Question How do you talk about your negative experiences traveling or living rough?

MetalBryan

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I like to write, but I haven't written anything in a while because instead of offering a critique or "friendly warning" about my experiences, I tend to dwell on the negative and come off as cynical. We've been talking about individuals banned from StP in the past and some of that is relevant, so this has been on my mind. It's something I've been struggling with and I thought this group might be able to help me out.

There's a lot of shit experiences and even more shit people in this kind of life, whether you're hopping trains or chillin' with homebums or just getting hassled by cops & fellow citizens.

To be upfront In the moment, fuck yeah I wouldn't trade my life for anything, However, I'm one of the ones who focuses on the negative and glosses over the positive when I reflect on the past. For example, something I say a lot when talking about the three years I lived in a van in Los Angeles is - there was 15 minutes a week I wouldn't trade for the world but the rest of the time it was tough.

I don't want this to be a pity party, but I think it's okay to vent. Think about when normies have asked you about the traveling life and let us me know how you talk about that. Maybe you have a running discussion with friends who share your experiences. How do you not get bogged down and bummed out?
 

Beegod Santana

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If someone who's never traveled asks me for advice I always respond with "don't do it" and then proceed to tell them about all my dead friends and how I can never get a decent job due to my criminal record. If they're already traveling the conversation tends to be pretty positive.

I figure that if you're unsure about it enough that one person talking it down will discourage you, then it isn't for you. Even if I had been a model citizen in my youth and pursued college and a career, I'm sure I would've burnt it all down at some point and found myself on the road. Despite all the shit it's brought me, I still can't imagine my life going any other way.
 

transcendentalhobo

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talking about the three years I lived in a van in Los Angeles is - there was 15 minutes a week I wouldn't trade for the world but the rest of the time it was tough.

15 minutes a week?! I feel like every real Road Trip has at least... half a day where I wonder if I AM crazy after all, and think about giving up. But my Hobo Holidays can't seem to last more than a year and a half. I try to tell people both the good and the bad parts, but most of it is somewhere in the middle for me, like the rest of life for me.

I don't feel like I chose this life, it's the way I've been able to survive. That written, I do think I've lived my life as well as possible with the cards I've been dealt. I'll stick around Oly as long as it makes sense, I'll kick rocks if I have to. I think the ups and downs on The Road are roughly similar to sedentary life for me, though perhaps more intense.
 

sevedemanos

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relatable.

every time i start sharing experiences with coworkers they get uncomfortable and soon begin to avoid asking me personal questions — which i dont mind, im there for the pay, not to have a picnick — and its bc its all shit most people would consider gloomy / unpleasant. and i forget that, because looking back i get a good laugh. and this is why i can only ever really hit it off with fellow riders and the elderly who typically also have a pretty decent sense of humor.. one i can relate to. its few and far between youll converse w anybody these days that wont get sketched out over small potatoes

so yeah as the years roll by i have become more and more closemouthed. and every time i get drunk and open up a bit im only reminded again what i already knew. misunderstandings, as far as the eye.

i used to come off as racist, or as this or as that.. bc of how id express myself in younger days. but id also done a few short visits in jail and the way people talk in jail and in between visits to and from afterwards, is a little bit different.

its kind of like the subtle regional accents you pick up after spending some time around different parts of the states — or anywhere.. and all quite subconsciously. coming back to the pnw, in my case, people were asking me where i was from fairly regularly. giving me a cynical look sometimes, when id say washington.

travel has absolutely left me pretty jaded, as regards to people in general. pervading sense of having seen it all. and although i know that to be entirely false, i really cant help but feel extremely pessimistic about most things these days. and when i write or play, i do it solely for the joy of it and prefer to keep it all to myself bc it keeps me happy, and thats the only thing that counts for anything anymore. while we watch the west crumble into oblivion.
 

AyeAaron

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The good times have far outweighed the bad in my experience, so I'm usually careful not to come off as if I'm promoting my lifestyle, and to point out the hardships which have come with it

Sometimes talking about my injuries, or the excess of violence and hunger I've experienced, probably sounds pretty dark, I'm definitely prone to anger, but I'm usually more inspired than anything else

A lot of travelers think I'm a cop though, because apparently I'm not enough of a mess
 
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I've always been too honest for my own good. I have some scars from my childhood and other kids would always ask about. I'd get into the nitty gritty of why and where I got the scars, just to make the nosy fucks stop asking. Their expressions were always a highlight from growing up.

