Tag Archives: Busking

Van Living Offline: If It’s Not On Instagram, Did It Really Happen? 

IMG_3808Usually I’m the odd hippy in the corporate world, working as a university lecturer on Skype, living in a van/house-sitting. Now that summers on, I enter into being the odd Digital Nomad in the world of offline-van-dwellers and travellers. Alternative lifestyle blogs are unusual because people are usually either doing it, or writing about it, not both. As I know from my yurt days, it’s hard to get online when you’re off-grid.

A quick visit to any festival van field shows me a different world. Whilst my colleagues are often shocked to discover that my Vansion neither has a water tap nor fridge, rock-n-roll bed, nor toilet, this setup comes as standard for van-dwellers who self-build. Why would you want to replicate a house in a van? Fridges need power. Water tanks are a hassle compared to bottles. Fold out beds are for holiday makers, and lastly, when you live a in 65sqft box don’t poo in it!

What’s inspiring to me about chatting to the folks who live almost totally offline, is learning about the wide range of lifestyles available. It’s so easy to think that you need to be online to make a living. What’s rule one of starting your own business? Answer: get it on social media of course! That’s what we’re used to thinking anyway. Even during my £0 Challenge of 2014, I survived largely by making sure I stayed online. Yet there are alternatives.

As musicians go, they all outstrip me; of course they do. Full time buskers are hot as hell on their instruments because they play for hours per day. They don’t have space in their packs/vans for tons of sheet music, but they don’t need it because they are constantly learning new tunes from each other. I only have to sit with a van-dwelling busker for 5mins and they’ll teach me a song so we can play together. With that and seasonal work, they get by more than fine.

As travellers go, I met some super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent, hitch-hike anywhere and get there before you, build their own benders at the drop of a willow, and skip-dive like their in Mission Impossible. I thought I was experiencing a collision of worlds when I realised how much more extreme that collision must sometimes be for offline hitch-hikers:

Me: Thanks for the great meal Jake. Lovely to have loads of veg after a few days travel where it’s hard to get it.

Jane: Yeah me too.

Me: You too? I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.

Jane: Well, yes but… via service stations.

This reminds me of the folk I met who were hitch-hiking and ended up stranded at a motorway service station for so long they set up camp in the woodland just off the carpark.

 

Jane, incidentally, who can survive in the wilderness for months on end using only stone age tools she has made herself, is soon to be flown to Germany to “perform stone age living” at an immersion project, in the strangest mix of modern and ancient worlds I have ever heard of. She also told me a secret: “I’ve got a smartphone now.”

There is a myth that the offline world doesn’t really exist. If you can’t google it, or there isn’t a photo on Facebook to prove it, did it really happen? 

My income is online; I straddle two quite disparate worlds… and I like that (“I love my hybrid nature – no binary can contain me!” – Meredith Tea ). But it’s refreshing to see people making their way in the world through offline networks, or at least a real mix between the two. The online world isn’t as dominant and powerful as all that: whole worlds still function under its radar.
Over the past few years, I’ve given up so many things I thought I needed, and have felt freer each time. Being immersed in the offline world, even for a short time, inspires me to ask “What more I could free myself from?”… I’ll let you know when I have the answer.

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Running out of money was such an anti-climax, I just had to go to Harrods

Because the idea of running out of money held so much fear for me, I decided to deliberately let my bank account run to £0 and then work my way up from zero. It was almost as though I thought I would die if I ran out of money and had no work planned. At the very least, I imagined myself abandoning all else to stand in the street and sing for my supper, then going home to the van and hatching plans to tout myself around for as much work as possible.

Would Harrods be a good place to busk? This Big Issue seller seems to think it's a great spot.

Would Harrods be a good place to busk? This Big Issue seller seems to think it’s a great spot.

The reality was much less dramatic – almost disappointingly so. On June 18th I ran out of money, spending my final pennies at the sweet shop in order to get to exactly £0. I still had some groceries left and some fuel in the tank. Would more money come in before those supplies ran out?

Well…Yes.

It was very easy. That same day, someone contacted me about doing enabling/care work for them so I booked couple of days at the end of the week. Rather bizarrely, later that day someone else contacted me about the same thing, so I booked a day with them for the following week. With a little busking to top it up, I realised that’s all I need for now.

So there you have it… the anti-climax.

Quite profound don’t you think? My attempts to put myself in a desperate situation have failed. It’s proved impossible for me to do so. I’ve learned that living abundantly is not about money but resources – it’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that money is the only resource.

Since running out of money 2 weeks ago, I have been working my way up slowly, but funds are still low at best. A highlight of my week was singing in Chichester market square with a sign saying “Busking for tickets to the opera”. The experiment has changed me permanently in ways I could never have predicted, and how I make a living from now on will be totally different. I won’t give too much away, but lets just say that I have exciting plans to create my future as business failure.

I put on my most expensive outfit so as to blend in, although I felt a little conspicuous getting changed in the street outside harrods and tying a tie using Starbucks' window as a mirror.

I put on my most expensive outfit so as to blend in, although I felt a little conspicuous getting changed in the street outside harrods and tying a tie using Starbucks’ window as a mirror.

In my last post, I showed my reaction to going to M&Ms World – a wildly consumerist shop in Leicester Square. How then, having recently gone to £0, would I respond to being in Harrods?

I had to try it.

In Harrods, pricetags are hidden. In Harrods, the staff wear suits. In Harrods, the toilets provide free perfume as well as soap. In Harrods, there are many expensive things, like a rucksack for £900 or a chair for £4000, or even a box of tea for £7 or a plastic biro for £5. I was appalled by M&Ms world, but I surprised to find that Harrods did not appal me.

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A £175 shirt… I have one that looks quite similar, but of course you can tell the difference at a glance because mine is blue.

Why? Well, in Harrods it seemed like there was no trickery or coercion. Stuff was for sale and you could buy it if you wanted to – isn’t that how shops should be? Items were on display, but prices were hidden, so you had to take a liking to something based on what it was, not on its price. Everything expensive that I saw seemed well made. Even where things were clearly overpriced (£175 for a shirt – well beyond the cost of its materials and labour), it seemed as though this was very plainly declared. M&Ms World, by contrast, was laid out to try and milk as many purchases as possible out of each customer, regardless of whether they would get good use out of them. Someone could of course buy a £175 shirt from Harrods, and consign it to the bin after 3 months. But being well made, it could also last them for 10 years or more, or be worn 2nd, 3rd and 4th hand for years to come. Products from M&Ms World on the other hand, were so cheaply made that they would quickly break, have no 2nd hand value so would soon end up in a landfill for sure.

 

Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XNDwS7wUwE

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

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