and construction trade manpower is exhausted locally, overtime is always the answer.

Then the word spreads on the tramp networks and travelers come.

But our part of any project isn’t the gravy.

The locals take the best positions, of course, and give us the trenching, pipe-laying, outside work in the rain, mud, sleet and hot sun. And of course we get anything that is considered higher than normal injury activity risk. But that’s okay, it’s just the nature of the beast.

If we wanted a cushy steady job, we’d become local workers ourselves, find a girl, buy a house with picket-fence and settle down. Ugh !

Some travelers eventually do settle down, especially as they get older.

Then when they retire, they hit the road in a motorhome. Ha, Ha.

Voluntary Simplicity means not only managing your cash and keeping a hefty emergency fund, but limiting your material possessions, such as furniture, clothing and household items to be able to pack-up quickly and travel whenever your layoff is given.

The concept has it’s roots too long ago to trace.

Probably before the trade guilds and the middle-ages when Apprentices learned skills from Journeymen tradesmen.

Please don’t get hung up on the terms of Journeyman. It is a trade Title that women earn and proudly claim just the same as the men, and still do today.

It annoys me to hear a name like “Journey-Person“!

I’ve met women in the construction industry applying the Voluntary Simplicity life style, just not as many because it is tough work. But so is being in the Military and plenty of women choose to go there.

The difference between the definitions of Tramp, Bum and a Hobo was deliberately blurred at roughly the turn of the century mainly due to the back-lash to the fledgling labor union movement, especially to the I.W.W.
(Industrial Workers of the World) the “Wobblies“.

Those early labor organizer ranks included many women and still does today.

But the way that I understand them is that a Tramp just means an itinerant who frequently is willing to work. A Bum prefers to beg and lacks any integrity. A Hobo looks for work where ever he goes and travels by rail and many maintain a certain level of integrity.

No construction traveler that I’ve ever heard of comes from this group despite our use of the “tramp” name in our slang. Trades workers own their vehicles, carry big tool boxes and enough clothes to work in rough weather in any season.

We sometimes sleep in our campers near to the projects where we are working or negotiate for a weekly or monthly rate at a local motel.

(FB: This is sounding even more and more like how consultants are treated on some projects LOL .. Actually, one project I had, had us living out of trailers right on the company grounds with literally no access to civilization without a helicopter ride. That was…. interesting.)

Education varies, but a high percentage have at least some college whether union on non-union and the education average is raising steadily. Travelers with post-grad degrees have told me that when the minimalist / simplicity guidelines are applied, then they can earn more in construction than in their degree fields.

Nowadays construction travelers use the internet and social media to keep plugged-into the clan’s network for job ideas and upcoming projects information not only in North America, but also Internationally.

Most keep separate accounts for expenses, their emergency funds and investment accounts. I always did my own tax filings and kept good records, still do.

It helps to have a base in a no-income tax state, like Texas, Florida or Alaska (my personal choice).

The concept is to lighten your load as much as you can stand.

Consciously evaluate your spending.

Live well below what income you have and use the difference to maximum advantage for the longest period of time and still live well.

It takes less money and energy to provide only the things that you really need and a few things that bring you joy.

Seems easy to say — hard to do, but FB does it and I can attest that if you’ll start with baby steps it does get easier as you practice. Just start small.

Thank you, FB.

FB: Thanks for sharing the story. Wise words.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.