How to Be a Hobo

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 10, 2009 · 68 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills, Outdoors

hoboSource: Life

Am I the only boy who secretly dreamed of  becoming a hobo? Riding the rails, traveling across the country, and carrying everything you own on your back has a romance that appeals to every man’s desire to wander.

In a 1937 issue of Esquiremagazine, an anonymous writer penned an article called “The Bum Handbook.” Unlike most bums, he had chosen his vagabond lifestyle. And he was tired of seeing the sub-par job most other bums were doing. This was during the Great Depression, and many men found themselves homeless, lost, and ignorant of the art of bumliness. The author had being a hobo down to a science and claimed to enjoy 3 meals a day and a comfortable place to sleep each night. While he didn’t desire to return to regular society, he knew that most fellow hobos did, and so he offered these tips in hopes they could maintain confidence and a respectable look and thus find their way back to steady work.

Although much has changed since the 1930′s, if you by chance find yourself a hobo during this Great Recession or desire to become a bum by choice, perhaps you can learn some tips from hobos of old. Enjoy these excerpts from the article and this fun peek into the past.

Keep yourself clean. Filthy men can’t charm the housewife into giving food, the passerby into relinquishing money, the man of business into giving jobs: the housewife is scared and repelled, the passerby is annoyed and anxious to be away, the business man responds curtly. And there is no need to be unwashed. Every gasoline station and railroad depot has a washroom replete with running water, soap and paper towels; anyone may use these facilities, the bum should wash and shave there. In the handbook for bums the first motto is: A bum should be clean.

Stay away from the cities. City people have submerged their humanity. I think the reason for this is their security from the elements, for the family that is sure of food and shelter becomes easily forgetful of other human beings’ needs and thinks vaguely of organized charities…The farm family, on the other hand, knows that deficit of sun or rain may touch more than its comfort, that the house it has built must be a citadel against cold and storms; therefore, their humanity comes more quickly to their mouths and hands. I do not say that city dwellers cannot be “hit” with success, but it is more difficult and only among the poor ones have you a fair chance of receiving hospitality.

Avoid intermediaries. Direct appeal is the best: individual should appeal directly to individual. Once I remember speaking to some soldiers in a town that had only two restaurants. When it was time to eat they insisted on going into one of the restaurants with me and pleading my case with the proprietor. There was much whispering and finally after some minutes the proprietor said, “All right, I’ll give him reduced rates.” Reduced rates and I didn’t have a cent in my pockets! I thanked my well-meaning friends, went into the other restaurant alone, and received a bounteous meal. I am sure that had I spoken to that first man myself, I would have had no trouble obtaining food. Another time, because of the solicitude of some CCC boys, I found myself without a bed at three o’clock in the morning: they had insisted that I sleep at their camp five miles away, and when I had arrived, their superior objected strongly.

Travel by highway and not be rail.Automobiles provide slower travel but the rails have more serious disadvantages, not only the filthy and bumpy riding of the freight cars but also in danger. You may be arrested and locked up for vagrancy, you may be beaten up, you may even encounter that certain railroad detective who stands by the tracks with a rifle and picks off the bums as the cars roll into the freight yard…Another reason for working the highway is that through hitches one learns of jobs to be had. Friendly drivers have informed me that one can earn $1.50 a day and board in a lumber camp, $3.00 a day picking apples, $.06 a barrel picking potatoes (the average worker fills about a hundred barrels a day) et cetera. The field of seasonal labor is tremendous and extends all over the United States. By traveling from state to state one can be employed practically every month of the year, and there is always more demand than supply, the wages are high. Also, people in automobiles sometimes become really interested in you and offer you employment. This does not happen too infrequently. I should say that I average about one offer every three days. I have been a gardener, a waiter, a gravedigger, a fisherman, a lumberman, a farm hand, a clerk, a newspaper reporter, a ghost-writer, a chauffeur, a toy salesman, and garbageman. I never keep these jobs long because I am over-fond of the road, and after a week in one place I long to be on an open truck again, watching houses slip by and the land change.

Speak forthrightly. Do not slink, speak too humbly, or cast your eyes down when you make a request. Address most men as “sir” and speak to them in such a way that they will call you “old man.” Women should be talked to lightly, gallantly. There are of course many exceptions to these rules but one learns to recognize them by their faces.

