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Old 05-04-13, 07:38 AM   #26
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If you're not homeless, or a hippie bound for a commune, you must be doing it for a cause or charity, right?
Not touring related specifically but any time I stop on a long ride for a break if anyone realises how far I'm going they assume it must be for charity. It seems most people can't comprehend riding a bike more than a couple of miles so anyone riding more than 20-30 miles must be hurting and anything over about 50 miles is so silly it must be for charity.
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Old 05-04-13, 07:52 AM   #27
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You know that you could be quite well off and still homeless. I don't understand why people equate the word "homeless" with "poor".

When Rowan and I have been homeless, we've been reasonably comfortable financially. And when I was going to University a few years ago, rent was very high in that city, so many of the students were "homeless" ... they migrated between friends' couches. I did a bit of that then too for a few weeks. It was a good way to save a bit of money.


And what is "homeless" anyway? At what point does a person become defined as "homeless"? There are so many variables.

A person who owns a house might not be considered "homeless" ... but what if that person rents the house out for a year, and goes to travel the world. That person no longer has a "home", and is therefore "homeless", but that person could be bringing in a reasonable sum from the rent, and could dwell in that house again when the year is up.
I guess there's a big difference between someone who is technically "homeless" in that they voluntarily chose to give up their home to go touring, and someone who is "homeless" in the sense they would dearly love a roof over their head but for some reason are unable to find one.

It's the same difference between someone who is unemployed in the sense they are looking for work but can't find work, and someone who is technically unemployed because they left their six-figure job two days ago and don't start their new six-figure job until next week.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:05 AM   #28
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Have you ever been asked for your ID by police?
Nope.


Well ... I've been asked for ID (passport) when going through customs etc. at the airports I've passed through, but that's policy these days. They ask the same of everyone.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:12 AM   #29
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Well ... I've been asked for ID (passport) when going through customs etc. at the airports I've passed through, but that's policy these days. They ask the same of everyone.

No this was just a random stop at the train station. I guess I looked suspicious.

Do they now stop you at borders withing the EU?
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Old 05-04-13, 08:12 AM   #30
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I guess there's a big difference between someone who is technically "homeless" in that they voluntarily chose to give up their home to go touring, and someone who is "homeless" in the sense they would dearly love a roof over their head but for some reason are unable to find one.

It's the same difference between someone who is unemployed in the sense they are looking for work but can't find work, and someone who is technically unemployed because they left their six-figure job two days ago and don't start their new six-figure job until next week.
Yes, and I have a bit of trouble using the same word for both meanings because the two meanings are so different. ... semantics, I know.

Personally, for your second defintion of "homeless", I'd probably use the word "destitute".
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Old 05-04-13, 08:17 AM   #31
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No this was just a random stop at the train station. I guess I looked suspicious.

Do they now stop you at borders withing the EU?
They can ask for ID when you go across the channel, but on mainland Europe, we travelled in The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and France (and back and forth in and out of France in between those), and we weren't stopped anywhere. In fact, some border crossings were less dramatic than provincial or state border crossings in North America or Australia.

But I suspect that there may be other border crossing in Europe where people are still stopped.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:20 AM   #32
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If people thought that I was homeless, I would ask them how a homeless person could afford a bike, bike trailer, panniers, food, helmet, spare tires and tubes, tools, clothing, backpack, pump, camera, and most of all, the education to know where the hell I am and also to not judge people.
I have briefly hung out with some of the homeless folks that I met mostly on the Pacific Coast route. In some cases there was a thin line between homeless guy on a bike and bike tourist. Some of them had nice gear, but were definitely homeless. Then there were others that didn't meet the definition of homeless that folks typically use, but who had chosen to sell their home to go on tour for a year or two.

One guy I met was "walking across the US" pushing his gear in a big double wide baby jogger. He had started in 2005 and in 1012 he still had a good ways to go. He said that at some point he decided it wasn't about the destination. He stopped for a week or six months when he felt like it. He had a social security check every month, a debit card, and a lot of nice gear. He used his daughters address for mail. I'd say he qualified as homeless by just about any definition. He liked the food at the Apache Gold Casino so he had been staying in their campground for weeks. I had a couple meals with him in the casino. He treated me to dinner and I bought him a meal the next day. He seemed happy to have someone to talk to for a change. He was a nice guy and interesting to talk to.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:34 AM   #33
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In fact, some border crossings were less dramatic than provincial or state border crossings in North America or Australia.
I like taking pictures of border crossings. You get signs in two languages which is pretty cool or at least to me. One year crossing to Italy to Switzerland in the Cento Vallia area, I sapped a picture of the border. Next think I know, I was met by 4 or 5 Italian soldiers (they actually looked a bit messy for soldiers on that kind of duty) with automatic weapons. The one soldier informed me that the area was actually a military base and photos were forbidden. Lucky for digital cameras, he looked at the picture and saw it was only a sign and let me keep it. That crossing was dramatic!

