Thursday, August 23, 2012

Get creative, transients

Posted on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I found the story “Gimme shelter” (Aug. 16) epitomized the negative judgments that are associated with transient people. People half-jokingly say things like, “I wish I had an iPhone like the girl in front of me with the food stamps.” The idea of combating our capitalist society with state-funded programs is hypocritical at best. The best part is that I can say this without bias. I have been a transient during several years of my life. It was one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced.

However, I find it distasteful and unsatisfying that the youngest and latest crop of transients have such a lack of creativity when it comes to supporting themselves and their lifestyle. They hold up signs on cardboard or beg for spare change while utilizing the “capitalistic” rewards that others have sacrificed their happiness for.

As a transient, I would suggest a little preparation for these young travelers. A decent van can be had relatively cheaply and makes a great year-round mobile apartment. My van often stayed parked due to a lack of gas money. Instead of begging, I often played my guitar for tips. Truthfully, I didn’t even know how to play, but I made stuff up and ended up learning to play it. I lived on the beach in Hawaii and collected shells. With my ass in the sand, I used them to make jewelry that I sold to tourists. I fed myself by fishing and gathering fruit and nuts that fell from trees.

Missoula has many great gardens in which you can volunteer a few hours in return for a box of veggies. I traveled all over the western United States, creating and crafting to meet my monetary needs. I gave people massages, wire-wrapped stones and used cheap feathers to make hair barrettes. This afforded me the freedom to live how, when and where I wanted. My crafts weren’t elaborate or expensive, they were a means to “give back.” I am sure that many people purchased things from me just because they liked me and wanted to help support my adventure in some small way.

When I felt tired of “survival mode,” I would get a seasonal job at Yellowstone for four or five months. That was my vacation! They gave me a simple job, a dorm room, a paycheck and three meals a day from the best employee cafeteria in the West. And I lived in this beautiful park that most people had to save up for just so they could visit it for a week. The job allowed me to re-cushion my savings before heading back to the transient life.

If anything, I hope this will inspire or spark some imagination in those who want to travel or live transient. It’s a wonderful life. It doesn’t have to be poor, or involve spilled ketchup bottles in a house that sounds sanitarily unsound. It should also go without saying that Montana has some of the best places to hike and camp. In the summer, who needs a room?

Cheree Burton

Missoula

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