Do not use hyperbole. To say “I haven’t eaten in two days” just doesn’t convince the average person, or else it scares him. That a man hasn’t eaten in two days is a strange thing to most people and they react unfortunately to the information. Merely to say that you haven’t eaten breakfast that day is enough to provoke the sympathy of the housewife.

How about other necessaries: tobacco, clothing, beer?Well, people never refuse you when you ask for a cigarette; very often they give you three or five. As far as beer is concerned, any number of people you talk to on the street invite you to a bar, particularly if your tales are interesting. Also, bartenders at closing time are apt to be friendly. Clothes are more difficult to obtain. It is best to enter a small haberdashery and explain that you’ve just arrived in town and that you’re looking for a job-obviously you can’t get work when your shirt is so torn, et cetera.

Don’t sleep in dubious jails and flophouses.Try to find a farm house before dusk so that you can ask the farmer to let you sleep in his barn. Hay makes a very warm and satisfactory bed, it molds exactly to the body…But if the farmer refuses to let you use his barn for a bedroom, ask him to give you some newspapers. Then go into a pasture, build a fire, wait for it to die out, spread the ashes, cover them lightly with dirt, and you have prepared a bed that will stay warm all night. For covering, use the newspapers and a poncho (you should always carry a poncho with you, they make excellent raincoats, tents, and blankets). Or you can go to a garage, garagemen will often let you sleep in cars; furnacemen will let you sleep next to the furnace, et cetera.

I did not leave home because of an impossible wife or because I could not get employment-I had no wife and I had a well paying job with a millinery house, a job into which I had been recruited because I had never become excited about a future and planned it. But I was not happy in the city and more than others I looked forward to vacations; at those times I would travel constantly trying to absorb as much as possible. I found it increasingly difficult to return after each vacation. Finally, the inevitable happened. I just didn’t return, I just kept on going. It really made no difference. I had no dependents and milliners could show bad taste without my aid. Now I am completely happy. All the infinite phases of nature I can observe at leisure, all the different types of country I can live with in their optimums. The spring I spend in the West, the summer in the far North, the fall in New England, the winter in the South. In a few years I shall probably want to go to Europe, and I shall go. And since I have been on the road I have in many ways improved myself: my sensitivities have been sharpened (I even write poetry now, and it’s not too bad), my education extended, and my health become superb. I don’t know whether I shall ever settle down again, and I don’t much care.

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jubo September 10, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I was on the streets of london for 6 years, i agree with a lot of the info here, even though it was a different cenario. Especially about keeping yourself clean and out of the big cities. Sometimes I met some really kind people and had a good life travelling, but there is a very dark side to it.
http://www.foracnenomore.com

2 Alex September 10, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I couldn’t have clicked this link harder… I’ve always wanted to leave the trappings of life behind and ride the rails, even though this gentleman doesn’t approve of the mode of travel.

3 Frito September 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Hobo is such a negative term.

I prefer “walk the Earth”

4 Jim September 10, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Uhhh, like how would you use that? “I’m going to pick up that “walk the earth” on the side of the road.” Not likely to catch on, sorry,

5 m340 September 10, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Ah, the life on road.. the freedom, the open skies, limitless possibilities, relying on yourself. Good advice and definitely timeless.

6 james September 10, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Max Brand wrote a novel called King Charlie in which the character was a hobo by choice. Very entertaining! This was an interesting post. Thanks!

7 Dan September 10, 2009 at 10:26 pm

You know I was stationed for shore duty in Little Rock and there was this one crossing at the outskirts of the city where I know a small hobo camp was located. I would see them sometimes come out of the tree line to get food or sometimes jump on a slowly passing train. So aside from the train discussion above, this looks exactly how I saw it in LR. You know what? Part of me always envied them…still does.

8 James NomadRip September 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

A lot of good advice in there. It might surprise some to know how many people there are out there living this kind of lifestyle by choice. Definitely an interesting way to explore and live.

