22 July 2006

Life Hired a Thousand Tour Guides

Some people choose to urban camp. There are nomadic urges. The globe can be navigated by networks and resources outside the tourist track.

Using a TV to watch and listen is not the same as real-life contact with the people and places of the world.

Shifting points of view is an active form of channel surfing. The experience might be addictive. It might be a source of innovation.

Using other people's stories to refresh our viewing points can allow for 'open source' development in our lives.

Some people do not choose to urban camp. There are homeless people. There are survivors.

People often need less than is realized. How much is enough? How much can we share?

Some people do not choose to urban camp. People have homes and things and boundaries.

The difference between living and surviving can be a matter of comfort. It can also be a matter of engagement.

Routines can block the view.

We all need shelter. We all need room. These take many forms.

In every case, you need a place to sleep at night, but it is not necessarily where you LIVE.

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21 July 2006

Urban Camper Types

This urban camping trip was a practice in mobility, simplicity and perspective (read more).

In my last urban camping trip I experimented with chic minimalism while exploring the symbiotic relationship of house-sitting (read more).

My first urban camping thoughts hit me in Chicago where I had a tiny studio apartment in a fantastic neighborhood. It was like sleeping in the walk-in closet of this great house of a neighborhood. I realized that the place where you sleep is not the place where you live (read more).

Here is a recap of the various urban camper types I've found:

Anarchist Urban Camper: 'ambi'

Associated with Homes Not Jails group. Camps in places where owners are unaware of his/her presence. Discovered 'ambi' through Google search in 2003: Did not try to contact ...

Artists: Ulay & Abramovic

Art Vital motto included no fixed living place, permanent movement and mobile energy. Camped in van for years, traveling Europe like nomads. Learned of Ulay & Abramovic at art school in 1999: Did not try to contact ...

Couch Surfer: Casey Fenton

Founded CouchSurfing project in 2003 so travel addicts could camp worldwide for free at each others' houses. Version 2.0 being built after fatal database crash on 27 June 2006 disrupted 90,000 members. Heard of website via friend in 2005: stayed with five Amsterdam members and met Casey in Rotterdam during the same year.

Creative Housesitter: SARK

Put ad in paper, "incredible housesitter seeks incredible house," which resulted in camping two years rent free in 4-bedroom mansion in San Francisco. Read SARK's A Creative Companion in 1995: Emailed her ...

Designer Camping in Office

Photos of designers in sleeping bags camping under whiteboards in their office. Found through Technorati.com search in 2005: Left message on his photo log ...

Domestic Imperfectionist: Dan Ho

Spent last eight years getting rid of stuff. After a failed marriage at age of 40, reduced his possessions down to about 55 things. "Motivated neither by debt nor by environmentalism but simply by a compulsion to unburden himself..." He has 47 items of clothing and a backpack, suitcase, television, computer, bath towel, single set of sheets, toothbrush and bottle of witch hazel. Wrote book: Rescue From Domestic Perfection, and has TV program on the Discovery Health channel: “The Dan Ho Show” where he talks people out of needless redecorating.

Modern Nomad: Rita Golden Gelman

Sold all possessions after divorce at age 48 in 1986. No permenant address since. Writes children's books. Camps and cooks with families all over the world. Featured on Starbuck's cup in 2005. Learned of her in 2003 when spotted girl at train station in Munich reading Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World: Emailed her ...

No Impact family: Colin Beavan, Michelle Conlin, & two-year-old daughter Isabella

Family living in Manhattan conduct year-long environmental lifestyle experiment. They do not buy anything except food, and only eat food organically grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan (the longest distance a farmer can drive in and out of the city in one day); do not create trash except for compost; do not use paper or carbon-fueled transportation. See also, www.noimpactman.com

Nomadic Writer: Elizabeth Gilbert

Concept for her book came when she was divorcing at the beginning of her 30s. She wanted to explore a part of herself in the context of three different places. In her book, Eat Pray Love, she examines 'pleasure' in Italy, explores 'devotion' in India and then looks at the art of 'balancing' the two in Indonesia. Four months in each place.

Nomadic Writer: Ramon Stoppelenburg

Set up a website to chronicle his travels. Traveled the world without money from May 2001 to July 2003. Traveled through hitchhiking or help from sponsors. Stayed with people who invited him via his website www.letmestayforaday.com In return, he wrote daily reports on his website.

