The very first time I had to sleep on the street was in Nice, in southern France. Darkness was approaching and I realized that I needed to find a suitable and safe place to sleep for the night. I spotted a homeless guy along the beach and decided to ask him. “He must know a good place to sleep,” I thought to myself. Perhaps he was too drunk to comprehend my broken French or couldn’t be bothered but he ignored me completely. It wasn’t that I was expecting much, but I hoped he would at least give me some idea.
A few hours past and darkness completely descended over the city. The friendly tourists that lined the beach by day were no more and in their place were dodgy drug dealers and prostitutes. As I walked along the boardwalk, a group of African guys gave me a sampling of hashish. Smoking it only made me more concerned about where I was going to sleep that night. A few minutes later, a prostitute started stalking me. She caught up to me and tried to sell her goods. She was relentless. I tried to tell her I didn’t have any money, “Je n’ai pas d’argent” but she kept insisting. Annoyed and desperate, I took out my wallet, held it at arms length, opened it up and turned it upside. She got the picture.
Stressed and weary I began to walk north. Along the way, a few more prostitutes beckoned me to comebut I stayed my course. I walked for what must have been 4 miles. After zig zagging through the streets, and going up and down steep hills, I finally arrived in the woods. As I entered, the comfort of the street light began to fade and darkness enveloped me. I could barely see a thing. When I thought I was deep enough in as to not be disturbed, I opened my bag and began to prepare for the night. I put on my beenie, doubled my socks and wrapped myself up in my space blanket. Laying there in the pitch dark, I couldn’t help but be scared. My childhood fears returned and I imagined strange creatures and angry faces in the darkness. I clutched my pocket knife in my hand, praying I wouldn’t have to use it. Though I was totally exhausted, it took me at least 2 hours until I drifted into an anxiety ridden half sleep.
After what felt like an hours rest I awoke to the light of a brisk morning sun. “Whew” I thought to myself, “I made it!” But just my angst from the night was dissipating, I heard a ruffle in the trees. Self conscious of my drowsy condition, I sprang up and frantically began to pack. Just as I was nearly done, I could hear footsteps approaching and looked up. About 10 meters away was a scraggly looking old man. I squinted to focus on him and instantly realized that it was the same bum I had attempted to talk to back on the boardwalk. I laughed out loud, partially out of embarrassment and partially out of fear. Unable to think of anything better to say, I simply said, “Good Morning.” He looked at me with eyes of suspicion and grunted an incomprehensible response in French. He then proceeded to walk past me and out into the early morning.
How To Sleep On The Street
If you want to save some money and think you got what it takes to brave the elements, the homeless, the police and the prostitutes, you may want to consider hitting the streets for a not always good nights rest too. The following guide will offer you priceless tips, from picking the safest spots to turning down pestering prostitutes.
How To Prepare
In order to prepare yourself for a night out on the street, you should ideally undergo some mental preparation. Getting a good nights rest outside is not as easy as it seems. Since most of us are used to the comfort of out beds and protection of our homes, being exposed to the elements takes some time to get used to. In order to prepare, you should practice sleeping outdoors or on hard surfaces prior to your departure. Additionally, when you sleep on the street, you may sometimes be in public places among people. To get used to this, try sleeping in a 24 hour McDonalds or local train/bus station. In this way, you will be somewhat acclimated when sleeping on the street becomes a necessity.
What to Bring
The most important thing to bring is warm clothing. Regardless of whether you are traveling somewhere with a warm climate or not, you need to make sure that you bring sufficient warm clothing. Because no matter how hot it is in the day, the night will almost certainly be much colder. And once you stop moving, your body temperature will cool. Thus you should plan to sleep in layers. You will find that your extremities, your head and face, along with your legs and feet are the most difficult to keep warm. Therefore it is a good idea to bring long johns, a full face beanie and warm woolen socks. If you are really struggling to keep warm, try stuffing plastic bags between your pants and long johns. Though the crunching of the bags might wake you, the added heat they provide is worth it. In addition to warm clothes, you should ideally bring a warm sleeping bag, a yoga mat and a flashlight. A space blanked, battery-operated radio, and chemical heat packs are also good ideas.
Where To Sleep
If you’re like me and want to avoid pestering prostitutes, tweaked homeless people and cops all together, it is best to try and walk to the countryside. If the city is too large that you cannot easily walk to a less populated suburb or countryside, than your best bet is to find a dark park. The best kinds of parks are those with slides or the plastic tubes we used to play in as children. These will help to shield you from the elements as well as keep you out of sight. However, if you oversleep and awake midday, you may find yourself in a hot plastic kiddy urine ridden sauna, dripping and suffocating from the heat.
If your going to sleep in the city, the main thing is to keep out of sight. Keep on the look out for nooks in the bushes. However, if you don’t want to encounter crazy homeless folk, try and avoid their usual spots. Stay away from under passes and park benches. 24 hour train or bus stations are also good places to sleep. During the backpacking season in Europe there is never a shortage of fellow backpackers dozing off on the station floor. If you are traveling alone, it is a good idea to sleep close to them. But don’t get to close or you may end up in some awkward positions and awakenings. Additionally, in large cities, there are often 24 hour McDonalds. And so for the price of a burger, you can generally sleep undisturbed and comfortably for a night.
Whether you’re a budget backpacker or you’re a broke runaway, sleeping on the street is one of the best ways to reduce your travel costs. However, sleeping on the street does not come without its risks. If you’re not careful and don’t know where to sleep, you could wind up in a territorial fight with a homeless man, get picked up by the local police or even get robbed. Not to mention, when you sleep the street, you are completely exposed to the elements, with the most common risk being hypothermia. On the other hand, if you are prepared and heed this guide, you will find that there is nothing more liberating, both financially and spiritually, than laying your head down on a beach, a bench or concrete slab for the night.