certainly one of the oddball projects—being a successful homeless person. here are some ideas and references for the bozeman, montana area.

why homelessness?

as i posted on the winged leopard web log (version two) in july 2005, “for me, it's about the bankroll, the simplicity, and the solitude.” i wanted to save money by not paying any rent, i wanted to minimalize my possessions, and i wanted to be alone.

“Well I don't care, all I want is to be alone up there this summer.”
“You're sayin that now but you'll change your tune soon enough. They all talk brave. But then you get to talkin to yourself. That ain't so bad but don't start answerin yourself, son.” kerouac, the dharma bums, 227

of course, i'm doing this in the gallatin valley while going to school, so i don't run the risk of writing in the manner that jack did on desolation peak.

  Up in the valley
    and down by the mountain,
  The bird—
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake
Wake Wake Wake A W A K E N
  A K A K E N   A W A K E N
    A W A K E N
      N O W
        This is the wisdom
          of the millennial rat
         —Theriomorphous, highest perfect
        Rat kerouac, desolation angels, 58

that is, unless i'd write similar things anyway. i fantasized about living life without a home for two years. and i finally decided to give it a try beginning october 2007.

of course, there are drawbacks. it's cold, and it will be getting colder. i'm in school, so my time is limited and costly. i started two whole years after my wildest fantasies, so i'm not appreciating it as much as i would have then, but i'm much more capable now (having taken a trip to alaska alone for two weeks).

i originally planned to use my fixed gear bicycle to get around town, sleep in city parks or close to campus, and never use my car. i figured that this would be my contribution: a minimal environmental impact as a human being. i wouldn't require the continual heating or cooling of a living space, nor would i require fossil fuels for transportation. unfortunately, the city parks didn't yield much cover for urban camping, so i had to venture a few miles from campus to some state trust land. because my bike is a fixed gear, the terrain is hilly, and my time is limited, i have to drive to my camp site nightly.


my gear isn't ideal, but i get by. luckily i have an office where i do all of my cooking, and where i keep some bathroom supplies and contingency clothing (if i want to go out for a drink and look decent). my arc'teryx bora 80 (liter) backpack contains:

land use

i have identified a variety of public lands that can be used:

the best site for finding eligible camping sites is montana's GIS website.

my favorite place to camp near the msu campus is a parcel of state trust land at 45.64575°, -110.99157°.

early conclusions

i love rising with the sun in the middle of nowhere by myself. but i hate pitching my tent every night, just as i hate tearing it down every morning. scouting new sites is fun, unless you are crunched for time. so despite being fun sometimes, it's a waste of time. i spend 30 minutes in the morning tearing stuff down and packing, and i spend 30 minutes at night pitching the tent. so i spend 7-10 hours a week being homeless. but working ten hours a week could get me a pretty nice apartment. ultimately, it's a battle between experience and specialization of labor.

final conclusions

benefits of being homeless include a smaller environmental impact, minimalistic necessities, rising with the sun, saving money, solitude, and more. costs include high performance clothing and gear (for montana winters), time setting up and tearing down camp, time scouting campsites, commuting time if the camp is out of town, and many more. it's an experience that you pay dearly for.