Roadtrip Nation: Nathan Gebhard, Brian McAlliste, and Mike Marriner

Three college graduates learn what to do with their lives by touring U.S. in neon green RV. Interview more than 80 professionals including Starbucks chairman, Saturday Night Live director, Boston Philharmonic conductor, first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Madonna's head stylist, etc. Princeton Review article says, "The roadtrip confirmed the recent grads' beliefs that exploration alleviates the ambiguity associated with defining one's own road in life." See also: www.roadtripnation.com. Heard of them on 2006 BBC World Service interview: Emailed them ...

Rotterdam Motel Mozaique Festival

Local yearly event since 2000. Offers three days of pop music, dance, theatre and visual arts at 13 locations. Visitors camp at hotels created by artists for the festival. Discovered flyers in 2003: have not yet attended.

Rotterdam Camping Festival

Local yearly event since 2004. Part of city turned into kitsch camping ground for six days. Tents rented out. Corny activities planned. Friend gave me flyer in 2004: have not yet attended.

Slinkachu's Little People

The artist leaves hand-painted miniature people around London "to fend for themselves." Some of his little people were urban campers.

Squatters: Freegans

Name comes from combination of free and vegan. Mainly focus on wasted food. However, also believe poor people have rights to camp in empty city buildings. Heard BBC World Service interview with a Freegan in 2006: Briefly joined their discussion group (mostly about free food) in the same year.

Tempe's Homeless Community

Community in Arizona protested for the poor in 2003. Asked, "Why should sleep be criminalized? Protest the urban camping ordinance! Creative Resistance Welcome!" Discovered by Google search in 2005: Did not try to contact ...

Times Square Tents: Zach, Paul, Amit

Pitched tents on sidewalks in Manhatten. Discovered photos via Google search in 2005: Emailed back and forth with Amit about our experiences in same year. Both of our stories featured in Ariel Brewster's 20 April 2006 Cape Cod Times article on urban camping.

Urban Camping Definitions

UrbanDicionary.com collects definitions of urban phenomenon from readers. Best rated of five urban camping definitions describes a form of penance after ending a long-term relationship in late twenties or early thirties: Must aquire small sparsely equipped apartment until guilt subsides, then add material possessions to impress others. Discovered through friend in 2005: Tried to add new definition, but never appeared.

Urban Camping Family: Peter and Andrea Tombrowski (and kids)

Sold their car in 1998 to simplify their lives. Walked everywhere ever since. Said, "We like to call what we do 'urban camping' because we consider our life to be like a camping trip..." Found online text ad for their book in 2006: Emailed each other about our experiences ...

Urban Camper Musician: Jane Siberry

Canadian musician has worked with KD Lang, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno. Became addicted to nomadic lifestyle after two years of renting out her house and couchsurfing to pay for recording of Shushan. Sold house and all possessions in 2006 at age 50. Two newspaper articles on her titled Imagine no possessions and Wander Women. Discovered her site through friend in 2006: Emailed her and she replied with one word, Sisters ...

Urban Camper Musician: Jason Schadt

Owns urbancamping.com URL. Hip Hop emcee, producer, video artist and traveller. Defines urban camping as "... a state of mind. It is the exploration of culture in an urban setting, reflecting on nature as it is manifested in the city environment. Urban Camping is collaboration and experience on a global scale. It is inspiration and focus for all Nomadic Addicts on a musical, spiritual and cultural quest." Discovered site in 2005 via Google: Emailed each other about our experiences ...

Urban Camper Photographer: Mike Calabro

Owns urbancamper.com URL. Photographer doing also web and print work. Portfolio site begins with, "I suffered from the dot-bomb environment years ago and have not 'worked' a day since. Life is great. I eat, drink, take photos, write stories and travel for money." Discovered site in 2005 via Google: Emailed him ...

Wandering Scribe: Anya Peters

Woman with law degree, but no family, not comfortable asking friends for help. Camped in car at edge of woods outside London for nine months. Started blog in library for last four months. BBC wrote two articles on her. In late May, earned enough money from readership (PayPal) and book deal to move into rental room. Saw her site in Blogger's Blogs of Note list end of May 2006: Emailed her ... Fake Wandering Scribe left comment on 2 June 2006.

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18 July 2006

You Already Know People Are Sharing Bases

Thank you to all of my friends for sharing your space with me this year!

There are lots of people out there sharing their homes (or home bases) through the following organizations:

Caretaker Gazette: House-sit

Published since 1983, each issue of the Caretaker Gazette provides subscribers with about 150 caretaking and housesitting jobs throughout the 50 US States and approximately 20 foreign countries.

Subscribers can live rent-free as property caretakers in estates, mansions, farms, ranches, resort homes, retreat centers, camps, hunting and fishing lodges, vacation homes, private islands, and any other kind of property imaginable.

