One of the great things about writing a newspaper column is that you'll never develop a swollen head. If you're wrong or off the wall or simply bend the language too much, readers will tell you, point-blank.I got a real surprise when I asked readers to participate in my Living Lite columns. "There are pioneers out there," I wrote on March 14. "They are people who live differently and think differently. They are people who march to a different drummer. They are people who live on less money but feel wealthy — if they think about such things at all. I believe most of them are entirely indistinguishable from ordinary human beings.

"You may be one of them. Or you may know one of them. Let me know."

Legions of you did just that.

Out of the box

Reading through stacks of notes and letters, I quickly learned that my notion of visiting RV parks was a bit "inside the box." It might seem an unconventional approach to some, but there were thousands of people out there who are well beyond marching to a different drummer.

They are strolling. They are dancing.They are enjoying their lives. They have shed conventional work and the affliction of coveting. They are living way, way outside the box. While intellectuals wring their hands over the social pathology represented by Donald Trump, these pioneers have achieved sublime indifference to everything Donald. They are unmoved by the emergence of what some have called "Lies-Based Management" in corporate America because, well, because they are whistling a different tune.For them, the anguish of the Visa-Centered Life is history.

From points beyond

Reader responses gave me a new problem: How to present so much? This is a book, not a few columns. How do I tell you about:

• The couple who live on a barge in France?

• The man who lives on nearly nothing in Thailand?

• The couple who have done missionary work across the country, living in an RV?

• The disabled man who decided to turn living on less into an Extreme Sport?

• The many couples who are members of the Thousand Trails RV park association, roving the country?

• The couple who have built a small compound in East Texas and enjoy acres of woods?

• Or similar reports from Kerrville, Texas; Ruidoso, N.M.; the Sea of Cortez in Mexico; and other places?

There are people who lead simple lives, surrounded by natural beauty. They are not obvious. You won't see them on the evening news. They are at once different, profoundly normal and shockingly happy.

I will find a way to visit them and tell their stories. Please be patient. It will take time.

Today let me share the basics of how they manage their lives.

John praised RV living: "This life is an untapped resource for affordable, enjoyable living, allowing the RVer to use mobility and low cost-of-living to move from job to job — a perfect solution in a market where careers are disappearing but there is plenty of low-paying work. I was a high-tech project manager making $35 an hour.

"Now I clean swimming pools and bathrooms for $6 an hour, and I will never go back to that back-biting lifestyle."
Mr. Simple
George, who called himself "Mr. Simple," wrote: "I realized there were a few things I must do to escape this rat race. (1) Forget about the Joneses. (2) Educate myself on assets and liabilities. (3) Increase passive and portfolio income. And (4) it's less about what you make and more about what you spend."

Jerry wrote that he wasn't a pioneer. He was just someone "who is aware of how much we waste on things we don't need and probably don't enjoy very much. I think of commuters driving Hummers, living in $1 million homes and eating $500 meals as examples. ... We can live healthy, productive lives on very little if we slice away the fluff, work hard and get back to basics."

Howard sent a quote without a source: "To have more is to want less, and when you don't want anything, you have everything."

Edward confessed that he wasn't a particularly good saver but that he approached purchases as an engineer would. "I purchase objects in themselves. I don't purchase images. ... I think people would do well to understand why they bought something. ... If people thought about it, they would find that they bought a great many things with the idea that it would buy things that money really can't buy."

Betsy sent a three-step plan:

"Want less than you have.

"Spend less than you get.

"Share."