Someone recently asked me what I thought about the homeless situation in America. Well, I don’t have a house anywhere, I don’t currently call any country home and I don’t have a home base for my travels. Does that make me a homeless man? One thing I do know is Earth is my home. “Home is where your rump rests.” – Pumba
For the past year I’ve been traveling around the world. Before that, I had a transitory life. When I left “home” at the age of 14, I had already lived in over a dozen cities throughout California, Oregon and Washington. I had been to over 20 schools (that’s another story). After I moved out, I worked as a volunteer, lived in dormitories and other residences and went where my volunteer work took me. Now when people ask me where I’m from, I have a hard time narrowing it down from “west coast US.”
This year alone I’ve visited 34 countries with one more coming in a couple days. I’ve “lived” in nearly a hundred cities, whether staying at hostels, couchsurfing or sleeping in my tent, plus a night on the street when my bus didn’t arrive at 2 AM in a town that didn’t have hostels or hotels. I’ve had some of the most fantastic adventures of my life, met thousands of wonderful people (many of which are now friends for life) and eaten oh so much good food. So what does all that have to do with being a homeless man?
The operative word is man. A man is not something you do or have. A man is something you are being. Being “homeless” means to most that you don’t have a house. So what? Saying a homeless man is simply one who doesn’t have a home is silly. Home is where you live. If you’re alive, you are alive somewhere and that is your home. Basically we just have a confusion of terms. It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do. A friend of mine who worked in a five-star hotel in Beverly Hills once told me the happiest person she had ever met was a man who would come stay at the hotel now and then. He had a lot of money, but hardly any possessions. He traveled the world helping people and volunteering. Hard to call him a homeless man, just because he didn’t own a home.
So maybe a homeless man just means you don’t have a lot of money. Boy, how much of the world would that encompass?
Homeless people are exactly what other people think they are. And I mean that literally. What others…think!
Maybe what we’re really referring to are the people who sleep on the streets. Now that seems closer. But have you ever talked with one? I have. On the streets of Hollywood, Edinburgh, Prague and around the world. Sure, there is a percentage which are certifiably insane and should be in an institution or on a deserted island. Most of the rest tend to be really cool people. I’ve met buskers, fellow travelers and businessmen who’s wife kicked them out the night before. I’ve had conversations for hours with some of them about deep topics. I’ve helped them and they’ve helped me. They certainly don’t fit the profile that most people assign to them.
Are they penniless? Some are. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that panhandler pull out a brand-new IPhone 6. Are they depressed. Some are, especially the ones who are drunk. Are they all drunk? Certainly not. I will never forget the girl huddled under blankets outside a market who, a moment later, broke out a guitar and started into one of the most impressive street performances I’ve ever seen.
Being homeless is liberating. When people ask me how I can afford to travel, I ask them how they can afford to live in one place. Look at the Google employee who smartly sleeps in his truck. Or better yet, Mike from Vandogtraveller.com. Building my own TinyHouse is definitely on my bucket list.
In July I spent about $300 traveling through Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. In September I spent less than that in six of the more expensive countries in northern Europe. Volunteering at hostels, Couchsurfing.com and Workaway.info helps to defer the cost of berthing. Nearly every country in the world (except maybe Norway and Sweden) has cheap options for eating. I don’t spend a lot on drinking or tourist attractions. My adventures mostly consist of wild activities in nature like cliff jumping in Chiang Mai, or meeting up with people in my travels who invite me to participate in something amazing, like the music festival in Bulgaria.
The bottom line is it doesn’t take money or a home to be happy, and it’s not lack of either which makes a homeless person. What matters is what you do with your life; how you help others. Life exists to help. Period. I recently became a certified authentic Thai massage therapist to gain another skill to help others with. Every person I meet I try to help them in any way I can, even if it’s just offering them travel advice.
This is basically what I think about the “homeless” situation in America. Being homeless is simply a misnomer. However, I should add one more thing. For every homeless person in America, there are 6 empty houses!
So what makes a homeless man? Answer: the media.