29 September 2007

Urban Nomad Bag Project

In preparation for the New York Times article, Penelope Green and I discussed urban camping for a couple hours on the phone.

I love the article and the way it shifted to the couchsurfing community. Not only because I'm very fond of Casey's work, but also because I believe the things we build shouldn't always match the blueprints: artwork, articles, life.

I told her that I really see her as a sort of documentary film maker in a way, collecting lots and lots of material and then nurturing a story as it emerges.

When we emailed briefly after the article was published, she said, "... your pack! that's what i miss most..."

In our discussions, I had emailed her a link to a photo of one version of my nomad pack where I had carried tiny bits of lots of items, things you might need from your office, kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom.

She asked for a list that included these items plus an outline of the versatile wardrobe housed in my Karrimor (airport 70L) suitcase (that converts into a backpack).

The pack is always under construction. I find smaller or better products or I wear out perfect items of clothing and have to try to find replacements.

I was inspired along the way by Doug Dyment's 'one bag' site, where he shows you how to travel pretty much anywhere - for an indefinite length of time - with a single (carry-on-sized) bag.

Recently, I've come across Deborah Tan, who developed The Urban Nomad Bag Project (see pictures and read more) as part of her senior thesis with which she graduated from Parsons last year. The theme of her senior thesis was ‘A Good Life - design for social change’.
"The Urban Nomad collection consists of three convertible bags, all designed with the Hmong philosophy of never furnishing one’s home with anything that couldn’t be carried on one’s back."
  • ‘The Office’: a messenger bag that unfolds into a work-station

  • ‘The Closet’: a backpack that unfolds into wall-hanging storage for your wardrobe

  • ‘The Toilette’: a shoulder bag that unfolds into a 2-sided unit that hangs over the bathroom door. One side holds toiletries, and the other, towels and a change of clothing.

27 September 2007

Describing a Life

I was thinking of what I might say if I'd gone back in the summer for my 20-year high school reunion...

I've grown RICH
(in conversation)
(in small circles).
(of friends)
and I feel at home
anywhere (that's
to live in).

26 September 2007

Published in the New York Times

Well, this post is for blog subscribers who don't yet know that my urban camping 'stuff' was mentioned in Penelope Green's "Surfing the Worldwide Couch" for the New York Times:


It's an experience to see yourself squeezed in amongst others with similar interests, to be part of a zeitgeist or a phenomenon. I received an email from Amanda Deutch who also marveled at this experience.

House-sitting in Paris at the moment, she said she found my blog by getting distracted while reading the NY Times online. She exclaimed, "So there are others like me out there!"

She is a poet and left the States a year ago for a three-month writer's residency in Acores. She's been traveling ever since, making new families and becoming a part of new communities as she goes.

She left a comment on the Where do you live? post and later shared a story of how, in the house where she is currently house-sitting, she came across a book of haiku and essays/journals from Buson, Basho and Issa. She said, "What I hadn't known before is that there were 'itinerant poets' in Japan in those days. Issa was one for several years. I didn't realize until I saw 'The List' how many other writers live like this, like me."

We exchanged emails, both mentioning how challenging but amazing the experience can be. She said,
I never intended to choose a radical lifestyle, but somehow by following my heart and taking a big dive into life, I did and now there is no turning back. Really. My life has quite clearly changed. And most people who surround me now have no idea how very radically this kind of travel alters everything. I set out from America looking to see different philosophies and approaches to living and how other artists lived elsewhere. I expected I would find it directly from people, but soon realized I have become the very thing I was looking for by trusting myself and the world and letting go.
Thanks for sharing Amanda (and come visit me via www.couchsurfing.com ... Rotterdam is only a 4 hour train from Paris!)

02 September 2007

A House as Big as a Mountain

Rotterdam is having its year of architecture in 2007. In the train station is a huge poster of the shanty towns of Caracas in Venezuela.

The picture looks exactly like the favellas I have toured in Rio, where the side of the mountain is covered with cube upon cube. Each little house is wedged between two more and stacked upon the others. The surface is haphazardly dotted with doors and windows.

The caption to this photo says,


My translation follows:

"This is not a mountain
full of houses, it is
a house as big
as a mountain."