9 Edwin September 10, 2009 at 10:39 pm

When I was backpacking in Japan last year I met Jean Béliveau. A man who is has been walking the earth since 2000, with most, if not all, accommodation sponsored by whichever locals he encounters, or by sleeping in his tent. He had amazing stories of his travels.
http://www.wwwalk.org/

10 Valerio September 11, 2009 at 3:57 am

I’d prefer to be an oboe. :)

11 Isaac September 11, 2009 at 7:07 am

Here’s the site of a gentleman who also travels and documents his adventures.

http://www.digitalvagabonding.com/

I listened to a very interesting radio interview with him on The Mischke Broadcast. (http://www.citypages.com/mischke)

12 Greg September 11, 2009 at 9:01 am

Nice nostaglic post, but a few points. First, 2009 sure isn’t 1937. The road is a lot more dangerous now than it was then. For one thing, there are a lot more “mentally challenged” folks living rough now than there were then. Second, the article came from a men’s magazine that was and is targeted towards a fairly elite audience. Third, urban dwellers haven’t necessarily had their humanity submerged. In many cases, they’ve had their hearts hardened by seeing the same bums, hoboes, homeless in the same place, with the same petition for alms every working day. At the risk of sounding cynical, a certain locale in San Francisco not only has the same supplicants every day, the beggars appear to work shifts, with different faces in the morning and the afternoon.

13 P September 11, 2009 at 9:15 am

I prefer “Tramp”

14 Frank September 11, 2009 at 9:20 am

It’s manly to be homeless? Greg in the previous post is correct, nice nostalgic post but this is 2009.

15 Joseph Lenze September 11, 2009 at 9:54 am

I have met many buskers and tramps that are still living this hobo lifestyle. I’ve hopped a train, but only once for novelty, I’d love to read an article about riding rails in the 21st century.

16 SwBratcher September 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

My hobo experience allows me to feel that the article isn’t outdated. By ratio I would say there were as many savage bastards in 1937 as there are today. I successfully employed many of the points made in this article, although having not read it at the time, while I traveled North America by hitchhiking in the mid 90′s. I met a couple oddballs but out of 120 rides over 3 months I was never threatened or felt in danger. I was young, adventurous, clean and friendly. I agree with most of the points made in this old article. I side with you on the diagnosis of the urban dweller. He’s found an odd way to describe that.

17 Tyler September 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

I’ve been reading lots of Kerouac lately. Can’t agree with this post more. Love it, love it, love it.

As for the danger factor, definitely stay out of the city. Stay on the open country road. The hobos, bums, tramps, vagabonds, and “walk the earth”ies will always be welcome with me.

18 Brian Burnham September 11, 2009 at 11:42 am

While this is an interesting post for nostalgia’s sake, I think it overly romanticizes what was in the case of the writer voluntary vagrancy. I am of the opinion that subsisting on the charity of others when one is perfectly capable of earning a comfortable living is decidedly un-manly. I have always believed that if a man is capable of working for a living then it is his duty to do so.

I can understand the urge to travel and even to do so in an unusual way, but I simply don’t understand wander-lust (I’m not saying it’s bad, I just have never experienced it and thus do not comprehend it). While I have traveled widely to many far away places and seen spectacular things, I always find myself longing for home. The idea of traveling indefinitely with no home to return to is deeply unsettling to me.

I love the George Eliot quote:

“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some area of native land where it may get the love of tender kinship from the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.”

19 Terry September 11, 2009 at 11:59 am

My grandpa was a freight conductor for the Frisco Railroad back in the 50’s, 60′s and 70′s.

Though my grandpa seemed to have a bit of sympathy for the hobo, many of his fellow conductors did not.

One conductor he knew used to drag a rope with chains attached to the end of it beneath the undercarriage of the freight cars whenever he discovered a hobo hitching a ride there. That same conductor had no qualms with throwing a man from a freight car moving at 50 miles an hour. Blackjacks and clubs were common tools to freight conductors like him.

I’m thankful my grandpa had more sympathy for the human condition than that.

I remember my grandpa taking us to an abandoned hobo village once when we were boys. It was against the side of a rock outcropping that had been scorched by the hobo’s camp fires. Old cans, bed rolls and other assorted junk still littered the place. It was a south facing camp which sheltered the hobos from the north wind and was set inside a big inclined curve in the track on the south edge of town.

If you want to find old hobo villages look for arrangements like this. The big curve prevented the engineer and conductor from seeing the middle of the train when it hit the curve and the inclined slope on the edge of town ensured the train would be moving slow as it came into the yard.

