Wild camping in West London
I’m experimenting with living outdoors for several reasons:
I don’t have to pay rent and all the associated bills. And I’ve discovered that when you stop paying 100s or 1000s on rent, you suddenly notice all the other money you’re spending and cut down on that too. I don’t mind spending money, so long as it’s invested in something worthwhile. Since I started living outdoors, I’ve bought useful stuff I always wanted, and given more to friends, family, and charity.
I live and work up and down the Thames Valley, when I’m not in London I’m in the Oxfordshire area, sometimes I’ll travel further afield and I like the freedom to just stay somewhere until I want to leave. I would often finish work very late then cycle for an hour in the cold rain to get to my flat, only to pass out and wake up early for work the next morning. I discovered that I sometimes used to spend more time outside my rented flat than inside, so why was I paying so much rent? Now I can finish a job in one place, and knowing that I have another appointment the next morning a few miles away, simply find any place to sleep in between. And I’m sorry but hostels just don’t cut it because, as fun as they are, booking in advance restricts your freedom. If you want to guarantee a bed in a central London hostel you may have to book weeks in advance. And then you have to travel to the hostel, which is not the reason you’re there in the first place.
When I rented a flat I couldn’t change it much. I couldn’t insulate it, or get a more efficient boiler, or install double glazing, and many other annoyances. I was so busy running around trying to earn enough money to pay for all this, that I didn’t even have time to sort through my recycling, and consider carefully the environmental impact of everything I did. I did some things right, like cycling almost everywhere, but in most other areas of life I felt almost forced to pollute. Now I have time to do everything more carefully, and I only pollute directly when I indulge in a hot shower.
I moved out.
After six years of paying rent for various places in London, I felt like I didn’t have a future if I just carried on the same way. I couldn’t make a dent in my significant debts to the bank and the Student Loans Company, and I couldn’t save any money. I had no hope of ever getting on the property ladder, nor of fulfilling my dreams – long-term travel and adventure.
Every time I had to move flat I scoured my brain and the internet searching for alternative lifestyles. I read about people who lived in boats, tents, camper vans, wigwams, caves – you name it. I decided that the small luxuries afforded by my rented flat were not worth it – they were not worth paying all that money and depriving me of my future dreams.
So in January 2011 I gave my notice and on March 1st moved out…. out where? Well, just ‘out’.
The feeling of insecurity was actually quite exhilarating, I didn’t know if I was going to get a boat or a tent or what, all I knew was that what ever I had would be mine and I wouldn’t have to pay vast sums of money every month for it. I dumped all my stuff in a storage unit but I was determined not to have to pay rent for that either. So not having anywhere to put my stuff, I gave most of it away. The really good stuff like my tools I gave to close friends and family so I could still use them if I really needed.
All I had was a tent, but not just any tent, a Terra Nova Laser Photon 1.5-man tent – at the time the lightest tent in the world weighing under 800g. I liked my tent but I soon realised that is was pretty useless in the city, and got a bivvy bag instead.
I spent the next year experimenting with sleeping outdoors. I stayed with my parents, girlfriend or friends most of the time, but tried sleeping outdoors for one night, one week, one month… now I’m onto several months and I feel quite at home outdoors.
At some point I’ll get down to writing about these first experiences, but for now the rest of the story is chronicled on my blog page, which begins in December 2011 after I’ve already had a few of my first learning experiences.