Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gypsy Camping

As an airline employee (and soon to be furloughed airline employee—even better!), I get to fly throughout Europe and North America for free (or nearly free). The only trouble, as an airline employee, is that I have almost no money once I get there. Public transportation and youth hostels play a big part in my travel plan. But what do I do when there is no hostel or other cheap lodging nearby? Gypsy camping!
Above is my lodging on the outskirts of Huesca, Spain (May 2008). Total rent for this space: €0 ($0). I just walked along the railroad tracks from the Huesca train station 'til I hit a reasonably discrete location (only about a km from the station). The temperature was perfect! There were a few mosquitoes, but nothing serious and a small price to pay for the free lodging. The only noteable downside: I was attacked!
That's right: slimed by snails! It was a bag I bought for $2 at a garage sale, so the damage was bearable. (Thank GOD I didn't bring my Gucci bag!)
On the same vacation (my allocated two weeks off at the airline), I found myself in the tropical paradise of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. (See photo at the top of this post.) I slept on the beach!
Efficient Gypsies have to adapt to the landscape they are traveling in. In Spain, I traveled with a sleeping bag but no tent, knowing that keeping warm would be the main issue. In the Caribbean, I travel with a tent but no sleeping bag. There, the issue is rain and insects, while all you need to fight the "chill" is a thin blanket stolen from the airplane. On the beach (an isolated one you have to hike to), the sand provides the only mattress you need. In the evening, under the moonlight, I bathed in the ocean (perfect bathwater temperature) using camping soap that works in salt water. This was the tragic scene out my window when I woke up....
It's quite illegal, of course. Most of St. John is a U.S. National Park, and you are supposed to camp in designated campgrounds. In the morning, I failed to break camp at dawn, and a park ranger caught me! She took down my name and admonished me not to do it again. Next time I'm nabbed, I imagine I'll get a ticket, so I've scoped out this new camping spot in the woods just above the beach...
There's little chance of discovery here, but I'd probably want an air mattress.
More photos on Facebook (log-in rqd): St. John, Huesca Spain.
More Spain photos coming soon on