In the past, many people were forced to become itinerant workers because of job insecurity, which left them with no choice but to move from one place to another to find work. Americans call these people hobos, which may be a contraction of the term “Hoe Boys” (seasonal worker in the countryside) or “Homeward Bound” (homeless). In any case, this defines someone who goes from place to place without housing or permanent employment. But with the dawn of the Internet and with growing dissatisfaction with a routine job, more and more people have questioned whether earning a living on the road is a viable alternative to the daily job. If you are thinking of becoming an opportunistic and resourceful itinerant worker with low costs, basic responsibilities and enormous freedom, you need to ask yourself questions and make preparations.
Step 1. Know the difference between a homeless, a vagrant and a tramp
The homeless are working travelers, the vagabonds come and go but do not work and the tramps do neither.
Step 2. The possibilities for agricultural work are endless around the world, if that is what you plan to do and you are offered shelter, food and some money in return for your work
You can schedule your trips to follow the harvest calendar in your country, but also around the world.
Step 3. Take stock of your skills and experience
In the past, homeless people made a living from manual labor, but this does not always have to be the case. Any skill that is in high demand and does not require a long-term commitment can be useful to an itinerant. You can do it all, as long as you know how to sell yourself and gain people's trust (in absolute terms, with referrals). Some activities are conducive to this lifestyle, such as the following.
- Earthworks and construction. Many immigrant workers cross international borders to find work in these fields because they are the least demanding in terms of language skills. It is essential to have experience, as you will be required to work with quite dangerous machinery and equipment.
- Seasonal agricultural work. There is a huge community around the world offering shelter, food and a little cash in return for farm work, if you had always dreamed of working on the farm. You can follow the agricultural seasons locally and around the world. More modern farms often offer better working conditions.
- The Peach. You can be a deckhand, a cook, a fisherman when you agree to board a trawler on the high seas.
- Any online job that involves writing, translating, proofreading or programming software.
Step 4. Build a plan B
This is a very serious decision that will profoundly change your life. Don't drop everything on a whim and just disappear into the wild. You need a pied-à-terre if your itinerant activity does not lead to anything. Make sure you have paid off all your debts and delegated your responsibilities before you leave. Set aside some cash if possible, which you have access to when you travel, just in case. You can live in an emergency and they are rarely given.
Step 5. Be Prepared
You might appreciate the romantic idea of leaving with only your clothes in a backpack and the contents of your wallet, but it's a sure-fire way to go to disaster. You should understand that you will essentially be sleeping, eating, and living outdoors, unless you plan to drive away.
- How will you get from one place to another? Homeless people are often associated with illegal travelers on trains, as most of them did during the Great Depression of 1930. A car can act both as a means of transport and as a vehicle. place to sleep, but keep in mind that gasoline and vehicle maintenance costs are expensive. If these expenses bother you, you can still hitchhike for free. Some homeless people prefer a bicycle, but this will limit both your choice of destinations (rather hot climates) and your luggage. A motorcycle can take you wherever you want faster, but its maintenance is similar to that of a car. Coach travel is also a solution. There are very economical bus networks all over Europe, as long as you buy your seat in advance. You can find very economical coach trips all over the world, especially last minute deals to fill up a vehicle.
- Where are you going to sleep? You will need to sleep in your car (if you have one) unless your employer can provide you with a bed. You can also try a campsite, a youth hostel or a lodge. You can also find online (but will you be connected on the road?) Roommate solutions in town or offers of free accommodation for globetrotters who are involved in the cause of the organization that offers these rooms. Take into account the costs and dangers associated with these different housing solutions.
- Where are you going to wash? Most campsites have sanitary facilities where you can shower, but you could also purchase a portable shower system. You can also get a membership card from a health club chain to access the showers, but these subscriptions are quite expensive and unnecessary if you are not a fan of standardized fitness.
- How will you go about defending yourself? A nomadic lifestyle can be dangerous, as you constantly find yourself in unusual situations and you will no doubt be alone, two things that can make you an easy target for thieves and muggings. You should take certain precautions, such as always telling someone where you are to take a mobile phone and to only go to the safest places, to carry a self-defense weapon or the like with you. Also always know where you are, so that you can be located if you call for help.
