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  IV. A Tale of Four Travelers: Parking Pete

Parking Pete is the definitive, hard-core budget traveler. In the morning he is generally awakened by traffic, pedestrians, small animals, maintenance crews or some other early morning inconvenience. He tends to sleep wherever he can find a reasonably sheltered area, often in parks or churchyards, along riverbanks or in quiet suburbs. In destinations like Venice he sleeps on the train station steps with all the other backpackers, and in coastal areas he sleeps along the beaches.

After he gets up and checks his belongings, he bathes in a flowing public fountain (or shower if he's on the beach), or some other source of reasonably clean water. Generally no one bothers him because it is so early in the morning and anyway, such odd tourist behavior is often tolerated in Europe if it is low-key.

After his bath he walks along the market areas and looks for grocers and bakers who are tossing out old food. In some agricultural areas when there are ripe crops, he "creatively borrows" fruit or veggies directly from the fields. Sometimes, if a shopkeeper is friendly, he can ask to do some minor task for a big, fresh loaf of bread or some other luxury. He usually carries a jar of jam or honey to complement his bread.

At some point in the morning he will arrive at a train station and store his backpack in a locker for the day. He also leaves the pack in the locker overnight fairly often, and carries his essentials off to his sleeping grounds.

After a morning in the museum, he may splurge and buy some cheese, ham or other sandwich fixings for lunch. If he really feels perky he may buy a costly bottle of fruit juice. If he is short of cash, he will again ask around at the small shops or wander around the back alleys behind the cafes or fancy restaurants and scrounge around for food which had been discarded but is still quite edible. A compromise between the two, sardines and crackers, is monotonous yet filling and cheap.

For dinner he most often cooks pasta, soup or rice with beans on his camping stove. If he is in Germany he has a local beer, which is cheaper than any other beverage, or in France he has wine, again the cheapest beverage. If he is somewhere like Scandinavia, he just drinks water or some type of powdered drink mix purchased in the supermarket. There is little chance of Pete becoming overweight but he always gets enough to eat and is actually reasonably fit, considering.

In the evenings he goes back to the station. On this night he brushes his teeth in the train station rest room and leaves all his belongings in the locker, except for his sleeping bag, a ground cloth and a novel. He walks along the street and sits at a bench, reading under a lamp for a while, then selects a rather remote clump of bushes in a large park and settles in for the night. Nearby, an Irish vagabond couple plays quiet, doleful music on guitar and recorder until they all fall asleep.

If it happens to be raining, Pete grows discouraged. He tries to find a sheltered yet secluded area in the train station, but if there are a lot of fellow vagabonds about, the station police will send them on their way. Some cities have nice bridges to huddle under; otherwise Pete looks for doorways, stairways or some other nook under which to retreat.

Pete gets around in town exclusively on foot. When he heads to a new destination, Pete walks out of town and sticks out his thumb until he gets a ride.

Pete's habit of sleeping outdoors is inconvenient and in some towns it is risky. But it can be done and is not so bad if you only have to do it occasionally. On the other hand, it is much less practical for a female to attempt Pete's travel style since she will be cursed with unending, unwanted company while on the streets.

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