I like taking pictures when entering towns too. It is just another way of keeping track of where you have been and some towns have some pretty cool signs.

When entering Austria from the Brenner Pass, I was looking for my border sign. I never saw it. Later I realized it was right in the middle of town. That was not a dramatic crossing.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:37 AM   #34
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There's a segment of the population here called "Grey Nomads" (Rowan referred to them earlier). They are people who are usually a bit older (say, maybe 50+) who have decided they've had enough of the office life or whatever, and have decided that they want to travel more and see the country, and earn a bit of money while they do.

So they sell or rent their houses, sell their stuff or put it into storage, purchase travel equipment (tents, caravans, etc.) and start following the harvest trail. And many of them keep doing that for years. They might be in one place anywhere from about 6 weeks to 6 months.

There are forums and websites etc. all about the grey nomad lifestyle.

They're homeless, but they're financially secure, well-presented, educated, and enjoy their lifestyle.


That's one group of people who follow the harvest trail, the other are younger people, usually college student age ... backpackers. And they'll do it for anything from a summer between years of school to several years. They too are homeless, but they can earn quite a bit of money especially if they're strong and fast.
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Old 05-04-13, 08:49 AM   #35
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I like taking pictures of border crossings.

Crossing between The Netherlands and Germany ... nice bicycle path on the right, which I'm standing on.



Crossing into France from Luxembourg ... this was a good crossing because the road had been a little hectic/busy in Luxembourg but within minutes of crossing into France, the traffic calmed noticably ...



Crossing into France from Switzerland ... this was kind of an amusing crossing. We cycled to St Gingolph which is right on the border and we debated which country to stay in that night. We decided to stay in Switzerland because we still had Swiss Francs, but we just had enough for the night, so we walked about 200 metres into France that evening to have dinner ... and then back into Switzerland for the night, and back into France the next day ...
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Old 05-04-13, 08:53 AM   #36
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Appearances can be deceiving. An older man contacted me through warmshowers and wanted to stay at my place. I agreed and told him I would ride out to meet him. Whe I saw him, he was just about to crest a steep hill, struggling all the way up. He was absolutely loaded down with gear. A trailer loaded to the brim and I think he even had some small bags on a rack.

He got to the top of the hill where I was. Smiled and said, "the hills sure are steep around here"! I noticed he had no teeth. I saw that and all of that gear and the first thing I thought was that he was homeless, using warmshowers as a place to stay.

That night he we went to dinner, be paid. He had no problems with money. He told me he lost his teeth at the very start of his TransAm. It had been pouring rain and he was on a bike path. Someone had thrown a couch out in the middle of the path. He never saw it due to all the rain and slammed right into it. He lost his teeth in the accident.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:58 AM   #37
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Yes, and I have a bit of trouble using the same word for both meanings because the two meanings are so different. ... semantics, I know.

Personally, for your second defintion of "homeless", I'd probably use the word "destitute".
that's just political correctness. can't call bums or vagrants or crack-heads naughty things.
might hurt their self-esteem.
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Old 05-04-13, 10:25 AM   #38
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One difference: touring cyclists dont stay in the same place .
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Old 05-04-13, 11:19 AM   #39
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One difference: touring cyclists dont stay in the same place .
At least a few homeless folks don't either. I met a few who bounced from hiker biker site to hiker biker site with a stealth camp here and there on the pacific coast. One guy I talked to said he did this more or less perpetually.
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Old 05-04-13, 02:03 PM   #40
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I am fairly new to cycling (4 years) and touring (8-9 minitours of 2 to 9 days total lifetime) and have wondered about other tourers' experiences about how we are perceived by the "non-cyclists" we encounter during our trips.

Since I live in North Florida and tour mostly North Florida and South/Central Georgia, my experiences could easily differ a lot from those in say, New England or West Coast, especially those who frequent the Adventure Cycling routes. The Deep South is not generally plugged into the cycling culture, even though the TA passes through my hometown of Tallahassee. When I vary north or south from that line, I am a very rare bird. I have encountered fewer than one touring cyclist per week on the road, for instance. (Regardless, even before getting into cycling, I could always spot a touring cyclist and tell the difference from a bike rider who cycles out of economic necessity.

My experience is that on tour I am almost always assumed to be a "homeless guy." Though I have changed from a mountain bike qand improvised panniers to a "real" touring bike (Jamis Aurora Elite) over the years and have taken on the "look" of a tourer (front rack, four panniers, helmet, cycling shorts, Screaming Dayglow Yellow shirt) I believe that a high percentage of restaurant staff, passing motorists, hotel owners and fellow campground residents think I am homeless, with all the connotations that involves.