20 Dusty Gilpin September 11, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I agree with this post wholeheartedly! It is 2009, but despite what P and Greg say, not much has changed. There is much less difference in our world now than there was then besides technology. There aren’t any more or any less “mentally challenged” people than there were then, you just hear more horror stories on the news.

I am a business owner and educated man, however I have the same desire to travel and rid myself of the reliance of technology and the ridiculous and frivolous things we so often think we ‘need’.

I hitchhiked once from Oklahoma City to San Francisco in 6 days, it has been one of the most life changing experiences I’ve ever experience, and never once was my life threatened. Sure there are risks involved in wandering the road, but I’ll quote a previous post and forefather to adventure, “Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’d rather die during daring adventure than meet my death bored and safe.

21 Wild Man September 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Reading this, I was reminded of the lines from Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings’s hit song “Pancho and Lefty”:

Livin’ on the road, my friend
Is gonna make you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath as hard as kerosene

Except for the Kerouacs of the world, I think that the “grand hobo life” was a sort of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” myth dreamed up to salve the consciences of the city folks who hardened their hearts against the drifters who lost their place in “polite” society.

22 James September 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm

There’s a difference between between 1937 and 2009? I’m so glad some of you pointed that out!

And actually as others have said, it’s not that different if you’ve really lived it. I biked across America when I was 22. Camped out sometimes, got offered a place to sleep many times by folks I would meet, got offered meals and drinks. Never met any scary crazy people.The biggest thing that’s changed between 1937 and 2009 is that the media scares you into thinking the world is scarier than it is. Yes there are lots of crazy bums in big cities, but this article isn’t talking about the bums that sit on the street corners every day. This is about tramps and hobos, those that travel from place to place. Big difference.

23 Bort September 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I’ll have to agree that vagrancy is being overly romanticized here. It may be fun and adventurous, but you’re basically making yourself a burden on society. You have to live off of handouts, so now people have to feed and house you. The opposite of manliness I would say.

And the idea that it offers more freedom is also absurd. You have the opportunity to go new places and see new things, but what can you really accomplish otherwise? Being on the road limits your freedom – you have less control over your environment and fewer tools to work with as you can’t bring them with you – just as much as it offers new freedoms (the general idea of “freedom” is non-existent, as once you become more free in one way, you become less free in another).

All in all, makes for a good vacation idea, but career hobos are of no value to society.

24 Brett McKay September 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Some are taking this post a bit too seriously. It’s just a fun peek into the past. We’re not encouraging people to become permanent bums. And if you read the intro, the writer wasn’t either; his point in writing was to help those who had lost their job keep their head above water so that they could once again find employment.

25 Aaron September 11, 2009 at 6:09 pm

How is sleeping in a barn or eating leftovers from a restaurant being a burden to society? I would say that people with jobs (me being one of them) are usually more of a burden on society. Very few legitimate jobs are actually a benefit to society. We sit at computers, build big skyscrapers, sell useless products or services, market greed and waste and feel entitled to money for it. I would say it’s more of a burden on society for me to support McDonald’s with my “hard-earned” money than it would be to eat someone’s unwanted food. Men should live humbly, take care of the land, explore, not be tied to possession and material things. Loved the post.

26 Scottso September 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I’m with Terry, I have worked for the railraod for thirty-one years and have seen my share of Hobos who have had accidents, either from too close proximity, trying to beat a moving train across a crossing, or trying to get on or off a moving train.

One fatality I went out on three Hobos were kicked off a road for hitchhiking and decided to ‘walk the tracks’ to their destination.

The poor locomotive engineer who killed two of them felt terrible, but you cannot expect to stop a passenger train moving eighty mph on a dime.

27 Brian September 12, 2009 at 3:22 am

I think it would be sad if the world had no room for the tramp or hobo type, just as it would be sad if the gypsy were no longer able to wander. There is even a saint, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, who led a wandering life, traveling on foot to through Europe to various shrines, and to the holy churches and places of pilgrimage in Rome to pray, and begging for his food all the time. Having tried to enter a monastery, he had been rejected. Perhaps he would be a patron saint for a hobo. While the life of a hobo probably shouldn’t be recommended, I suspect there will always be hobos, and the earth is probably richer for it.

