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Bohemian Black Folk

Bohemian Blackfolk

Did anyone see this article in the NYT yesterday?
This guy basically travels around the world on five dollars/pounds/euros per day and he depends on the kindness of strangers to meet the rest of his needs. Some of his bigger ‘catches’ include: an old couple he met on the train who put him up in a hotel, he managed to get a three-star hotel that was £120 a night for £1.47, one lady he met while on vacation even offered him her only set of keys to her place back in Chicago.

I’ve always had a fascination with people who take extended trips and travel cheaply, relying on ingenuity and ‘self-reliance’ to go from place to place. I read Red Dust which is about a Chinese man who kind of drops out of life and spends three years traveling around China and I’ve fantasized about recreating that experience ever since.<strong>But</strong> this 5 dollar a day guy doesn’t quite sit right with me.

 I lived in China for several years and I have experienced the kindness of strangers, but this just seems excessive to me, like he’s taking advantage of human generosity, especially since he stands to gain financially in other ways. Then, I was reading one of the comments. Some one wrote:

I thought “wow, how cool would it be to travel the Western hemisphere on a shoestring budget by depending on the benevolence of strangers?” Then I remembered that I am Black and that it wouldn’t strike people as quirky and bohemian as much as panhandling. Interesting article. Double your travels and your standards all at once.



And some one else wrote:

I wonder if a single woman could get away with this.

Exactly.

As I re-read the article I couldn’t help wondering how he would be perceived by potential benefactors if he were a person of color, or a woman – or both. Would people just hand out house keys and hotel rooms to us like free condoms at the clinic? Would people just dismiss me as another Black panhandler? Could I cast off what little ‘privilege’ I have as an educated middle class person. Would my actions impact Black travelers who followed me?

What do you think of this guy? Has anyone ever attempted anything like this? How do people reacted to you? Have you ever encountered this type of traveler? If you did how might you handle it?

x-posted: Blackfolk; SexandRace

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
msqueenmother
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
The first thought that came across my mind is my gender and race. It is difficult for me to imagine that type approach being accepted well. It is not hard for me to imagine that I would be hassled a lot because I am a woman of color.
nepthys_12
Jan. 15th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
I feel like my gender and race would be huge thing. I might get a few freebies from people but over all if I did go such a trip, I have to have a huge backup plan. It also doesn't help that I'm shy too. And finally not mention the added risk of people expecting certain "favors" in return or just generally being harassed and bothered.
the_zedster
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
This.
fembot
Jan. 15th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
not exactly the same thing but...
i had a friend who left to travel the world at 17. She was Israeli. While she did not set out to depend on the kindness of strangers, she was offered free stays with various people she met in different countries, that were also traveling from different countries. For instance, she met a Malaysian couple in India. They offered her their home to stay in, so she'd decide to change her itenerary and stay in Malaysia cause she had room and board there.
futurebird
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
I think he's not sitting quite right with me since he's making this sound like some kind of achievement. It also highlights how class, race, age, gender all operate to keep people in their place-- normally one thinks of this as barriers to advancement, but in this case there are barriers to falling down the economic ladder.

I had to throw age in there since I think that's a big part of it too. I would like to see this guy trying to repeat this with gray hair.

I think if a young black man did this he might have some trouble with the law.

Women would be able to get "help" but it would come with a lot of string attached.

As a woman this is why I don't even like people to buy drinks for me, a guy buys a drink and he thinks he has the right to talk to you. Who knows what he'd think if he let you crash on the couch.
jette
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
I think he's not sitting quite right with me since he's making this sound like some kind of achievement. It also highlights how class, race, age, gender all operate to keep people in their place-- normally one thinks of this as barriers to advancement, but in this case there are barriers to falling down the economic ladder.

Yes.
the_zedster
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
All of this. Race, gender, and perceived class are such powerful elements in play.
stilllove
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
I think the only person that could get away with it is a young college aged White male. Even a middle aged White man couldn't pull that off.
jette
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
I've thought about this phenomenon, the closest explanation I can come up with is that there's a bit of "someday this guy may be powerful, let's put a favor in his favor-bank" going on.
(Deleted comment)
polymexina
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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