When I Say Hobo, I Mean Hobo


Photo: Permanent Slab City resident “Granny”

This month my friend Crista Scott wrote her first article for Trail Runner Magazine about the ten things she learned over her summer as a dirtbag. Crista hit the road with her friend Cat and explored beautiful parts of the country. She camped out of her vehicle and didn’t shower very often.

Crista playfully refers to herself as a hobo, as many of us dirtbags do. However, someone in the comments section criticized her for being disrespectful to real homeless people who have no choice and no middle-class home in California to return to.

I felt the comment was misinformed, but was not surprised to see it. Similar comments have been made on practically every single article about dirtbagging on the Internet.

Here is the version that appeared on my blog in 2013 after we hit the road in our small RV.

“Please leave your commentary on poverty to those who are poor not by choice but by circumstance. As someone who works to provide social services to the poor, I have encountered few if any who view their condition as ‘freedom.’ Instead they are too focused on providing for their families to have the luxury of viewing life as you describe it.”

– Comment left on June 20th

Apparently, you have to be “poor enough” to comment on low-income travel and frugal living. I call poppycock.

While it makes me happy that people are concerned about the poor, scolding middle-class people from Santa Barbara doesn’t do much to actually help the homeless. It’s true that many travelers have never experienced real poverty so this argument generally shuts them up. My perspective is different because I have lived below the poverty line for most of my life.

I struggled for years to work my ass off so I could own all the things I was “supposed” to have—a house, a car, kids, and a white picket fence. I vividly remember reading Tynan’s blog for the first time and watching him live a lifestyle of minimalism, travel, and “freedom”. I loved his stories, and never once felt that I was too poor to achieve them. On the contrary, here was ONE freedom I could actually afford.

Inspired by Tynan, I took on a similar lifestyle. Months later, I came across a post he wrote in response to accusations that his lifestyle was only possible because he was wealthy and it wasn’t fair for him to flaunt his wealth in front of “poor” people who could never achieve what he had.

Tynan agreed, and conceded that his lifestyle wasn’t accessible to the poor. I was horrified. Not accessible?? I had switched to his lifestyle in one year, and it sure as shit was easier than trying to buy a house and a car.

These days, real-life hobos don’t seem to differentiate much between us as nomads and them as hobos. Homeless people have approached us with local tips of where to park and where to eat. They have even walked over with offers of weed. Hobo-warming gifts, if you will. They pick us out from the crowds and somehow know that we’re not about to pay for a hotel. In return, we give away everything we can spare but it feels more like sharing than charity.

I have never once come across a poor-not-by-choice person who is offended by my lifestyle because they are “too poor” to have it. It is always rich(er) people who feel they speak on behalf of the poor when they say, “Oh, you better not say that because a poor person can’t have what you have.” Seriously?

Poor people are not offended because we travel or call ourselves hobos. Here is what offends poor people:

  • Constant and extreme waste in our society
  • Watching others buy stuff they don’t need
  • Seeing food thrown in the garbage while their stomachs howl with hunger
  • People who grow fat and lazy from overconsumption
  • Mass media trying to convince them that luxuries are actually needs

What bothers me the most is the assumption that poor people are resigned to living in desperation for the rest of their lives, trying to make ends meet. This argument assumes that poor people are helpless and incapable of anything better than “getting by”. They’re not allowed to have dreams or ambitions—they can’t afford to.

I know what it’s like to choose between food or shelter, between an education or a place to live. I am addressing poor people when I write about my lifestyle, because once—just once—they need to meet someone who doesn’t believe they’re too poor to have dreams, too poor to aspire to anything, or too poor to experience freedom.

You May Also Enjoy:

Your Dirtbag Hospitality Guide

Happy Hoboversary: Stats From One Year Later

Why We Need Nomads


Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Stay tuned for my next book: Daughters of Distance

Our Second Hitchhiker

with hitchhiker Mike

with hitchhiker Mike

This week we had the honor of picking up our second hitchhiker off the side of the road. We saw him as soon as we drove into Fort St. Nelson in the evening, but we were stopping to spend the night. I hoped he could get a ride (there weren’t many cars going North), but decided we’d give him a ride tomorrow if he still needed one.

We found a place to park the RV for the night and got on with our evening ritual of watching Dr. Who episodes before bed. A couple hours later, I noticed the hitchhiker walking down the street, alone and defeated looking for a place to spend the night. I made a mental note to look for him the next day.