CouchSurfing: House Share

Casey Fenton launched the CouchSurfing Project in January 2004 after the concept evolved through some of his unique traveling experiences. After a near-fatal crash, Version 2.0 was launched in July 2006.

At the time of this post, 92,451 members in 202 countries are enrolled in the CouchSurfing system. Members use the network to meet other members and then go surf their couches.

The host provides the guest with some sort of accommodation, a penthouse apartment or maybe a back yard to pitch a tent in. Stays can be as short as a cup of coffee, a night or two, or even a few months or more.

The project is about signing up for a free couch and ending up with amazing adventures and a global family.

Digsville: House Swap

Members of this home exchange club take vacations locally or abroad by swapping their primary or vacation houses instead of paying for hotels.

Anyone can search and contact favorite listings, but the anual fee to post a listing is 44.95 USD.

Global Freeloaders: House Share

Apparently started by Adam Staines in December 2000 as a network where members accommodate travelers in their home free of charge.

By staying with a local, travelers gain the inside knowledge of a culture that is not provided by staying in a hostel or hotel.

Registration means becoming both a guest and a host. Members are asked to accommodate other travelers, completely free of charge, whenever it is convenient for them.

If a member visits 20 other members, then s/he is expected to accommodate 20 other members, over whatever time period s/he is comfortable with.

Holiday Link: House-sit (Dutch-language)

This Dutch-language site facilitates a symbiotic relationship between two types of vacationers.

One group goes on vacation and wants someone to stay in their house to care for plants and pets as well as prevent their house becoming an empty target for thieves while they are away.

The other group, the house sitters, are mostly active senior citizens from Holland and Belgium who have the 'retired life' schedule that doesn't require them to plan too far in advance.

In some cases, they have emigrated and Holiday Link provides a low-cost opportunity for a vacation in their native country.

Some of the housesitters simply use Holiday Link to find a temporary dwelling while in between the buying and selling of their own homes or while their house is under construction.

Hospitality Club: House Share

Veit Kuhne founded the non-commercial club in 2000 because he believed it possible to increase intercultural understanding and strengthen world peace by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit and by giving locals a chance to meet people from other cultures.

Since 2002, he has been hitchhiking around the world trying to fascinate one million people with the idea of hospitality exchange.
At the time of this post, there are 168,895 members in 205 countries helping each other when they are traveling - be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town.

Intervac: House Swap

This organization started in 1953 in Europe. Boasts the largest database of home exchange offers in over 50 countries.

Servas UN NGO: House Share

Founded in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler as a peace movement, Servas International is a non-profit organization working to build understanding, tolerance and world peace.

Travelers are encouraged to experience other societies more deeply and with more understanding than they would be likely to do as just plain tourists.

Over 13,000 Servas open doors in almost every country give travelers the opportunity to meet hosts, their families and friends and join in their everyday life.

Where convenient, hosts may offer two nights' accommodation and invite travelers to share a meal.

Names and addresses of hosts appear in annually produced lists which are made available to approved travelers.

Women Welcome Women Worldwide (5W): House Share

To encourage international friendship by enabling women to visit one another in their own homes, 5W was founded in 1984 by Frances Alexander in High Wycombe, UK.

After being publicized in the EEC bulletin "Women of Europe," 5W grew to the point of now having members in every continent except Antarctica.

Members do not pay a fee, but when possible, they donate to the Trust Fund.

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10 July 2006

Viewpoint: Share

Everybody shares. Our lives overlap. Sometimes we can choose the nature of the seams.

Once when Hidde was working in the studio, I told him how much I liked the family that ran the laundromat down the street.

Their 3-year-old boy often sat next to me while I read. He smiled a lot. His mother offered me tea.

Hidde replied, Yes. Why do we all need to have all our own stuff? Why do we all have to have our own washing machine?

Another time, at the business school where I worked, I heard a graduation speech given by a physicist recruited into marketing research.

His agency had hired scientists to ensure scientific research.

He reminded graduates that Darwinian survival of the fittest is not the only model. Mutually symbiotic relationships also occur.

Nature is cooperative as well as competitive.

Did you know that people are sharing cars and planes?

International Association of Air Travel Couriers

Founded in 1989 for individuals wanting to fly as casual couriers to foreign destinations. Couriers take the seat while the company takes the luggage space.

Craigs List Ride Share

First started by Craig Newmark in 1995 so people could tell each other about cool events in San Francisco. Now people can exchange info on how to share rides in their own city.


