Thursday, September 30, 2010

So Your Kid is a Traveling Kid – What is a Traveling Kid? Part I

The series that I am about to write is about a new, fast growing, subculture of kids in our society – our offspring – who ‘by choice’ are basically off the radar. They are kids who may or may not have grown up in decent homes; some have a college education; many are college drop outs or never went to college at all; they may or may not have been from broken homes and may or may not be substance abusers. Like any culture, there is a cross section of society representing a vast array of our youth who have chosen a lifestyle that many are not aware of or even know exists. They are easily recognized with their huge frame backpacks, multi-patched clothing, the look of needing a good hot shower and a meal.

The following is an article that I recently wrote in Wikipedia Notes regarding Traveling Kids. I was prompted to write this in response to another article/thesis written by a graduate student at Florida State; a sociology student who portrayed Traveling Kids as deviant and criminal. I have the inside scoop and have been studying them for the past year.

It is vital that I comment on this very subjective and inaccurate article. I know many young people who are part of this rapidly growing sub culture known as "Traveling Kids." They are not deviant. They are not criminal. They are not drug users. Of course, like any sub culture, you will find a cross section of many behavioral types. This includes the GOOD as well as the bad. This article/thesis is grossly one sided, not based on factual information and misrepresents the movement.

Because these kids do NOT want recognition and have gone off the radar, it is more difficult to get an accurate description of their actions, philosophies and motives. They "like" it that way. It is not sinister and they are not an underground "mob". In addition, since this is a relatively new movement, there are fewer people who have retired from that lifestyle who are available to comment and shed light on the movement.

It is understandable to me as to why these kids have chosen this path. First of all, with the downturn (crash) of the economy, going to college and staying in college is more challenging and literally impossible for those without parents who foot the bill. This is because student loans are capped well before the necessary expenses are met. Also, Pell Grants are fewer and of lesser amounts and work-study programs parcel out the work to many, making the amount earned peanuts. I know of many young people, including two of my own offspring, who have faced this unimaginable situation. The older one had an easier time obtaining funding for the first two years of music conservatory, and then halfway through his undergraduate work, funding was obsolete and cut off from him (and many others across the country). The financial aid advisor simply stated that he had "maxed out his student loans." What? He was only halfway through the program and he had a few scholarships. I discovered that this was a national crisis that affected a majority of students. He was a Dean's List student, and with his scholarships, and the meager amount of money that he had to work with (student loan)...there was not enough money for living expenses or books and few options for employment. He literally blazed his way through it and did not leave his path, but he suffered greatly. He experienced poverty in every sense of the word. So, he can be categorized as someone who refused to give up, he was driven and actually one-step away from eating from the dumpster.

How fair is that? (Sociology Student). Is the possibility of obtaining higher education in the United States is now tailored ONLY for the rich? Yes. Many students couch surf and DUMPSTER DIVE and share books in order to continue attending college alongside of their WEALTHY COUNTERPARTS. Are they getting a fair crack at their education? No. The deck is stacked. Under these circumstances, the constant worry about paying rent, getting food and EVEN BUYING TEXTBOOKS claims their energy and focus, leading to dropping out or getting lower grades.

Another of my children started college a few years later, and was faced with these impossible financial barriers from the first day. She did not have one or two years of college under her belt to lean on or as a foundation when the lack of funding became in issue. It was nearly impossible from the start.

I know of another young man who recently completed his second year as a very successful student at Berklee School of Music, and he is now working every angle to find a way to continue to get student loans. His resources have been "capped." I told him of some of the private loans available so that he does not have to quit. These private/personal loans have a much higher interest rate than student loans, government loans and Pell Grants! When these students finally graduate with an undergrad degree, they will owe enough money for a small house in today's market. If they go to graduate school, they will have borrowed enough money (with interest) for a bigger house.

I see this all of the time. KIDS WITHOUT OPTIONS.

And then there is the JOB MARKET! Do I have to go there? I will try to make it short. Zero jobs. The jobs available are chopped up into part time jobs so that the employer will not have to provide benefits. Everyone from the student, the young non-student, the older population of unemployed and underemployed, college grads unable to find jobs in their fields....ALL COMPETING FOR THE FEW JOBS OUT THERE. This environment enables employers to under pay employees and abuse their power of authority because if "you don't like it, there are 100 people who are willing to do it for less...whatever "it" is."