28 Andy September 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

I’ve always dreamed of being a hobo, too. I’ve read a lot of books about hoboing and hitchhiking.

29 Kevin September 12, 2009 at 11:11 am

I work for the railroad and you would be surprised how many people still ride the rail. This is a very organized group of people. They even have homemade signs laid down next to the tracks telling them which track goes west and which track goes east. Be careful if you plan on riding, we run at least one guy over each year.

30 clifford September 12, 2009 at 11:28 am

This is not an article of how to mooch and live life sucking society dry. He talks about how he’s worked, and had more experience then most of us could. What knowledge do we get from doing the same job everyday. To enrich ourselves can’t be seen as bad. He’s not stealing from others, they give freely, and get in return a part of HIS vast experience. They give him a beer for a few stories. Him sleeping in a barn does not tax any farmer. Working to pick apples is not draining the life out of the owner.

tl;dr: There is nothing morally wrong with the life of a hobo, as described above.

31 DP September 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm

“The Road” by Jack London is a great read. It’s a collection of his stories from his tramping “Sailor Jack” days. A great time piece full of characters and you learn a lot of Hobo Slang. Even if you have no desire to tramp around the country riding the rails, it’s a fun read.

32 AH September 12, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Great find, thanks for sharing.

Another book on the vagrant’s life is Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell. He describes a year of poverty during his younger days. Great book!

33 A September 13, 2009 at 6:36 am

While I can understand and appreciate the romantic notions of hobos during the Great Depression, I find it difficult to transplant such a perspective into the Here and Now.

Having lived on the streets of New York City as a teenager, due to family troubles and personal issues … I can attest to the mental, emotional, and physical trauma which accompanies such a desperate and aimless way of life. There is nothing romantic about homelessness, and the damage done to my mind during those years I struggle with to this very day. I may or may not address it here in the thread concerning Male Depression. I haven’t decided yet.

Having recently moved to Portland, Oregon … I’ve noticed a burgeoning “scene” here of bored white upper-middle class kids who seem to think it’s “cool” to be a stinking, begging, drug-addled street wreck. We had them back in NYC, as well. But not nearly to such an extent.

We used to call them “Summer Campers”.

When I had nowhere to live as a boy, I would (as suggested in this article) wash my ass in Washington Square Fountain in order to maintain some sense of dignity, humanity, and self-respect. This whole idea of The Deification Of The Derelict I find deeply offensive and disturbing.

Kudos to those few men here who have either survived such a life as I did, and/or who have called this post out for what it is.

34 James September 13, 2009 at 10:43 am

A-

But no kudos for us who have enjoyed the experience?

I find you stereotyping every hobo’s as experience as just like your own to be offensive. Several men on here have said that they had great experiences living as a hobo, as did I. You did not live as a hobo or tramp, you were a bum in a city (which it should be noted, is expressly recommended against in the article). A bum hangs out with the crazies in the city; a hobo travels from place to place, traveling the nations highways and byways, relying on the kindness of strangers. I’d suggest you try the latter before you post such blanket condemnation.

35 A September 13, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I had no choice in the matter, and I was a child.

It seems as if many … if not all … of these New Age Hobos took their little vacations from life as some grand, pretentious adventure. Able to withdraw on their trust funds when things got rough, and wax philosophical back at the frat house after the fact.

So no. No kudos for that.

36 James September 14, 2009 at 12:36 am

A, it seems to me that we need to stop stereotyping each other. You’re stereotyping me as a new age frat boy. And I’m stereotyping you as a some whiny goth kid who says he didn’t have a choice in living on the street but chalks it up to “personal issues and family troubles,” which makes it sounds like, “Mom and Dad just don’t understand!” I’m sure the truth, for both of us, is quite different.

37 Gelya September 14, 2009 at 1:56 am

I`m drimming allmost the same, but i whant to trawell by mi own fits.

38 Fred September 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Well. I like my bed, a good, clean lady and the good hot food she provides. If I ever get “Shpilkes” I can go for a walk.

I’ll stay home thank you.

Fred

39 Adam September 19, 2009 at 11:41 pm

I rode the rails on and off for years, and it was one of the best times of my life. Safety first, though. There are some tricks. I like the definition of the difference between a hobo, a tramp and a bum: A hobo is a workedron the move. A tramp is a non-worker on the move. A bum is a a non-worker who stays in the same place.