Since 1999, this growing network of vehicles in US allows 28,000+ members (at the time of this post) to have instant access to a car wherever and whenever needed.

Green Wheels (Dutch-language site)

Started in 1995 with three cars in three locations in Rotterdam. Members access cars day or night, paying based on usage. Now cars available at nearly all intercity train stations in 40 largest Dutch cities.

Hitchhikers Organization

Free service developed in 1999 by enthusiastic hitchhikers. Drivers submit their journey if looking for company or a fee. Hitchhikers search the rides. Site serves all continents in 10 languages.

Zip Car

Started in 2000 when founders decided to bring Berlin concept to US. At the time of this post, members have cars when they need them in Washington DC, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, Toronto, Boston, NYC.

Did you know that people are sharing books and baths?

Book Crossing

Created by Ron Hornbaker in 2001. He says, "Sharing books with your friends and neighbors is a natural instinct." At the time of this post, 478,626 members releasing books into the wild and tracking their journeys.

Gutenberg Organization

Michael Hart invented eBooks in 1971. Once copyrighted works enter the public domain, Project Gutenberg offers them for free. At the time of this post, 18,000 eBooks available.

Novel Action

Family owned and operated book exchange with low flat rate shipping. Select books online and send an equal number of books.

Japanese Public Bath

Public baths in Japan are a popular way of relaxing.

Roman Public Baths

Roman baths were like our leisure centers. They were big buildings with swimming pools, changing rooms and toilets. They also had hot and cold rooms more like modern Turkish baths.

Turkish Public Baths

The public bath was not merely a place where believers could fulfill the Islamic precept of cleanliness. It was a place in which to mingle, socialize and gossip.

Did you know that people are sharing ideas and things?


A new recycling program via internet. They say, "In our fast moving society we dispose of a huge number of items that end up either incinerated or in land fill sites. Many of these items could have a new lease of life in the right hands."


Started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson's downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. At the time of this post, 2,412,676 members in 3,724 communities use the electronic forum to recycle unwanted possessions within their group for free.

Complementary Currencies

With a focus on local trading of talents and resources, community currency programs try to strengthen the local economy and build community.


Members trade goods and services through their LETS community accounting system. James Taris became a member in 1994 and started promoting the group internationally.


Corporate barter system founded in 1991 by Wayne Sharpe, Andrew Federowsky and Brian Hall. At the time of this post, 75,000 Card Holders in 16 Countries are trading 1.3 billion in Trade Pounds annually.


Corporate barter system established in 1984 helps companies trade underperforming assets. Operations in 16 countries have created over $1.5 billion in cash savings for clients.

The Power of Us

BusinessWeek article (20 June 2005) By Robert D. Hof detailing how people are using the Net to share information, knowledge, media and goods.

BBC Unveils Radical Revamp of Website

BBC article (25 April 2006) by Mark Sweney explaining rebuild of its website to focus digital output on three concepts: share, find and play. User-generated content includes blogs and home videos.

Creative Commons

Enables legal sharing and reuse of cultural, educational, and scientific works. Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. They build on the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach.

Under New Management

New York Times article (26 March 2006) by William C. Taylor about creating innovation by sharing ideas. "According to Tim O'Reilly, the founder and chief executive of O'Reilly Media, the computer book publisher, and an evangelist for open source technologies, creativity is no longer about which companies have the most visionary executives, but who has the most compelling 'architecture of participation.' That is, which companies make it easy, interesting and rewarding for a wide range of contributors to offer ideas, solve problems and improve products?"

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08 July 2006

Viewpoint: Boundaries

Text artist, Jenny Holzer, is known for her list of Truisms.

They include:There is also a place where the Truisms can be altered. Edits are made by use of the link, "Please change beliefs."

One of my favorite modified Truisms reads: "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."

In my last month of urban camping, I'm wondering about the nature of boundaries.

I'm wondering where the edges are. How much space do we take?

Conceptually, a nomad does not use the same boundaries as other members of the planet.

"Good fences make good neighbors," says the guy next door in Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall.

Frost's reply is, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall" and
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out
Even if I can accurately separate things into two piles labeled things to keep in and things to keep out, how do I allow for change or evolution?

Where is the spot of equilibrium between setting boundaries and testing limits?

How do I view boundaries?

How much are they about structure and order, a division of space and time?

How much are they about protection and care, a management of our natural resources?

Soon my life will have a new structure. Do I want a place for everything and everything in its place?

What kind of time/space - protection/care system cultivates happy accidents?

One of my all-time favorite passages is at the beginning of Nathalie Goldberg's Wild Mind book.

