If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why some goods and services are drastically more expensive than others, and why an hour of one trained/specialized person’s time should be worth so many times more than another’s, it might be time for a swap.
We’ve come to regard money as the only unit of conversion, and are led to believe that we can do nothing without it, which in turn pushes us to do anything and everything to obtain it. And yet, money as the official currency of exchange is a relatively recent development in the history of our species. For thousands of years, entire societies functioned on the idea that one man’s work was as valuable as another’s, and the lack of agricultural or industrial development meant that no person could get by without the hard work of every individual.
Before you blow a socialist whistle on me, think of the number of people working in jobs they don’t like to pay for things they do like. The obvious solution is to get a job in something you love, but whether your field of choice is highly competitive or just a difficult industry to make money in (contemporary dance anyone?), it may not always be a possibility. The best situation for a swap is an exchange in which two people gain something that they would not otherwise have paid for. In other words, stepping outside of money as a currency and gaining new things from it.
On a modest freelancer’s earnings, for example, I don’t have much cash to spare when it comes to luxuries and hobbies. As a result of my job, however, I do have plenty of free time, so I often offer my skills in exchange for things I wouldn’t otherwise fork out for. Instead of working in a job I hate, I do more of what I like in exchange for things the extra salary might have got me.
I’ve done swaps with yoga instructors, language teachers, and professional chefs this way. They’ve all taken me on for free classes, in return for a few hours of copywriting and help with their web and social media outlets. A swap can be as small as feeding your neighbor’s cat in return for lemons from their tree or work experience for free labor. Whether it’s a lift to work, a bicycle you never use, some public-speaking classes, IT advice, a homemade scarf or design work, there’s no limit to the things you can swap if you open yourself to the possibility, and offer something unexpected to others in the meantime.
The best swaps often seem one-directional and involve giving without expecting anything in return. In such a case, when the ‘swap’ comes in and the gift comes back to you, it’s a surprise!