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Mark Frauenfelder Won’t Kill Chickens

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In 2003, Mark Frauenfelder and his wife Carla decided to do something a little crazy. They decided to ditch their lives as freelancers in Los Angeles, following a slowdown in the media business, and move themselves and their two kids (a six-year-old and an infant) to a remote island in the south pacific where the couple had spent a blissful week six years earlier. OK, maybe a lot crazy. The move to the island of Rarotonga didn’t exactly work out as planned and the family returned after a few months to the wilds of Los Angeles, though Mark will be the first to tell you that it had a profound impact on his life.

In addition to being a Credit.com contributor, Mark is one of the founders of the popular blog BoingBoing, he’s the editor-in-chief of Make magazine, and he is the author of “Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World.” The book is just out in paperback and begins with the family’s decision to move to Rarotonga. It’s the kind of all encompassing lifestyle transition that causes people to examine the more nuanced details of how they live, and for Mark, it was the beginning of his journey into the world of do-it-yourself. His book documents that journey, in which he spent a year working on a number of interesting DIY projects, including beekeeping, raising chickens (for eggs, not meat, as you’ll read below), and making guitars out of cigar boxes, among many other things. I asked him about his journey into the world of DIY in the Q&A that follows … and even if we here at Credit.com didn’t already really like Mark, we’d still think the book was worth the read.

[Article: How Mark Boyle Lives on $0 a Year]

But if you don’t believe us, check out Mark with Steven Colbert, when the book first came out (he plays the cigar box guitar in the video!). My Q&A with Mark follows.

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Mark Frauenfelder
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Mike: Have you ever lived off credit cards or had a relationship with credit that wasn’t healthy?

Mark: I haven’t actually lived off of credit cards to pay for necessities such as rent and groceries, but I have abused my credit cards in other ways. When my wife and I were younger we would use credit cards to buy clothing, furniture, vacations and other luxury items without really thinking about how we were going to pay the bill later. I still struggle with credit cards from time to time, but I am much more responsible than I was 20 years ago.

Mike: The reason why I asked is because the story you wrote about in the introduction to your book—when your family dropped out and moved to the South Pacific—it seemed to me like a pretty bold rejection of the classic American consumer lifestyle, a lifestyle which many would argue is fueled by the use and misuse of readily available credit. Were you and your wife thinking along those lines at the time?

Mark:  Yes, we were thinking about our lifestyle, and the fact that our reduced income would soon tempt us to start pulling out our credit card to maintain our lifestyle. Our solution—moving to a tiny island in the South Pacific—actually worked, but it brought with it a different problems: mainly social isolation and a lack of healthcare.

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Q & A with Mark Frauenfelder (cont.) »

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  • Jill

    Loved the interview . . . especially your last line, Mike!

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