Lifestyle

my little green tent in a big green field with a horse in it
Wild camping in West London

I’m experimenting with living outdoors for several reasons:

- economics

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.

- convenience

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.

- environmental

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.

image

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.

29 thoughts on “Lifestyle

  1. Richard, chatting with you earlier was very enjoyable and inspirational. If you are ever in the London E7 area and fancy meeting up do drop me a mail. I’ve entered the url of the music club I mentioned further up the form, would be great if you can get along some time!
    Bye for now
    Rob

  2. My brother from another mother, this was a very intresting read indeed (see what i did there) , many people barely get through the day doing what they absolutely hate, so nice to see that your living out something you actually enjoy – good for you :-) xx

  3. Best of luck to you mate. I’m a bit terrified just thinking about it to be honest but you should celebrate being one of those rare people to genuinely think different.

    By the way, you should definitely keep track of your experiences. Would make a fascinating book/after dinner speech, etc.

    • Thanks Simon, I hope the blog will keep track of it all. The great advantage of a blog is that I can practise writing long before I’m supposedly old and wise enough to write a book.

      I found the idea of sleeping rough kind of scary before I did it but eventually decided it was feasible enough for an experiment. It turned out to be really easy, not looking back now…

  4. Mr. Richard,

    Thanks for sharing your lifestyle. You rock, Man!

    I am 21 year old student. At this age, I am still thinking about what kind of life I really want to live. It’s sometimes hard. Thanks for the inspiration. It adds new perspective to myself. Especially, about being brave to live life we want.

    Have a great day! :D

    Thanks,
    Sam
    Bintaro (Indonesia)

    • Thanks Sam! I’m delighted to have a guest from Indonesia! It’s a country I often dream of visiting. Probably not Jakarta though, probably the more remote islands.

      I wish I had read my blog when I was your age… it might have saved me a lot of time. But I probably wouldn’t have been ready for it, and anyway it has been a fun learning experience.

      If you’re happy with a simple lifestyle then you can do anything you want in life. But make sure you do live the life you want, and not the life that other people expect of you. Have you read the Five Regrets? See http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html

  5. Hello Richard,

    Thank you so much for being an inspiration. I have been contemplating doing, exactly what you are doing, for a long time now, but for various reasons have not taken that leap. The film about you, and your blog, is truly an inspiration. As yet, I’m uncertain how employment and no fixed abode would work for someone that works nine to five. How do you manage bank accounts and that sort of thing?

    Warmly,

    Will

    • Hi Will, I just use my parents’ address; I guess if that wasn’t possible I’d ask a friend. Failing that I believe some homeless day centres can give you an address to work with and hold mail. Anyway hasn’t given me any trouble yet.

      Would be interested to hear how it goes with a 9-5 – I know some people have done it but I haven’t sought out their writings yet. Might be easier in many respects, in terms of having at least 8 hours guaranteed indoors time every day, where you can have a quick wash, make tea and even store a handful of items. And charge electronics.

      I’d definitely consider doing lots of overtime in the Winter!

  6. Hola Richard acabo de ver el video en vimeo , me parecio exelente !!! muy buena fotografia y muy buena edicion te felicito .

  7. The more you have, the less you REALLY live. Lesson learned, fella. Sending greetings from Curitiba city, Brazil! Wish you the best!

  8. Well, Richard, I do know so well what you mean. I firmly believe that the future of the world, the planet, the good and kind traits of mankind rely in how our generation finds a way to live alternatively, and say no in a constructive and peaceful way… You did that your own way, and I want to say I admire your courage.

    If you ever bring your bike to Portugal, just feel free to pop over ;)

    Continue to celebrate life and to be happy!
    Thanks

  9. Your story is inspiring. I have been also thinking a lot lately which are the things I really need in my life, and which I don`t. Not came to a conclusion yet though :).

  10. Hey Richard,

    I’m preparing to embark on my own journey of living outdoors and I am curious if you have run into a lot of trouble with a) people harassing you; and b) the police / authorities asking you to “move on”? Do you make an effort to stay out of sight?

    Any info you can relay would be much appreciated! :)

    • Hi Will, great to hear from you, nice to know that I’m not alone in my choice of living arrangement!

      Police/authorities will only get involved if you sleep in the same place for too many nights, particularly if you sleep during the day or set up a tent.

      In my experience tents should be reserved for the outskirts of town and the countryside, and even then they should be taken down before people are up and about. It’s not a big deal though, when I pitched a tenting the middle of Wandsworth Common I slept well and at about 07:30 the police just explained that I had to pack up my tent and move on. Then we had a friendly conversation about the cost of rent and lifestyle.

      (In other countries the police might act a bit differently, see my latest post – ‘I went to sleep in a medical centre and woke up in a police station’.)

      I quickly learned that in the big city it’s much more convenient to have no tent and just use a bivvy bag, picking places out of sight and sleeping mostly between the hours of 00:00 to 07:00, although there are some places you can get away with a lie in, like on a roof.

      As for safety and security, the most important thing I’ve learned in two years of ‘roughing it’ is that most strangers are nice people. Indeed most Londoners are lovely, and I can say the same about all the other places I’ve visited. You just need to greet them with a smile and a quick apology if you’re in their way.

      I’ve never had any trouble and I now feel more confident to sleep in exposed locations, simply putting my trust in the general public. The only times I’ve ever been stirred from my slumber in all this time has been when people nudge me to ask “Excuse me, are you ok? Would you like a cup of tea?”

      Of course, common sense applies – I would never make my bed in the West End on a Friday night when all the bars and clubs are closing. I don’t make my bed in busy high street doorways either, although I don’t have any experience to tell you whether or not this is a good or bad idea.

      But I don’t mind being visible to the public if the place is empty at night and I sense that in the morning there will only be commuters walking past – most of them ignore me except for the odd one who sometimes offers me tea and coffee.

      Anyway best of luck to you, and please do let us know how you get on!

  11. Genial todo lo que haces! y super interesante. Además sos muy buen tipo. Gracias por haber venido a Entre Ríos, tus consejos de afinación y ejemplo han sido valiosos para mi.
    Tene en cuenta que las puertas de mi casa están más que abiertas para vos. Si andas por éstos lados no dudes en venir!
    Bendiciones!

  12. Hi Richard, How are you these days? Hopeing you are fit and well!!
    Have you got your new bike yet, if you have how is it doing?

    Regards
    MikeG

  13. Pingback: Richard – The Piano Tuner (3 minute listening) | Green Tea English

  14. I have done this I was living on the grand union canal in a cabin cruiser but I took a job in Norfolk and it wasnt in a fit state to get down the rivers so during the week I lived in Thetford forest for a year. The problem is the attitude of society it is illegal to camp in the forest and there are no home comforts etc.

    If I had to do it all over again I would have a small cabin cruiser or rowing boat, able to be towed behind a boat then you can sit beside your woodstove in comfort with everyones blessing. The canals cover all of the area you operate in check out Dan Brown on youtube. The perfect size is 18 foot as the Canal and River Trust charge the same licence for anything cheaper. My friend has one for sale £700 and he works 15 hours a week I KNOW you can live on such a boat for £200 a month.

  15. Hey Richard, Shame you abandoned your blog. It was fun to read. If you ever fancy getting away from London – I’m in the Bristol/South Glos area and you are always welcome to kip at mine!

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