Nowdays, if someone asks me, I will do my best to lionze myself or gloss over the shit because I'm a storyteller. But I try to weave truth into it. It shocks me sometimes, when people gasp when I just mention the word hitchhiking or sleeping on stranger's couches. That's always kinda funny. Even the parts that I came away unscathed are shocking and horrifying, lol.

I use "urban backpacking" instead of "homeless", I brush over the shit to cope, sometimes. It's something I do for other people's sake and it's for my own sake to carve away the rough edges in my brain. But, I mostly only hang out with other metalhead freaks and ren faire weirdoes. Even if they're not travellers, they're often good at storytelling and listening and stuff.

There's this understanding with storytellers, I find. We all scrape away the crust of trauma to get at this soft chewy story, the characters and lessons learned without focusing too much on the baggage. Sure, the crust is still there, has to be there for the bread to bake. But it doesn't have to be the focus of the tale. There's a respect to not lean too hard into "bummers" unless we're all drunk around a campfire...

But, I'm still kinda green even after five years on the road. Been blessed not to have met too many cops. Went through enough shit as a teen/preteen to really worry about what the road can throw at me... Maybe I'll come back to this post in a few years and have more shit to kick about.
 

transcendentalhobo

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I use "urban backpacking" instead of "homeless", I brush over the shit to cope, sometimes. It's something I do for other people's sake and it's for my own sake to carve away the rough edges in my brain. But, I mostly only hang out with other metalhead freaks and ren faire weirdoes. Even if they're not travellers, they're often good at storytelling and listening and stuff.

I think this is like the old adage a Hobo is a Working Traveler, and a bum is a non-working, non-Traveler, etc. I started Traveling in May of 2000 but wasn't homeless by any stretch of the imagination until the fall of 2011 and even then it's been a different thing for me, and I think most Travelers. I similarly would kick it with townies who were into the arts especially music and/or activism when I was Traveling, and frequently hit The Road for music festivals when I was younger or demonstrations as I got older. Now I'm a semi-retired Traveler but now I'm more like the townies again that I used to kick it with and had played that roll frequently in my 20s until the Great Recession more than anything shoved me onto The Road proper...

But whenever people have been like, "Your life is great! I wish I could do that!" I frequently try to figure out whether I should tell them, "All this and more can by yours!" or "It actually kind of sucks, I'd rather be in your position." Depends on the person and where I'm at with things. I try to be as transparent as possible about what's cool and what sucks up a storm about my life style past and present.
 
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pcflvly

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The hardest parts for me were simply the tedious things like making and breaking camp every day. I was bikecore and pedaled all day, making camp wherever I was at the end of the day.

I was used to all the hard stuff like climbing mountains and wind. And as regards people, I never had problems, tact and charm came natural to me even when the antagonist wanted to throw me off a cliff.

I've certainly glamorized the life since then but it was hard and the only way I could handle it was with purpose and integrity. As well as that strategy worked for me, it was still hard. Ultimately, when it's time to tell the tale, I don't leave anything out. If it was in my notes or in my memories it went into the books.
 

daveycrockett

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When I interact I try to remain neutral and positive. Try not to spread negative. I'm up screaming at night for as long as I can remember, won't sleep for days or have to drink myself to sleep based on the bad shit that's happened to me being on the street 25+ years since a teenager that I'll never tell anyone. People don't want to hear your problems.
 
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The Hiker

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Fully aware that I've had an easy life compared to many here, but telling the stories of bad times helps me to find the lessons I needed to learn. Lots of wisdom in this thread.
 

bote

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In terms of the original question, how to talk about the negative experiences, I think it really depends to what end you are talking about them.
If you feel like you're trying ro process something important that happened to you, maybe journalling is the way to go, or asking a trusted friend to listen.
If you're telling the story to share and entertain, I think focusing on the tension and humour in a bad situation can be a good way to go. Some of the shittiest experiences make the funniest or most interesting stories, bad luck compounded by bad timing x unfortunate decisions.
Again, there are probably some experiences you can't or don't want to see the lighter side of, but if you're bothering to tell a story, it makes sense to ask yourself why you are telling it to a given person, and what they get out of listening to you.
 
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sevedemanos

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a lot of us werent born sentimental enough to care to tell stories or to mind about what we are wearing — the two best defensive strategies anybody will ever carry, esp on the road. and the best way to talk to fellow human beings is to not talk about negative things that might frighten or confuse them
 

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