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Andresa, or the "1111" life based on barter

Andresa Salgueiro has put exchange at the heart of her life. A choice that changed her vision of herself and the world.

Andresa Salgueiro, author of "Belivro: reading and being 111% happy". © Marie-Line Darcy / RFI

Text by: Marie-Line Darcy


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From our correspondent in Lisbon,

Andresa narrows her eyes that she has strangely blue because of the reflections of the sun on the banks of the Tagus where she has taken place. Andresa Salgueiro shakes up her shyness with crystalline bursts of laughter as she recounts her experience based on bartering. The story begins in 2012. She lives alone about twenty kilometers from Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. She has been a hotel manager for a few years, but she is tired of this job that is too static and repetitive. She makes the decision to live differently and quits her job.

At the time, Portugal was hit by the economic crisis - the one caused by the consequences of the crisis of supbrimes in the United States. Losing your job is therefore a risk that you would not want to run. At 36, without the right to unemployment, she set herself a challenge: to live on 1,111 euros, the equivalent of one month of her salary, for at least a year. In the end, it will be 1 year, 11 days and 11 minutes, because "it fits with the amount I had," Andresa says with a laugh. Thus was born the "1111" attitude. "I set up a barter system: doing administrative work in a gym for classes, writing resumes for food, cleaning or babysitting hours for products or clothes." The result is surprising: the young woman never lacks anything. "The generosity of the people is extraordinary," she says. Her parents are worried, she will not contribute to social security or retirement. But her father believes she has to live her dreams and he supports her.

Throughout this period, Andresa will experience community life. She momentarily leaves the apartment left to her by her grandmother to travel, mostly by public transport, her country. "I wanted to experience different things while keeping the spirit of this mode of operation: work against shelter and food." A total of 11 communities – a magic number – will be visited by Andresa. They are different from each other. One is a family gathered around reggae music, in the other, we eat raw and sleep under the stars. These communities operate according to the Woofing mode. It is a global movement that values societal and agricultural alternatives. It is quite well established in Portugal. "I had never fished, picked fruit and weeded in my life. It's very rewarding, especially for us city dwellers, even if it's physically hard," admits the young woman. The encounter with a snake at night under the stars is not his best memory! His courage lies elsewhere.

Extraordinary experiences

Andresa readily admits: she didn't invent anything. It is inspired by similar and even more radical experiences in Germany, for example. But in Portugal – and an economically suffering Portugal – this different way of living is an originality. For example, Andresa will learn to do without her car. To repay the loan of 200 euros she contracted for this purchase, she lends her vehicle. Unfortunately, the mileage explodes and the car is out of breath. "This is the only real shadow in my year 1111," admits the young woman who has not lost her good mood. She befriends everyone she meets. And will even find love "He was a poet. It didn't last long, but it was beautiful," she says with a new laugh.

The barter life will eventually extend for another three years, but it has evolved: it is about working for goods or services. "Only a few hours. There is no question of occupying someone's position," she says. It will be one day in a supermarket against a voucher of 40 euros, writing CVs or households against food, help with the sale of train tickets against his monthly transport ticket.

Andresa wrote her diary throughout the "1111" period. It is published under the title Belivro: lire et être 111% heureux where belivro would mean "be free" and recalls the English word believe, believe. It too is exchanged for a good or service, or even a good idea. For example, when the Portuguese Railways launches a competition for sustainable development suggestions, the reward is the "belivro". Another memorable experience for Andresa was the presentation of a talk show on a local television, TV Lisboa. The 13 programmes – not 11! – were entitled "Turning the Crisis Around". Finally, during all this time, Andresa has presented many conferences on her experience, on personal motivation and surpassing oneself, for companies and institutions. Andresa who exudes empathy, creates multiple and warm bonds.

A future anchored in the past

Andresa, a psychopedagogue by training, then returns to the normal world where she becomes a trainer for 7 years. She works with different communities, children and adolescents. "I love it. It really suits me, being in contact with people. But I lost my job. Today, at 47 years old, she wants to develop her activity as a lecturer for a fee. Even if bartering remains the pillar of his way of life.

Andresa's blue eyes squint again at the mention of the "1111" era. "It's amazing how generous and willing the people I've met have been. Yes, it's possible to live differently, I believe in it." Before adding in a whisper "provided that others want it".

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