Explorer, author, trail prospector & travel writer

In Which I Become – Technically Speaking – A Tramp

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?

Early morning departure

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?

Freshly dunked

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.

Sound mix at Ealing 2

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…


13 responses to “In Which I Become – Technically Speaking – A Tramp”

  1. Tom,

    Do you know or know of “Richard the Piano Tuner”? He’s a highly qualified piano tuner (surprise) who has made a conscious decision not to have a home, at least for the time being. Have a gander here: http://www.piano-tuning.co.uk/lifestyle/

    He did a brilliant job on our baby grand (stayed for 11 hours and charged for only 6) and is an interesting guy to talk to. He may well have some useful tips for you, and his website is a mine of information.

    Good luck with the venture

    1. I’ve never met him, but came across his story via Vimeo a couple of years ago. Really inspiring. Definitely contributed to my feeling that it’s possible to live like this.

  2. Maybe have a word with the folks at rochester sq gardens, they may have space for you in exchange for some gardening, cooking, bike maintenance etc. Nice people/place to visit either way

    1. This place sounds awesome. I’ll drop by for sure!

  3. At the risk of turning our entire life into blog content, this whole process would make a really interesting film…

    1. It would… I don’t think I’ll be the one to make it, though!

  4. You’re welcome to stay with us in Bermondsey for a week. Jane

    1. That’s very kind of you 🙂

  5. Mike Greer avatar
    Mike Greer

    Tom ,
    Congratulations on a safe and successful first night !
    Good luck with the rest of them and good luck with your project !

  6. ferruccio avatar

    tom for president, our homeless president.

  7. Good luck Tom, you’re continually convincing me that I really shouldn’t worry about the impeding end of contract and commit to just being the full time bike-hobo that I know that I am!

    Just as a quick thing to have a look at, I really enjoyed this wee blog while it was still up and running. Perhaps you could take a cue from it yourself for a semi-permanent non-home.


  8. Hey Tom, have you ever read the book Evasion? Whilst I’m not saying it’s the same as what you’re doing you might still find it interesting, though very dogmatic it’s still an interesting personal account of homeless living in an urban environment.

    Free pdf: http://www.federaljack.com/ebooks/Evasion.pdf

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