Step 6. Make a list of contacts
Look at the maps of the areas you pass through and see if you know someone there directly or through someone else who lives there. You can always ask a family member if a loved one still lives in their trailer in the middle of the woods. Ask friends if their loved ones still work in this California or southwestern France vineyard. The most important thing is to ask these people if you can reach their contacts in an emergency. Some people can even arrange a meeting with these contacts, which is always nice (if you're a nice host too!)
Step 7. Set up an itinerary based on the kind of work you plan to do, your local contacts and the places you would like to visit
Do as much research as possible in advance. Make a list of places where you can stay, eat, bathe, and sleep. It is also advisable to find out about the parish hostels that welcome homeless people. The better prepared you are, the more you will enjoy your trips.
Step 8. Learn the codes in force among the homeless
The homeless have in the past set up a system of shared symbols to signal events to their fellow backpackers. These symbols may vary from place to place and may no longer be used in some parts of the world. Here are some to start:
- the spear: defend yourself
- the circle with two parallel arrows: go away, we don't like the homeless here
- a wavy line (which represents water) above an X: there is drinking water in a nearby campsite
- three diagonal lines: the place is not sure
- a cross: rab served to homeless people after a party
Step 9. Hit the road
Leave your past behind. Find yourself a place to live and work on a day-to-day basis. Visit all the places you discover. Make interesting acquaintances, you might stumble upon a helping hand. The traveling life means that every moment you experience is yours. You don't have any schedules or responsibilities other than staying healthy. How to strike the right balance between work, travel, leisure and relaxation is up to you. Appreciate the variety that each of your days can bring you, because you have earned it well.
Step 10. Do not hesitate to do the trash
You can't imagine the amount of free, untouched food that is thrown away every day. For the best results, visit the trash cans at the back of small supermarkets, as they usually cannot afford an incinerator to process their unsold food. Fast food chains can be fine too, but more traditional restaurants usually don't waste a lot of food, but you can always find something there, if you are really hungry.
- Don't spend all your money on hoax. Many homeless have died falling from a train because they were drunk. You should ensure your safety first!
- Remember that you will be an itinerant, therefore a traveler who works here and there, unlike a vagrant or a tramp who does not work and prefers to beg for money and food.
- Remember some symbols related to people on the road. You can find some online, but here are a few more:
- a bird tells you that you can call for free
- a cat talks about a very nice lady
- a circle with an arrow tells you to go in the direction indicated by the arrow
- a top hat indicates that a gentleman lives there
- Read books on this topic:
- "Nothing to do" by Jack Black, an interesting dive into the life of a backpacker who made it his career.
- “In the ditch in Paris and London” by George Orwell. This is an autobiographical account of the author who lived on expedients and talks about the living conditions of people during the Great Depression.
- Your body cannot accept this way of life if your mind refuses it. You can handle just about anything if you know how to take charge and you are sure to be successful in your homeless career or any activity for that matter.
- There is a large gathering of homeless people in Britt, Iowa in August where you can join in the festivities. You can share traditional meals there and share your travel anecdotes around a campfire. A large number of people enjoy roaming, leading a free life, not having fixed obligations and traveling from one place to another as a way of life.
- Take a camera with a sizeable memory card and / or keep a journal. You will always enjoy seeing these memories of nomadic life again.
- Go to temporary employment agencies in the big cities you pass through. Most of these agencies can offer you very specific assignments. Show up early in the morning looking decent.
- Read “Hobo” by Eddy Joe Cotton for a modern overview of the homeless as well as “Rough Living: An Urban Survival Manual” (does not exist in French) by Chris Damitio. Both offer backpacker tips, ideas for finding food and a place to sleep as well as homeless phrases and what to avoid.
- Don't trust just anyone.
- Obey the laws, unless you have nothing against a little jail time and a well-stocked criminal record.
- Ignore any remarks that might be made to you. Run away or call for help if the situation escalates. Never try to fight, especially not in front of a group.
- Don't neglect what little you have or you'll find yourself empty-handed.
- Find out about the laws governing seasonal workers in the country you are in. It is important to know your rights and what you can do to be protected if you are injured while working.