She notices people who strive to order the flowers in their garden. But, the same people love to go to the forest, where they experience peace, even though everything is growing chaotically there.

In my year of wondering and wandering, I've come to believe that we need chaos in our lives just as much as we need care ... and that too much care is just as destructive as too much chaos.

Maybe, for me, a boundary is the wall between chaos and care. On one side is our garden and on the other side is the forest.

Perhaps we develop a sense of timing for when we need to switch from one side to the other.

Could it be the switching that gives our life momentum?

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07 July 2006

Alternative Lodgings

Where do people find you?

How much of your address is actual and how much is virtual?

How many shared spaces do you need?

How many private places do you inhabit?

Where do you invite people in? Where do you keep people out?

Do you have a habitat? Is it where you keep your things? Is it where you sleep?

Is it where you live? Who lives with you?

Do you have a home or a home base? Do you feel at home anywhere?

What is the shape of your shelter?
Apartment? Bungalow? Cabin? Castle? Condo? Cottage? Dormitory? Farm? Flat? Hut? Manor? Mansion? Palace? Shanty? Trailer? Villa?
Is it the shape of your oasis?

Does it cost you?

Are you a citizen of the world? Are you sheltered?

Could you stay there? For how long?

Do you have a room of your own? A room with a view?

Do you have room to move?

What are the alternatives? Do you have options?
Go Nomad List -- Cedar Creek Tree House -- Forest Fire Lookouts -- Hotel Sidi Driss -- Ice Hotel -- Jules Undersea Lodge -- Kokopelli Cave Hotel -- Royal Tents of Rajasthan -- Sleeping in Airports -- Squatting -- Jail Cells
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06 July 2006

Urban Camper Family

I recently came across an online text ad for a book called Urban Camping.

The book is about Peter and Andrea Tombrowski (and kids) who sold their car in 1998 to simplify their lives.

Now they walk everywhere. They live in Calgary. Most places are within five kilometers of their house.

They say,
"We like to call what we do 'urban camping' because we consider our life to be like a camping trip:

we need to be resourceful, creative, and exhibit mental and physical hardiness to get the most out of the experience.

And like camping, our life is an adventure.

Who needs mountains for escape and challenge?

We just open our door and head out for groceries with our kids."
I live in the Netherlands and we all bike everywhere. It's faster than walking.

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05 July 2006

June Urban Camping Spots

I kind of get a kick out of seeing that the archive on my blog now has all 12 months listed under the heading!

The warmer months mean a lot of people are on vacation. My friend, Johan, was in the Philippines and my friend, Maggie, was in Croatia.

Thank you to both of them for letting me camp in their houses!

June's urban camping spots were: 14 nights at Johan's house, 1 night at Mei's house, 14 nights at Maggie's house, and 1 night in the empty student dorm room next to the room of my friend, Mika. (The student had moved out the night before.)

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04 July 2006

My People

Although I keep in regular contact with my family, I haven't actually stood next to them in two years!

Starting on 11 July 2006, I will see them, hug them, dine with them for four weeks!

In my mind I keep hearing Oleta Adams's song Get Here:
You can reach me by railway, you can reach me by trailway

You can reach me on an airplane, you can reach me with your mind

You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man

I don't care how you get here, just - get here if you can

You can reach me by sail boat, climb a tree and swing rope to rope

Take a sled and slide down the slope, into these arms of mine

You can jump on a speedy colt, cross the border in a blaze of hope

I don't care how you get here, just - get here if you can

There are hills and mountains between us

Always something to get over

If I had my way, surely you would be closer

I need you closer

You can windsurf into my life, take me up on a carpet ride

You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon

You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man

I don't care how you get here, just -- get here if - you can
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03 July 2006

Coming Home to Say Goodbye

I'm still watching the DVDs of my friend, Maggie.

She has all 10 episodes of Steven Spielberg's mini-series, Taken.

The narrator introduces one episode with the following:
People come home for a lot of reasons.

They come home to remember.

They come home because they've got no place else to go.

They come home when they're beaten.

They come home when they're proud.

They come home looking for a door out into their past.

Or a road out into their future.

They come home for a lot of reasons, but they always come home to say goodbye.
My friend, Isaac just emailed me a link to an article by Michael Arrington titled, CouchSurfing Deletes Itself, Shuts Down.

From the article:
Three year old CouchSurfing, a beloved service used by some 90,000 members, had multiple database crashes, critical parts of the software and data were irretrievably lost, and the backups weren’t performed properly.

They are not rebuilding the service.

They literally put themselves out of business.
Sigh. Those were supposed to be my people ...

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