Can World Travelers Become Homeless?

June 17, 2019

There’s never been a more likely time in modern history for a US citizen to lose his job and end up on the street within a year… even sooner if there are medical issues involved. There was a time when I – as well as many others – saw being homeless as a kind of eternal state, i.e. you were born homeless, or at least ended up there early in life without accomplishing much of anything. Who wants to face a harsh truth like a homeless person having a family, or a good job, or had once had a lifestyle others envied?

In my mind, the next surest sign things are going downhill in the US is when we see homeless passport holders with a fair number of stamps. Those who had once been free to cross international borders, whether by choice or as part of a job, have become literal economic prisoners in their home country.

This would be surprising for the obvious reasons – that anyone who can apply for a passport and pay for a plane ticket has resources that aren’t so easily removed – and the ones most travelers are aware of: world travelers develop survival skills, whether it’s finding a place to sleep on a budget or for free, learning how to get dry in a monsoon, or overall just knowing how to keep moving forward. Someone who has suffered a financial loss so devastating that even a night in a $19/night hostel is out of reach, or a mental or physical blow so great that one’s essential skills are depleted, is a microcosm of American society at large; for many, 1-2 missed paychecks is all it takes.

We travelers have had our share of nights in inhospitable surroundings, or even on the street when necessary, but these are seldom out of true desperation rather than a risk analysis of our bank account balance or credit rating. Will there ever come the point when I have no online income to rely upon, no job willing to hire me, and no friends willing to take me in, assuming my pride allows me to ask? I fear not knowing the answer.

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