40 Adam September 19, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Post here if you want to know more and I’ll gladly tell ‘ya.

41 Leo October 4, 2009 at 4:47 am

For anyone who’s really curious about becoming a hobo, Don Rearic has reproduced a document written by Jerry Leonard, who apparently did live as a hobo and wrote down practical tips for persons aspiring to be homeless.

This is the link, for those of you interested (WARNING: may be NSFW): http://www.donrearic.com/homeless.htm

42 Luis Q November 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

Nice article, makes you think how was (is?) the life way back then for MANY people.

43 Luis Alvarez November 24, 2009 at 5:26 am

A few years ago, I was listening to NPR(This American Life) and there was a story about a couple of fellows that “found themselves homeless” in the NYC area. Very interesting story and very sad as well. Just this year, I started connecting with some of my high school buddies using facebook. (An amazing site by the way.) Many of my high school classmates went to the Left Coast to work at an airplane manufacturing plant. There were four of us, that in 1980, took a trip from Burbank to San Fran to Las Vegas then back to Burbank. It was a four day weekend, Thanksgiving actually. I have managed via facebook to find all but one of my companions on the trip. One of these guys, that was on that trip was on that radio show! I was shocked and saddened to tears for my classmate. He has a blog called “The Further Adventures of HoboBob” theadventuresofhobobob.blogspot.com
Sorry for the long post. This covered almost 30 years.

44 Nikko December 5, 2009 at 12:27 am

I find it strange how offended some of you are that there are people who seek adventure and a life less ordinary. Unfortunately in the 21st century there are no more blank spots on the map. there was a time that adventurers like Columbus, Lewis & Clark, and countless others were valuable members to society. A paradox has formed where a Man’s need of exploration and what is left to explore is limited to astronauts and remote controlled mini-submarines operators. Albeit two really cool jobs but it also leaves a vast void for those of us who want to be part of it all. in 9 yrs of military service I have seen & expierienced all but 2 continents. I have driven cross country twice and stopped in any little town that seemed interesting. It was nice but left me hungry for a more personal submergence in the countries I visited.
In the near future I will be hobo-ing it in hopes of satisfying a completely natural and “Manly” need to truely survive on ones own strength and wit. In February I will be leaving the military and until September I have no other hope but to survive and explore in this world. I might come back to society, I might not. I know have found little satisfaction thus far here, so why not try the path less travelled?

45 rom March 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Two more years of giving someone’s antidepressants and cleaning someone’s bottom and I’ll try hoboing. In 2012, I’m going back home and explore the nooks and crannies of the Pearl of the Orient Seas. I thought that my options would be limited to being a waiter or a photographer. I can’t wait to say goodbye to stress and bills. In the meantime, I’ll pretend to love my job, be polite to my co-workers and save to pay off my debts. Thank you for this article and to all who gave their opinions regarding this matter.

46 james March 31, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I prefer the term wanderer

47 james March 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm

In the next 2 months I will become a wanderer myself. The only difference is that I will be prepared for it. I will buy all the equipment I will need like waterproof suit, heavy jacket, water filter, pocket knife, solar powered radio all the essentials

48 kiel April 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm

this reminds me of chris mccandless, from the biopic into the wild, a class film that really instilled wanderlust in me. i am convinced i will do this one day.

49 mattie May 2, 2010 at 6:06 am

Wonderful post!

I spent a handful of years in the Army as an infantryman, those years turned out to be excellent hobo training. Now I’m a bit of a hobo hobbyist, instead of taking expensive vacations to far-flung locations, I’ll strap on my pack and start walking.

And, of course, there are some awesome internet resources regarding such an endeavor:
http://www.digihitch.com/forum-69.html

50 Dan August 21, 2010 at 8:18 am

What do women in similar straits do? If they have children, the state takes care of them. But, even if they don’t, they get preferential treatment for housing and other government benefits from what I can see. In the town I live in, the state requires it to provide low-income housing, and there are nice little capes in one area occupied exclusively by women, some without children. There’s even a stylish condo-like development with all the amenities of an upscale condo complex, and that is exclusively occupied by women, and, of all things, immigrants scamming the system. The rent in either case is $600 a month, or about one-third the going rate in the private housing market, and there’s no residency requirement. Women control the application process and two women I know were put at the head of the list by sweet talking the ladies at town hall. American men need not apply. They won’t even be considered.

