Tent dwelling software developer

by Leon Stafford

Nov 24, 2020

Broke and living in a tent as a software developer. Wow, 2020 has really taken its toll! I jest. This was a product solely of my making. My tent living was deliberate, the being broke less so, but not a shock to anyone who’s known my financial prowess of the last 20 years.

In finishing up my rental unit’s contract in Port Lincoln last month, I was preparing to set off as a full-time bikepacker, going so far as to buy and kit out a beach cruiser bike. As departure day loomed nearer, I remembered the traumatic 70km ride I did with Andy somewhere in the middle of China some years back. And of how I quickly sold that bike in exchange for a lift in some rural guy’s truck, nursing my aching perineum (the fault of the saddle fit and my inexperience, not Andy’s!). I’d already sold our ‘94 Ford Laser to force me into the bikepacking, so instead looked to simply living out of a backpack.

In line with my penchant for tech minimalism and tendency towards extremes, I’d spent my last dollars on some magic beans and ultralight camping gear, stripping things down to the bare essentials, then getting rid of half of those, too. The pack I set off with, including my chopped in half toothbrush to shave grams, weighed about 7 or 8 kgs. That’s about what I lived through 2019 with in my backpack, but that was a much easier feat, globetrotting in hotels for the year. This time, I’d hit the same weight, including my snail shell itself and everything that was to keep me from the elements and, more importantly, insects.

Setting off from Port Lincoln, South Australia, where my partner and I were living and I’d been succumbing to Western comforts for about 9 months, I spent one week a short 10km stroll up the coast, in North Shields, with it’s beautiful stretching beach and some lovely, colourful residents in its caravan park. ‘Twas here that I sold off my ultralight, 420 gram tent, which had definitely lightened my pack and my wallet, but the latter a bit too near empty. As a solo tent, on windy days, when I had it staked closer to the dirt, there was no room for my pack and I to cohabitate, so looking to my uncomfortable future, I sold it online and walked back to Port Lincoln to pickup a $35 2P tent. Moving into my new mansion, I was so overjoyed at the relative spaciousness, that I didn’t mind the added 1.5 kgs of burden this super cheap tent had bestowed upon my beastly shoulders.

With my new 2-man-sion of a tent and my ultralight quilt that had finally shipped to me, I was ready to keep moving. The plan was loosely to head towards my parents’ home in Daylesford, Victoria, where we’d unite and drive up to my sister’s, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, (border lockdowns permitting) around Xmas time. Looking at the distances between towns on the map and then checking flight prices, I chose to take an aerial short-cut as far as Adelaide, where I walked from the airport a few hours to my wonderfully remote spot at the back of Brownhill Creek Caravan Park, South of Adelaide.

Adelaide is my favourite Australian major city by far and it was great to be back. My partner and I had previously lived for months in a carvan, within a short, beautiful walk to the CBD. This time, I stayed in a quiet, nature-immersed spot, 1.5 hrs walk from the city centre. This alone is reason enough for me to love Adelaide, but there is so much more in the well planned city and its surrounds which appeals to me. What was less appealing and I didn’t get used to, was the throng of agitated traffic, so different from the rural Eyre Peninsula of the last year.

My hand was forced in making my next move, as after having avoided any affect of COVID-19 social impacts until now, a couple of days after I arrived in Adelaide, it was the first city to have new community transmissions in all of Australia, after Victoria had just contained its outbreak after many months of hard lockdown. The family Xmas reunion at risk, our council deliberated on flights out to Melbourne or other options. With minimal cash, I was worried about jumping on a flight and then being stuck somewhere I couldn’t find a free/cheap campsite or be trapped in quarantine, so I booked a bus out to Renmark, close to the SA/VIC border, to at least get closer and out to a regional area, further from the North Adelaide hotspot. As I waited in the bus stop, a hard, 6 day lockdown was announced. Oh shit! Being that my only income now comes from donations for my open source software work, which I do from a library or at least from a park or my tent, having charged my 2013 MacBook Air, 6 days of not being allowed outside besides my water/food resupply shopping was going to be a challenge. Luckily, I’d recently bit the bullet and added a 20,000 mAh powerbank to my setup, which should keep my cracked screen, iPhone SE 1st gen alive for browsing reddit, I mean, keeping up to date with government directives.

This is where I am now, in the Renmark Public Library, computing for the first time in a week. My appearance and bouquet does not belie the fact that I have lived the last week in the beautiful Plush’s Bend campsite 1.5 hrs walk from here. It was a challenging, but rewarding week. I sweated out 38 degree days, where I had to walk into town and back to restock water (and fear bought a 10 litre water sack the first day, with another 3kgs of supplies!). My most popular fashion accoutrement was my head net, protecting my sanity, by way of my skin and cranial orificies, from the hordes of flies filling the space of day and mosquitoes guarding its borders.

This evening, having tactfully sheltered in the library until it’s closing, I’ll guage the weather, making my next move under the cover of clouds or the night sky. My destination - the SA/VIC border. With my border permit approved for tomorrow’s date and my father scheduled to rendezvous with me on the VIC side, I’ll be trekking the 26.7 kms to the border, utilising 2 strategic rehydration points along the way. Here’s hoping that from the time of publishing this, the permit remains valid and no further lockdown measures are imposed on either side of the stateline.

To my project’s users - sorry for the lack of updates this past week. There were some nice changes starting to happen to the WordPress plugins just before this lockdown spanner was needingly thrust into the works and I’ll have them continuing once I get to catch my breath and have some regular computer time. I’m not opposed to having cheat days not free camping it and washing in the river, but my pockets this week didn’t allow for the more indulgent caravan park experience. Please do donate to see me pampered with the occasional hot shower and cold Coopers beer.

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