by Veronica Susan Cutting
I am a Barbadian living in the United States, and travelling is a lifestyle. My nomadic tendencies have always been a part of who I am. I’ve never been able to stay in one place, without wishing to move and meet other people and see new things, for too long.
All my life I’ve wanted to help poor people. All my life I’ve waited for the opportunity to give of myself in a way that was selfless, and to use that selflessness as a lifestyle.
I want to feed people. I want to talk to people and have them talk to me. I want not to be wanting too much, in terms of consumerism, and just give myself in service to the world.
Never did I think it would have taken the form of helping the homeless, living-on-the street, subculture.
As a homeless traveller, I primarily live in hostels. Every now and again, I treat myself to a stay at a nice hotel. Upon entering a new city, I find a homeless shelter where I introduce myself to the volunteer staff. It does not take much effort to convince them that maybe I can be of some help, for just a couple of hours on a particular day, during my stay there in their city. I would usually end up in the kitchen washing dishes or serving food.
Once, I was assigned to giving out coats to the homeless.
Many times in the past, I identified myself as, and I imagined I had an affinity with, [a homeless person]; but when I got up close and personal, I realized I am a different kind of homeless person. I am not and have never been on drugs. I am not a prostitute. I am not an ex-convict.
So I don’t fit in with the homeless people you meet on the streets in America. Although it’s a road filled with discoveries and adventures, the volunteerism has not meshed with my personality because the stark subculture of the homeless community was too much of a culture shock.
Now my focus has changed. And as I continue to travel, I’ve decided to record interviews I have with strangers on my journey throughout the United States. All of the people I converse with are foreigners backpacking and discovering America. I hear stories of their countries and tell them stories of mine. They are more like me – backpacking travellers – giving their stories, and I giving mine.
Although hostel living is not for most people, I quite enjoy it. I have a collection of photographs and interviews that I hope to compile into a book one day.
By the time you read this essay, I will be in Bangkok, Thailand. I have met so many people from so many different places in the world, but people from Thailand seem to me the nicest! Hostels and food are cheap in Thailand and that is a plus for travellers living on a shoestring budget.
I cannot think of doing anything different at this point in my life. It has been a fulfilling experience. I feel almost as if a gift was presented me, and the sound of the gift was telling me not to be afraid.
As I travel the world, I am not afraid, as day by day I meet new people with new voices, new faces and new smiles, and all I think about is “where next?”!
Life is good and if there is one thing I’d like to end with is this: it does not take a lot of money to live well, and living well should provide you every opportunity to move around and meet new people and experience new things.
(If you have a story to tell about your own experiences abroad, email us at [email protected] We want to hear from you.)