He was a tall, lanky dude in his 50s wearing a heavy backpack and a black t-shirt. The next day we discovered that the shelter in town was full, so he had spent the night in the announcer’s box of the local baseball diamond, trying to fight off mosquitos. In this part of the world, the sun comes out at 2 to 3 a.m. and he was hoping for a ride until about 11 p.m., so he didn’t get much sleep.

Shacky and I drove into the Visitor’s Centre to use the bathroom and get some wifi before starting our commute. We spotted the hitchhiker on the side of the road again, and took bets on whether or not he would still be there when we came out of the bathroom.

When I got out of the bathroom, I found him already talking to Shacky. His name was Mike and he was a writer. He had worked as a newspaper reporter for most of his life, and now had a blog on Huffington Post. He was on a one-year mission to work at as many traveling carnivals as he could, currently on his way to Anchorage to see if he could work there (it would be his 3rd carnival).

Mike had no other income other than what the carnivals paid, which was less than minimum wage. His plan was to blog about his journey and publish a book about it at the end of the year. I packed a food bag for him, and he ate while we drove.

Mike told us all about his travels, the people he had met along the way, and asked lots of questions about our own lifestyle. He scribbled notes into a tiny notebook and helped us keep track of the wildlife we saw. He was bright and eloquent with some fantastic stories.

He described the majority of carnival workers as very poor, uneducated individuals (many not having finished grade school, and a few who could not read), eager to drink and party but also extremely hard workers who found joy in helping kids have fun. The irony was that many were away from their own families and children, and some had joined the carnival to escape their families (mostly abusive).

Instead of giving away Mike’s stories, I’ll encourage you to check out his carnival blog and follow his travels HERE.

We drove to Liard Hot Springs, where Shacky and I had planned to spend the night after a good soak. Mike wanted to continue his journey, so we said our goodbyes.

After dipping into the warmest hot spring I have ever experienced, Shacky decided he wanted to keep driving. Mike was still waiting for a ride, so he hopped back in and we drove to Watson Lake. We were definitely spending the night in Watson, so that was the last time we saw Mike. When we get to Anchorage, we’ll look for him at the local carnival.

Every hitchhiker we pick up confirms my suspicion that strangers are inherently awesome, trustworthy, and good human beings. I read on a blog somewhere (I wish I could remember names to reference it) about a woman who hitchhiked all over the world, and insisted it was one of the safest things she had ever done. She said that all the men warned her about other dangerous men, believing that they were the exceptions; each of them convinced that most people could not be trusted. We distrust our neighbors, and our neighbors distrust us, but dangerous men are more of a minority than we believe.

This does not mean that we should not be vigilant, aware of our surroundings, or that bad people do not exist. I just wish—with years of “don’t talk to strangers” ingrained in my upbringing—that I had spoken to a few more along the way.

Read Shacky’s account of our hitchhiker encounter HERE.


You May Also Enjoy:

Our First Hitchhiker

Answering the Call of the North

Seeking Dispensers: A Call to Embrace a Wild Life


Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Happy Hoboversary! Stats From One Year Later

SONY DSCIt has now been one year since I quit a reliable and respectable job in my field of journalism to travel, write a book, and do more living. I had no idea at the time where I would find myself one year later.

Here are the stats:


Miles Driven: 20, 000
Miles Run: 1914
Longest Run: 52 miles at Zion 100 (DNF)
Total States Visited: 13
Total National Parks Visited: 13

Total Income Made: $5,000 (We be rich!)
Biggest Purchase: Rialta RV for $25,000
Biggest Expense: Food
Savings in Bank: $15,000


Favorite Trail: Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park. I hate to pick a touristy spot, but it was actually pretty unbelievable, and I managed to chick Shacky by making it all the way to the top. I’d be happy running that trail every day.

Favorite State: Oregon. I LOVE TREES!!! I had forgotten how much I really, really missed trees and greenery and running through the woods. The trails are much more forgiving than what I’m used to in SoCal, though sometimes I do miss the gnarly, rocky climbs in the desert. But O-EM-GEE the TREES!!

Favorite Wildlife Sighting: The elk at Redwoods National Park. We walked right among them, and they didn’t care.

SONY DSCFavorite Person I Met for the First Time: Cory Reese in Utah. Awesome dude! He took us trail running and we had dinner with his lovely family. Cory keeps knocking out 100 milers and takes amazing photos. Follow him at: http://www.fastcory.com/

zion9Favorite National Park: Sequoia National Park. Again–the trees. My jaw dropped when I saw the sequoias for the first time. Read more about what they taught me HERE.