Once, while napping before putting up my tent, I was given a can of soup by a kind soul in Georgia who asked when I had last eaten. I quickly realized what the thought was and did not protest/correct the assumption for fear of embarrassing my benefactor. On another trip, I was approached by a state park ranger who admitted that neighbors had called the park offices to report that "a man had just checked in on a bike, with no camper or car or anything!" The ranger was friendly and somewhat apologetic but it provided insight nonetheless. Also last week, a waitress who had just seen me ride up on a couple grand worth of gear and bike, still took me for someone homeless just out wandering the land.

Anyway, I have not been mistreated, run off, etc. That is not the issue -- all my interactions have been fine and only rarely have I even been honked or gestured at. Still I would prefer to avoid being feared or mistrusted. It also could be a negative should I ever need to hitchhike due to injury or a major repair situation. The waitress I referenced volunteered she didn't think that most people would pick me up in those cases (I didn't press her on the "why" of this statement.)

So -- do any of you experienced tourers find yourselves assumed to be homeless? If so why do you think it happens -- lack of the public's familiarity with touring? your appearance? your location? And what impact if any does it have in being welcomed, treated well, getting the desired accomodations, directions, etc?
Taking things as they should be, ideally perhaps people wouldn't be judged so much by appearances. Taking things as they are, though, we are judged quite a bit by appearances and first impressions.

Clean and tasteful clothes help. Good grooming helps. Excellent grooming helps even more.

Beards are, on balance, of questionable value. There are a number of anecdotes and experiences that could be shared about this, but I have some other things I have to be doing shortly. The gist of it, though, would be this: there are exceptions, but overall you are probably better off being clean shaven. It goes with an overall clean look.

Tats certainly don't help, at least with many.

A lot depends on specific communities, but in general cleanliness and order physically and behaviorally will help.

Some bikes and panniers, or packs and whatever other gear might be attached to the bike, look bright and fresh, like a new car right out of the car wash. There is a long slide or spectrum from there, all the way out to very dirty and disheveled.

It is much better to be on the bright and fresh and clear end of the spectrum.

Good intentions also help. Sometimes the focus can be so much on appearances that the inner qualities are forgotten. But they are present too. I have found that some significant percentage of people are able to see this, and connect with it, even when you aren't at your best outwardly. I've had to hitch at times for one reason or another, sometimes with and sometimes without a touring rig in tow, and people have told me that they don't usually pick up hitchers but I seemed like a nice guy. Some have even turned around and come back to pick me up. (This happened again just yesterday evening.)

Still, the outer can count for something too.

Body language and movements and gestures and facial expressions and voice also matter, but it seems that these sorts of things sort themselves out very naturally when you are in the right conditions inwardly.
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Old 05-04-13, 02:34 PM   #41
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He had a social security check every month, a debit card, and a lot of nice gear...He used his daughters address for mail...I'd say he qualified as homeless by just about any definition...He liked the food at the Apache Gold Casino so he had been staying in their campground for weeks...I had a couple meals with him in the casino...He treated me to dinner and I bought him a meal the next day...He seemed happy to have someone to talk to for a change. He was a nice guy and interesting to talk to.
Doesn't sound homeless to me... He sold his home voluntarily, and I'd say homeless people were either forced to do so, or made bad choices and lost their home. He had a debit card with money, stayed at a campground for weeks, bought you a few meals, and was retired (hence to social security check) so he obviously had a job before he went on his tour. You might want to change your definition of homeless.

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Old 05-04-13, 02:49 PM   #42
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I've never been mistaken for homeless while touring, but I've also never toured alone. Were those of you mistaken for homeless by yourself? I think that being with other people might cut against the homeless perception.
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Old 05-04-13, 03:42 PM   #43
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Doesn't sound homeless to me... He sold his home voluntarily, and I'd say homeless people were either forced to do so, or made bad choices and lost their home. He had a debit card with money, stayed at a campground for weeks, bought you a few meals, and was retired (hence to social security check) so he obviously had a job before he went on his tour. You might want to change your definition of homeless.
  1. "He sold his home voluntarily" - You know that how? From what I remember of the story he told me it did not sound like that was the case.
  2. I'd be willing to bet that most homeless folks had a job at one time and many get some kind of monthly check.
  3. He didn't buy me a few meals. We each bought the other a meal.

I think he is a nice guy and I enjoyed chatting with him, but I will stick with homeless as a definition of his current lifestyle. I probably would not have used that term if I met him in the first year or even two of his trip. I do not apply that term to be judgmental, but think it is accurate. When someone lives in a tent for 10 years with a sign saying he is walking across the US, but essentially is no longer really making progress toward the coast any more, the homeless label starts to fit. I got the impression that he didn't want to get to the coast because he really didn't have any place to go home to. He stopped just short of admitting that unprompted. Add in the fact that he had apparently not seen a dentist for the 10 years he has been on the roads.