51 Alan August 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

I think Dan has hit upon the most ‘manly’ part of being a hobo – that almost all the homeless are men…

52 Duke Mantee August 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I wish there weren’t so many criminals and insane people around because people are so much less trusting than they used to be, and for good reason. You cannot even smile and talk to a kid anymore without somebody thinking you’re a criminal. Same goes for hitching rides. The social dysfunctionality has made it rougher on hobos than it was in the 1930s.

53 Pat August 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This post caught my eye because it’s something I’ve considered as an alternative. I’m 71 in good health, with lots of knowledge and skills I haven’t been able to turn into cash. I’m a burden on a loving family, and I’ve sometimes thought the loving thing I could do is head on out. I was thinking more in terms of cultures where the old are sent out to die from exposure, but maybe I could do better than that.

54 Puzzled August 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

What’s this talk about the hobo as “relying only on [yourself]“? In case you haven’t noticed, the stock in trade is taking from others what they’re willing to give you. Hardly self-reliance.

55 Karen August 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Interesting read. When I was a young teen, I used to enjoy hitch hiking, and even ran away from home hitch hiking with a classmate. We got caught because our parents were not going to go along with us leaving home to be on our own at 16 yrs, and I cannot blame them. Some times I wonder how I lived through it without a scratch. I enjoyed meeting people. I was not getting in cars with thugs, and I rode with some of the nicest people in some of the nicest cars or trucks and even an 18 wheeler once.

Now my BF is talking about survival in case of a meltdown, and we both have camping and backpacking equipment ready, and weapons for fighting for our lives if necessary. But if the sh*t doesn’t hit the fan, it might be nice to go on a hike and camp out more often, just to enjoy nature.

56 Brian August 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm

“A Bum loafs and sits, a Tramp loafs and moves around, but a Hobo works, and he’s clean”.

57 Joe November 27, 2012 at 12:04 am

Ah, if only cigarette prices allowed people to be so liberal with their tobacco nowadays… Or maybe I’m just too used to the hardened city people.

58 kevin January 28, 2013 at 4:41 am

i’d love to be a hobo one day and also i want a unicorn for a pet :)

59 Chris Dean March 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I think homeless are actually hobo’s.

60 Aaron April 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Been a hobo too myself sometimes, planning further misadventures down the road.

Lots of ninnies on this here, the only real issue seperating 2000s from the 30s is a shrinking crime rate with many fold over paranoia.
A hobo works for their money, thats why they’re called hobos and not bums. As far as “leeching off society”, the footprint of a man living off $100 a month is smaller on society and nature than one who spends as much coffee harvested by amoral corporations through immoral means.

61 Donny April 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I’ve always loved the idea of traveling the country, but I’m too proud for this kind of life. I decided to be a trucker instead.

62 Graham July 19, 2013 at 12:22 am

“Walk The Earth” sounds hippie-like and weird. I prefer the term “Adventurer”.

63 Grace November 6, 2013 at 9:44 am

I have just read this whole and I have find some cool stuff. For those of you who do this for a living, I’m doing a project on you all. Thank you all!!!!!

64 Josh B December 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Anybody whos a hobo in a developed countries has no idea what the real deal is…its one thing to piggyback off a technologically advanced society’s achievements, another to be completely nomadic in your own right. Go to Mongolia and try herding your livestock and living out on the steppe-where the earth meets the sky. Thats true nomadism.

65 Luke February 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this post! How well written! Thank you for sharing!

66 Dave March 19, 2014 at 7:34 am

Brilliant read! I also daydream of living as a traveler; out on the open road, getting work when you can, sleep out under the stars!

I think the sheep of society object to this kind of living as they always believe that one must obey by society and contribute to the economy. The average UK or US family I would say is contributing to huge environmental damage with our lifestyles as well as the ‘buy now, pay later’ debt culture, so I would say that a Hobo is no more a burden to society than normal working 9 to 5 sheeple.

Here in England & Wales a Hobo is called ‘Gentlemen of the Road’.

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