Most Scenic Drive: Sequoia National Park to King’s Canyon National Park

Favorite Non-Running Pastime: Reading. I am currently reading Jay Danek’s new book Got to Live, and I keep up with close to 200 blogs. You know when you wonder who has time to read all these blogs? Me. I read them all.

Best Meal: Albacore Tuna Ceviche at Multnoham Falls Lodge. They have a lovely restaurant at the bottom of the waterfall. It’s a little pricier than what we’re used to, but the food is simply amazing. Shacky had the prime rib and gave me a taste. It was the softest meat I had ever eaten. It just melted in your mouth. Shacky said it was the best prime rib he had ever had. My tuna ceviche had a great kick and was really tasty.

A close second would be the clam chowder at Pacific Oyster, a little spot along the Oregon coast. It was the day before my birthday and Shacky chose the restaurant. We also did oyster shots there (my first time!) and they went down so smooth… The chowder made me want to hug someone and then go to sleep.

Strangest Drink (in a good way): Wasabi Ginger Ale at Fort George Brewery in Astoria, OR. It was really interesting and strangely pleasant. Shacky loved it. I liked it, but then the taste started building up and it was too much wasabi for me by the end.

Favorite Food Eaten for the First Time: Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese Popcorn. OMFG. The bag is a huge ripoff, yet I bought it twice.

Best Desert: Tillamook Cheese Factory Ice Cream. We came back here THREE times.

Biggest Accomplishment: Writing, editing, and self-publishing The Summit Seeker


Least Favorite State: Kansas (I didn’t get it? I didn’t see anything there, still a little puzzled…)

Scariest Moment: For many of the roads in California (San Francisco area), I had to literally go to the back, lie down, and close my eyes to try to convince myself we weren’t going to die. The narrow roads kept turning and winding and there was so much descent that our brakes started to smell like they were burning. The cat started throwing up and I felt pretty sick myself.

Worst Weather: Hail and snowstorm driving up to Crater Lake National Park. We couldn’t see the lake at all. The next morning, it was crystal clear and we enjoyed some amazing views. I couldn’t believe how fast the storm hit us, and how quickly it disappeared.

SONY DSCBiggest Disappointment: We would have made it to the Copper Canyons Ultramarathon, but instead had some RV trouble and ended up camping at the Volkswagen dealership for more than a week.

Strangest Drink (in a bad way): Buffalo Wings Soda by Lester’s Fixins. GAGGG!!! Shacky said it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty terrible. These guys also sell Coffee Soda, Bacon Soda, Peanut Butter & Jelly Soda…

Hardest Chore: Writing. Writing is hard, even when you’re “good” at it. I’ve been writing and working on a book every day for a year (now on my second), and it doesn’t get easier. It’s also incredibly time consuming.


With the passing of a year, I have come to understand more fully how incredibly lucky I am to:

a) have the opportunity to travel this way
b) have the support of an awesome partner in crime and a couple furry kids
c) enjoy good health and a strong body

I really hope I can do my time on this earth justice by living to the best of my ability and getting in the most experiences that I possibly can. We are often alone in spectacular places because everyone else is at work, stuck in traffic, or too old and weak because they waited until retirement to travel. I am so blessed to have the freedom that I do, and I need to honor that by savoring every single moment.
SONY DSCYou May Also Enjoy:

Answering the Call of the North

Our First Hitchhiker

Are You There, Running? It’s Me, Vanessa


Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Annual Performance Self-Evaluation Assessment for Hobos

It’s that time of year again. All the spiffy worker bees are filling out their employee self-evaluations, looking back on a year of growth and progress. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here in my dreads with the cat attacking the string on my hoodie. I may or may not be wearing any pants.

But fear not Team Hobo! This year will be different. This year we can measure our progress. This year… we have self-evaluations.

Last year, my boyfriend Shacky and I walked away from our office jobs to move into a Rialta RV with our dog Ginger and a stowaway kitty who appeared on our doorstep (pregos!) as we were getting ready to leave. Our life since then has been one trail adventure after another, and we are very much enjoying a life free of the 9 to 5 grind followed by the 6 to 10 chores and housework.

Here are some videos to give you an idea of what our life is now like:

RV Living and Traveling in the USA

Direct YouTube Link HERE

Quitting Our Jobs to Live in a Rialta RV

Direct YouTube Link HERE

Trail Running Adventures In Utah

Direct YouTube Link HERE

Although we are carefree, we are still growing and learning. When our days become a blur of mountains and beaches and furry animals, it can be difficult to measure our progress. Especially when we don’t know what day it is.