To be fair he probably wouldn't use that label, so maybe I shouldn't either. That said I think most folks who had actually met him probably would call him homeless.
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Old 05-04-13, 05:03 PM   #44
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One difference: touring cyclists dont stay in the same place .
The lines can blur here. I've spent weeks in one spot, free-camping, or in another case in a campground, working as an itinerant employee.

At the time, I classified myself as a touring cyclist... my touring activities included working but I was still moving from one locale to another.

The transition becomes blurred I am not sure when I ceased being a touring cyclist in that particular period -- probably when I moved into fixed accommodation on the farm where I started working full-time.
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Old 05-04-13, 05:12 PM   #45
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that's just political correctness. can't call bums or vagrants or crack-heads naughty things.
might hurt their self-esteem.
I don't see it as anything to do with political correctness, merely a differentiation between people who are in a situation through circumstance and people who are in an apparently comparable situation through choice.

It really is no different to the way I went to the unemployment office when I was laid off from my job some 20-odd years ago but didn't waste their time when I found myself technically unemployed because one job ended a few days before the next one started, not least because I planned it that way to get myself a few days to put my feet up. It's nothing to do with political correctness to differentiate between my "unemployment" for three planned days and the unemployment of someone who would be willing to do just about any work anyone would pay them to do.

In response to Machka's post, technically I'd agree that "destitute" is a more appropriate word although generally whenever I've heard someone talk about someone being "homeless" it's not used in a context of someone who chose to give up their home so they could go on an extended tour without having to pay the mortgage while they were gone.
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Old 05-04-13, 07:48 PM   #46
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but I will stick with homeless as a definition of his current lifestyle. I probably would not have used that term if I met him in the first year or even two of his trip. I do not apply that term to be judgmental, but think it is accurate. When someone lives in a tent for 10 years with a sign saying he is walking across the US, but essentially is no longer really making progress toward the coast any more, the homeless label starts to fit.
To be fair he probably wouldn't use that label, so maybe I shouldn't either. That said I think most folks who had actually met him probably would call him homeless.
Yes, it sounds like he is (or was then) "homeless". Nothing bad or judgemental in that description ... as we've said, homeless can be a good thing.

But it sounds like he was not "destitute".
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Old 05-04-13, 07:53 PM   #47
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In response to Machka's post, technically I'd agree that "destitute" is a more appropriate word although generally whenever I've heard someone talk about someone being "homeless" it's not used in a context of someone who chose to give up their home so they could go on an extended tour without having to pay the mortgage while they were gone.
We very carefully come up with whole explanatory paragraphs to avoid saying, "Yes, we're homeless and unemployed (and we're travelling the world)" because of the bad connotations those words have.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:08 PM   #48
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I was homeless for 6 months didn't have money to go on tour. I had all the stuff just not enough money for food or lodging as in campgrounds. And stealth camping would been a idea if I knew where I would go. It was winter got laid off could not afford rent getting unemployment checks 80 a week could not really leave town had to report once a month for 4 week reporting on my unemployment. Could not find a job cause I looked horrible no homeless shelters or soup kitchens this was all 2yrs ago. So what I did was rented a storage unit 10 by 10 that was not gated or patrolled and lived out of it. Then I applied for government housing in which I am living in to day. Never will forget it that was the lowest time of my life. So when you see a homeless man don't turn your head away do something for them a few dollars for food or just set and listen to theyre story. It might help you see why they are homeless and might help u not fall in theyre position most people are one paycheck from loosing it all...
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Old 05-04-13, 09:43 PM   #49
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I don't see it as anything to do with political correctness, merely a differentiation between people who are in a situation through circumstance and people who are in an apparently comparable situation through choice.

It really is no different to the way I went to the unemployment office......blah, blah.
and that is political correctness. for various reasons, the definitions of words, the terms we
use, are managed. we get to the point where we can't tell the difference between a touring
cyclist and a bum. you really see no difference between someone who sells/rents out their
house for an extended vacation and an unemployed (oops, labor-underutilized) crack-head
(oops, chemically dependent) vagrant (oops, 'homeless' person)?

control the meanings of words, control the ideas conveyed by the words, control the way
you think, control your voting habits.

Last edited by saddlesores; 05-04-13 at 09:44 PM. Reason: the voices told me to.
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Old 05-04-13, 10:10 PM   #50
Machka 
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Maybe we need to start calling voluntary homelessness .... "homefree".


As in ... "Rowan and I were homefree for 8 months recently." ... or "No, I'm not homeless, I'm homefree ... but thanks for the can of soup."
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