My Six rules to sleep in the street
After all these years tramping around, I learned few things about being on the safe side while sleeping outside. I developed this set of six rules thanks to some good and less good experiences and I think that’s they might be a good start for anybody looking into a career of professional vagabond and concerned about the sleeping for free issue (Yes, I know that there are plenty of you out there…)
1 # In a City, Show up when the police and the surveillance cameras can be your friends
In Roma, I was looking for a sleeping spot and ask some homeless people if they know some good one. They recommended me a small park by the Vatican. Lighted all night with surveillance cameras, that’s was the safety side of it. If someone wants to assault you, he might think twice as the cameras will watch him. I ended up sleeping close in this area but not exactly where they showed me (see Rule 3)
Don’t show up in Wien and sleep in front of a fancy building. That’s the only time that I got kicked out of my spot by the police.
Noted that if you have an airport close by and it’s not too expensive to go there, that’s the place to go to spend the night. That’s would be the most restful option to me as in any other case, even if I’m sleeping, in a city, my body is in a constant state of alert and the quality of my sleep is bad.
2 # Otherwise, hide
Sometimes, cameras and lights are not on your side as they allow people to kick you out of your sleeping spot if they don’t want homeless people around. In Lisboan, I had the feeling that I would be kicked out if spotted so I walked few hours at night to find a dark spot with no cameras. It was impossible to find one in the city center. Cameras everywhere, parks lighted all night. I finally find a space by the harbor, facing the river with a building hiding the light. In Seville, I stayed with 3 other homeless guys in a Mary go round (there were a hole in the fence of the park) and that the only time I shared my sleeping spot.
When you hide, avoid other’s people territory. If I find someone’s sleeping spot or alcohol bottles on the ground while looking around for nice bushes to hide in a public park, I definitely go far from it… You don’t want be wake up in the night by an angry guy saying, in the best case, “- Hey, that’s my spot!”
My favorites spot in a city with no airport close by would be a peaceful corridor at the top floor of a building of habitation. It’s safe, few people will see you and I bet no one will care about calling the police if you don’t put your mess everywhere like if you are settling in. I usually let my hitch-hiking board close to me with a little message like “Good morning ! It was just for a night “ so they can guess that the guy sleeping in front of their door is cool and leaving soon (that’s my hope) and if they don’t read English, they’ll put me in the category “crazy tourist” which is fine.
It’s just getting harder these days to enter buildings with all the doors code but it still worth trying to follow someone inside. Next spot, if there is no risk of rain, would be to put my sleeping bag in some bushes in a very dark place. An empty shed in residential area is great too (beware of dogs) or a large urban park if I need to pitch the tent.
You can also go to a train and bus station but in some cities, that’s also a good spot for pickpocket and I don’t feel as safe as the airport or hided in bushes.
3# Don’t tell anyone about your sleeping location or go to sleep were someone advises you to
You don’t want anyone you don’t really know to be able to find you easily while you are sleeping. The only time I trust someone on that matter, he ended up stealing stuff from my bag while I was sleeping… I got most of it back (he had already sold the watch) and since then, I’m following this rule and didn’t have any more problems in 4 years.
4# Be friendly with the locals the day before, they might invite you for breakfast (and will not call the police)
In New Zealand, I had a casual short talk with an old lady while walking on the beach looking for a camping spot. The next day, I saw her again walking in the beach in front of my tent and she came to me to ask me if I wanted to have breakfast at her place close by. That’s New Zealander, really friendly, but it happened also in many other countries.
5# Stay close to some toilet facilities
You’ll have everything you need in the morning for shower and look good to keep hitch-hiking. Furthermore, If it’s start raining during the night and you didn’t use your tent, you can always find a shelter there. Even if you are picky about your toilets, don’t shave in the toilets of the Austrian parliament, the cleaning staff can get upset.
6# Beware of (too) green grasses
After almost a week of sleeping under the stars on the dirt in Western Australia, I arrived in the northern Territory. With different vegetation, I expected a different climate and was not surprise to see a park in a town with a beautiful green grass. Awesome! “- It’s going to be a bit more comfy tonight!” and even not thinking twice about it, I waited for the night to pitch my tent (green grass = water = rain = better pitch the tent).
Everything was good till 2am. Some very sporadic and powerful shower starts falling noisily on my tent and woke me up. It took me the time of 3 or 4 showers to get that it was coming too horizontally inside of the tent to be natural. I realized that I had a sprinkler 3 meters in front of my tent. Then, the front pole felt down under the pressure and the tent collapsed on me. I went outside, trying to find a dry spot in this big park but as the guys did their work properly, it took me a while to find one just by the hut covering the noisy pump. Everything was more or less soaked in my tent and my phone died in the process… Not cool but now I look twice for sprinklers if the grass is strangely too green for the area.
That’s it ! Happy camping !