In the latest episode of the Stellar podcast Something To Talk About, Sarah Wilson – the author, host of the Wild podcast and one-time MasterChef Australia television host – opens up about why she gave away the proceeds of her I Quit Sugar empire, what we can all learn about buying less and the reason she left Australia for a new “simple life” in Paris.

On her choice to give away the proceeds from the sale of her I Quit Sugar business in 2022 and what society can learn from evaluating our own expenditure:

“I’ve almost got to backtrack it to when I got very sick in my mid-30s, which is why I left mainstream media and when I lived in an army shed in the forest in Byron Bay. I sold off all my possessions. I had nothing left. I’d almost died and I’d had suicidal issues, as well. I was seconds from taking my own life. I had a moment which I write about in [my book] First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, where I describe what it was that brought me back from that brink. It was a realisation that, Oh my God, there’s one avenue I have not pursued, and that is to live my life freely with just the clothes on my back, with no expectations from the outside world, to live beautifully and with love. I made a commitment to myself that I would never get caught up in the system again. It wasn’t that difficult for me because even though I’d been editing magazines and so on, I wore second-hand clothes. I still rode a bike everywhere. I’d never owned a handbag. I kept things very, very simple – it was smoke and mirrors.

I reached a point where I’d earnt enough money just to set myself up with sensible female investments. Save some money, put money into superannuation. And then I went, OK, I can live now off the minimum Australian wage for the rest of my life until I’m 94. Therefore I’m going to give the money away. It was everything. It was the whole lot. I continue to live that way. If I get to a point where I’m earning excessively, then I’ll do it again.

“It’s not for everyone. I don’t have a lavish lifestyle. I live in a tiny apartment here in Paris, which is way cheaper than Australia. I cook most of my food. I own between three and five pairs of underpants at any given time. A couple of pairs of shoes. I wear clothes from when I was 18. I keep everything, handwash everything. It’s a super simple life.

I would encourage people to see this as a simplification that brings about joy. Shopping causes so much anxiety, so much stress, it takes up a family’s weekend. You can actually put off going to the shops … and see how much longer you can live [without the things you want to buy]. Go through everything. Gamify not shopping. Gamify repurposing things.

This is not about a Marie Kondo clean-up. Don’t kid yourself that Vinnies is going to sell this stuff, because most of it is going to landfill. Don’t throw things out. Don’t buy more stuff. Live with what you’ve got. I hear a lot of people, particularly in Australia, say, ‘I don’t have time for X, Y, Z.’ And then I do know that they’re at a shopping mall most of their weekends. If you can just cut that five-hour ordeal out of your lives as often as possible, it will funnel you into different things. It’s freedom.”

Listen to the full interview with Sarah Wilson on Something To Talk About below or wherever you get your podcasts:

On why she thinks younger men prefer to date older women, and the differences between dating in Europe and dating in Australia:

“I think [younger men] are less jaded and their mojo hasn’t been destroyed by repeated horrible online dating experiences. There’s still this energy and vibrancy and desire to connect. I also think they find a woman that’s my age [49] looks like the women that they grew up thinking women were going to look like. Their mothers were feminists, their teachers were feminists. And then they arrive in a world of Kardashian duck lips and they go, hang on, what happened here? Every guy that I’ve met on any kind of dating app just wants a traditional connection. It’s a very different scene over here in Europe. There’s a little bit more of that traditional let’s meet up, have a drink, romantic … men coming up in the streets. I’ve had love notes written to me by people three tables down in a cafe. That kind of stuff still happens, which is really lovely. There’s less cynicism.

Australia has a very high concentration of segregated-sex schools. I went to a public co-ed school, and so it was really normal for me to have male friendships, to be comfortable around men. I have four brothers. I think what’s been happening in our major capital cities is men socialise with men, women socialise with women, and you go to an Australian barbecue and there’s this big sort of parting of the ways. That doesn’t happen over here. The Europeans would be men and women all socialising together. I think that helps.”

On her next project and future plans:

“I’m working on a new book. It’s about the collapse of a lot of stuff going on and how to manage it, how to handle it, how to absorb everything that’s going on in the world. There’s 50,000 people on my newsletter on Substack, and we have a robust discussion about this stuff: what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening with the environment, what’s going on with the fracturing in politics, everybody’s fighting about everything. There’s so much more I want to do. I feel like I’ve got at least another 40 years in me of just going to the next thing. I don’t plan what I’m doing. I basically go, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to write about this, nobody has written about it. Nobody’s been game enough to say the thing that everybody wants to be said, that everybody’s sharing secretly on their WhatsApp group or after they’ve had three wines with their girlfriends.’ That’s the spot where I go to.”

On whether she would consider returning to mainstream television in Australia (Wilson hosted the first season of MasterChef Australia in 2009):

“I think that we haven’t created the space yet for discussions that push boundaries. Especially the stuff that women tend to talk about, which goes a little more into the emotional side of things. But equally, I don’t think there’s much of a space for women to be able to talk big political ideas that might create a bit of a stir. I’ll be honest, a bit of the reason why I’m here and not in Australia is because I don’t feel held in Australia. I did feel ostracised to a certain extent and rather than stay and complain and be upset, I left so that I can still love my country and still feel that I can come back. I hope one day I can come back to a country where women like me can be on mainstream television talking big topics. There’s room for highbrow, lowbrow, there’s room for everything. I would like to see more of that in Australia … a space for women to talk about stuff. I hope I haven’t trodden on any toes here, but I think it’s a time in history when we’ve got to answer honestly.”

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Listen to the full interview with Sarah Wilson on Something To Talk About. And read it inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), Sunday Herald Sun (VIC), The Sunday Mail (QLD) and Sunday Mail (SA).

Originally published as ‘I don’t feel held in Australia’: Sarah Wilson on life in Paris and why there’s ‘no role’ for her on Aussie TV

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