The other option is THE MILITARY. How convenient. With recruiters hanging around, dangling debit cards and promised bank accounts and free education, who wouldn't jump on it? War is the alternative. Really? Not everyone is a warmonger, but sometimes-desperate measures call for desperate actions. The Traveling Kids choose not to participate in the "Military Industrial Complex." I have a son currently in the military; I support our troops; it is the integrity of the leaders, the corporations and war itself that is in question.

With little or no options for youth in today's society; horrific corruption, loss of fragile eco systems, extinctions resulting in local and global devastation amidst the longest war in our country's history, why would anyone question the emergence of a growing sub culture of kids (young adults) who opt to remove themselves from the madness, travel and enjoy their lives without the twisted rules of a rapidly crumbling society slapping them around?

There is a code amongst these kids. (Most of them are educated with some college; some actually graduated). They DO NOT STEAL OR PANHANDLE. They do something for their money, such as busk (play music), sell handmade jewelry, knit hats, and juggle. Many follow the harvests and planting seasons as migrant workers. They stick together and are not much different from those (hobos) who travelled during the challenging eras of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. These are tough times.

There are many cities, counties and states on board – aware of this growing sub culture – that offer resources. The "kids" know of these centers, which have become hubs around the country offering showers, food and a place to stay the night. Many "kids" have friends across the country and open their homes to people passing through. Traveling kids are easy to spot by their oversized framed backpacks.

I was appalled when I read this article. In order to understand the true nature of this sub culture, you must be part of it. To somewhat understand it, you must have contacts, family, friends – someone who you know well and who will take the time out to explain it in detail. These kids are not slouches, nor do they expect to get something for nothing. They do not consider themselves "homeless"; they refer to themselves as "houseless". They choose NOT TO BE A PART of this warped out society at this time, since many of them have run out of options.

There are a few different types of "Traveling Kids" that I know of.

Old Timey kids who are modeled after Woody Guthrie, many play the banjo, accordion, spoons, etc.

Crunchy Hippie Types, the ones you will see with dreds carrying guitars or ukuleles and selling their beadwork.

Bicyclers; they ride their bikes all over the country.

Of course, there are many other "types" if we were to categorize them. They are a microcosm of their generation on foot or bicycling around the country. Are they better or worse than the "kid" who sits around mooching off Mom and Dad? I find the fact that they are NOT freeloading, a higher form of character.

I needed to write this, because I do not want the general population to get the wrong idea when they see these kids en route to their next organic farm harvest or music festival. They are not homeless beggars; they are not criminals; they are not druggies. No more than anyone else. Most of them are gutsy, resourceful and open to change and evolving.

With such sparse information available, I was quite troubled that this is what people get when they Google "Traveling Kids".

I am betting that you received an "A" on your thesis, because there is no point of reference. I hope that more people respond to this one sided article.[[Link title]]

[[Editing Talk: Principles of Sociology / Traveling Kids]]~~~~


  1. I agree with most of what you wrote. I would point out that this is nothing new. These people have all ways been around.Starting with tinkers and itinerant musicians back in the eighteenth century. Even the Mountain Men who helped open the west were people who did not want the conventional lifestyle of the times.
    Of course hard economic times force people on to the road who would not normally choose to do so.
    I think in any generation you will find that there are people who find freedom on the road. For most it is a temporary interlude in their life. For a few it becomes their life. For some people no matter how secure or bright the future maybe at home the lure of the open road will always be stronger.

  2. Yes..I agree.
    There were (are) minstrels, troubadors, gypsies. I am sharing the experience of discovering and dealing with having a daughter who has chosen this lifestyle. There are many risks involved and it came as a surprise to me when I learned of her intentions to live on the road. I would probably think that it was cool in regards to someone else's daughter, but I prefer to know that my daughter is safe and sound and living a more grounded lifestyle. She is extremely bright and creative as well as politically aware and active.
    I was also surprised at how many people are absolutely clueless about this movement.
    Best Regards.

  3. I must comment here. Ike passed away within days after posting his comment. I will miss him...his insight...dearly.