1. a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job.
Last night I slept rough in London for the first time.
It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
In fact, as urban stealth-camping goes, it was one of the more pleasant nights I can remember.
The most difficult thing was committing to doing it.
In the same way as ‘cycling round the world’ is an awful lot scarier than ‘cycling somewhere new today’, ‘being homeless in London for months’ is an awful lot scarier ‘camping out tonight’. It amounts to the same physical, tangible actions on any given day, but one way of framing it makes it paralysing and daunting, and the other makes it eminently do-able.
As soon as I changed the way I was framing it, I felt empowered to leave the comfort of my friend’s South London couch and begin a new, unorthodox routine of living and working in London – without a home.
Getting past the psychological hurdle wasn’t the only parallel with adventure. There was also the practical side; the skills I’ve learned from… well, not surviving in the outdoors, but existing in that space and with that transient kind of routine. If I hide off the road after dark, get my 8 hours’ sleep, and am on my bike again before dawn, what difference does it really make if I’m in the middle of London or the middle of the Sahara?
And once I’m packed up and on the road, is there any particular reason I couldn’t go about my day as normal – a quick dip in the Serpentine as a substitute for a shower, and my working environment of any wifi-equipped coffee shop I fancy?
Why, in fact, couldn’t being homeless in London actually be fun?
In response to my last post about the stigma of homelessness, somebody asked why I didn’t just rent a cheap room in a studenty area. Another suggested I buy a camper van. Fun aside, there’s something I should explain about the project I’m here to work on:
It’s still not 100% certain to be going ahead.
Unfortunately, filmmaking costs money. The minimal budget that Leon and I have drawn up makes ours technically a ‘no-budget’ film project, but it still runs to five figures – because while I might be happy sleeping in parks, the people we’ll need to collaborate with over the coming months have bills to pay and families to feed. If we’re to tell our stories effectively, these costs are non-negotiable.
Next week, we’re launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise these funds. It’s going to be the biggest project I’ve ever been involved with, and that makes it pretty scary.
When the time comes, you’ll have the opportunity to get involved directly in getting the project off the ground and spreading the word.
But until we reach our fundraising target, the viability of the project hangs in the balance.
And so – even if I did have an income to support it – there’d no point renting a room, buying a camper van, or establishing myself here in any permanent way until it’s clear whether or not I’ll be staying to work on it.
If we succeed, this spring is going to be a hugely rewarding one. The journeys we made last year in Patagonia and Iran unearthed two unexpected but very timely stories about the world we live in, and I’m extremely excited about telling them.
When we launch the Kickstarter campaign next week, I very much hope you’ll get involved! Until then, I’m off to buy some warm socks. It got pretty chilly last night…