Here to help, are six main categories of hobo living, followed by a series of statements to help with our self-evaluation. I would like to tag the following hobos and invite them to fill out this evaluation on their own blogs:

And you can fill it out too! If you’re at all interested in living simply, embracing minimalism, and love to travel, feel free to see how you stack up and post on your own blog. Find out if you’re ready to join Team Hobo! Any suggestions for additions or edits to the evaluation are welcome too.

My answers are included below.

FYI: We loosely define “hobos” as people who have either given up their homes or their jobs (or both) to pursue travel, a simpler life, and/or financial freedom. The “hobos” we know are nomadic, free thinkers, open minded, and are always grateful for a hot shower and a cold beer. They have all chosen this lifestyle.


The Self-Evaluation Assessment for Hobos

Please give yourself a letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) for each of the following six categories, and briefly describe your evaluation.

1. Embracing Minimalism

A – We have gotten rid of 95 percent of everything we own. Our RV is small enough that we can’t keep anything that doesn’t serve multiple purposes, even if we wanted to.

2. Feeding Hobbies

A – Our lifestyle revolves around trail running, our only major hobby.

3. Managing Expenses

D – Being new to hobo life, we spent the first couple of months eating out a lot. We now eat most of our meals in the RV and are learning where to buy cheap fresh fruit and veggies. This last month has been a huge improvement, but our annual performance overall is still low.

4. Learning New Things

B – I’m learning a lot about trail running, but I’m not reading as much as I’d like to on different topics. I have many unread books on my Kindle that I’ve been meaning to get to.

5. Personal Growth

A – The hobo transition has taught me so much about who I really am, and what I love to do. I’ve learned to stay true to myself.

6. Balancing Relationships

B – We have had the amazing privilege of developing new relationships and spending time with people we previously only knew via Facebook. We can still do better with this though. Both Shacky and I love our solitude as well.


Now for the following statements, please rate yourself as:

  • Below Average
  • Satisfactory
  • Above Average
  • Superior

Briefly explain your ranking.

I know how to discreetly steal toilet paper.

Satisfactory – It’s easier when you carry a purse, which I rarely do.

I prepare meals in under five minutes.

Satisfactory – We are eating mostly raw, which cuts down drastically on meal prep.

I always know the location of the nearest spot I can spend the night.

Satisfactory – Shacky is really good at this, but we’re still nervous about getting “kicked out”. We’ve only been kicked out once, from a Walmart.

I manage to find a hot shower at least once a week.

Satisfactory – When hot showers are unavailable, rivers and creeks and trailhead faucets are great substitutes.

I know who my boss is.

Superior – Kitty is boss. She sleeps wherever she wants and we dare not kick her off, even if our legs are cramping up.

I set and meet weekly goals.

Superior – Mileage and climbing goals for us. I track my goals weekly and monthly, hitting at least 200 miles/month. My mileage has been increasing for the past six consecutive months. Woo!

I know what my benefits are.

Superior – Fresh air, freedom, the open road, travel, adventure, and exploration.

I give back to my community.

Satisfactory – We are looking forward to even more volunteering in the coming year. We love to help out at races and fatass events.

My workload is realistic and achievable.

Superior – I only work on things that I love.

I have mastered the art of dumpster diving.

Below Average – We have yet to try this. But we’re intrigued!

I know where to find an electrical outlet.

Satisfactory – We can find outlets, but the trick is to find one where we don’t feel obligated to buy anything. Haven’t mastered that last part yet.

I know where the nearest wifi is at all times.

Satisfactory – We have a cool app that helps us out, and we continue to improve. Libraries are great, and we were thrilled to learn that the beautiful and quaint Old Temecula has city-wide wifi.

I keep every plastic bag I come across.

Superior – We use these these for garbage, dirty clothes, and plastic wrap. Easily reusable as well.

I re-use tea bags.

Satisfactory – I like my tea relatively weak, so it’s not much of a problem. But drying them out is a pain.

I don’t pay for salt and condiments. Packets are free at Taco Bell.

Satisfactory – The little packets are so cute! We’re still working through some older stuff from the house as well.

I don’t pay for forks and knives. They are free at Taco Bell.

Below Average – We still mostly use our own cutlery.

I raid Lost and Founds.  

Below Average – We have yet to do this! Seems a litttle like stealing to me though…

I always use public toilets to poop.

Satisfactory – We rarely poop in our own RV. Porta-potties, coffee shops, McDonalds… all fair game.

Actually, sometimes I poop in the woods.

Superior – Guilty as charged.

Thank you for time, hobos. You may now continue doing whatever you want, all of the time.

Coming Soon: My friend Margaret is having Team Hobo T-shirts made. Stay tuned!



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