Many of us try to stay warm, comfortable, and healthy by employing strategies similiar to the ones house dwellers use. While some methods may work very well, there are some aspects of living outside that require a somewhat different approach. In addition, the houseless lifestyle comes with some more or less inevitable changes.
I am a firm believer that a healthy body is essential for a healthy mind and vise versa. Thus, I used to go swimming 2 – 3 times a week to counterbalance my rather sedentary student lifestyle. Although I still dedicate much time to my studies, I am a lot more active than I used to be. Slowly but surely, I watched the extra fat on my belly disappear, until I realized that I had to cut down on unnecessary exercise or increase my calorie intake in order to maintain a healthy weight. What changed?
- Lazy days on the couch become rare if you don’t own a couch. That’s pretty self explanatory.
- You can’t just fall into bed at the end of the day. In an house or apartment, most essential tasks are automated: your dishwasher washes your dishes, the air conditioner makes sure the temperature is just right, the washing machine takes care of your laundry, and who cares if your place is a mess. As a hobo, you need to take care of these things yourself. Finding a place to sleep, carrying around essential items, setting up a bed, and keeping yourself and your stuff clean, requires a lot of energy. Believe it or not, even stacking blankets and getting comfy during the winter can be exhausting.
- Your body heater runs 24/7 during the winter. Researchers estimate that we spend about 5 times more energy when shivering than we would normally. However, it doesn’t have to be freezing cold out. Constant exposure to temperatures in the 60’s (15º C) is sufficient to burn a substantial number of calories in order to stay warm.
- A warm, calorie-rich, yet healthy meal may not be available every day. And that’s when your body will go to its personal pantry, namely your belly and hips (and wherever else you may carry those extra pounds), and prepare its own meal.
Your body is your most important possession – treat it well! Don’t start feasting on unhealthy foods just because you don’t have a kitchen. Cut down on fast food and eat quality calories whenever possible. Make sure you get your servings of fruit and veggies and drink plenty of water. Most importantly, realize that your lifestyle may be demanding enough without any extra exercise.
Being exposed to the elements results in a variety of changes, some of which are rather positive.
- During the summer, the sun makes an effort to turn your skin into leather. During the winter, the cold dries out your skin, which results in cracks and itchy spots. Lotion, lotion, and more lotion. Use it! Also, protect your skin from direct sun light and the cold by wearing appropriate clothing.
- Many of us become less sensitive to outside temperatures but may find the constant air conditioned world of housed people rather annoying. Walking into 70° F (21° C) heat after spending hours in below freezing temperatures feels like walking into a sauna!
- If you spend a lot of time walking or riding a bike as part of your lifestyle, you will notice how these tasks become easier with time. Your physical health and strength will increase and you will feel healthier and fitter (if you have the means to properly take care of your body).
Comfort is relative. In terms of sleep, I define comfort as “not hurting the next day” and having warm feet throughout the night. In terms of nice, comfy feelings, I’d say a hot shower is pretty awesome.
Living outside makes you appreciate the small things in life: a tasty meal, the sun on your skin during the winter, a cold breeze during the summer, a comfy bed made of leaves in the woods, the beautiful Colorado sun rise, a nice smelling candle, and so much more. We don’t need more in life; we need to appreciate what we have.
Do you have anything to add? What are you grateful for?