Sometimes it’s the little things that make your day.

One milestone that I look forward to in every relationship that I have while traveling is the moment when the girl I’m seeing realizes she’s dating a homeless person. Maybe that’s kind of a strange moment to treasure, but it’s not the moment itself that I enjoy, but rather the extreme contrast between reality and literality that brings a smile to my face.

Technically, yes, I am homeless. I don’t have an apartment or house. I don’t have a mortgage or pay rent on a regular basis. I don’t own any furniture or have space that I can call my own.

I don’t have a trampoline or a Roomba.

But although ‘homeless’ might be the label that literally applies to me, the reality of my situation is much less straight-forward. Sure, I don’t have a home in the traditional sense, but in practice, I have many homes.

At the moment, I’m staying with my parents in Columbia, Missouri. This is one place that I can come and relax and enjoy my family’s company. I don’t own it, and the space I’m occupying isn’t mine, but it’s available for me to make use of.

While I was living in Argentina, part of the time I was renting an apartment, and the latter portion of my stay, I was crashing with my good friend Carlos. Two more types of home, two more types of haven with varying degrees of responsibility, ownership and freedom.

Last summer, Ash, Andi and I took a roadtrip across the United States, and every night we found ourselves staying with a different person or group of people, sometimes having full rooms or basements at our disposal, other times having our ‘personal space’ limited to the couch or a spot on the floor. On one occasion, a friendly local rented us hotel rooms.

At one point about a year ago, I had 18 hours to kill at the airport in Sydney, and a quiet, cold, rainy bench in a corner of the observation balcony started to look like nothing less than home to me. I dropped my stuff, bundled up in my jacket and hunkered down comfortably in a way that you only do when you’re back home.

Since I started traveling full-time a few years ago, my definition of ‘home’ has changed dramatically, and as a result I’m much more able to hop from place-to-place without that traditional bane of the vagabond: homesickness.

When you think of being untethered as ‘homefulness’ rather than ‘homelessness,’ the world opens up to you and all kinds of adventures and knowledge and relationships become accessible.

Then again, try explaining that to the girl you’re dating’s parents…


  1. I think home is a mental state for every individual. For some it’s their parents’ home. For others, their mortgaged/rented property. For yet others, home is where their family, special someone etc. is/are. Perhaps for some it is online where they connect with people. In other words, something that stays with you consistently in your life. My home is a mad mixture or all of the above but ultimately it comes down to being connected to a very small number of people I hold close to me.

  2. Home is all a state of the mind. Where you want it to be and what it may be is what you create. Congratulations.

  3. Hey Colin,

    Just read a post on the minimalists about your exile lifestyle.

    Wanted to ask you about India, is that a reader voted relocation or a trip away for yourself?

    • Hey Andrew!

      India was decided by my readers, actually, and I can’t wait to get there and check it out. I’ve been hearing a lot about the country, and the hardest part right now is deciding which city to find an apartment in!

      • Just had some friends there for 3 months and planning a bit of a 6 month exile myself. I’ll ask them there thoughts on the areas they visited and drop you a line.

        Are you concerned about the dodgy wifi?

  4. A milestone I enjoyed was telling my friends about the guy I met while traveling…”he’s great, he’s really funny and super nice!”
    friend: “Where does he live?”
    me: “Well, nowhere really. He’s homeless.”
    friend: (silence)
    me: “Yes, really he is homeless.”

  5. Ha, funny stuff mate.

    I agree with you 100%. I remember I had a 12 hour overnight layover in Rome once. I plopped down in a corner of the airport on a piece of cardboard and a backpack as a pillow. Was a bit cold but luckily I had a sweatshirt in my bag.

    Keep the good stuff comin’.


  6. Brilliant Colin. It’s more than just your lack of a home that probably makes a girl’s parents worried… You don’t have a typical job either, so you’re really not the norm. But if her parents have any sense, they’ll see the benefits of an exile lifestyle.

    Now the question is, can you bring a girl along too?

  7. Whenever any girl asks, just tell them:
    “Home is wherever I’m with you.”
    I’m not homeless in a traditional sense but I’ve been moving quite a bit recently between Denver, CO and Columbia, MO (Where I grew up too.) Coming back to Columbia I realized that to me, home isn’t places or things, but people. I didn’t feel at home turning off of 70 onto Stadium and passing the Mall and it wasn’t turning down the street I grew up on or seeing my old house. It was seeing my mom doing dishes through the window when it hit me. But I have a home in Denver now too and it’s not the crappy studio that I’m renting. It’s the friends who miss me and welcome me back. It’s the bartender who remembers my drink order. 
    I know I can be comfortable in a new environment without family and friends, but it’s not until I meet people and make those connections that I feel like I can call it home. 

  8. I’m just writing a blog post about this as well. I’ve been in Singapore for three weeks now and will be here another three weeks. For the first time I’m “homesick” but not really homesick, just a bit unnerved that I feel so at home in Singapore and now I guess I’m just questioning what is “home” for me. With that said, I do miss speaking without trying to think too much about how I’m saying things so the meaning is clear. It has been a bit unnerving that I feel at home on the other side of the world in a country very different but also similar to my own. 

  9. I don’t own my home or rent it either and I have no real legal rights to be here. I moved in with a male friend several years ago when I was unemployed. It was supposed to be temporary but we like it so I’ve stayed.

    The only thing that’s difficult is other people’s responses (people think we’re a couple and when I explain that we’re not, they think it’s odd) and having any sort of sexual relationship with someone else as I would find it strange bringing a man back to my friend’s house.

    Other than that, it’s great. I can’t help thinking that it’s community living – only in a community of two! The friends who take the trouble to understand our living arrangement and the part that it plays in our lives, end up feeling quite envious!

  10. I think not having a “home” in the traditional sense of the term makes it easier to pick up and leave, at least it did for me 6 months ago. As a flight attendant, I am constantly in a state of travel motion, but 6 months ago, I moved out of my apartment so I could spend a few months traveling through Europe. I was surprised at how much I embraced being gone, as normally I get waves of homesickness. It was easier knowing that I had nothing to go back to, nothing to miss. Home for me at that time was travel. It was what I was meant to be doing.

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