For gypsies, vagabonds, pirates and dharma bums...
I've always loved camping. When I was twelve I joined the Boy Scouts and our troop would go camping at least once a month in the Rocky Mountains. As anyone who has done any long term camping can tell you, you'll learn that if you have the right equipment, a camping experience can be just as comfortable as being at home. With the right sleeping bag, comfortable clothing, a good camp stove and tent, life in the wilderness can be both relaxing and rewarding. The actual amount of work involved in setting up and breaking down camp is no more than any other list of house chores, and the thrill of seeing and experiencing things you would otherwise never see at home or on the TV more than makes up for any other hardship you might endure.
What comes next in the following paragraphs may be hard for you to except, but if you follow along you will be excited and enlightened about a new way of thinking. To do this, let me take you on a journey. Imagine for a moment that you are currently traveling around the globe to find new and interesting art, music, fashion, film and books to put into your art and music festivals. After arriving into a new city you decide this would be a good place to stay for a while and throw a festival. Now imagine that you find a good spot to pitch your tent in the city, but near a creek; high up on a hill, away from housing and other people. You also find several other people who let you stay in their backyards. Some of them you find on a website called CouchSurfing.com, others were just cool people you already know. You also notice that there are plenty of other good spots where a well camouflaged tent will not be bothered through the night. You do this not only because it's exciting and adventurous, or because you want to save money on rent, hotels, hostels and the like, but you also want to become totally emmersed in the culture of the city or town you're visitng. By camping in a new found friend's backyard you can be introduced to their perspective; their lifestyle. And you can become totally amazed at how important this is, especially when traveling through foreign countries.
It wasn't until just recently, however, that I found out that there was a name for this kind of camping. A friend sent me a link to this article on weburbanist.com about "Urban Camping", and how many people throughout the U.S. (and probabaly even more so in Europe) are finding the nomadic, tent-form of travel to be an exciting alternative to flying and staying in hotels or hostels. The article goes on to mention new forms of tents and other nomadic, urban camping equipment being created by savvy, modern inventors.
There are a lot of other websites on urban camping, guerrilla urban camping and also refered to as stealth camping. You can check out some of them here:
"Micro Villages and Urban Camping" by the Buckminster Fuller Institute
Cosmo Girl Magazine article "Go Urban Camping Tonight!"
It makes sense.
First, it's thrifty. Everyone on CouchSurfing.com is very nice and let me use their backyard for free. Very likely this is because CS'ers can lend a couch or use a couch, so it all goes around like couch-karma. One way to pay back karma can be taking your hosts out for a night or two of pizza and beer. Not to mention, I'm sure that just by the very fact that you're reading this now I can say we have most certainly done our share of couch lending, haven't we?
Second, it's exciting! You're constantly meeting new people, seeing new things, and living in new places. The people who graciously host your tent or sleeping bag are always friendly and social, introducing you to all kinds of new things. Imagine, if you will, to wake up in the morning hearing the birds sing, and you can feel close to nature. Imagine having the freedom to go where you want while not having to worry about what you're leaving behind; because you have it all with you.
On one level, I can relate to the standard notions of homelessness. When I was younger, I was homeless due to unfortunate circumstances. You can find yourself one morning sitting on the sidewalk with no money, nowhere to go, hungry, and worst of all, no plan to free yourself of your position. As I'm sure you can imagine, there is definitely a moment when you can brake down because of the stress. It can be terrible.
On a completely different and exciting level, there is a new way to think about living and sleeping, and how you go about doing that. To say One is "homeless" (or as George Carlin says "houseless") in this context is very different than to say One is "destitute-without-hope". I prefer the term home-full, meaning the many homes I share while I travel and the many loving people I meet along the way. It's fantastic!
Really, the more you think about it the more you'll realize that the only difference between living in a tent and living in a house is that you cannot lay on a couch and watch TV (darn).
It's a big concept.
It is a definite social stigma in this country to be an individual that wants to live outside of societies standards, or in that case to live a nomadic lifestyle. By society's definitions, these people are somehow desperate, ineffectual, or incapable of taking care of themselves. However, I think it's important to note that there are actually many different subclasses and subcultures within the nomadic "homeless" community. You could even go so far as to say that one of these subclasses provides a much needed spiritual role for society at large.
The Shamanic Class.
"And what shamans are, I believe, are people who have been able to decondition themselves from the community's instinctual distrust of the mystery, and to go into it..."
"What shamans have to do is act as exemplars, by making this cosmic journey to the domain of the Gaian ideas, and then bringing them back in the form of art [for] the struggle to save the world."
- Terence McKenna
Please don't misinterpret these quotes in that I'm trying to say that you should believe I'm a Shaman. Nor should you look at me as a guru or a spiritual leader. But I will say I'm definitely spiritual, and it is for that reason that I agree with Terence. If you think about it, there is a sorely needed and unfulfilled role in this country (and in a large part of the "civilized" world) for, what Terence McKenna called "the shamanic class". And I wonder if you'll be curious to know that this is very likely the reason there is a sort of anti-structure / anti-civilization rebellious-ness arising, as witnessed by the many pictures on this page of "ordinary" people camping on sidewalks in their tents, throwning raves in the streets, cultivating human rewilding projects, etc.
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