It’s funny how starting on a particular path leads you to immediately meet likeminded souls. Having decided to take The £0 Challenge (in which I let my bank balance run to zero before I’m allowed to start seeking work) I met Chris almost immediately.
Chris is a 66-year-old professional houseless man, who subscribes to the-Gandalf-look hair-wise and the skip-diver look, clothing-wise. I picked him up in my van as he was hitchhiking to Wales and he informed me that he had been travelling around, living out of a rucksack for 30 years. During that time he’d no income, nor drawn benefits. He currently chooses not to take his state pension because it had been his own choice not to work during his eligible years. When I asked what he did for money he simply said, “I struggle along”, which could be a euphemism for begging, but I sensed he was not a standard tramp. For a start, he didn’t hang around in cities sleeping in doorways, but saw houselessness as a way to stay in nature, where begging would of course be more difficult.
Naturally I was fascinated at the idea of someone getting along in the world with no form of income. I asked him everything, from what was in his rucksack, to what he ate, where he’d travelled. It seemed that he got around mostly by hitchhiking, taking more than twice as long to get a ride than my young blond friend Jane ever does (which is a useful thing to know). He said “yes, young girls always get picked up easy, mostly because most blokes have a daughter that age”. Chris said his most important possession was his bed: a 4 season down sleeping bag and bivi. He claimed tents were too conspicuous and no use unless you were staying somewhere for several nights
It was clear that Chris could get along in the world with fewer possessions than most, but that’s also because all he wanted from life was ramble to around the countryside, sleeping outdoors. Naturally, all he’d need to do that was a rucksack’s worth of stuff. I asked him if he ever ran out of food and money. He answered “Yes, but you just keep going”. It was obvious then that Chris’s success at this way of life depended heavily on being able to accept going without his basic needs being met for short periods of time, without panicking.
Unfortunately what I want in life includes a wider range of activities than walking in nature. My drive for performing and recording music, necessitates a wealth of kit that just won’t fit in that rucksack. Although maybe this guy (below) is doing exactly that!
However, this raises an important point – Chris proves that to live and be in nature is perfectly possible with the minimum of resources (although I don’t know what happens when he falls ill or needs dental work etc.) So why aren’t I doing the same thing? Well, it’s because I want to continue to engage with the modern world, socially, professionally, musically, use computers, phones, the internet and more.
It’s very important to recognise that this is my choice. It reminds me that each time I panic about running out of money, it’s not my survival, but my connections to the lifestyle I’m used to that’s threatened. One of my fears is that my computer/phone, which I depend on for work and enjoy for entertainment, breaks and I am unable to replace it. Even in the UK, people are running out of money for food but still refusing to sell their car or cancel their mobile phone contract. Why? Because doing so would cut them out of the game of getting another job.
Wait a minute! Panicking about having no food or shelter is sensible, but panicking about computer breaking is 21st century madness. Chris, and other’s like him serve to remind us of alternatives to the norm, where the norm has become as crazy as this: A computer is more important than food. How powerful are we willing to let Apple and Microsoft become?
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